Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami
By: Timothy A. Barber, adapted from Gepsie M. Metellus
Lemon City was a community on the shores of Biscayne Bay, predating the incorporation of the City of Miami, that was home to white and Black pioneers. Most of the Blacks in this area were of Bahamian descent and established flourishing communities and businesses including the only U.S. Post Office in the area, a library, churches, “a colored school” and a cemetery.
There were at least three identifiable Black communities in Lemon City—Nazarine, Knightsville and Boles Town—all dating from about 1900. After the area underwent a drastic demographic shift in the 1920s, Lemon City became a distant memory in the minds of many of Miami’s Black pioneers.
Today, over a relatively short period of time, Haitians have moved into the area and changed the character of the neighborhood that was once known as Lemon City. The culturally vibrant Haitian community has enriched Miami-Dade’s multi-ethnic character.
Little Haiti, bounded by I-95 and the Florida East Coast Railway, spans from 54th to 87th streets. Its business district, along Northeast 2nd Avenue, is of great social and cultural significance to the Haitian Diaspora because it is the only area in the history of Haitian immigration primarily inhabited by Haitians. It bustles with Haitian-owned and operated business, where the aroma of Creole cooking, multihued artwork, the rhythm of Haitian compas, and the expressive tone of Haitian Creole greet residents and visitors alike.
The name of a cultural icon graces this major thoroughfare in the heart of Little Haiti —
Northeast 2nd Avenue is now known as “Avenue Felix Morisseau Leroy,” and it leads to Toussaint L’ouverture Elementary School. One of the neighborhood’s distinguishing characteristics is the colorful and distinctive Caribbean signage along the business corridors.
Miami’s Little Haiti has earned a national and international reputation and now boasts the iconic Little Haiti Cultural Arts Center and the Little Haiti Soccer Park.
While the name Lemon City has vanished from the map and the area is now known as Little Haiti, through the recent discovery of the Historic Lemon City Cemetery, significant facts and tangible evidence of this once vibrant pioneer community are being uncovered.
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