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Public Art Project Illuminates the Voices of Miami-Dade's "Forgotten People"

By Tyler Francischine, New Miami Times

The domes and minarets that top the buildings along Opa-locka Boulevard recall the dreams of one white man, a wealthy aviation manufacturer who, upon visiting Opa-locka in northwestern Miami-Dade County in 1926, fancied himself its discoverer and felt free to fashion four square miles into a foreign-inspired fantasyscape. Nearly a century later, Opa-locka is a community facing systemic issues from unemployment to poverty and substandard housing conditions.

On display now through the end of September, a public art project highlights the dreams and voices of the mostly Black and brown communities that call Opa-locka home, using streetlamps to project poems onto the buildings and sidewalks that line Opa-locka Boulevard. The Opa-locka Light District, created by O, Miami and the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC), is a winner of a Public Space Challenge grant from the Miami Foundation.

Local resident Junior Williams is one of ten poets whose work is featured in the project. When he was younger, Williams kept a record of his thoughts and aspirations in a journal but kept the musings private. When he learned of a poetry workshop held by O, Miami and the OLCDC, he attended and submitted a poem.

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