To most in Miami, the name Miller Dawkins just sounds a little dirty: like smegma, street tacos, or the infamous Rick Santorum. But to residents of Liberty City, Dawkins remains a hero more than 13 years after he pleaded guilty to using his position as cty commissioner to extort $200,000 from a company trying to do business with the City of Miami.
In fact, so popular is the ex-con that several Liberty City landmarks are still named after him.
A small municipal park on NW Eighth Avenue at 47th Terrace still bears Dawkins's name, as does an Olympic-size swimming pool in nearby Hadley Park.
What do his old constituents think? It seems there is a generational divide between those who remember what Dawkins did for the neighborhood before heading to jail for two years in 1997 and those who don't.
"Fool went to jail? That's messed up," 17-year-old Jamall Senat says as he sits on a bench in -- you guessed it -- Miller J. Dawkins Mini Park. "If his name is on the park, he's supposed to be a leader or something. How's he going to go to jail?"
But not everyone thinks that the park's name is a bad thing.
"We honor people for the good work that they have done in our neighborhood," says Eric Thompson, chairman of the Liberty City Revitalization Trust, located inside Miller J. Dawkins Pool Complex. "If he's done good work here in Miami for poor and black residents of Liberty City, then I think we need to focus on that instead."
Asked whether the park should keep its name, Thompson quickly shoots back, "Yeah, definitely."
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SHOW ME HOW
So far, it seems no one has proposed changing the name of the park, which was called East Bay Vista Park before being dedicated to Dawkins. But the process is simple, says Lara DeSouza, a spokeswoman for Miami's Deptartment of Parks and Recreation.
"Generally, a resident who doesn't like the current name approaches their commissioner and complains," she says. "Then the commissioners can vote on it."
There was no shortage of suggestions from a group of kids hanging out in the park last Friday.
"It should be named Obama Park," 10-year-old Sheldon Van Dyke says while a Dawkins-era Cam'ron song drifts from a nearby car. "Or even better: Obama/D-Wade Park."