This year the local community districting process is starting in Miami-Dade County. As a native to Miami Gardens and Opa-Locka area, I am so proud to be organizing to make sure that Miami Gardens (District 1) is not unjustly split in order to help incumbent politicians win elections.
Miami Gardens is such a unique and treasured place. I moved to the area of District 1 in 1997 from Cleveland, Ohio. As a first-generation Afro-Latinx immigrant growing up in District 1, I saw the possibilities that our people in the diaspora can have when we invest in the community. I had teachers and leaders in my community that came from great Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Florida such as Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman, and Florida Memorial (that is right in the district). At public schools in Miami Gardens, my teachers would teach us about Black History and the Black experience that wasn’t in the textbooks. I grew up going to CarolMart on 183rd and getting my haircuts and all the latest fashion at the time. On Sundays, my mom would take us to play at an arcade with our friends. Observing entrepreneurs from Miami Gardens grow their small businesses to businesses that would expand outside CarolMart. These are some of the things that I appreciated while growing up in the district.
My experiences made me the organizer I am today. I was part of the at-risk program founded by my mentor, who was a young Assistant City Manager in the City of Opa-Locka. It allowed me to understand my community and the history of our people at a deeper level. In Miami Gardens, I read the ideologies of Malcolm X, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and the Black Panthers. Learning allowed me to travel and be part of activities that many youths from my neighborhood don’t experience in their lifetime. It was the first time where I canvassed to get people in my community to be part of events or programs that the Parks Department provided. Being part of this program is where I learned the importance of local government building programs that help the children of my community to understand their greatest potential. The district is important to me because it invested in me when I was considered an at-risk youth and it gave me a worldview I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else in South Florida.
About My District
Miami-Dade District 1 is made up of the municipalities of Miami Gardens(founded in 2003), Opa-Locka (founded in 1926), and a small part of northeast Miami Lakes (founded in 2000). The district has a registered voter population of 153,814 out of an overall district population of 196,915 according to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections. The demographic breakdown of the district is 47% Black, 44% Latinx, 4% White. The poverty level is at 64.9% a very high level compared to the county (Miami-Dade) which is at 15.7%. The district has 0 hospitals, 1 airport, 2 libraries, 15 schools, and 15 parks.
The district started seeing a growth of population around 1960 with the construction of I-95 when Miami Gardens, an incorporated area of the county at the time, comprised only areas known as Carol City, Norland, and Norwood. During that time many middle and upper-income African American and West Indian American families migrated from Miami neighborhoods like Liberty City and Lemon City (now known as Little Haiti) to these areas. Opa-Locka was founded by aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss in 1926. Curtiss developed the city with a Moorish architecture theme, the city also saw a shift in population and demographic shift during this time, a time which many historians called White Flight after the Fair Housing Act was passed. The city has also seen another change in demographics with significant growth of the Latinx population in the 2010s.
The major attraction in the district is the Hard Rock Stadium, which is home to the Miami Dolphins (NFL) and the Miami Hurricanes (NCAA). In the past decade, Hard Rock Stadium has hosted many sporting events such as the Super Bowl LIV, the annual Orange Bowl game, Jazz in the Gardens, the Orange Blossom Classic, the Miami Open, and soon a Formula 1 race in 2022. In 2021, the Miami Dolphins opened up a training complex and team headquarters in the district. These events and the development of the complex have helped bring a lot of attention to the district and also helped with economic growth. Another major attraction that has helped with economic growth and jobs has been the Calder Casino which is located near the stadium.
Other areas where District 1 has improved economically have been with the redevelopment of the Opa-Locka Airport and Amazon fulfillment facility. The District is also in the process of redeveloping a new shopping plaza around 183rd and 27th Avenue as well as other major infrastructure projects.
Connected to major highways, two tri-rail stations, and several important bus routes, District 1 has no sign of slowing down and only progressing. How does this very diverse area, with history and culture keep improving? How does the community get more involved to take advantage of its great future? Time and the investment of the community can only tell.