On August 1, 1947, white police officers evicted 35 black families from a Miami neighborhood so the city could create a park for whites. Rain destroyed the families' possessions. A black newspaper called the evictions from the Railroad Shop Colored Addition "an act of total disregard," and one of the policemen who forced the African-American families onto the street said, "I wish I wasn't a cop today."
Now the black community is trying to raise $2 million to make the 28-acre Charles Hadley Park on NW 50th Street in Liberty City the best in Miami.
The history alone makes the place worthy. Hadley was a legendary black political power broker. And the park has been home to the Liberty City Optimist Club for more than a quarter-century. The club has churned out more than 50 NCAA and NFL stars, including University of Miami running back Duke Johnson, former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, Houston Texans defensive back Brandon Harris and linebacker Darryl Sharpton Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, and Florida State University star Devonta Freeman.
Eight years ago, I sat with then-City Manager Joe Arriola to discuss the sad state of Hadley Park, as well as Gibson Park in Overtown. Both were badly rundown. The playing fields were all torn up. The more-than-50-year-old irrigation systems worked poorly. And there were no classrooms for after-school tutoring.
Arriola persuaded the Miami City Commission to set aside $24 million for Gibson and $16 million to upgrade Hadley. Last year, Gibson was finished, but Hadley remains an embarrassment.
About $2 million more is needed. So now we're looking for donors. A lot of philanthropists donate to organizations such as the University of Miami and Pérez Art Museum so they can get their names on buildings.
Couldn't those people help Hadley Park? How about the wildly profitable Miami Heat? Couldn't the team help build the basketball gym? And those Miami Dolphins — can't they repair Hadley's football field? The Miami Marlins know a little something about baseball, and our fields are wanting. All of these professional teams owe the African-American community something because we always support referendums to build or fix up stadiums.
It's a no-brainer. And it's the right thing to do.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.