The violence was appalling. The coverup was scandalous. The acquittal by an all-white jury in Tampa of four white Miami-Dade County police officers charged with murdering black insurance agent Arthur Lee McDuffie was simply outrageous. For long-time Miamians, McDuffie's name is synonymous with racist cops and brutality. It also recalls the insurmountable sense of injustice that led to three days of rioting in Liberty City, with National Guard troops barricading thoroughfares that ran through Miami's black neighborhoods.
Smoke and fury stunned everyone from Kendall to Opa-locka. A weird sense of panic was punctuated by security perimeters, eerie quiet in suburbs, and the smell of smoke.
McDuffie was killed after a chase through the streets of Miami. Police said that he lost control of his motorcycle and slammed into an overpass. But the county medical examiner's report proved the injuries that he sustained did not jibe with that story. It turned out that the officers beat McDuffie with their flashlights, delivering a final blow to the center of his forehead that brought on a coma, which would lead to his death several days later.
The early summer swelter combined with the piping-hot sense of outrage proved to be too much to contain.
By the end of the day on May 17, 1980 (the 26th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision), 18 people were dead, 855 arrested, and an estimated $100 million worth of property was damaged.
Twenty-four years later the Miami-Dade Police Department has its first black police chief, but much of the same class- and race-related disparities in business and education persist.
Above a stretch of NW 17th Avenue, from NW 40th to NW 62nd streets, is a green street sign reading "Arthur Lee McDuffie Ave." It is a reminder of how far the community has come and how much further we need to go. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Call Miami not the Magic City but the Tragic City. Tragically lost. Tragically lacking in self-esteem. Tragically wanting to be something it's not: New York. Yes, our tropical burg, seemingly in a constant state of up-and-comingness since its founding a little more than 100 years ago, has been suffering from a serious identity crisis, which has lately become glaringly obvious. It's not enough that multitudes of South Florida residents hail from New York, or that our Marlins kicked the ass of the New York Yankees to win the World Series, or that we recently lured the Big Apple's former superintendent of schools down here. We're still not New York enough. So we christen our condo developments Chelsea and Tribeca, adopt the acronym SoBe for South Beach (stolen from SoHo), and endure an area that calls itself the Upper East Side. Now there's Midtown, a moniker some folks in already-named neighborhoods like Wynwood and the Design District have taken to using. Will it ever end? Maybe the day we get our own Central Park, a slew of skyscrapers, and a decent public transportation system to rival the subways. -- By Nina Korman
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Rise and Shine
Sports greats address Alzheimer's
Sitting on a couch and watching a football game may make you feel like you're active, but after the screaming and writhing subsides, you didn't do squat. Just looking at athletes does nothing for us outside the realm of entertainment. Take it from Larry Coker, head coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes football team, a perennial contender for the national championship. A fierce advocate of staying fit no matter what age, Coker keynotes the Breakfast With Champions lecture series, which raises money for the Alzheimer's Association South Florida Chapter. He will discuss the importance of maintaining a solid fitness routine throughout the senior years. Just remember to go easy on the pancakes and bacon. The breakfast begins at 7:30 at the Miami City Club, 200 Biscayne Blvd., 55th floor. Admission costs $50. Call 305-891-6228. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
On the Run
After collecting all the loot from the Coral Gables mansion you just busted into, go for a run. If it's early enough in the morning, say around 7:30, you just might be able to blend perfectly into the 1500 or more people taking part in the Tour of the Gables 5K Run/Walk. With all those feet stomping the pavement, no one is likely to notice that jangling noise coming from the pillowcase slung across your shoulder. Think of the benefits: You'll get some much-needed fresh air and exercise. Also as you jog along, you can admire the lovely Mediterranean Revival architecture and case other houses for future criminal forays! Those who want to run or walk out of the goodness of their hearts should know the race begins at the Biltmore Hotel (1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables). Food, drink, entertainment, and a race T-shirt are included in the $25 entry fee. A portion of proceeds will benefit local charitable organizations. Call 305-446-1657. -- By Nina Korman