MIAMI - The best of times and the worst of times, and only three blocks apart.
Just after 9 p.m. Friday, at a restaurant on 3rd Avenue and Northwest 10th Street, a packed house grooved to the music of jazz and blues musicians working to spark a resurgence of Overtown's historic club music scene.
At that same moment, at the park on 4th and 12th, hundreds of people, mostly children, were screaming and scattering at the pop-pop-pop sound of gunshots. Three people were down, shot and bleeding.
This is what the families in one of Miami's oldest, most historic neighborhoods face today: an earnest effort to lift a neighborhood to its economic and cultural potential repeatedly shot down by brain-dead, morally-impaired, misguided young men with guns.
That park, Gibson Park, is only open one month, fresh and beautiful from an $11 million renovation infusion. And that is just a part of the financial investment city leaders and various groups have made in the area. Just as important is the community effort and the emotional investment.
The Overtown Music Project, the foundation behind Friday night's jazz/blues event, is working to bring back the rich music history that black musicians and singers forged there decades ago. It was created by a diminutive, law-degree'd dynamo of a woman with a passion for history and public service. Her events, including annual Gospel brunches, draw a rainbow of South Floridians from across the cultures, colors and zip codes. You know, the way it's supposed to be.
But chances are, news of jazz, history and Optimist football in Overtown is far less familiar to you than news of gunfire, sirens and blood.
Chances are, you have never considered going to a youth football game, or shopping, or dining or even driving through Overtown because you think it might be dangerous. Tough to argue, as those very streets comprise one of Miami's highest-crime areas with one of the highest murder rates in South Florida.
Which brings us back to all the people investing their time, their passion and money in the businesses, culture and quality of life in Overtown, working to reverse the perpetual poverty and crime that cripple it today.
And relatively few thugs with guns and no sense keep shooting it down.
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