|The marker that started my quest. Click to enlarge.|
At my old, former, moribund blog Aunty Em's Place (now overgrown with spammers and ivy) I started a series called The Shame of Coconut Grove™, which I continued on facebook on my old, former, moribund Aunty Em Ericann account. Before Aunty Em was kicked off facebook, she (me!) had unpacked quite a bit of Coconut Grove, both its history and internal politics, all because of an accidental encounter with a historical marker (at left).
|A must read book on race|
There was just something about the Charles Street historical marker that spoke to me. The sign, the location, and the condition seemed to encapsulate the Black 'Merkin Experience: a rich history not only ignored and forgotten, but mistreated in its memory. The panorama below shows the condition of the marker and the historic E.W.F. Stirrup House across the street. [More about the house and Mr. Stirrup in later chapters.]
|Panorama of the historical marker and the E.W.F. Stirrup House across the street. Click to enlarge.|
|Detail of sign's base. Click to enlarge.|
The location of the sign is no less significant. There's no way to whitewash this: Coconut Grove, Florida (incorporated into Miami in 1925) is considered one of the most exclusive addresses in all of 'Merka.
View Charles Avenue, Coconut Grove, Fl, 33133 in a larger map. Zoom out to see Coconut Grove in relation to Miami.
|E.W.F. Stirrup House|
|The Coconut Grove Playhouse taken from|
the more exclusive side of Main Highway.
However, two years ago my circumstances changed and I no longer had any reason to drive the 35 miles to The Grove. When I was visiting it regularly, Aunty Em Ericann would come back and post dozens of pictures on facebook with a small essay describing the lack of changes on Charles Avenue from week to week. I became dejected. Aunty Em had spent a considerable amount of my time posting pictures, writing essays, and contacting community activists. However, I couldn't get any traction on my Save the Charles Avenue Sign campaign. Worse, I couldn't get anyone interested in what I (still) believe is a massive, multi-gajillion dollar real estate scandal.
Since I couldn't get anyone to listen, and I am no longer an investigative journalist with an editor to support and sponsor these expensive fishing expeditions into possible malfeasance, I gave up. However, I never forgot about Coconut Grove, especially since my novel character Adrian had moved there at the end of the '60s, after Detroit had started to become toxic.
Lately Charles Avenue has been nagging at me. Because it's 35 miles away -- all crazy Florida highway -- I have been putting off making the trip for the past few weeks. I knew I would need a minimum of 3 hours to do it justice; get there, take some pictures, check on recent developments, and come home. It was difficult to work into my schedule and the longer I tried, the guiltier I felt for having abandoned Charles Avenue. Last week I finally bit the bullet, gassed up the tank, and made the harrowing highway adventure. I returned more despondent than ever about Charles Avenue. I came back even more pissed off at what is clearly The Shame of Coconut Grove™. However, it also made me more determined than ever to do something about it. What? I do not know. I am still processing and writing about the trip, which will be Part Two in this series. Part One is long enough already, but I felt this background was needed.
However, before I sign off, there was one bit of good news on Charles Avenue. Someone (or a group of someones) have taken it upon themselves to attempt to straighten the Charles Street historical marker. They have also planted a drought-resistant flowering bush next to it. It will look nice when it fills in.
|The sign, while still not true, no longer leans against the fence. The new plant is staked in the ground to the right of it.|
|The late afternoon sun streams down Charles Avenue in this recent panorama.|
However, this small sliver of hope doesn't even begin to mitigate all the negative I saw. That's why I have decided to take up the cause of Charles Avenue once again. I am going to make Charles Avenue the most famous street in 'Merka, representing centuries of institutional racism. And, along the way, I just might expose a multi-gajillion dollar Coconut Grove boondoggle. Who's along for the ride?
Stay tuned for Part Two of Unpacking Coconut Grove.