Changing Times

For more than 80 years the Miami Times has been the voice of the black community, but fewer and fewer people are listening

And what might make her comfortable?

"Probably nothing. You could send me some questions in writing."

Would she answer them?

The racial tension just under the glittery surface of 
paradise became 
evident during the 1980 riots sparked by the acquittal 
of Miami police in 
the beating death of black motorist Arthur McDuffie
The racial tension just under the glittery surface of paradise became evident during the 1980 riots sparked by the acquittal of Miami police in the beating death of black motorist Arthur McDuffie

"I don't know. I don't have to do what I don't want to do."

Black Miami by theNumbers

Black Miami by the Numbers

More than 457,000 residents in Miami-Dade County are identified as black by the 2000 U.S. Census. This is about twenty percent of the total population. But what constitutes "black" is a tricky matter in Miami, where demographers must take into account the many thousands of immigrants who consider themselves Hispanic, Haitian, Bahamian, Jamaican, or Trinidadian first -- and black almost incidentally. If Sammy Sosa is filling out a census form, does he say he's a black man or a Hispanic from the Dominican Republic?

This is significant when considering the fortunes of a newspaper like the Miami Times, historically devoted to the African-American community. Trends clearly point to growth in the black population being driven by immigration. At least twenty percent of the county's black population is Haitian. The majority of recent Cuban immigrants are Afro-Cuban.

The 2000 census reveals other noteworthy trends. Countywide in 2000, people over 50 years old represented about 28 percent of the total population. In the black community, however, only about 19.5 percent were over 50. The median age for all county residents was 35.6, but for black residents it was 28.9. Taken together these numbers indicate that black Miami is young. This is the heart of the matter for any newspaper hoping to attract the attention of the black community.

People who remember the era in which the Times became a leading advocate for black Miami are dwindling in number. The struggles that united the community and fueled the paper's vitality have also diminished. Roughly 52 percent of Miami-Dade blacks are too young to remember Liberty City burning in the 1980 McDuffie riots. Factor in immigration and the impending gentrification of neighborhoods like Overtown, Wynwood, and Little Haiti, and the pool of natural readers shrinks further.

-- Rebecca Wakefield

Comments About the Miami Times

Kris Smith, age 37, Overtown NET administrator: "I read it more out of professional courtesy and because of where I work and live. If I weren't in Overtown, I probably wouldn't read it. But for where I sit and work, it's important because of its standing in the neighborhood; that paper is influential in it. The Times opened up the world of black media to me; it gave me some perspective. If I want to know about a fraternity event or a black business, I turn to the Miami Times."

Trellany McMath, age 40, Miami Lakes Middle School teacher and a former Miami Times reporter: "I feel they are the voice of the community. A lot of news you don't hear from the other mainstream newspapers, you see in the Times. The news a lot of people don't hear about is always out there in the black community. The people I knew were excited about the paper and the positive stories. I still get it every week. I use it in my classroom because I teach reading."

Sherman Henry, age 33, president of AFSCME Local 1184: "I don't really read it. Every once in a blue moon I pick it up if someone tells me I should read a particular story. It's like reading the Miami Herald -- historically it was our paper, but now there's no real news in it. My folks read it because they have that historical connection to it."

Ted Lucas, age 33, Carol City native and founder of Slip-N-Slide Records: "It's like the grassroots of Miami. The Miami Herald gives you maybe more the global view, but down and dirty what's really happening? That's the Miami Times. People you grew up with call and say, öYou read the article in the Miami Times?' I read it maybe twice a month. They cater to an older crowd. People my age aren't reading the paper; they're working so hard they don't have time."

Tangela Sears, age 39, African-American Grassroots Coalition: "I remember as a little kid Thursday was Miami Times day. You might see the police shootings in the Herald and the domestic violence problems in Opa-locka, but you will only see the educational part of that, the workshops and programs, in the Miami Times. If a minister has an anniversary or if someone passes, we know about it. I can send something to the Herald and they may not be interested in it, but in the Times it's going to hit the ministers and it's going to bounce around the churches. They'll be around for another 100 years as long as the mainstream media continue to ignore our issues."

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