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This Is Who We Are: An Initiative Focused on Elevating Miami

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To say that Miami has a powerful sense of unity would be a false statement. At least not yet. As a city, the only things uniting its people are the Miami Heat and a common hatred of humidity. That's why people feel the need to come to Miami to uplift our city and its citizens.

Miamians, prepare to be uplifted.

This Is Who We Are is "a national initiative that uses the cultural arts to bring cities + citizens together, and whose model launch is planned for Miami. It's based on the concept of topophilia." Amy Serrano, founder and creator of the This Is Who We Are, formed the initiative with the long-term vision of having "concentric circles of citizens in diverse cities who believe in the best of their shared experiences and, ultimately, in each other. " Basically, the initiative wishes to develop a network of sister cities and a brotherhood of citizens, and it will all begin in the 305.

The question is: Why Miami? Amy Serrano herself admitted to having strong cultural ties to cities such as Rome, Paris, Montreal, and New York. What factors made Miami trump those cities?

Turns out Serrano is a Miamian currently living in New Orleans, which she claims has been a great place to study city-centered identity as well as topophilia (love of place), so developing This Is Who We Are in Miami is not a matter of convenience for her.

"Miami is a city that inspires many emotions. It is called the Magic City, yet so many people -- and even other efforts -- seem to dwell on what is superficial and ephemeral about the city," Serrano says. When Miami's citizens, the media, or visitors concentrate on loathing Miami rather than valuing it for the distinctiveness it carries, negative ideas and associations are invited and incited for insiders and outsiders who typically have no context or true understanding of Miami, she explains. "I love what Miami has represented to many who sought refuge from some turmoil -- be it political, personal, or otherwise," Serrano says. So now is the time to stop underestimating our city's potential.

Some may trash our city, but there must be a reason why many seek and keep a home in South Florida. Serrano seeks to invest in and elevate her hometown first. Like Pitbull, This Is Who We Are believes in Miami.

The This Is Who We Are model hinges on a two-year city engagement and citizen participation campaign that will occur throughout diverse neighborhoods and have meeting points in all areas of Miami. Teams of local artists will work with leaders to inspire and create a "city's self-portrait." The initiative seeks to elevate the city via artistic events, workshops, and contests. Serrano says that for them, "Art and culture serve as the noninvasive, nondivisive voice and vision of places [they] already consider Great American Cities [or else they wouldn't be doing this]."

And this team really believes in Miami. Asked how they plan on affecting our citizens, Serrano says, "Part of the biennial will feature a Citizens' Mosaic projected against the side of a building in downtown Miami where tiny photographs -- head shots actually sent in by Miamians -- will make up the face of one Miamian." The initiative also plans on featuring a film called This Is Miami, based on the city and its citizens talking about what it means to be a Miamian and their favorite stories. A film and a mosaic all about Miami? We are flattered.

What This Is Who We Are is doing is simply lifting the veil so that everyone can truly see Miami as one people, in one place. Their team of associate curators, advisory board members, and local artists could not be more ready for Miami, and now Miamians need to be ready for them. We are more than an three-time NBA-championship-winning city, after all.

The project is now live, and the initiative has until July 21 to raise $10,000 to launch the neighborhood open house and cultural salon to begin the discovery process. If successful with their Kickstarter campaign, their first meeting will take place this fall in Mary Brickell Village.

Be lifted, Miami.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

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