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Rebirth of Cool

Overtown was once the hottest black community anywhere in the South, including Atlanta. The neighborhood had a Cotton Club, the Rockland Palace, the Harlem Square Club, and, of course, the Lyric Theater. Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Cab Calloway, and Billie Holiday all played gigs in Overtown in what was then called “the Harlem of the South.” And then some dipshit city planner dumped I-95 into the middle of the neighborhood, displacing tens of thousands of residents and killing local culture. That was more than half a century ago, and the scene is long overdue for a rebirth. That’s what neighborhood leaders have in mind with the inaugural Overtown Rhythm and Arts Festival this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Along NW Third Avenue between 10th and 11th streets in the heart of Overtown’s historic district, there will be concert stages, art exhibits, and kids’ activities to bring out the long-hidden cultural identity of one of Miami’s original black neighborhoods. Roy Hargrove will be the main musical act, and muralist Serge Toussaint will display his art, including the festival poster he designed. The first-ever Miss Overtown and Teen Miss Overtown will be there, as will representatives from local sports teams, including the Miami Heat’s James Jones and Alonzo Mourning. There will be politics too, because the king of the festival, Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, is primed to give his first speech since announcing his candidacy for county mayor. Sound inappropriate for a festival? Probably. Exciting? Damn straight! Entry to the fest is free.
Sat., April 9, 11 a.m., 2011
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Sebastian Del Mármol

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