Laurean D. Robinson, MA
April 10, 2018 at 2:24 PM EST
It’s so nice to see
All the folks you love together
Sittin’ and talkin’ ’bout
All the things that’s been goin’ down
It’s been a long, long time
Since we had a chance to get together
Nobody knows the next time we see each other
Maybe years and years from now
- “Family Reunion” by the O’Jays
As our New Year resolutions slowly evaporate with Miami’s humid heat, the city of Miami Gardens becomes the mecca for beautiful waves of chocolate tourists from the East Coast and locals armed with their portable chairs and heavy coolers. Their destination? The city’s crown jewel for entertainment and family reunion fellowship – Hard Rock Stadium.
There southern hospitality meets soul food music – where event attendant locals feel like your long-lost cousins as they direct you to your section and where you catch a glimpse of a Queen of Comedy or a Fly Jock backstage between acts.
But before the weekend festival begins, the Jazz in the Gardens organizers have planned a pair of holistically insightful events stationed at Florida International University’s Kovens Conference Center at the Biscayne Bay Campus.
On Thursday morning, the center ushers in a small cross-section of Miami Dade County School middle and high school students, a smattering of local media and music/film/tech industry heavyweights like Rico Love, Moonlight, Showtime’s The Chi and Black Panther young star Alex Hibbert and Black Tech Week Founder Felecia Hatcher for the Film Music Art Culture (FMAC) Conference.
There host and local music professional Rico Love leads panel discussions for film, music and technology professionals. The young attendants are encouraged to ask questions to the panelists, turning the conference into an interactive master class.
The cultural stimulation continued with the finals for Poetry in the Gardens competition at Starbucks Miami Gardens that same night.
The following day, FIU’s Kovens Conference Center transforms to become the City of Miami Gardens’ Women’s Impact Luncheon where Easter Sunday Parade-ready ladies of color dressed in brilliant pastels ascended to a sprawling dining area of cushioned chairs. It felt like you entered the spill-out area for getting into Heaven where angels offered you complimentary glasses of Korbel champagne and a wide assortment of red velvet, chocolate and cheesecake desserts. I mean, you have to wait for a place in line for eternity, you might as well get the VIP treatment.
I was so entranced by the euphoria the luncheon and its fascinating panelists of Marvel’s Black Panther star Sope Aluko, Miss Jessie’s Founder Miko Branch and Lite FM’s Tamara Gant and Julie Guy that I almost forgot was media and had to speed over to Hard Rock Stadium for the festival’s official press conference. I have never been so relieved that I didn’t drive and took Lyft to the conference.
There the festival’s host, Rickey Smiley, City of Miami Gardens mayor, Oliver G. Gilbert III charmed the local and regional media with funny anecdotes and astute reflections of how the festival has expanded from its first year. Mayor Gilbert described in detail how this festival has revitalized the city while empowering local black businesses to become yearlong vendors. You empathized with this “little festival that could” that has grown into the hundreds of thousands.