Category Archives: Race Relations

Rapacious Developers Are Destroying A Historic Black Neighbourhood

The Charles Avenue Historic Marker the first time this author saw it.

In 2012 the city designated Charles Avenue, one of the oldest — if not the oldest — street in Miami, a Historic Roadway

The Not Now Silly Newsroom has documented time and again how developers around Charles Avenue have done nothing but obliterate that history.

The latest outrage is the most massive attempt at gentrification in West Grove since the last outrage, which was the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums (which this reporter calls The Monstrosity). First a quick course in a century plus of West Grove history.

In the late 1800s, as cities in the north were already metropolises, Coconut Grove was still a mix of swamp and dry land, just getting started. Its settlement pre-dates the City of Miami, which grew faster and taller.

Commodore Ralph Monroe, one of the earliest residents, advertised in the north to his rich industrialist friends. He offered a totally immersive rustic experience at Camp Biscayne, where people could fish, hunt, and sail. This was before any roads could bring tourists to South Florida. Boats were the only way in. South Florida’s tourist boom — now its biggest industry — begins there and then.

The earliest gathering of what could be considered a community in Coconut Grove were the Bahamians that drifted up through Key West looking for work. Mariah Brown (known as Mary the Washerwoman at the Peacock Inn) was able to buy a small plot of land on what would become Evangelist Street and, later, Charles Avenue. [Her house on Charles Avenue is now a replica.] Eventually a gentleman by the name of Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup became the largest landholder in Coconut Grove, and one of Florida’s first Black millionaires.

E.W.F. Stirrup had a crazy idea that would have got him lynched anywhere else in the south. He thought that growing Black families needed Black home ownership. As more people moved to the area for work, Stirrup built more than 100 houses with his own hands on land he owned in Coconut Grove. These simple shotgun and Conch-style homes were sold, rented, and bartered to the hardworking men and women who really built Coconut Grove — and greater Miami — out of the swamp.

Read more about E.W.F. Stirrup here.

That simple fact made Coconut Grove a unique place in this country. Before it was swallowed by Miami (in an illegal annexation that could never happen today), it had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else in the country.

Skip ahead a bunch of decades. The neighbourhood remained, for the most part, cohesively Black, as Black districts often do, because White folk won’t live there. And, as Black districts often are, this one was poor; the average wage was less and, therefore, the ability to get home loans was decreased, if the people weren’t redlined altogether. The neighbourhood slid into a slow, inevitable decline. However, the area that surrounded this enclave became one of the most exclusive in in this entire country. The Black pioneers, and their descendants who continued to own the houses, became land rich and cash poor. That’s why West Grove (as distinguished from White Grove, to be blunt) was ripe for gentrification.

Read about the wall Miami mandated built to separate the Black
and White communities in Coconut Grove: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

If one drives around the neighbourhood, you’d see how, on lands that once belonged to Stirrup (and his descendants), properties have been bought, combined, developed, and walled off. These very small gated communities along Franklin — of 4-12 units — were the first beachheads into what has become over the years runaway gentrification. Grand Avenue, once the thriving Black business district, is undergoing its own challenges through gentrification, but that’s another story for another day.

I digress. Here’s some more recent history.

Approximately 15 years ago someone amassed several contiguous properties on Main Highway at the corner of Franklin Avenue. A developer bought the package and built The Monstrosity.

I entered the picture afterwards, in February of 2009. I remember returning from that first visit to Coconut Grove and telling several friends that I wasn’t sure what I had discovered, but I thought there was a story to be written. I was wrong. There have now been many stories written.

On the day this writer discovered the Charles Avenue Historic Marker — and the E.W.F. Stirrup House — it was my very first time in the neighbourhood. And, coincidentally, it was these 2 properties immediately behind the historic marker — 3227 and 3247 Charles Avenue — that provided the first mystery to be solved. That day I rushed home to look Charles Avenue up on Google Earth. Despite these lots being empty earlier in the day, Google Maps had a small house on each lot; one a shotgun, the other a Conch style, if I recall correctly.

Where did these houses go and why?

In a coconut shell, here’s a short history of these 2 properties:

They had been in the Stirrup Family for a few generations. When the rapacious developer showed up to build the Monstrosity, he entered into a complicated property swap with the Stirrup descendants. In exchange for 2 brand new condos in The Monstrosity — and $10 to make it all legal — they would give the developer these 2 properties on the north side of Charles Avenue and a 50-year lease on the historic E.W.F. Stirrup House.

Almost as an aside, this writer spent almost a decade trying to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House from Demolition by Neglect, despite it being designated historic in 2004. That fight was lost and is told elsewhere in these pages. Long story short: That house is now  replica after the same developer used Demolition by Neglect (nearly a decade of open windows on a wood frame house) to argue in front of Miami’s Historic Preservation Board the house was too far gone to be saved. In other words: They used the conditions they created to successfully argue they no longer had an obligation to restore the house, instead building a recreation.

Read more about the E.W.F. Stirrup House.

Would this have been the fate of the E.W.F. Stirrup House if it had been owned by the White pioneers of Coconut Grove? One needs only look to the Barnacle State Park, where Commodore Monroe’s house was saved, for your answer. E.W.F. Stirrup was his friend and contemporary.

But, back to these 2 houses. Where did they go?

The developer knocked them down to use the lots as a marshalling yard to build The Monstrosity. That neatly solved a construction problem. Crews were able to use the Stirrup property as a pass-through, as opposed to having to use the busier Main Highway. However, the neighbourhood lost 2 affordable houses of “vernacular style”. Ironically, the city of Miami successfully passed a law to save these “vernacular” houses recently, saving these last few shotgun and Conch-style homes. Had this law been in place, I would have had a greater shot at saving the Stirrup House and the developer never would have been able to knock down the 2 houses across the street.

What happened to these 2 properties after that? Financial jigger-pokery, if you believe blogger Heinz Deiter (and I do). Deiter alleged that the developer valued the 2 condos in the not-yet built Monstrosity at $500,000 each, which was a huge stretch. Then he went to the bank and claimed he now owned $1,000,000 worth of property on the north side of Charles Avenue. Despite prevailing property values to the contrary, the bank took his word for it.

He was able to obtain a bank loan using those properties as collateral. Once these properties were no longer needed for this grand scheme of building the Monstrosity, the developers had a new scheme. They simply stopped paying off the bank loan and allowed the properties to go into foreclosure. The bank repossessed, put the properties up for auction, and they were bought by a company whose owner was a partner in other companies with the developer who had just defaulted. Then, through some more LLC jiggery-pokery, these properties were conveyed back to the same developer.

Bank distress auctions are supposed to be arm’s length. This one was not. By my estimate the bank took a $750,000 bath on these properties. When I tried to interest the bank in what I considered to be a fraud upon it, they were very incurious and didn’t seem to care at all. After all, it’s only money.

Not Now Silly has written other stories about these 2 properties, like the night valets from Commodore Plaza were illegally using them for overflow parking at $6 a car, ripping off the city of Miami and creating chaos on a residential street.

Read more about the Night of the Mad Valets.

Which gets us to the real topic of this post after all that preamble. These 2 properties, combined with several others, both on Charles and William Avenue, will be turned into what appears to be a 30 room, 2 story hotel.

Back in 2016 I worked on a secret project, which was an attempt to connect all the various rapacious developers in Coconut Grove with all the properties they owned, or controlled, along Grand Avenue. I created a map, which I colour-coded by property ownership. It was during the making of this gentrification map that I accidentally discovered that Peter Gardiner (of the Pointe Group) had not only bought into the redevelopment project at the E.W.F. Stirrup House B&B, but had purchased these 2 properties under discussion at $1,000,000 a piece.

I booked an appointment to interview Gardiner, knowing I was going to pull a massive Bait & Switch.

We started our discussion with the Stirrup House and he assured me that as a lifelong Coconut Grove resident, he wants nothing but the best for Coconut Grove. Whenever he said that, and he said it several times, I heard, “Nothing but the best for White Grove.” He talked about what a wonderful steward his companies will be in Coconut Grove.

When I thought we had exhausted that topic, I pulled out my colour-coded map of Grand Avenue. I told him that these properties along Grand — including ones he owned through Pointe Group — have now been flipped so many times that the properties can no longer pay for themselves. Property is a machine that has to pay for itself. These properties along Grand will never pay for themselves unless Miami upzones the properties allowing for heights and densities greater than the 5 storeys allowed in the Miami 21 plan.

Read more about Grand Avenue here and of a 16-year old
Grand Avenue improvement plan that never happened here.

Then I also let him know that I knew he had recently bought these 2 properties on the north side of Charles Avenue. I laid out the history of these properties, including the suspected fraud upon the bank, and his only reaction was that maybe he hadn’t done his due diligence on these properties. Ya think?

Keep in mind that these 2 properties were overvalued at $500,000 each when they were traded for condos in the Monstrosity. They sold in 2015 for $1 million each, a markup of 100% on properties that were valued by the owner himself. However, Heagrand Inc, bought them for a mere $215,000 at the bank’s distress auction just 4 years earlier.

These properties (and all of the others that will need to be combined to build this hotel) are zoned Single Family. However, based upon the price paid, they will NEVER be able to make back their money by building a single family home on any of these lots, and a few of them still have houses on them.

I made it clear to Peter Gardiner in 2016 that I would fight him tooth and nail on any upzoning effort and that was 2 years before I saw this hotel rendering.

These developers have property flipped themselves into a corner. They now have land that can never pay for itself. The only way they can make any money whatsoever is by building big and building up. By building a hotel on these properties, as a matter of fact.

Something I’ve learned: Developers have better lawyers than the city. They tend to get whatever they want. Something else I’ve discovered through this process of investigating properties is that developers plan for the long game, sometimes decades in advance. This plan has been in the works since the beginning. I heard talk of it 9 years ago, but dismissed it as a fantasy. But the fantasy now has an architect’s rendering.


Recently I did something I’ve never done before as an advocacy journalist. Normally I research a story, write it up, publish it, and then promote the finished article. This time, while still researching this article, I went to the neighbourhood Homeowners’ Association [HOATA] and passed around the architectural rendering you see here. I challenged them to fight this project with everything they have otherwise the gentrifiers win and the neighbourhood loses.


  • The developers will use conditions it created — just like they did on the Stirrup House — as the reason to argue for redeveloping these fallow lots;
  • The developers will use the height of the Monstrosity to argue this hotel is not too big for the community;
  • The developers will argue they need not plan for on-site parking because the Miami Parking Authority is planning a huge, honking parking garage right next door as part of the Coconut Grove Playhouse redevelopment project;
  • People [that I won’t name yet] who claim to protect the neighbourhood will come out in support of this massive development (if they haven’t already in secret talks) because they have dealings with these developers in other parts of Coconut Grove;
  • Miami-Dade County, which is redeveloping the Playhouse property, will come out in favour of this massive development (if it hasn’t already in secret talks);
  • Gable Stage, expected to occupy a redeveloped Playhouse, will come out in favour of this project (if it hasn’t already in secret talks);
  • Community activists will fail to mount a successful fight to block this project;
  • Miami’s Planning and Zoning Board will approve this upzoning because, again, developers always seems to get what they want;
  • Miami Commissioners will fail to stop the project (if they haven’t already given tacit approval in secret talks);
  • Miami Commissioners will attempt to squeeze community concessions out of the developers — which will be small potatoes, unenforceable, and forgotten soon after — once they realize this is a runaway train.

To sum up: This battle is already lost unless the community fights the upzoning at the Planning and Zoning Board, to put the kibosh on building a hotel for rich White Folk, so that other rich White folk make a small fortune in a historic Black neighbourhood.

Because, make no mistake, at the core of every story about Coconut Grove is a story about Racism. 

Crespogram, Coconut Grove, and Charles Avenue

Those who follow me on social media know I love to share the heat from the Crespogram Report.

FULL DISCLOSURE: A while back I recused myself from commenting on Miami politics because I am currently writing the biography of Ken Russell, Commissioner in Miami’s District 2, now running for Congress in Miami’s District 27. Therefore, take whatever I write with however many grains of salt you need in order to make this post palatable.

Let me first put a fine point on it: While Al Crespo is — hands down — the best of the Miami muckrakers, his post of this morning is a total misfire.

What I have always loved about Crespo is how he backs up his accusations with facts and the official documents. He publishes them to prove his assertions and prove that Miami politicians are lying scumbags.

Not today.

Today he published a letter from Guillermo de la Paz and says about it:

It’s pretty self-explanatory, and raises a very serious question about how Andy Parrish stays on the City of Miami’s Planning and Zoning Board if, in fact de la Paz’s accusations are true.

If true.

Remember, it was only last week people were saying “If true, Roy Moore should step down.”

If true!!!

It may very well be true. I don’t know and I don’t really care. I’m not concerned with that.

Here’s what I do know: Guillermo de la Paz is lashing out because he’s been under continued scrutiny and criticism ever since he built his block-busting Big White Box on Charles Avenue. He’s referencing an article in the Miami Herald and his letter quotes several people out of context on what they think of the Big White Box style of domicile.

The only thing left of the designated historic E.W.F. Stirrup House is the roof. Every other stick of wood in the structure was replaced after a rapacious developer allowed it to undergo nearly a decade of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.

Longtime readers of Not Now Silly will remember my 8-year failed attempt to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House — the oldest house on the oldest street in Miami — from DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. Charles Avenue was once called Evangelist Street and was laid out by the very same E.W.F. Stirrup on a slight angle because he was not a surveyor. It was designated a Historic Roadway by the city of Miami in 2012. Even that was not enough to save the Stirrup House and keep de la Paz’s Big White Box off Charles.

Let me state up front that de la Paz didn’t break any laws or build anything without the appropriate permits. The argument is whether Miami’s Planning and Zoning department dropped the ball in allowing any of this to happen in the first place. Charles Avenue is in the NCD-2 [Neighborhood (sic) Conservation District overlay #2]. The NCD-2, as opposed to the NCD-3 (on the opposite side of Grand Avenue, f’rinstance), calls for architecture with a Bahamian feel to reflect the rich history of this unique enclave.

There’s nothing Bahamian about the Big White Box that de la Paz built. FULL DISCLOSURE #2: That’s what its detractors call them, and I count myself among them. In fact, I call them dentist’s offices. They are cold and sterile and I don’t understand the esthetic that finds these structures beautiful. However, taste is subjective. The NCD-2 shouldn’t be. It’s all black and white, no pun intended.

I call Guillermo’s house a block-buster because it was the first Big White Box on Charles. Now there are others that came later and more are proposed. It opened the door for anyone to now say, “If he can build one, why can’t I?” It’s the very definition of block-busting, if you discount the definition of blockbuster bombs dropped in WWII.

Ironically, it’s not the racially weighted historic definition of days gone by either. That’s when a real estate agent — seeing opportunity and dollars — would sell a house to that first Black family in order to bust the block. White folks would suddenly sell out in droves and that real estate agent would generally reap the profits. But I digress.

I was talking about the Big White Box, which in all its various formations are cropping up all over Coconut Grove and elsewhere in Miami. Architects tell me they are inexpensive to build, heat, and cool. They’re just ugly.

I quoted Crespo’s article’s 2nd paragraph above which “raises a very serious question” about Andy Parrish, if true, if true, if true. However, here’s the first paragraph in which Crespo takes gratuitous slaps at Ken Russell:

I’ve not written a lot about the goings on in Coconut Grove as it relates to the battles between developers, self-entitled rich folks, what’s left of the Black folks from the Bahamas who traditionally considered the West Grove to be their little piece of America and the lying weasel dick City Commissioner Ken “Selfie Boy” Russell, who shuck and jived a lot of those Black folks into thinking he was not going to be another in a long line of lying white politicians, when in fact that’s just what he turned out to be, but I got a copy of this letter that a guy named Guillermo de la Paz, sent on on Sunday night.

SHAKE SALT HERE: I’ve been writing about the shady Planning and Zoning department in Miami for years. However, I stopped chasing that story when the former District 2 Commissioner, [allegedly] corrupt Marc D. Sarnoff, was termed out and his wife lost the election to the aforementioned Ken Russell. [Maybe I should revive my Freedom of Information request that I hand delivered to the Planning and Zoning Department. I allowed it to go unfulfilled when I was unable to land my Great White Whale: Sarnoff.]

Crespo’s ire should be directed towards towards the Miami Planning and Zoning Department and/or Andy Parrish, if true, if true, if true.

Al Crespo has behaved like a spurned lover ever since he caught Russell failing to document gift baskets sent to the Commissioner in his first few weeks in office. Long before signing a non-disclosure agreement in order to write this biography, I said as much to anyone who would listen. [More on this topic will be explored in the book. Stay tuned.]

Regardless, unlike Crespo I have written a lot about the “goings on in Coconut Grove as it relates to the battles between developers, self-entitled rich folks, what’s left of the Black folks from the Bahamas who traditionally considered the West Grove to be their little piece of America…” What I have documented at Now Now Silly is how that little piece of ‘Merka that the Bahamians owned made it a unique community because Coconut Grove once had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else in this country.

For a number of decades systemic racism kept these property values low because: Black neighbourhood and all that it entails. Other socioeconomic circumstances [read: institutionalized racism] kept the owners wages low and the possibility of home loans to fix up their properties merely a pipe dream. The neighbourhood continued to deteriorate as families passed these houses down the generations, like White families pass down the family jewels.

Now that Coconut Grove has become one of the most desired communities in South Florida, that historic Black community is being chipped away by gentrification. These folks have now become land rich, but cash poor. They are selling out and people are buying the properties to knock down the historic homes — many of them built by E.W.F. Stirrup himself — to build Big White Boxes.

Guillermo de la Paz is the poster child for the Big White Box style of gentrification that is currently roiling the neighbourhood. And, he’s become more and more defensive about it.

A Reasoned Defense of the Word “Nigger”

Let’s get something straight off the top: There is no more vile a word in the English language than “nigger”. Full stop.

However, let’s agree — at the very least — that it is a word.

If it’s a word, then you might want to consider that there are just certain times when its use is appropriate and no other word will do. Otherwise, I have a number of objectionable words that maybe we can talk about banning.

I’m a writer. I’m in love with words and language. I hate euphemisms. This awful construct our society has created, “The N-Word”, is an affront to the English language. It takes one of its ugliest words and masks it inside a Disney-friendly jumble of letters. It should come with a happy face.

I’ve wanted to write this essay for a good long time and have pitched it to nearly every editor I’ve had for almost 2 decades. Many years ago I merely told an editor the title of this article (which I had already been writing in my head). We were on the phone, but they blinked so hard I could hear it. After giving them the rough outline, I was told, basically, “Good luck with that.”

Every editor since has said pretty much the same thing.

It’s also worth noting that “The N-Word” is a verbal construct. In print, instead, it’s often rendered as ni**er. Oddly enough, another word rendered this way is fa**ot. It’s like we have a Phony War on the Letter G.

Here’s what triggered the original though in my head so many years ago:

I was watching CNN back in the day when Fox “News” had not yet divided the nation. It had a rainbow panel of people on to talk with the editor of a magazine called “Hebe”, by Jews, for Jews. Her contention was that they were reclaiming the word, much like Queer. It was a very interesting and thoughtful discussion during which I heard the words “spick”, “kike”, “wop”, “chink”, and a few other horrible racial epithets, but all used correctly and within context.

Yet, there was one jarring note in this multicultural discussion.

Whenever anyone on the panel came to a certain word, they stuttered and then said, “The N-Word”. Not a single one of them had a problem with the list of words above. As a young Jew Boy who was called “kike” while I was growing up, I was — somehow — offended and — yes — a little envious of that. Why do only Blacks get their most hated word censored?

On Friday Bill Maher shocked people on the left and the right (who defend racist Ted Nugent) because he made a joke with the word “nigger” in it. I’m not going to defend the joke for two reasons:

  1. The joke itself. I didn’t find it that funny. It was too oblique. I didn’t understand the target. Ben Stasse? Really?The joke might have been funny (in this former Gag Writer’s opinion) if Maher had been talking to either a hardcore racist, or someone like Jesse Jackson or Reverend Sharpton, who condemned the joke.
  2. Comedy is a High Wire Act performed without a net. Comedians, especially those doing live shtick like Maher, use their lightning fast skills with verbiage to get laughs. Sometimes you fall down, go boom. [See: Gilbert Godfried, Kathy Griffin, etc.]

In humour, timing is everything. Maher couldn’t have timed his riposte worse considering the political climate of the country right now.

I’ve written about issues of race for years. Was I offended by Maher? No. But, it doesn’t matter whether I was or not because I don’t get to decide what offends other people. Other people get to decide that. Like the NYTs Wesley Morris, who doesn’t seem terribly offended either, calling it something “for the basket labeled ‘Life’s too short.'” Answering his own question in What Was Bill Maher’s Big Mistake?, he writes [emphasis mine]:

[I]ntention is tricky in comedy. Mr. Sasse said something that was, on its face, unsavory. You don’t need much of an imagination to envision Chris Rock, Larry Wilmore or Wanda Sykes taking a whack at that line. ABC’s sitcom “black-ish” exists, partly, to satirize these sorts of conversational bloopers.

But Bill Maher isn’t Chris Rock. He’s not on “black-ish.” He’s a 61-year-old white man who would never get a pass for jesting about slavery or the N-word. (His track record inspires too much doubt to give any benefit.) That’s a license reserved, arguably, for Louis C.K., or Sarah Silverman in her performance-art prime — white comedians who have really grappled with what it means to flirt with racially inflammatory language and ideas, what it means for the flirtation to fail. Mr. Maher’s approach to television doesn’t necessitate that kind of rehearsed rumination. The appeal of “Real Time” is its on-the-spot discourse, its anti-rehearsal. That looseness can tip easily into blurting, flatulence and worse.

The insult to injury here involves the conflation of Mr. Maher’s transgression and the umbrage he feigned at being asked to work in the fields. As my sister might say: Oh, he fancy now. For a long time, black people have deployed slavery-derived hierarchies as a social and psycho-political sorting mechanism. A house assignment might have won a slave less arduous work but more suspicion and contempt from her counterparts in the fields. No one self-identifies as a house Negro — unless that person is making a joke. And even then that person probably shouldn’t be Bill Maher.

C’mon, Mr. Morris. A funny joke would still be a funny joke, no matter who says it. However, sometimes race adds a frisson to a joke that can make us all uncomfortable.

Take Lenny Bruce, please.

I discovered Lenny Bruce in my teenage years through Frank Zappa, who released The Berkeley Concert in 1971 on his Bizarre label. The concert was recorded in 1965 and Bruce had been dead 5 years by the time the record was released. I read his autobiography, How To Talk Dirty and Influence People and began collecting some of the earlier vinyl, which was really hard to find. Lenny Bruce didn’t sell a lot of records. Therefore, there weren’t a lot of Bruce records pressed.

I’m not trying to turn this into a treatise on comedy. To remind you, I’m writing about the word “nigger”. Lenny Bruce had more than one routine in which he invoked the word, but this one stuck with me over the years as an undeniable truth, delivered almost as if it were a Jazz riff:

Imagine that. If “nigger didn’t mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.” Lenny Bruce paid dearly for creating the world in which George Carlin and Louis C.K. could thrive:

Still, despite Bill Maher making the news this week, I was still on the fence about whether I would ever actually finish this post I began researching decades ago. However, a recent incident made my decision for me:

As I was Lyfting yesterday, I picked up 4 young men in Fort Lauderdale who were going some 35 miles to Sumerset Academy, a charter school down in Pembrook Pines. [Don’t get me started about Charter Schools, but clearly their parents felt they were getting a better education than anywhere else in the Public School System.] When these lads got in they did so with their music playing. I closed my music down, saying, “We got too much music happening.

“Crank it up,” I added. I let them plug in their bass heavy Bluetooth speaker and we drove down US-27 with the music cranked.

Now, I’m from Detroit and never heard the word “nigger” as many times as I did during this drive.

I couldn’t help but think that there are some people who do not consider the word toxic at all. There are some people who only consider it offensive when certain people use it. Here’s when I consider it offensive: When it’s used to offend.

On a related note, I told this story on my facebookery last week:

Had 2 Black gents in their 20s in the car when Al Jolson came on.

They were talking and showed no recognition whatsoever. So I interrupted and asked them, “Have either of you 2 gents heard of Al Jolson?”

After they both said “NO” I gave them an entire History Lesson on Blackface and Minstrel Shows. They were shocked.

They were more shocked to learn that there were Black men who blacked their faces so they could perform in Minstrel Shows.

Then I blew their minds when I explained that the original Whites who performed in blackface were imitating the Black folks’ Cake Walks, which in itself was a parody of White High Society that Black folks were lampooning.

It’s the vast circle of life.

Over the years I’ve bookmarked dozens of articles that avoid using the appropriate word, thereby softening these despicable sentiments. As I was in the process of proofreading this article, prior to hitting the PUBLISH button, I came across another ripped from the latest headlines:

Flint official resigns after
he’s caught on tape blaming
‘f*cking n*****s’ for water crisis

Oh, fer f*ck’s sake!

With the frightening emergence of NeoNazis (hiding behind the euphemism alt-right), we need RESIST the enabler in the White House, not get hung up over a word when used correctly.

New York Slave Revolt ► Throwback Thursday

We have to go all the way back to 1712, before this country was even a country, for this week’s Throwback Thursday.

At the time New York City was merely a small town, in a province of Britain, on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean. The crown colony known as New York (as opposed to old York, of course) was much larger than the current state. It included “all of the present U.S. states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Vermont, along with inland portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine, as well as eastern Pennsylvania“, as the WikiWackyWoo tells us.

Slavery, on the other hand, had been around forever. According to the Smithsonian Institute:

Life was wretched for the slaves brought to New York. Many of the city’s early landmarks, from City Hall to the eponymous wall of Wall Street were built using slave labor. The city even constructed an official slave market in 1711, Jim O’Grady reported for WNYC News in 2015.

“It was a city-run slave market because they wanted to collect tax revenue on every person who was bought and sold there,” historian Chris Cobb told O’Grady. “And the city hired slaves to do work like building roads.”

It is generally agreed that the New York Slave Revolt probably could not have happened elsewhere.

In the bustling town of New York, with its population at about 6,000 people, it’s estimated that about 10-15% were slaves owned by others. These slaves worked and lived in close proximity to one another, unlike the plantations of the south where there might be great distances between small groups of slaves. That immediacy allowed the slaves to talk to each other, to make plans, to foment rebellion.

Further reading at Not Now Silly

Is Toussaint L’Overture Packing Heat? Again?

The Great Slave Auction

Nat Turner Sentenced To Be Hanged

Frederick Douglass Escapes

Official Stamp of Approval

No Skin In The Game
Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four

Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins
Part One; Part Two; Part Three

Rebellion or Revolt?

On the night of April 6, 1712, resentment reached a flashpoint. It began in, what was then, the middle of town, on Maiden Lane. There about 23 slaves met and began their rebellion. I’ll let Colonial New York’s Governor Robert Hunter pick up the story:

I must now give your Lordships an account of a bloody conspiracy of some of the slaves of this place, to destroy as many of the inhabitants as they could….when they had resolved to revenge themselves, for some hard usage they apprehended to have received from their masters (for I can find no other cause) they agreed to meet in the orchard of Mr. Crook in the middle of the town, some provided with fire arms, some with swords and others with knives and hatchets. This was the sixth day of April, the time of the meeting was about twelve or one clock in the night, when about three and twenty of them were got together. One…slave to one Vantilburgh set fire to [a shed] of his masters, and then repairing to his place where the rest were, they all sallyed out together with their arms and marched to the fire. By this time, the noise of the fire spreading through the town, the people began to flock to it. Upon the approach of several, the slaves fired and killed them. The noise of the guns gave the alarm, and some escaping, their shot soon published the cause of the fire, which was the reason that nine Christians were killed, and about five or six wounded. Upon the first notice, which was very against them, but the slaves made their retreat into the woods, by the favour of the night. Having ordered the day following, the militia of this town and the country of West Chester to drive [to] the Island, and by this means and strict searches in the town, we found all that put the design in execution, six of these having first laid violent hands upon themselves [committed suicide], the rest were forthwith brought to their tryal before ye Justices of this place….In that court were twenty seven condemned, whereof twenty one were executed, one being a woman with a child, her execution by than means suspended. Some were burnt, others hanged, one broke on the wheel, and one hung alive in chains in the town, so that there has been the most exemplary punishment inflicted that could be possibily [sic] thought of.

Not surprisingly conditions for slaves became worse following the rebellion. Laws were quickly passed that prevented slaves from gathering in groups of 4 or more. They could not carry firearms, nor could they gamble. Punishment for those crimes was a whipping. However, the new laws also demanded the Death Penalty for property crimes, rape, and conspiracy to kill. In addition, owners who wanted to set their slaves free would be required to pay a tax of £200, which was far more than they could get by selling the slave to someone else.

It wasn’t until 1799 that New York outlawed slavery, but “it remained an intrinsic part of city life until after the Civil War, as businessmen continued to profit off of the products of the slave trade like sugar and molasses imported from the Caribbean” not to mention the products from the south.

Slavery is ‘Merka’s original sin. The sin of Racism continues to this very day.

The Great Slave Auction ► Throwback Thursday

One of the largest slave auctions before the Civil War — alternately called The Great Slave Auction or The Weeping Time — took place 158 years ago today.

Pierce M. Butler inherited the slaves from his grandfather and namesake, Major Pierce Butler. The elder Butler no longer spoke to his son, so he willed his property to his 2 grandsons, one of which was Pierce.

The younger Pierce was a bad businessman and a worse gambler. Eventually creditors forced him to sell off his assets. When the land wasn’t enough to settle his extensive gambling debts, Butler agreed to sell his human chattel.

The sale lasted 2 days because there were 436 men, women, and children to be sold. From Unearthing the Weeping Time: Savannah’s Ten Broeck Race Course and 1859 Slave Sale:

Advertisement for The Great Slave Auction

The “Weeping Time” brought much anguish to the enslaved. Families, who had been together for all of their lives on Butler’s Island or Hampton, were torn apart and dispersed; many of them never saw each other again. The Butler slaves were dispersed all over the southern states. The heavens seemed to weep in empathy as the four dry days during which buyers inspected the enslaved gave way to a brooding storm; it rained “violently,” and the “wind howled” for the two days of sale, letting up only after the last person had been sold.26 Outside the advertisements, the Savannah newspapers offered cursory mention that the sale had taken place as planned. Slavery and slave sales were a way of life and livelihood in Savannah, and much of the US South. After Mortimer Thomson’s Tribune article was published in the North, Savannah Morning News editor, William T. Thompson (1812–1882) castigated Doesticks as a spy, intimating that next time he came South, he would not get away.27

Detailing the callousness and heartlessness of slavery, Doesticks’ published exposé was a political blow to the South, at a time of escalating sectional animosity. Like the arrival of the slave ship Wanderer—which in November 1858 landed the last shipment of African slaves brought to Georgia, on Jekyll Island near Savannah, the Ten Broeck slave sale exacerbated tensions between northern and southern states.28

Who was Doesticks? The WikiWacyWoo answers that question:

Pierce M. Butler (far left) next to his wife Frances

Mortimer Thomson, a popular journalist during the time who wrote under the pseudonym “Q. K. Philander Doesticks” memorialized the event.[3] Initially, Thomson traveled to Savannah infiltrating the buyers by pretending to be interested in purchasing slaves. After the sale, he wrote a long and scathing article describing the auction in the New York Tribune titled, “What Became of the Slaves on a Georgia Plantation.”[4]

Slavery is the country’s original sin.

Slavery is also a permanent stain on the flag of this nation, which will never wash out.

While the Founding Fathers wrote a Bill of Rights and Constitution filled with lofty words, it was an empty promise even before the ink dried. These Founders owned people — bought and sold people — and enshrined in these documents that a Black person was only worth 3/5ths of a White one.

Additionally, the institution of slavery is what allowed the fledgling nation to become so prosperous so quickly. Free labour allowed some families to amass great fortunes, which have been passed down from generation to generation.

Just as important is how — after Reconstruction was abandoned — the attitude of White folk towards their Black brothers and sisters barely changed. There would be no #BlackLivesMatter movement today if people were treated equally in the ensuing 15 decades.

The Not Now Silly Newsroom has been featuring
articles about Race Relations since its founding.
More found in the menu at the top of this page.

Waking Up in the Grove ► Unpacking Grand Avenue

Looking east along Grand Avenue with the sun rising over Biscayne Bay
This is Part Two of a series about Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove.

The car creeps west very slowly along Grand Avenue at well below the posted speed limit. It’s 5 in the morning. There are no cars to impede at this hour.

Very few people are even awake at this hour. In the Center Grove, those moving along Grand seem to be working folk. They’re either headed to work, or finishing an overnight shift. In several of the restaurants along this stretch, people are washing the floors, making them spick and span for the next seating at the next meal. At restaurants that serve breakfast the prep cooks are just starting to arrive.

Thirty, or so, bicyclists in tight spandex gather on McFarlane Road, just across from the narrow end of the triangle where it meets Grand and Main Highway at CocoWalk. Their flashing red tail lights make the scene other worldly at this time of the morning until, silently, they’re gone. At 5:30 the Starbucks in CocoWalk opens, which increases foot traffic as working people slowly trickle in for their ridiculously expensive lattes.

West of Margaret Street you’d be hard pressed to find a single place to buy a coffee — let alone a ridiculously expensive one — at any time of the day or night. That’s because after Margaret things change drastically. Grand Avenue goes from high end businesses and ritzy restaurants to a slum. The dividing line is the CVS Pharmacy.

CVS is the demarcation between East and West Grove

This is not a gradual transition, as it often is in other cities, where a boarded up building leads to a few more on the next block, then more on the next block, until you reach the epicenter of the blight.

Rather, the transition on Grand Avenue is instantaneous. Immediate. Sudden. The difference is so stark that it is noticeable and remarked upon by visitors who have never seen it before. Crossing Margaret is crossing Coconut Grove’s invisible Colour Line, from White Grove to Black Grove; from prosperous Grove to West Grove.

Beyond Margaret is what was once the prosperous main drag of the Black business district of Coconut Grove. Now it is one of the worst slums in all of Miami.

There is another noticeable difference, especially at 5:30 in the morning. The few people on the sidewalks along this stretch of Grand are, for the most part, down-and-out street folks like in all cities: some just homeless, some are addicts, and some are dealers.

Making an illegal U-turn at Douglas Road, the driver makes eye contact with as many of those solitary souls moving along Grand as possible. Sliding into the same parking space near Hibiscus Street week after week, the driver locks the car. Then he sits on a bench near a bus stop making notes, taking pictures, and talking to anyone who will talk back.

This has been my routine for the last many weeks running: observing how this part of Coconut Grove comes alive in the mornings. The advantage to sitting on the same bench week after week is that people get to know me. More of them are willing to talk to me, while others now call to me by name to join their conversations, to introduce me as a writer researching Coconut Grove.

People are starved to talk to anyone who will listen.

The life story I know best (because I’ve spent the most time with them) belongs to Rhonda and Nelson (all names in this story have been changed). Married, with 4 children and a dog, they are living in a building that was recently condemned. The evictions were put on hold while the city sues the owners, but many people have already left. Nelson says that there are only 7 families left in their building.

Rhonda and Nelson have been trying to leave for quite a while, but they have been unable to afford anything even close to the price they’re paying. What’s more is they have no reserve funds, living paycheque to paycheque like so many families in this country. Furthermore, just when it appears they have a small amout of money put aside, they’re hit with another unexpected bill. Just yesterday I heard how their car broke down and they had to put money they couldn’t spare into it.

Click to enlarge
I’ve written about that red line in Where the Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins

One recent morning I watched as a neighbour walked her little boy across Grand to their place. They take him to school, along with their own kids, while she heads off to work.

I ride with Nelson as he drops one child off at the designated school bus stop. As we talk, he tells me about the complex we are parked next to. It’s called The Kingway Apartments. Despite the fancy name it’s nothing more than a huge grouping of squat, one story cinder block duplexes. It was still dark, so it took me a while to realize we were parked at the west end of Charles Terrace. This is directly in front of The Colour Line witten about in Where the Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins.

The Kingsway is where Nelson and Rhonda are hoping to move. Every day they check with the landlord to see if a unit is coming open. For some reason there doesn’t appear to be a waiting list on which one can sign up. While The Kingsway is more than they’re paying now, it is almost just within their budget if they scrimp every single penny. However, it’s the only place around that’s remotely affordable.

When we return to his apartment, I let him attend to the rest of the family’s morning routine of getting the little ones dressed and off to school. I go back to sit on my bench and watch. Soon the sidewalks are coming alive with children carrying book bags and knapsacks. They come out of the concrete block buildings along Grand Avenue, and from houses along the residential streets running parallel, north and south of Grand. Some are accompanied by parents, Others travel in groups of two or more.

Morning peacocks on Franklin Avenue

I walk south on Hibiscus. There are a lot of kids walking to school now. When I get down to Franklin, just a few blocks south of Grand, I’m shocked.

Franklin at this time of day is a slow- moving, bumper-to-bumper, eastbound traffic jam from Plaza all the way to Main Highway. The small traffic circles — installed as a traffic calming device — are difficult to navigate with cars filling them.

These are also children going to school, but their rich White parents are taking them to Ransom Everglades School on Main Highway, not the public schools in the area. Each SUV seems to have a single parent and a single child inside. They are only using Franklin, which is still predominately Black owned, as a shunt to get from A to B. Otherwise they wouldn’t be caught dead in this part of West Grove, especially at night.

I walk back to Grand Avenue, the main street where — ironically — there is far less traffic, to get away from the car fumes. I’m back on my bench reviewing my notes about other people who also call this neighbourhood home.

There’s Bill. He was riding a bicycle as I slid into my usual parking spot at 5:30 AM. I nodded as he slowly rode past. When I got out of the car he said, “You okay?” This is street slang for “Would you like to buy some drugs?” Once again I have been racially profiled. The sad truth is that most of the White folk who show up on this end of Grand tend to be looking for drugs.

I told him I didn’t need anything, explained I was a writer, and asked if he’d sit and talk to me for a while. It was as simple as that. Bill and I sat there 25 minutes. I asked him intrusive questions about his business, his family, his home, life on Grand Avenue, and — most importantly — systemic racism in West Grove, where he has lived his entire life.

Bill was nervous every time a police car passed, as several did, and kept saying he should go. He admitted that he carried no drugs. Had we made a deal, it was something he had to retrieve. So I asked him why he was so nervous. A Black guy, known to the police, sitting with a White guy? That will attract undue attention. I kept telling him that we were just 2 men talking on a bench. I know my rights and would love a cop to show up and start asking questions.

Bill, who has been Black longer than I’ve been White (and older than the other bike salesmen in this part of town), was horrified at the thought that I might challenge a police officer. I explained to him how my White Privilege allows me to get away with stuff like that. That’s when Bill brought me up short. “But I’ll still be here tomorrow. Will you?”

Patrice is another of my early morning friends along Grand. She now introduces me to people as “Mr. Headly”, even though I have asked her not to call me Mister. The first time I met her she was with her friend Mary. At first I thought they were trying to hustle me and, maybe, they were. However, I made it clear pretty quickly that I was writing about Coconut Grove history. When they heard I was wrote about the E.W.F. Stirrup House, they were an open book. We went for a long walk along the residential streets where they showed me where there were hidden cameras in the trees in a vacant lot. There weren’t, but their drug paranoia was strong.

Mary is jonesing. She needs a pick me up. She needs to make money. She needs to pack because she’s being thrown out of her place today. She needs to go and take care of business. But she walked with us for another 15 minutes before she finally left, Patrice trying to convince her to stay the whole time.

Patrice and I walked further south to Marler Avenue, where I showed her another segment of the Miami-mandated and still visible Colour Line Wall, built to keep Black Grave and White Grove separate — and, incidentally, still doing a pretty good job of it. [Read Part Two of Where The Sidewak Ends, Racism Begins.]

As I explained to her why Marler is land-locked, I have rarely had a more attentive student on one of my walking history tours. However, while describing the chain link fence that went up across the footpath that connects Marler to Loquat Avenue, a friend of hers rode up on a bicycle. He said something to her that I didn’t hear. Patrice gave me a cute little shrug and went off with him.

The next time I see Patrice she’s sitting behind the wheel of a shiny brand new Mercedes. I don’t know it’s her at first. I was sitting on my customary bench a block away. Even at 5:30 in the morning it was hard not to miss that something was going on over there because the driver’s door was open and people kept walking over to the car to talk to the driver.

After an hour of note-taking, I got up and walked east. As I passed the car, I hear her calling, “Mr. Headly. Mr. Headly.”

She had 2 other people in the car with her. It started to drizzle when I left my bench, but suddenly the skies opened and it rained hard. I quickly ducked under the awning of a nearby store that hasn’t been open for years, but I’m soaked by the time I get there. It’s a brief shower, less than 5 minutes. I go back to the car to help Patrice because they needed to use my phone. Something had gone wrong with the Mercedes keyless ignition and it wouldn’t start. Her phone was out of juice and they needed to call the dealership.

At 6:30 in the morning no one is answering at the dealership and won’t until 9, according to the recording. Plan B is to use their AARP card. However, all AARP will do is arrange to have the car towed and no one wants that. It’s in a legal, free parking space. [Free because it’s west of Margaret, as are all parking spaces.]

The interior of the car looks like a closet exploded. Clothes and garbage bags filled with clothes are on the backseat. An elderly woman is nestled into all of this like it was a beanbag chair. Then I notice she’s smoking something out of a pipe. The car’s owner is in the passenger seat. She doesn’t look like she could afford a beater, let alone this luxury car that won’t start. She can barely communicate, which is why I am making these phone calls.

The woman in the back seat keeps nodding off during the time I’m on the phone. Suddenly she comes awake and decides it’s time to go. It becomes a scene from a situation comedy: an elderly woman trying to extricate herself from a beanbag chair. I offer my hand and help her out, but she loses her sandals in the process, one skittering under the car. As everybody starts looking for her sandals, I say goodbye to Patrice and head back to Center Grove to meet a source who explains to me the difference between affordable housing, sustainable housing, and workforce housing.

Because he’s using numbers — building costs per square foot, lot sizes, basic incomes, financing costs, percentages, and margins — it all goes over my head. [Numbers are my natural enemy.]

But what of the people who live along Grand Avenue? 

Bottom line? The people living along Grand in the cheap, but blighted, apartments are screwed. There will never be any affordable housing built for them. It’s best to think of all new West Grove construction as sustainable housing and/or workforce housing and/or luxury condos. West Grove will eventually look exactly like East Grove and will, no doubt, have the same racial demographic: White.

The basic problem is that these properties have been bought and sold by speculators and developers so many times over the last decade, that the price of the land alone has become astronomical. My real estate source says the land is now trading for far more than the real value should be. But, let’s face it, the actual value is whatever people will pay pay for it. As one developer after another ponied up, the price increased every time. By the time the developers are finished, Grand Avenue will be a concrete canyon 5 stories tall filled with condos, more restaurants, businesses, and not a single affordable unit among them. Anything less would not allow them to recoup their investment.

Along Frow Avenue (1 block north of Grand) and Thomas Avenue (1 block south), the neighbours will be forced to accept the back-ends of these buildings. What is currently two quiet residential streets of 1 story Conch and shotgun houses, will be replaced by 3 story buildings, as the Grand Avenue frontage is ‘stepped back’.  They’ll also have to deal with increased traffic, parking lots, and service entrances to these buildings.

This same inflation has come to the entire area north and south of Grand, the traditional Bahamian neighbourhood that’s older than Miami itself. Property values are such that homes that have been in the same family for generations are being sold by folks who find themselves land rich, but cash poor. As land values rise, it gets harder and harder for some people to keep up with the taxes. I hear anecdotal stories of speculators coming in with low ball offers for the deed and they’ll take over the tax arrears. More gossip is of people who reversed mortgaged their homes in order to stay.

Furthermore, the Coconut Grove Collaborative had a long-term plan for the infilling of inexpensive homes on the empty lots in this area. However, the price of the land has now made that a pipe dream.

Slowly the racial demographic of this historic and unique neighbourhood is being changed after remaining fairly cohesive and predominately Black-owned for close to 130 years.

Walking back to West Grove I watch the City of Miami Parks & Rec guy unlock Billie Rolle Domino Park, which is posted closed from sunset to sunrise. However, the sun rose quite a while ago. This is one of the parks that had to be closed due to toxic soil back in 2013. It was also one of the first parks remediated.

Because the park just opened, I’m the first person to use the washroom. It’s clean. I’ve used it much later in the day when it doesn’t look so nice. People have stashed stuff all around this pocket park under the benches. There’s a suitcase under one seat. A duffle bag under another. Under one bench there is a what appears to be an entire camping tent in it’s nylon carrying case. People stored these things here because the park is locked at night and they don’t have to lug this stuff.

Patrice and friends are still waiting for help to arrive. It’s surprising they’re being so conspicuous because the entire neighbourhood has been on edge because of heightened police activity recently.

Just 2 weeks ago I looked up from my computer to turn my attention to the local news on my tee vee. Police and media helicopters were flying over the intersection of Douglas Road and Grand Avenue. It was a weird bit of synchronicity that gave me goosebumps because I was working on Part One of this series, The Grand Avenue 2002 Vision Plan, at that exact moment.

All the local schools were on lockdown as dozens of police cars flooded the area. As I watched these events live at home, 35 miles away, I was texting my sources in The Grove to alert them what was happening in their neighbourhood in real time.

The official story is that police were looking for a robbery suspect who allegedly broke into 3 cars in the area. However, no one I’ve spoken to believes that. They believe police were looking for a suspect in a recent murder, who had been reported in the area because his ex-girlfriend claimed he had just stolen $10 from her and was still in the area.

Whatever brought this mighty show of force down upon West Grove, it served a greater purpose, keeping the folks in line. I have already spoken to several men who were detained that day. None were arrested. All were just harassed, insulted, and held for a while, for no reason at all. Each one (and I am only talking about 3, hardly a representative sample) told me they know the police and the police know them. Being detained was just part of the game being played that day.

From my bench at the western end of Grand Avenue I see the locals start to stir. Car traffic increases by the minute. Out of the side streets, from the residential part of West Grove, come drivers on their way to work. Most of them appear to be Black. They turn either east of west onto Grand and head off to work. However, I also notice that there are a lot of cars that are just using Grand as a shunt — just like Franklin — to get from one place to another. These are, for the most part, White folk.

They don’t/won’t stop in West Grove, long rumoured to be a dangerous neighbourhood. However, in the 7 years I’ve been researching Coconut Grove, wandering these streets at all hours of the day and night, I have never felt unsafe at all. In fact, as I am sitting on a bench getting another resident’s story, a guy walked by and said, “Welcome to the neighbourhood, buddy.” I guess now I’m considered a fixture.

This look at Grand Avenue is based on many visits and interviews over a period of time, although parts read like a single day.

If you’ve liked anything you’ve read at the Not Now Silly Newsroom,  please consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign to Support Investigative Journalism. My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove.

The Grand Avenue 2002 Vision Plan ► Unpacking Grand Avenue

This 1885 watercolour by Winslow Homer is called “A
Garden in Nassau”. Ironically it was used 14 years ago for
this Grand Avenue Vision Plan. Read more about it below.

This is the start of an extensive series on Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove. 

There is a humanitarian crisis currently happening on Grand Avenue. 

Yesterday a number of residents in a blighted building along Grand received eviction notices. The biggest problem they have is that there is no place to go. One couple I’ve spoken to, with several children, has been looking for a new place for months in order to escape their moldy and bug infested apartment. There is absolutely nothing available in their budget and they feel as if they are being gentrified out of the neighbourhood.

The truth of the matter is they are.

At one time the western end of Grand Avenue was the bustling Black business district of West Grove. Today it is one of the worst slums in Miami. The reason West Grove remained a cohesive Black neighbourhood has to do with the efforts of one man who made a difference: E.W.F. Stirrup. And, just like the Stirrup House, which anchors the opposite end of the historic Black neighbourhood, it has undergone a campaign of Demolition by Neglect. [Read: Who Is To Blame For the Destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?]

Ironically, the west end of Grand, blighted as it is, has become some of the most valuable real estate in Miami, having been bought and flipped so many times over the last few decades by speculators looking to gentrify an entrenched Black neighbourhood. Now nothing less than a concrete canyon from Margaret Street west will allow the land to pay for itself. Furthermore, due to Demolition by Neglect, there’s almost nothing left along that stretch worth renovating and saving.

Click to enlarge
This map demonstrates how close Grand Avenue is to
the E.W.F. Stirrup House. Identified on this map are
many stories covered in the Not Now Silly Newsroom.


MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision Historical District
Armbrister Field
Coconut Grove Playhouse
The Colour Line
Coral Gables

A quick Grand Ave history lesson: The street always suffered from institutional racism, because that’s what always happened in this country. However, it started its slide into irrelevance after segregation was outlawed. Once the folk in West Grove could shop anywhere, the businesses along Grand Avenue no longer had a captive clientele.

Over the next several decades systemic racism kept this end of Coconut Grove in near poverty, even as the other end — the White end — of the 33133 zip code became one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the entire country.

Last month the rapacious developers, hoping to gentrify these people out of existence could hide their slum no longer. Local NBC 6 did an exposé, and interviewed District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell in the process. [Read Residents of Derelict Coconut Grove Building Facing Homelessness. I was unable to embed the video, but it’s not for the squeamish.] The issue of Grand Avenue was suddenly in the news, especially after Miami Sues Coconut Grove Landlords for Renting Moldy, Sewage-Filled Apartments, Jessica Lipscomb writes:

Parts of the roof have caved in, creating a breeding ground for mold. Raw sewage, including pieces of toilet paper and human waste, sometimes flow in front of the tenants’ front doors. Recently, the landlord cut the power to the outdoor lights, cloaking the building in dangerous darkness after sunset.

But rent is only $400 a month, an almost unheard-of bargain in Miami, where residents in nearly every stretch of the city are being squeezed by rising housing costs. It’s about all Coats, who is unemployed, can afford to pay each month. “The rent is just getting ridiculous,” she says.

Now the City of Miami is taking legal action against the owners, who — under five corporation names — have 12 properties in Coconut Grove, all of which, the city says, are in various states of disrepair and code violation. The city is fighting to force the owners to pay to relocate all of the tenants to clean and safe apartments they can afford — and many fear they could become homeless if no alternative is provided.

There was a stay of execution on last month’s evictions after Commissioner Russell filed his lawsuit. Until yesterday, that is. Many have already left, but the remaining residents have all been told they have to be out by November.

LET’S BE CLEAR: While these rich, White, deveopers have been buying and selling these properties — and now suing each other — the pawns that have been allowed to live in their fiefdom are suffering. Little money, if any, has been spent on these buildings. Or, on this entire stretch of Grand Avenue, for that matter. This is another clear case of Demolition by Neglect. Unlike the Stirrup House, which was empty, real people are being affected by these deplorable conditions.

Read more in A History of West Coconut Grove from 1925: Slum Clearance, Concrete Monsters, and the Dicotomy of East and West Coconut Grove, by Alex Plasencia, for their Clemson University thesis.

That’s why it’s more than a little ironic that the 2002 Grand Avenue Vision Plan used “A Garden in Nassau” for its cover. The implication of using Homer’s painting would have been crystal clear to those who chose it. The biography Winslow Homer, by Nicolai Cikovsky and Franklin Kelly, describes Homer’s first time in the Bahamas, where he completed some 30 paintings:

Rest by Winslow Homer

Homer’s purpose was clearly to gather as many pictures representative of the scenery of the island and the lives of its citizens as possible, for his watercolors embrace a wide variety of subjects. However, he seems to have been particularly interested in the day-to-day activities of the black inhabitants. There was a substantial African population on Nassau, because English planters had brought slaves to the island to work their plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1834, but the economic conditions of former slaves and their descendants remained extremely difficult. Several of Homer’s watercolors, such as “Rest” and “A Garden in Nassau”, hint at the lingering effects of slavery by showing black figures standing outside the coral limestone walls that typically surrounded white homes, suggesting that they were excluded from the world within.

Nothing depicts the dichotomy between East Grove and the historic Bahamian neighbourhood of West Grove more than the Nassau paintings by Winslow Homer. What the committee that chose his painting for the 2002 Vision Plan could not have known is how little would get done in the intervening 14 years. Presenting this optimistic plan to the City of Miami, there was no way they could have known that the metaphorical wall between the two ends of Coconut Grove would get ever higher.

I’ll be sharing more of the 2002 Grand Avenue Vision Plan — along with the very human stories of people living in this section of town — in the coming weeks. However, I just wanted to provide some historical context before I get too deep into this series.

Here’s some more context from 2009 by filmmaker Ellie Tinto-Poitier, narrated by Jeffrey Poitier:

If anyone knows where I can find a completed
version of this documentary, please contact me.

If you’ve liked anything you’ve read at the Not Now Silly Newsroom,  please consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign to Support Investigative Journalism. My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove.