Tag Archives: institutional racism

Say Goodbye to the E.W.F. Stirrup House While You Still Can

Right now there’s still a bit of old among
the new, but not for long. May 18, 2016

Why was the E.W.F. Stirrup House
so important to the community?

Read: Happy Birthday Coconut
Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past

If you’re a longtime reader of Not Now Silly, you know of my years-long campaign to SAVE THE E.W.F. Stirrup House. It is with great sadness that I report the fight has been lost.

I’m throwing in the towel.

Let me be clear. A developer is going ahead with the “Historic E.W.F. Stirrup House Bed & Breakfast.” It is currently in the process of … what’s the correct word? Clearly not renovation.

I say that because I spoke to the foreman on the 18th, who confirmed what I feared. When they are done, not a single piece of the original house will remain. It will be all new construction — from the piers on which the house will sit right up through the roof.

Therefore, it will no longer be the oldest house on Charles Avenue. It will no longer be the Historically Designated E.W.F. Stirrup House.

This NEW! IMPROVED!! Stirrup House will be a mere re-creation. An ectype. An analogue of the original. A facsimile. A carbon copy. A semblance of the former. A clone. A chip off the old wood block. A mere imitation. Imposture!!! It will be a double, aka duplicate doppelgänger. A dead ringer for what used to be. A mega-ditto. An impersonation of a historic structure. An ersatz E.W.F. Stirrup House. It will be a deceit, or deception. It’s a put-on. A reproduction. A copycat. Bogus and just an effigy of the original. An incredible likeness. A look-alike. A replica. The spitting image. A pseudo E.W.F. Stirrup House, or a simulacrum. A twin, but counterfeit. It’s a fake, a forgery, and a fraud. Merely a knockoff. A phony E.W.F. Stirrup House. A sad replication. A rip-off. A hoax. A sham. A mock-up. A simulation. Just a representation. A shadow of its former self. An archetype of the Stirrup House. An impression of what once was. Merely an approximation. Possibly a reincarnation, if you believe in that.

The northwest corner of the Stirrup House, May 18, 2016.

On the left: front. On the right: the west side. Nothing of
the original house remains, the fate for the rest of the house.

In other words: even though he built
it with his own 2 hands, it will be a house that Ebenezer Woodbury
Franklin Stirrup never touched.

According to the Cleveland Restoration Society‘s guidelines, this is called a “Reconstruction”:

The act or process of depicting, by means of new work, the form, features, and detailing on a non surviving historic structure for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific time in its historic location.

I asked my source, who has rehabbed many old and historic houses, whether the preservationist community looks upon these recreations with the same disdain I now look upon the NEW! IMPROVED!! E.W.F. Stirrup House.

Not if it had burned down or had fallen so far into disrepair that nothing could be salvaged.

And, therein lies the rub.

The E.W.F. Stirrup House has undergone nearly a decade of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. I have THOUSANDS of pictures of the Stirrup House that document the slow disintegration of the historic structure over
the last 7 years. For the majority of that time this house was not
sealed from the elements, with windows either open, missing, or broken. The all-wooden house had no protection from the wind-driven rain and from the invasive vines, reptiles and insects that took over when people moved out. No wonder the developers were able to argue nothing could be salvaged.

The official reason given for
starting from scratch is termite damage. However — and I cannot stress this enough — had the house been sealed
and protected, there may not have been quite the infestation. They allowed the worst devastation to occur on their watch. Before they got a hold of it, the house was a rental property.

Bottom line: The developer profited from allowing the house to fall apart. It would have been far more expensive to bring the old structure up to code than it will be to wire and plumb an entirely new structure.

The Mariah Brown House was once
the oldest house on Charles Avenue

IRONY ALERT!!! This is the same fate that befell the Mariah Brown House, a few doors west of the Stirrup House. What is now seen is not the Mariah Brown House. It’s a relatively new re-creation.

The Mariah Brown House was once the oldest house on Charles Avenue. “Mary the Washer-woman,” as she was known, and her husband were the first to buy land on the Frow Homestead on a footpath that later became Evangelist Street, for the number of churches that were strung along its length. It’s now known as Charles Avenue.

The Browns were among the original Bahamian labourers at The Peacock Inn, right at the beginning of the nascent South Florida tourist industry. Those tourists traps — just like modern day tourist traps — needed a service industry. The Bahamians drifting up from the Keys became those workers. After enough of them gathered in West Grove, Mr. Stirrup laid out Charles Avenue, slightly out of true east-west coordinates.

That’s why this is the very 1st street in Miami. Which is why Charles Avenue was designated a Historic Roadway by the City of Miami.

When the Brown House was reconstructed, the E.W.F. Stirrup House became the oldest house on the block.

I take absolutely no solace for being right all along. Right from the get-go I called this a case of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. I predicted that the developer was hoping a hurricane would knock it down because he was quoted in the Miami media as saying that he would rebuild if that happened. Just substitute termites and wood rot for hurricane and you’ve got the picture.

If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I’ve been writing about West Grove for the past 7 years. Now, all of a sudden, it’s become très chic to write about Coconut Grove. The New Tropic has been all over it lately. In one recent article I couldn’t help but notice a new name attached to the reconstruction of the Stirrup House. I’ve never seen that name mentioned in connection of the Stirrup House before. However, it’s a name I recently heard in connection to a new Coconut Grove rumour that I am currently trying to chase down. Stay tuned on that.

I haven’t Googled the topic of the E.W.F. Stirrup House in a while because I was the only one writing about it. During the research for this article, to see whether there was something new I had missed, I was gratified to discover a website called Stirrup Family Legacy. Because I didn’t want to edit this, here’s the entire ABOUT page:

This collaborative effort was born in the social media space
following an inspired Facebook discussion among a few family members.
While aware that our family story is already in the public domain and
has been for some time, we acknowledged that the telling of our family
story varied greatly and was regrettably unknown to many– particularly
to those most needing to hear it. We came to an agreement as a family
and decided to act–as a family, for our family.

We agreed that our family story is a classic American immigrant tale;
one that is deeply rooted in the American dream.; one that is both
exemplary and extraordinary; one that deserves to be told; and one that
should rightfully be told by the Stirrup family.

The goals for the Stirrup Family Legacy are threefold. First, our
website is a means of preserving the Stirrup Family Legacy while
increasing the digital footprint of the Stirrup family story. We are
creating a lasting tribute to Stirrups who have passed on, and a living
legacy for current and future generations of Stirrups.

Second, we want to promote, through digital media and deeds, the core Stirrup Family Values that were lived and bestowed to us by our beloved patriarch Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, Sr. and Charlotte Jane Stirrup, our beloved matriarch. The values are these: commitment to FAMILY; commitment to EDUCATION; commitment to SERVICE; commitment to COMMUNITY; commitment to ENTREPRENEURSHIP; commitment to PHILANTHROPY; and commitment to CREATIVITY.

Finally, our web presence is also a means to unite our family with
the aid of the web–a virtual and ongoing family reunion that convenes
regularly in cyberspace. We created a family community where connection
and exchange of ideas, information, resources, and love can happen.

We thank you for finding us and invite all who arrive here to visit
often, contribute, become involved in our initiatives and above all,
spread the word!   S<3

As I have stated many times: The purpose of my campaign to restore the E.W.F. Stirrup House was about much more than the house. It was also to burnish the legacy of Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, a man way ahead of his time. During the Jim Crow years he made a fortune, but more importantly he made a home and neighbourhood for thousands of Bahamians and their descendants. The fact that there is still a cohesive Black enclave — in the middle of one of the most exclusive Zip Codes in the country — is a testament to this visionary. In the vast and ugly history of Race Relations in this country, Coconut Grove is the exception that proves the rule.

Animation: May 11, 2016, when more of the east wall still existed.

COMING SOON: Who is to blame for the
destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?

The Not Now Silly Newsroom plans to name names.

Nat Turner Sentenced To Be Hanged ► Throwback Thursday

Benjamin Phipps, a local farmer, accidentally
discovers Nat Turner almost 2 months after the revolt

On this day in 1831, Nat Turner was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged as leader of the slave revolt of two months earlier.

Turner believed his revolt was ordained by God. According to History:

He was born on the Virginia plantation of Benjamin Turner, who allowed him to be instructed in reading, writing, and religion. Sold three times in his childhood and hired out to John Travis (1820s), he became a fiery preacher and leader of African-American slaves on Benjamin Turner’s plantation and in his Southampton County neighbourhood, claiming that he was chosen by God to lead them from bondage.

Believing in signs and hearing divine voices, Turner was convinced by an eclipse of the Sun (1831) that the time to rise up had come, and he enlisted the help of four other slaves in the area. An insurrection was planned, aborted, and rescheduled for August 21,1831, when he and six other slaves killed the Travis family, managed to secure arms and horses, and enlisted about 75 other slaves in a disorganized insurrection that resulted in the murder of 51 white people.

Afterwards, Turner hid nearby successfully for six weeks until his discovery, conviction, and hanging at Jerusalem, Virginia, along with 16 of his followers. 

Racist cartoon depicting the revolt

If Nat Turner thought his revolt would lead to freedom for slaves, he was sadly mistaken. In fact, as the WikiWackyWoo tell us, it got worse for all Black folk, Free Black and slave alike.

In total, the state executed 56 blacks suspected of having been
involved in the uprising. But in the hysteria of aroused fears and anger
in the days after the revolt, white militias and mobs killed an
estimated 200 blacks, many of whom had nothing to do with the rebellion.[32]


The fear caused by Nat Turner’s insurrection and the concerns raised
in the emancipation debates that followed resulted in politicians and
writers responding by defining slavery as a “positive good”.[34] Such authors included Thomas Roderick Dew, a William and Mary College professor who published a pamphlet in 1832 opposing emancipation on economic and other grounds.[35]

Fears of uprisings polarized moderates and slave owners across the South. Municipalities across the region instituted repressive policies against
blacks. Rights were taken away from those who were free. The freedoms
of all black people in Virginia were tightly curtailed. Socially, the
uprising discouraged whites’ questioning the slave system from the
perspective that such discussion might encourage similar slave revolts. Manumissions
had decreased by 1810. The shift away from tobacco had made owning
slaves in the Upper South an excess to the planters’ needs, so they
started to hire out slaves. With the ending of the international slave
trade, the invention of the cotton gin, and opening up of new territories in the Deep South,
suddenly there was a growing market for the trading of slaves. Over the
next decades, more than a million slaves would be transported to the
Deep South in a forced migration as a result of the domestic slave

Nat Turner was hanged on November 11, 1831, just 6 days after he was tried, convicted, and sentenced.

The Klu Klux Klan Act of 1871 ► Throwback Thursday

It was supposed to be a normal meeting of the Miami Planning and Zoning Board last night. The first 2 items were deferred from last month and there were a number of citizens who wanted to speak to it. 

Normally when I attend a meeting at Miami City Hall, I know all about the issues that will be discussed. I knew nothing about this issue. All I knew is that one of my sources, who has yet to be wrong, strongly suggested I make time for the 6PM meeting without telling me why. That was the first time they were ever wrong. It turned out to be a 6:30 meeting.

And, the meeting didn’t even start at 6:30. It took a few extra minutes to get a quorum. However, once the meeting was gavelled to order, it moved pretty quickly to the first 2 agenda items, which had been deferred from last month in the hope that the residents and developer could work out an amicable deal. That didn’t appear to have happened.


A: The 4 parcels on the north side of Day Avenue; B: The 4
parcels on the south side of Day Avenue; C: Brooker St. is
where Coconut Grove ends and Coral Gables begins; D: Douglas
Avenue; E: The Trolly Garage, which was the last time the city
tried to run roughshod over the neighbourhood and won a Pyrrhic
victor that cost the city a lot of money, all because of
[allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff’s meddling.

In a nutshell, and not to get too deeply in the weeds: A developer wanted to “upzone” 8 parcels of land along Day Avenue to commercial from residential. Upzoning is the new word for variances, which appear to be routinely approved despite what the neighbours may want.

First to speak was the City of Miami’s lawyer, who seemed to have been asked by the board previously, to give the city’s recommendation on the upzoning request. After a whole lot of yadda, yadda, yadda the city decided to take a Solomonic approach. It recommended approval of upzoning the 4 parcels on the north side of Day Avenue (labeled A on the map to the right) and recommended denying the upzoning on the 4 parcels labeled B on the south side of Day.

Next it was the lawyer’s turn to speak on behalf of the developer. It was a whole lot more yadda, yadda, yadda, but this time couched in lawyer talk. However, as he spoke you could hear the citizens, the stakeholders, the taxpayers grumbling over the wording and assumptions being made.

Then the meeting was opened to public comments. People were asked to line up at the podiums on either side of the dais and given 2 minutes to explain their support or opposition to the application for upzoning. No one spoke on behalf of the upzoning. All were opposed.

First up was J.S. Rashid, CEO of the Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Office, who spoke about how his organization is trying to maintain the fabric of the historic West Grove neighbourhood for decades, which continues to be whittled away by decisions made in Miami. He talked about the neighbourhood development zone which had been created previously and how this was more about equity than it is about the zoning of a few parcels. He brought up how there may be 8 parcels of land, but that represents 14 residential units of affordable housing for disenfranchise people. While he was hoping for a compromise, he said if there’s not a net benefit to the community in affordable housing, he was prepared to oppose the project in toto.

Then the various shareholders, citizens, and taxpayers turn. It was, in essence, the same arguments heard every time the people of West Grove come out to protect their neighbourhood. Paraphrasing many of the comments: 

“You can’t do this.”

“Once again the historic fabric of the originally Bahamian neighbourhood is being destroyed for the sake of commerce.”

“Currently, this is affordable housing. If these are lost, what will replenish the supply of affordable housing in this impoverished neighbourhood?”

“We are 3 generations of Grovites who have lived on this block for over 30 years.” 

It look as if the board was about to recommend they defer the issue all over again, because it truly seemed as if there might still be room for compromise. However, the lawyer for the developer didn’t think more negotiations would have been productive and asked for a decision.

Then it was time for more comments from the public. Step up Professor Anthony Alfieri. You may remember reading about Professor Alfieri in the Not Now Silly Newsroom’s An Introduction to Trolleygate and Trolleygate Violates 1964 Civil Rights Act ► Not Now Silly Vindicated. Alfieri was also instrumental in unearthing Soilgate (pun intended), when his team researching Trolleygate found a memo alluding to contaminated soil in several parks in Miami. Alfieri is from the University of Miami’s School of Law and the Center
for Ethics and Public Service; not to mention Founder of the Historic
Black Church Program.

Professor Alfieri made the comparison to Trollygate, that I had been waiting for, and how an approval of this upzoning would trigger Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968. As part of his presentation Alfieri remarked that they have been receiving anecdotal information — which was still being compiled — that developers across the city have been using coercion, intimidation and interference to deal with those opposed to upzoning plans. If that can be proven it could trigger the Klu Klux Klan act of 1871:

The Enforcement Act of 1871 (17 Stat. 13), also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Force Act of 1871, Ku Klux Klan Act, Third Enforcement Act, or Third Ku Klux Klan Act, is an Act of the United States Congress which empowered the President to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to combat the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other white supremacy organizations. The act was passed by the 42nd United States Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on April 20, 1871. The act was the last of three Enforcement Acts passed by the United States Congress from 1870 to 1871 during the Reconstruction Era to combat attacks upon the suffrage rights of African Americans.
The statute has been subject to only minor changes since then, but has
been the subject of voluminous interpretation by courts.

This legislation was asked for by President Grant and passed within
one month of the president’s request for it to Congress. Grant’s request
was a result of the reports he was receiving of widespread racial
threats in the Deep South, particularly in South Carolina.
He felt that he needed to have his authority broadened before he could
effectively intervene. After the act’s passage, the president had the
power for the first time to both suppress state disorders on his own
initiative and to suspend the right of habeas corpus. Grant did not
hesitate to use this authority on numerous occasions during his
presidency, and as a result the first era KKK was completely dismantled
and did not resurface in any meaningful way until the first part of the
20th century.[1] Several of its provisions still exist today as codified statutes, but the most important still-existing provision is 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Civil action for deprivation of rights.

The city’s lawyer couldn’t answer whether approval of upzoning would trigger the Civil Rights lawsuits, but stressed as strenuously that the Planning and Zoning Board is a single issue board. Civil Rights lawsuits was not within its purview to adjudicate.

Whether it had anything to do with the Klu Klux Klan Act of 1871, or whether common sense prevailed, the developers request was DENIED.

Which is it’s this week’s Throwback Thursday.

Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins ► Chapter Three

CLICK to enlarge: Red lines represent streets
never built, despite being on original planning maps.

I’ve written about Marler Avenue previously (Read Part Two of Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins). However, a (not so) quick history lesson here will better help you follow today’s bouncing ball:

Marler Avenue is a street in Coconut Grove just one block long, that connects to no streets, other than Hibiscus and Plaza, the two that feed it on either end. But, Marler was never supposed to just one block long. On the earliest planning maps of Coconut Grove, Marler is shown to have 3 other access points. Plaza Street, after a slight dogleg at Marler, was supposed to have extended south past Loquat Avenue. Likewise Hibiscus was supposed to continue past Marler and connect to Hibiscus in South Grove.

When and where the land grab was codified.
The Miami News – May 11, 1984

Most egregious, however, is Marler itself. It should have continued westward to connect to 37th, aka Douglas Road. However, the Loquatians (as those on Loquat call themselves), who lived along that stretch backing up onto Marler west of Plaza, just extended their backyards into the right of way, closing off direct access to Douglas. When, years later, the City of Miami figured out these White homeowners illegally squatted on city land, it chose to ‘grandfather’ the illegal land seizure, tax the larger parcels, and allow the building of a gated community — St. Hugh Oak — on the west end. However, no one seems to have considered what practical effect this might have.

The removal of these three lines on the street grid had an intended effect. It closed off Black Grove from White Grove. That this hemming in of Marler Avenue was Racism in Action is not even in dispute. It’s just a small part of the history of Race Relations (or lack thereof) in Coconut Grove that I’ve discovered since I began my research on E.W.F. Stirrup.

CLICK to enlarge: A 1947 planning map show
the three streets that were, eventually, never built.

I was alerted to Marler Avenue in an article in the Miami New Times called The Wall and have been fascinated by it ever since. I visit Marler as often as I do the E.W.F. Stirrup House, whenever I am in Coconut Grove. I have become such a fixture that neighbours invite me onto their porches for tea. I’ve been told of their struggles keeping children on the straight and narrow. Conversely, others have railed against cops at the new(ish) Miami police substation in Coconut Grove, because they treat all the kids alike, the good ones as well as the bad. Pastor Edmond Stringer, of Sweetfield Baptist Church on the corner of Marler and Plaza, proudly gave me a tour of his simple place of worship, telling me about the few pastors who preceded him and showing me their pictures.

The point I’m trying to make is I am no longer a stranger on Marler Avenue. The folks along the street approach me, freely sharing information, whereas they are, more often than not, wary of White folk who come ’round asking questions about race relations in Coconut Grove.

When Google Maps stands at the corner of Marler Avenue and Plaza Street
looking east, it can see THE WALL on the right, with the Sweetfield Baptist
Church on the far left. This is how THE WALL looked until this week.

One of the more interesting aspects of this short street, once you get over the whole racial angle that hemmed it in on all sides, is Marler Avenue only has one side to the street. Every house on Marler faces The Wall, which is set back about 4 feet from the curb. On the other side of this wall are the backyards of the houses on Loquat. In the most literal sense White Coconut Grove turned its back on Black Coconut Grove decades ago and never the twain shall meet.

And this is how it has been for the residents on Marler Avenue almost as long as anyone can remember. Until this week!!!

Not only did they bump out the wall, but stole one of
the trees. I wonder why they didn’t just take them all.

On Saturday I cruised along Marler Avenue and saw a work crew with a small CAT bulldozer with a pneumatic drill on the end. Wondering what was going on, I pulled over. When the work crew started up the drill, one of the White family came out to see what was going on as well. We talked for a minute or two. I told him it appeared as if they were moving the fence to abut the the curb, Mr. White assured me that would never happen, as that would be illegal.

Guess what I found when I went back yesterday, dear readers? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

For reasons that are, as yet, unexplained. A property owner decided to bump out a portion of their backyard 4 feet. Originally there was a never-used gate there. However, because there is a tree there, it would have been useless to pull a car in and out. The gate section was moved east a few fence posts, which would allow for a car to go in and out. That part of ‘fixing’ the fence makes perfect sense. What makes no sense whatsoever (as yet) is this bump out.

Here’s a Google Maps image from March 2014. Note the new
garage [above left] that is not in this picture. I wonder if they
got a building permit for that structure.

How is this any different to the land grab made decades ago along the western extension of Marler Avenue? That was eventually forgiven, codified and part of it turned into a gated community.

As soon as I saw this bump out I went to talk to Mr. White. No one was home, so left a note and scooted over to Loquat to see which house owner decided he was entitled to more land than they purchased.

However, I need to stress this: the word “scooted” is a misnomer. Even though I was only a few dozen or so feet away from this house, the only way I could get to it is drive west on Marler, north on Plaza, west on Franklin, out to Douglas Avenue, make a left, drive one block south to Loquat — past the gated community of St Hugh Oaks — make another left and drive along Loquat, a number of houses past what once might have been the southern leg of Plaza Street. When I got there I realized I could have walked it easier through the Plaza Path. [See Part Two of Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins for a full explanation of the Plaza Path.]

While taking a picture of the house (really a duplex, two low-slung units side by side) I got a call from a different Mr. White, who lives with his brother. Having got my note, he saw the bumped out portion of the wall I referenced and called right away. Even though he was only a few dozen or so feet away from me,  I had to totally reverse the trip described above. Because it was afternoon rush hour, and Douglas is such a thoroughfare and hard to turn onto, I told him I’d be by in 3 minutes. Had I not been illegally parked on Loquat I would have walked.

Mr. White had not noticed the change in the wall until he read my note and looked across the street. He assured me he would tell his brother about my latest visit. After that we talked generally about Coconut Grove history, the systemic racism, the E.W.F. Stirrup House and the Not Now Silly Newsroom. Or, rather, I did. However, for me the biggest thrill of meeting the White Brothers over the last few days is that, vicariously, I knew their father.

That article I mentioned way up there, The Wall, in Miami New Times; the article that led me to care about Marler Avenue, begins:

When David White was a boy back in the 1930s, he and his family used to walk the three blocks from their one-story house in the Bahamian section of Coconut Grove to Plymouth Congregational Church in the white neighborhood, just through the trees to the south. The Whites’ house was on the middle of the block on Marler Avenue, which shared a tree line with that wealthier white area. From their front yard the Whites would meander a half-block to the end of Marler Avenue, then turn right onto a footpath that led to Hibiscus Street, which was then a dirt road. Two blocks more would bring them to Plymouth. For decades the majestic coral stone church was the only racially integrated house of worship in Dade County; it still towers over Main Highway.

In those days residents of the Bahamian Grove, now known as the black Grove, routinely walked to and from the white neighborhood — the adults to work, the children to play. White’s parents, who moved to Coconut Grove from the Bahamian island of Eleuthera in 1901, were no exception. His father worked as a gardener and his mother as a maid. As a young man David also worked as a gardener and made the same brief commute, on foot, as his father.

White and his wife Tessie still live on Marler Avenue, in a house next to the one he was born in. But nowadays he would have to climb a ten-foot chainlink fenced topped with strands of barbed wire to take that first right onto Hibiscus Street into the predominantly white section. Not too easy for a 66-year-old retired public school administrator who is moving kind of slow these days.

At the very least, it seems I made some new friends on Marler Avenue and at least one enemy on Loquat.

Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins ► Chapter Two

Our next destination in Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins.

This path runs along another section of The Colour Line in
Coconut Grove. Note the fence. We’ll get back to that later.

Before beginning our second West Grove stroll, it’s worth reading the last Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins. Since it was published in December, additional info about the Coconut Grove Colour Line has been found. In Dismantling Racism: The Continuing Challenge to White America [published by Augsburg Fortress, 1991], Joseph R. Barndt writes:

A southern version of these traceable corporate decisions to create a Black ghetto exists in Miami Florida. Running through the entire area called Coconut Grove on the South End of Miami are the remains of an eight-foot stone wall, built to separate Black and white residential neighborhoods. Resolution 745, adopted at Miami City Planning Board meeting of July 21, 1941, reads as follows: “A resolution recommending that the establishment of a permanent diving line between white and colored occupancy in the area north of Grand Avenue and east of Douglas Road.” There are also later resolutions that describe the placement, size, access, roads, and responsibility for maintenance of the wall. The wall’s remains still stand, but few citizens of Coconut Grove remember its original purpose, or the decisions that created it.

Fewer remember the next Colour Line we will visit on our Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins walking tour, although it’s far less hidden. Rather than running along the backyards of a neighbourhood, it’s in plain sight. An entire block of houses stare out at it. Furthermore, it’s not just in plain sight, but maintained and fortified to this very day. Let’s go for a walk.

From where one sidewalk ends to where the next sidewalk ends.

We begin right where we left off the last time. While standing on Douglas Road at The Colour Line facing The Wall of Shame, turn left, and cross Douglas. This will put you on Franklin Avenue. Walk east along the southern edge of the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery, named after the wife and childhood sweetheart of E.W.F. Stirrup. This was once the only place in Miami where Black folk could be buried and, contrary to some references found on the internet, is not where Michael Jackson filmed Thriller. Past the cemetery is one modern 2-story home and then several single family homes in the Coconut Grove vernacular of being either modified Conch or Shotgun styles. Turn right at the little traffic circle at Plaza, the first street, and walk down to where the sidewalk ends. That’s where racism begins and Marler Avenue begins.

Marler Avenue is a funny little street in Coconut Grove, “little” being the operative word. It runs east-west for one short block, from Hibiscus Street to Plaza Street, with houses only along the north side. Every one of those houses looks out at a wall — overgrown with foliage and almost invisible in parts, unless you know where to look.

I first learned of Marler Avenue from an article called The Wall, which Kirk Nielsen wrote for Miami New Times way back in 1998:

One look at Marler Avenue clarifies [Marler resident David] White’s frustration: Not only are he and his neighbors fenced in at both ends of the block, but along the southern edge of the tiny street is a ten-foot fence. “This all used to be open,” White explains, standing in his driveway and pivoting 180 degrees as he points from one end of the street to the other. “We used to walk through there.” He gestures toward one section of fence with a coil of concertina barbed wire — the kind used in military operations: “Totally unnecessary,” White exclaims, shaking his head, his hands now tucked inside his back pockets.

Will Johnson, who returned home to the black Grove four years ago after eighteen years in the U.S. Army, is offended by the notion that white Grovites would put up barricades to protect themselves from their black neighbors. “The idea that a man would put that damn concertina wire on top of the fence there,” says Johnson, age 46, surveying the barrier with White. “The truth is it won’t make any difference at all. The guys know how to get over there and rob their ass anyway. It’s not a deterrent.”

White regards the barriers as vestiges of “segregation and white dominance. And I say, look, I pay taxes the same as anyone else. I don’t necessarily want to go into their community, but I do want to make sure that if I need to go over there for anything I have the accessibility. Now, if I’m going to go over to Plymouth Congregational, I gotta go all the way around” — he twirls slowly in a half-circle to indicate the circuitous route he would have to take — “instead of the way the streets were supposed to be.”

A map dated 1947-1949, before Marler Avenue was closed off on all sides.

That wall is the Marler Avenue Colour Line, but it also demarcates the end of the backyards of houses that front along Loquat, one block south. If you look closely at the map above, you will see a faint line running west from Marler, which would have extended the street all the way to Douglas Road, also known as 37th. In fact Marler was supposed to have gone through to Douglas, as this map from the late ’40s indicates. It also shows some other Marler mysteries. For instance both Plaza and Hibiscus were also supposed to link up to Loquat Avenue.

Back then Marler, Plaza, and Hibiscus were nothing more than a dirt roads that became mired in mud during the rainy season. However, a curious thing happened on what should have been the western end of Marler Avenue. The White homeowners on Loquat Avenue illegally extended their backyards into the right of way, closing off Marler. And, that’s how Marler Avenue lost access to Douglas Road. Quietly. Illegally. Racially.

Hibiscus Street never went through to Loquat as it should have either. Eventually that land was sold off and condos built. And, that’s how Hibiscus lost access to Loquat Avenue. Even more curious is the evolution of how Plaza Street lost access to Loquat.

Plaza Street begins its southward trek at the famed US-1. At Grand Avenue, once the thriving Black business district of Coconut Grove, it takes a slight jog. Today, it continues all the way down to Marler, where the sidewalk ends. According to that 1940s map, [above] Plaza Street was supposed to take another slight jog at Marler before continuing south past Loquat in South Grove, where at Poinciana Avenue, it would make a gentle left turn to connect to Main Highway. However, that was not to be.

When the lower section of Plaza, along with Marler and Hibiscus, were paved sometime in the ’70s, this dogleg, between Marler and Hibiscus remained dirt. It was little traveled by vehicles because it wasn’t well maintained and, quite frankly, South Grove had little reason to go north into West Grove, which was considered unsafe. West Grove, for the most part, traveled north to Grand Avenue to shop and be entertained. This little section of what should have been Plaza Street eventually became an overgrown footpath that crossed the Coconut Grove Colour Line from West Grove to South Grove, Black Grove to White Grove.

It remained a footpath until some time in the early ’90s when — without warning and city approval — a chain link fence was erected that closed off the bottom of Marler Avenue entirely. No one knows who paid to have it put up, but fingers were pointed at White residents in South Grove reacting to a perception of heightened crime, accusing the perps using this path.

The chain link fence didn’t stay up very long.

IRONY ALERT: Just like it was the complaints of White folk that got Old Smokey closed down, and
just like it was the White folk that finally got the western edge of the Wall of Shame taken down, it was the White folk of South Grove who were
responsible for getting the chain link fence taken down. A good many of the residents of West Grove worked for families in South Grove as gardeners, maids, handymen, and nannies. When the Plaza extension was closed off to foot traffic, these tradesfolk started complaining to their employers because, suddenly, they were forced to walk a lot farther to get to work. The fence came down.

There had been other leaks in The Wall of Shame. Along the south side of Marler that section of the wall had been porous. People remember using dirt paths to take shortcuts to Loquat and walk to Plymouth Congregational Church. But over the years one link after another was closed off until the Plaza foot path became the last surviving link between West Grove and South Grove along residential streets.

For the longest time it remained a dirt path. Eventually this rough footpath was improved by the City of Miami. Paving stones were added and the foliage would be cut back occasionally. However, it was poorly maintained over the years. That is, until quite recently.

In February this reporter first visited Marler Avenue to begin research on this post, and to scope out the lay of the land. Way back then the edges of the path were falling apart. Many pavers had been stolen. Sinkholes in several places made walking a baby stroller difficult. A second visit a few weeks later showed newer destruction. The post that would keep vehicles off the foot path had been flattened, probably by a vehicle. [A big rock at the south end of the path would have kept it from exiting on Loquat, however.] A third, more recent, visit held a much bigger surprise. A new, sturdier post had been installed to keep vehicles out and the path had been repaired. All the pavers were replaced and leveled, with the edges shored up. It wasn’t until I started taking videos to document the maintenance that I noticed something very disturbing.


February 25, 2014: Crossing The Colour Line in Coconut Grove, from
Black Grove to White Grove, from Marler Avenue to Loquat Avenue


April 21, 2014: Note the brand new
addition to the fence along The Colour Line.

This is pretty much where maps say Marler Avenue should have met Douglas Road

As the path became more navigable, and the wild foliage cut back drastically, someone must have felt far more vulnerable. Why else would another 2 feet be added to the top of The Wall of Shame, The Colour Line of Coconut Grove? Furthermore, it was done in the cheesiest way possible, by just nailing new boards on top of the old ones.

No matter. It still makes a statement about keeping Black Grove separate from White Grove in 2014, 16 years after Black residents told Miami New Times how offended they are by a constant reminder of systemic racism. Despite the One Grove mural, the Black and White communities in The Grove are quite separate, and have been for decades.

As I said in the first entry in this series:

The Coconut Grove Wall of Shame™ is not unlike the wall in my home town of Detroit known alternatively as The 8 Mile Wall, The Wailing Wall, or the Birwood Wall. A search on the Googalizer for the 8 Mile Wall turns up references, history, as well as tons of images. However, one has to go digging to find any images or references to the Coconut Grove Wall, the history of which is being buried like much of the history of West Grove.

The Coconut Grove Wall of Shame is far longer that the 8 Mile Wall. The more I research Coconut Grove, the more I realize it is the story of Race Relations in this country writ large. However, West Grove is the exception that proves the rule. What has always put Coconut Grove into stark relief is the fact that, at one time, it had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else in the country. Consequently it couldn’t be colonized; it had to be surrounded and walled in on all sides. Much of that wall still exists and the current invisible Colour Line can still be traced.

COMING SOON: Another walking tour along the Coconut Grove Colour Line.

Headlines Du Jour ► The Martin Luther King Edition

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Urban streets named for MLK still struggle

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

Is This Any Way to Remember MLK?
Racism is alive and well in America. So why is the new voting rights act so weak?

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Guam Residents celebrate legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Martin Luther King Jr. on Dreams, Love, and Perseverance

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”


“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

‘No shots fired’ day urged to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

Four ways Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to battle inequality

“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”

Editorial: King preached unconditional tolerance

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

Railey: What if Dr. King had been white?

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Letter: Martin Luther King Day sales disgraceful


Unpacking The Writer ► Continued

Aunty Em!!! Aunty Em!!!

If you are a new reader, welcome to my irregular blog series in which I pull back the curtain like The Wizard of Oz — AUNTY EM!!! AUNTY EM!!! — and reveal some of the inner-workings of the Not Now Silly blog. If you are not new, then you already know this is just an excuse to beg my readers to click on some of the adverts on this blog. Those people are already happily clicking away. It’s because they enjoy my writing and know the return I get from clicks doesn’t even cover the maintenance fees I pay each month to keep Not Now Silly going, but it sure helps. So, click ’til it hurts. Then click one more time.

There’s a lot of Not Now Silly news to report this go-round, so let’s get right to it.

First off, there’s my new continuing series Headlines Du Jour, launched late last month. I created the series for 3 reasons: 

A Headline Du Jour from the Wayback Machine

1). Often the links I post on social media (the facebookery or Twitter) today, I see scattered all over the innertubes tomorrow and the next day. It so often seems like I ferret out these stories long before the rest of the twiterati. Headlines Du Jour is where my faithful readers can find the news before it’s news to them;

2). The other reason I launched Headlines Du Jour is because I actually dreamed about it several nights in a row, right down to the name. Since I never had a Not Now Silly dream before — or since, for that matter — I decided to listen to my subconscious for a change of pace;

3). Every time I type “Today’s Headlines Du Jour,” I laugh at the redundancy. 

Unfortunately, when I dreamed about Headlines Du Jour I didn’t dream the format, or how it should look. Consequently, I’m still tinkering with Headlines Du Jour and trying to find the right balance between serious and funny, smart and snarky, hard news and news you can use. If you have any suggestions, feel free to send them in over the transom.

Since my last Unpacking The Writer post, I’ve also launched another new irregular feature here at the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic. Ablow Job is where I put Dr. Keith Ablow, the Fox “News” Channel’s pop psychiatrist, on the couch. My long-time readers might remember when I used to delve into Glenn Beck’s Freudian impulses under my nom de blog of Aunty Em at NewsHounds. This will be similar, ‘cept this time it’s Glenn Beck’s writing partner, Dr. Keith Ablow. Initial reaction has been strong, but you can help spread the word by sharing the hilarity with your friends and family.

UPDATE ON TROLLEYGATE: I’ve been writing about Trolleygate since the end of January — long before any of the local mainstream media covered it. Right from the start I called it a classic case of institutional racism. Early this month my reporting was vindicated by no less than the United States Department of Transportation, which declared Trolleygate in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically Title VI. Not Now Silly also broke the story of The Smoking Gun Email days before any other newspaper. However, only here will you learn about its significance and why it points to corruption within the City of Miami. So, yeah, I’m blowing my own horn: Racism was at the core of Trolleygate and [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff may have had a backroom deal with the developers to get it approved. Anonymous tipsters continue to send me avenues of inquiry to follow. Eventually one of these Sarnoff rumours will pan out, or lead to pay dirt — both expressions coming from the Gold Rush.

I’ve saved the best news for last!!!

The cover of Farce au Pain, by Keg — © 2013, Headly Westerfield

I know you have every reason to doubt me, because I’ve made this promise before, but I am mere days away from the serialization of Farce au Pain. I’ve been working on it for quite a while and, I am happy to report, the launch is now imminent.

While most of the delay has been totally avoidable (I work so much more diligently when I have hard deadlines), there has been one unavoidable road block. My tattooed, coffee-stained lawyer (with the grudge) has been pouring over every word of Farce au Pain, the exact same way Grayhammy pours over every word I post. Then we spent a lot of time exchanging emails to get the wording of certain passages exact. I argued some points and won. He argued some points and won. On some, we just compromised.

To be perfectly honest, I’d love to defend Farce au Pain in a court of law. While it would prove to be a laugh riot, I have much better things to do with my time. That’s why I am using weasel-words, just like I’ve accused Johnny Dollar of using. Consequently, some of my sentences are not quite as declarative as they appear on first read. I learned that from the best. “I’m just asking questions.”

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce that things are back on track for the serialization of Farce au Pain, my longest and lengthiest on-going project. A friend recently asked why I would serialize my book. Because I like comparing myself to Charles Dickens whenever I get the chance.

Oh, and if you’ve made it down this far and haven’t clicked on an advert, you’re stealing. Either click, or don’t come back. 

Racist Memes and Blogging ► Unpacking the Writer

It’s been a rollicking month for Not Now Silly. I’ve hit new heights in readership and received my first real criticism, which we’ll examine in detail. Yes, folks, it’s time to take another look under the hood to see how the engine is ticking over. 

First things first: The month of August was a good one for this blog. For the first time readership broke 12,000 for a calendar month. While I hope not, I think it will be a while before I break 12k again. Speaking of broken records: On September 24, 2013 I hit a brand new daily record: 703 hits. I’ll take it. That’s now my daily target. 

Other ratings: While I wasn’t paying attention my post on The Detroit Riots ► Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Five overtook Brian Jones ► A Musical Appreciation on the all-time leader board. This gratifies me for two reasons. 1). I am quite proud of my article on Detroit’s several riots, having taken more than a month to write it. I feel it’s important history that so few people actually know; 2). And, it’s a much better blog post than the Brian Jones squib. That one rose to the top of the leader board almost immediately and stayed there for more than a year. I was somewhat chagrined because the Brian Jones post was something I dashed off in less than an hour.

While I’m thinking about it, I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank Curbed Miami and Al Crespo of the Crespogram Report. Both sites recently linked to stories on Not Now Silly. My stats reflect a spike in hits directly from those links. I’m gratified Curbed Miami and The Crespogram Report found enough to like here to recommended Not Now Silly to their readers.

Now about that criticism: Some criticism is easily ignored. However, it’s not easily ignored when it comes from people whom I respect. That’s what happened with my most recent post on Coconut Grove. A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is Trolleygate Writ Large is an essay on a theme similar to several I’ve posted before. It compares the Racist attitude of almost 100 years ago with the Racist attitudes of today in Coconut Grove. In the late ’20s Miami allowed a polluting incinerator to be built in a Black neighbourhood. Just this year Miami allowed a polluting diesel bus garage in the same Black neighbourhood. Same as it ever was.

When I am being polite I call this attitude Modern Day Colonialism and Trolleygate, as I did in a post back in February. However, when I’m not being polite I call it what it really is: RACISM, pure and simple. West Grove has suffered under a century of it, which I keep discovering over and over again the deeper I research Coconut Grove. The thrust of my most recent post is that Racism is with us today and Trolleygate is merely the physical manifestation of that ugliness.

These blog posts go through several drafts before I press the PUBLISH button; some more than others. One of my earliest mentors in the writing game told me, “There is no good writing, only good rewriting.” I’ve made that my #1 motto and there have been sentences I’ve kicked at dozens of times before I’m finally satisfied.

During the earliest drafts of A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is Trolleygate Writ Large I used images like the one to the right to illustrate my post. However, I the longer I edited the post the more I came to resent the pictures I was using. My words said Racism exists TODAY. However, all the pics were of Racism in the oldie moldy past: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Racist signs from the ’40 and ’50s. The words and the pictures created a tension that I didn’t like. They contradicted each other.

I have several dozen pictures on my computer hard drive that illustrate racism over the centuries. Several of them have been collected since President Obama took office. It occurred to me that those recent memes were the ones that best illustrated the point I was making. I removed all the historical images and substituted contemporary pictures instead. When I finished editing the post — when I was finally satisfied with what I had — I knew the pictures would rankle some people. I actually consulted a small group of folk whose opinion I trust. I call these people my de facto editors, because they’re all I’ve got as a Lone Wolf Citizen Journalist to bounce ideas against. None seemed to object and one said, “Go for it.”

The push back against A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is Trolleygate Writ Large began almost immediately. Here’s the predominant sentiment, sent to me by email:

I think it distracts from the serious discriminatory ridership routes and Env[ironmental] justice issues. I would suggest more serious photos of Rosa Parks, Jim Crow signs on buses, etc…. It is important to depict civil rights leaders, including our President, in a complimentary light to inspire youth to greatness, not ridicule upon achievement. The images posted distract from our serious issues.

Believe me, I’m sympathetic to that point of view. Racism is ugly. Racism is not polite. Having said that, I do my readers a disservice if I turn away from the ugliness of Racism. I do my readers a disservice if I use metaphors and euphemisms to describe Racism. Racism needs to be treated as you do with a dog who has just taken a crap on the rug: You rub its nose in it and use stern words. NO! BAD DOG!

I’m not going to sugarcoat Racism. That plays into the hands of Racists, who hope you will be far too polite to call them out on their Racism. I also disagree that the images I used were not serious. They were as serious as a cancer cluster. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these few pictures (which, by the way, are not the most incendiary I have) comprise an entire book. I won’t apologize for using contemporary pictures of Racism to illustrate modern day racism. Therein lies madness.

Tune in next month for another exciting episode of Unpacking The Writer, a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, the home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic.

A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is Trolleygate Writ Large

One of hundreds of thousands of Racist internet memes

Follow the bouncing ball: Trolleygate is modern day Racism, pure and simple. Furthermore, the Racism that allowed for Trolleygate is exactly the same Racism that thought West Grove was the perfect place for Old Smokey, an incinerator that belched carcinogenics into the air for 5 decades. Racism — which is a cancer on our body politic — may have led to actual cancer clusters in Coconut Grove. I’m here to prove that thesis. 

Let’s start here: It’s been a truism since the founding of ‘Merka that People of Colour have always gotten the short end of the stick. There is no disputing that. But that’s a thing of the past, according to modern day Racists, because we now have a Black president. We are now living in a post-racial society. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! Right?

For an explanation on the pics used to illustrate this article, please read my essay Racist Memes and Blogging ► Unpacking the Writer

Not even close. While some Racism is less blatant than it has been in previous decades, one can find hundreds of thousands of Racist memes against President Obama, each more disgusting than the next. However, make no mistake: It’s still Racism. Racism doesn’t have degrees. Like being pregnant, a meme can’t be a little bit Racist. It’s either Racism, or it isn’t. The entire story of Coconut Grove depicts a Racism that continues to this very day, culminating in Trolleygate.

West Grove is a quiet residential neighbourhood that has remained predominantly Black since its founding in the late 1880s. It was settled by Bahamians who came up through Key West, at one time Florida’s largest city. The Black Bahamians who settled in Coconut Grove worked for The Peacock Inn and Commodore Ralph Monroe, among the earliest residents. As a nascent tourist trade flourished, more Black folk arrived to do all of the backbreaking work and menial labour that made it all happen.

That West Grove wasn’t razed is due almost entirely to the efforts of one man, Ebeneezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup. E.W.F. Stirrup was one of Florida’s first Black millionaires and, at one time, the largest landholder in Coconut Grove. On some of the land he owned he threw up more than 100 houses with his own hands. These he rented, sold, and bartered to other Bahamians. That’s why, at one time, Coconut Grove once had the highest percentage of Black home ownership in the entire country, making it unique.

It’s for that reason and that reason alone that The Powers That Be were unable to dislodge the Black residents of Coconut Grove. Overtown, just up the road and the second Black neighbourhood in Miami, had I-95 rammed through the middle of what had been the Black Shopping and Entertainment district. However, Overtown was mostly renters with absentee landlords, who were happy to cash out on their investments. The same pattern took place in Paradise Valley, in my home town of Detroit, which was leveled for I-75. The same scenario played out all across the country.

It’s not as if the Powers That Be didn’t try to get rid of Black Grove. There were three separate attempts to get rid of the neighbourhood. In 1921 an urban renewal project called The Bright Plan, approved but never realized due to an economic downturn, would have created a golf course on everything west of Main Highway to Douglas and north to Grand Avenue. In 1925 City Fathers tried to get Miami to annex around what was called Coloredtown, instead of including it. Miami decided to annex it all instead, which led to the creation of Coral Gables, the city that Racism built. In the ’50s, long after the rest of the city had indoor plumbing, West Grove still used outhouses. Honey wagons were just a way of life long after every surrounding neighbourhood (read: White neighbourhoods) had an indoor toilet. In the ’50s. The city wanted to raze the entire blighted neighbourhood and start all over, but the high percentage of Black home ownership defeated the proposal. People, who in some cases were now the 2nd or 3rd generation in the same house, refused to sell. They knew better. Where could they go? They would be redlined out of any neighbourhood they wanted to buy into. It was better to stay put and bequeath their homes to their children and their children’s children.

Which is to explain why the neighbourhood has remained predominately Black. That and the fact that White folk tend not to move into Black neighbourhoods. I’ll now let Nick Madigan, writing in yesterday’s New York Times, pick up the story of Old Smokey:

MIAMI — When she was little, Elaine Taylor remembers rushing home whenever Old Smokey fired up. Clouds of ash from the towering trash incinerator would fill the air and settle on the ramshackle houses and the yards of the West Grove neighborhood.

Her mother, who took in laundry, would be whipping sheets and shirts off the clotheslines. Often, the soot would force Elaine and her mother to wash everything again, by hand.

Old Smokey was shut down in 1970, after 45 years of belching ash, but its legacy might be more ominous than mere memories of soiled laundry. Residents of the neighborhood, established by Bahamian immigrants in the 1880s, have become alarmed by recent revelations that soil samples there show contamination from carcinogens like arsenic and heavy metals, including lead, cadmium and barium.

Ash from the old incinerator is being blamed, and residents are asking why none of this came to light sooner.

Something that Madigan leaves out of his story — because it makes a simple story of soil pollution and subsequent coverup far too complicated — is that the coverup was only discovered due to Trolleygate, the story I’ve been following since January. The documents were discovered by the pro bono legal team researching Trolleygate while preparing its case against Miami, Coral Gables, and Astor Development. While that suit was thrown out of court for a lack of jurisdiction, the documents kicked loose during the research are still bearing fruit. Friday I wrote about an email from a City of Miami Zoning and Building Department official who said that Trolleygate did not conform to the Miami 21 Plan. Yet, after some undetermined jiggery-pokery, [allegedly] corrupt Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff managed to get the project approved anyway, despite the fact that it screws his owns constituents and rewards a developer in the next town over. But, that’s now a side issue to Soilgate, the discovery of toxic soil throughout Coconut Grove and greater Miami. [Coral Gables is now suing to get out of ever having to use the polluting diesel bus garage.]

The Racism that decided a Black neighbourhood was the perfect place for a polluting diesel bus garage — despite it not being zoned for it — can be seen as a parallel to the decision in the 1920s to build Old Smokey, the incinerator that polluted Miami. Miami needed an incinerator. Why not stick it as far away from the White folk as possible? Stick it in West Grove. Again from the New York Times:

Across the street from Old Smokey’s former site lies Esther Mae Armbrister Park and its playground. Down the block is George Washington Carver Elementary School, a once all-black institution that traces its history to 1899. Former students recall ash blowing in through the school’s open windows.

[University of Miami law] Professor [Anthony V.] Alfieri [of the Environmental Justice Project] said that the construction of Old Smokey “in the middle of a Jim Crow community” in 1925 exemplified the city’s pattern of neglecting the West Grove, an area that has never experienced the prosperity so evident in its neighboring communities. In a 1950 article in Ladies’ Home Journal, Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote that when the city installed a water and sewage system in Coconut Grove, its western neighbor was left out of the project, and for years residents continued to use wells and outhouses.

Old Smokey was shut down in 1970 after many years of neighbourhood protests and a successful legal battle initiated by the White folk of Coral Gables. Yet, 98% White Coral Gables learned nothing from that court battle. When it needed a place to build its polluting diesel bus garage, Astor Development chose West Grove. This is the neighbourhood that’s been given the short end of the stick since it was called Kebo by the original Bahamian settlers almost 130-years ago. Even if you attempted to argue, against all logic, that the developer was unaware it was a Black neighbourhood, the only reason the land was cheap was due to the last century of systemic Racism, that depressed every economic indicator you can name in West Grove, especially when compared to the rest of the 33133 Zip Code, now considered one of the most exclusive in the entire country.

The Supreme Irony: Air pollution — emanating from a fake diesel-powered trolley bus or a giant incinerator — doesn’t abide by the Colour Line, of course. There appears be less pollution the closer one gets to Old Smokey’s former site. As the expression says, “What goes up, must come down.” It seems a lot of Old Smokey’s toxins came down in the Marc D. Sarnoff Memorial Dog Park. Coincidentally, or not, that’s right across the street from where [allegedly] corrupt Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff lives. The New York Times again:

“Everything is testing to be residential standard,” Mr. Sarnoff said, referring to contaminant levels permitted under environmental regulations.

That may not be the final word. A cancer researcher at the University of Miami said that she and several colleagues discovered a cluster of pancreatic cancer cases in the West Grove several years ago.

“That’s the little region that lights up,” said the researcher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the issue. Although she found the discovery “puzzling,” she said she did not pursue it because of a lack of funds. But when she read a newspaper article this year about Old Smokey that said its ash had spewed arsenic and heavy metals into the neighborhood, she said “everything started making sense.”

The researcher noted that no correlation could be established between the cancer cluster and the old incinerator without more research.

Institutional Racism could be the answer as to why so many people in Coconut Grove are now being diagnosed with cancer. Yet, despite this ugly history of sticking the Black neighbourhood with what the White neighbourhood doesn’t want, [allegedly] corrupt Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, the City of Miami, and Astor Development all still think it’s appropriate for them to have played a shell game in order to get Trolleygate approved.

That’s nothing but Modern Day Racism, pure and simple.

Enjoy some videos of the Marc D. Sarnoff Memorial Dog Park from September 13, 2013, as the soil testing was occurring.

No Skin In The Game ► Part Four

The One Grove mural in Coconut Grove

On the same day I was posting about the upcoming court hearing for Trolleygate, a news article came across my transom that dovetails with that story nicely. Tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar:

A nearly all-White town refuses to install bus stops that would make it convenient for Black folk to get to their community. While this fight is between suburban Beavercreek and the nearby city of Dayton, Ohio, it could almost be coming from Coral Gables and Coconut Grove.

The brouhaha in Ohio began a few years back, when the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority decided to add three bus stops in Beavercreek. The Bevercreekians said, ‘No fucking way‘ and started enacting legislative barriers to any new bus stops in the community, which oddly enough, don’t apply to current bus stops, like heat, air conditioning, and a high-tech camera system. According to Think Progress:

Many in the area argue that their opposition boils down to a simple reason: race. According to the 2010 census, 9 in 10 Beavercreek residents are white, but 73 percent of those who ride the Dayton RTA buses are minorities. “I can’t see anything else but it being a racial thing,” Sam Gresham, state chair of Common Cause Ohio, a public interest advocacy group, told ThinkProgress. “They don’t want African Americans going on a consistent basis to Beavercreek.”

A civil rights group in the area, Leaders for Equality in Action in Dayton (LEAD), soon filed a discrimination lawsuit against Beavercreek under the Federal Highway Act. In June, the Federal Highway Administration ruled that Beavercreek’s actions were indeed discriminatory and ordered them to work with the Dayton Regional Transit Authority to get the bus stops approved without delay.

Beavercreek, though, isn’t particularly keen to do that. The city council voted most recently on Friday to put off consideration of the matter until later this month. They are weighing whether to appeal the federal ruling, or perhaps whether to just defy it altogether. Appealing the ruling could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, according to a Washington D.C. lawyer the council hired. However, non-compliance with the ruling could cost Beavercreek tens of millions of dollars in federal highway funds.

Fake-trolly that won’t be stopping in Coconut Grove

Oddly enough, White Coral Gables has refused Black Coconut Grove a bus stop outside the polluting government vehicle maintenance facility that it has foisted upon their neighbourhood. When it appeared the bus maintenance facility was a fait accompli, some residents asked for a bus stop at the very least. They were turned down flat.

Keep in mind these are the FREE diesel buses to take shoppers up and down what Coral Gables likes to call Miracle Mile, the exclusive, high-end shopping district. Of course, it might affect the businesses bottom line and Coral Gables property values if too many Black folk were able to get Coral Gables conveniently. It’s better if they walk a half mile to one of the Coral Gables fake-Trolley stops than to give them a bus stop in their own community.

The more research I do into the history of Coral Gables, the more I see that its progress and development over the years is due to almost a century of systemic racism. I make that case in my previous chapters on Coral Gables:

No Skin In The Game ► Part One
No Skin In The Game ► Part Two
No Skin In The Game ► Part Three

Click here to read all my stories on Trolleygate.