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Regardless of Intense Outcry, Metropolis of Miami Fee Takes Over Virginia Key Belief

Dozens of audio system from Miami’s Black neighborhood and past gathered within the Metropolis of Miami Fee chambers on October 13 to face up in opposition to the fee’s takeover of the belief that manages Miami’s traditionally Black seashore on Virginia Key.

The management of the South Dade department of the NAACP, members of the Virginia Key Seashore Park Belief, and 95-year-old Black neighborhood chief Thelma Gibson got here collectively to attempt to cease the majority-Hispanic fee from prying management of the belief from the majority-Black board of trustees.   

“I am hoping and praying that this fee will rethink taking up the belief. Allow us to really feel like we’ve got one thing that we’ve got management of,” mentioned Gibson, who served as an interim Miami Metropolis Commissioner in 1997.

Regardless of hours of public remark from neighborhood members pleading to maintain the present board of trustees, commissioners voted 4-1 of their afternoon session to put in themselves on the board for the following yr.

The only real dissenting vote on the ordinance was Commissioner Ken Russell, who mentioned he would have supported the measure if it had given commissioners the choice to nominate somebody to the board of their stead. Metropolis Lawyer Victoria Mendez asserted that the commissioners could not select to nominate whereas additionally sitting on the board, arguing that it might violate Florida legislation in opposition to twin officeholding.

Although Commissioners Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Manolo Reyes had initially agreed with Russell and wished a second authorized opinion, Commissioner Joe Carollo pushed to just accept the merchandise as is, finally profitable out.

The battle over the Virginia Key Seashore Park Belief comes on the heels of a current audit report that claimed the board of trustees had lackluster accounting and didn’t correctly doc bills.

Diaz de la Portilla made feedback earlier than the audit was made public that the board was responsible of malfeasance and was caught with “their hand within the cookie jar.” As soon as the audit was finalized, it introduced no proof of theft or misappropriation of belief funds.  

N. Patrick Vary, present belief chair and grandson of founding chair M. Athalie Vary, demanded an apology from the fee for what he referred to as “slanderous” feedback made about his board members.

“To face right here as a volunteer and be impugned in the way in which that we had been with out proof was unfair and unjust, and mustn’t have occurred,” Vary mentioned.

Diaz de la Portilla was absent from the assembly through the public remark interval and didn’t come to his seat till the audio system had been completed.

Within the months main as much as the ouster, Vary had publicly opposed commissioners’ plans for Virginia Key, specifically a transfer to accommodate homeless folks on the island, which was backed by Carollo and Diaz de la Portilla. In July, Vary decried town fee’s failure to seek the advice of with the belief concerning the matter.

The few audio system who got here out yesterday to assist the fee takeover of the belief had been leaders from the Martin Luther King Financial Growth Company, which Commissioner Christine King led for ten years earlier than she took workplace.

Amina McNeil, present head of the company, supported King’s new function as chairwoman of the Virginia Key Seashore Park Belief, saying King would put the considerations of the neighborhood first and assist the board transfer within the appropriate course.

Commissioner Reyes insisted that the fee wouldn’t take away from the seashore park’s historical past as a Black landmark.

“Nobody is taking Virginia Key from anyone,” Reyes mentioned from the dais. “I wish to guarantee you which you can go residence and ensure that historical past isn’t going to be rewritten.”

Virginia Key Seashore Park was the first seashore put aside for Black Miamians through the segregation period. Dade County opened the park in 1945 in response to protests by Black residents at whites-only seashores.

After taking up the land from the county, the Metropolis of Miami closed the park in 1982, and the historic website was overtaken by the weather. The Virginia Key Seashore Park Belief, established by town fee in December 2000, oversaw the restoration of the seashore till it reopened in February 2008.

At this week’s fee assembly, lots of the audio system who opposed the brand new plan for the park talked of the significance of preserving Miami’s Black historical past, the function that Black Bahamians performed in constructing out town, and the worth of protecting the administration of a traditionally Black seashore within the palms of Black Miamians.

“To remove the oversight of a majority-Black board and provides it to the fee, which is majority-Hispanic and has an entire lot of different issues to do, is a tragedy for the Black neighborhood,” Teri Williams, president of OneUnited Financial institution, tells New Instances through the assembly’s recess. “It is simply tone deaf.”

Williams shared a letter with the fee, signed by quite a few Black clergy and enterprise leaders, asking them to again off on taking up “this historic and sacred place in our neighborhood.” (A PDF of the letter is hooked up to the top of this text.)

Regardless of Thursday’s vote to interchange the present belief board, Vary mentioned he and his colleagues will nonetheless be round to help town in making a Black historical past museum within the park, a undertaking that has been a aim of the belief for almost 20 years.

“Take away us or do not take away us, we will probably be right here. I promise you that,” Vary advised commissioners.



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