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Once upon a time in Hialeah, as is the custom in most of the cities throughout America, blacks were cordoned off into enclaves in areas generally deemed to be financially without promise.  This process began on slave plantations, and was carried through the Jim Crow era and on into the years of legal segregation.  Once the Civil Rights movement overturned racist laws, prejudice and simple bigotry seemed to do well in general to maintain the philosophy of urban groupings generally by race if not by wealth. Native Americans have felt this spurning by the federal government particularly harshly, bordering on genocide, but termed in American history books as reservation treaties.  And with the Native Americans, so with the African Americans, that if a property they were permitted to dwell in grew to have some promise of increased value, the government brought pressure to have the unwelcome population removed, either forcibly or by coercion.

So did Overtown, an enclave of ill-maintained, low-rent apartments and ramshackle houses that had once been thriving and vibrant and played host to the greats of African American culture and philosophy but had been cut in half and eviscerated by the construction of the I-95 expressway, through the turning wheel of fortune find itself once again newly in the path of an expansion of expensive condominiums pushing outward from downtown Miami with a newly funded initiative of downtown vitalization.  Property values skyrocketed overnight, forcing the Overtown apartment landlords to reconsider their business plans to decide whether outright sale would be the correct decision to take in the face of a quick profit, and worse, rising property taxes that would cut sharply into rental revenue profits.

The residents, having no real say in the process, feared for their futures, having no clear alternative to their present housing arrangements.  They sent representatives to the mayor of Miami but found their efforts rebuked.  They decided to turn to the great mayor of Hialeah, His Honorable Myland.  And here they put forth their most heartfelt entreaty.  Please turn the direction of this condominium movement, they pled, and we will remember you when the time is needed. The great mayor was a butcher by trade, and he had deep pockets that held many favors.  He was sure to have room for one more favor owed him.  He would do what he could, and in Hialeah, that means the thing is done.  What behind-closed-doors negotiations were made history does not specify, but soon after the mayor’s decision one hundred acres of Everglades buffer zone were drained and leveled for development at an infinitesimal cost to the developers, thus sparing Overtown.  It was a lucky thing that the mayor himself had held the deed to the parcel of swamp land and was able to turn a tidy sum, encourage growth, and assist the Overtown folk all at the same time.  It was this knack for arranging things for the general good that made Myland such a great mayor.

Years passed and the 100 acres was developed and sold to incoming Latin immigrants who thrived in a Spanish speaking city.  Overtown meanwhile was left to its own devices, a poor lot but better than most alternatives America offered.

One night the mayor’s son had an accident.  A young black woman, daughter of the mayor’s maid, was killed in the son’s car.  It was an ugly piece of pr for the mayor, and a story for another fable.  Suffice to say that the mayor needed damage control to his image of a non-prejudiced man if he was to be able to get away with manipulating the police records in order to exonerate his son.  Here is where he reached into his deep pocket and pulled out the debt owed him.  On the day of official exoneration of his son of any responsibility in the woman’s death, a day of tight racial tensions throughout the city, the mayor met with and had his picture taken with the most prominent black figures in the area.  The photo on the front page of the newspaper pushed his son’s case to the third page of the newspaper and relieved the political pressure the mayor was facing.  The debt paid, the mayor and the African American community returned to their particular daily lives, one of wealth in a wealthy land, the other of hard scrabble in an unwelcoming land.  But even hard scrabble hands can grab hold and pull a manicured man from trouble.

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