Black Meetings and Tourism

Sep/Oct 2011

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FAM REPORT THE MIAMI EXPERIENCE By MICHAEL BENNETT M iami has a special rhythm, energy and youthfulness that captivates the soul. At first I thought it was just the great weather and beautiful scenery, but that doesn't adequately explain the adrenalin rush our group felt as we soaked up the sights and sounds of this most unique of American cities. Avenue where much of the history of early Black Miami still exists. E.W.F. Stirrup, a Black pioneer owned much of what is today Coconut Grove and Coral Gables and his home still stands on Charles Avenue along with the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park cemetery. Wewere also given a tour ofOvertown and a street side view of the home ofD.A.Dorsey,Miami's first Blackmillionaire. LittleHavana was a real treat especially lunch at Exquisito Restaurant. The Cuban cuisine was wonderful and I got a chance to brush up on my very rusty Spanish language skills. Just a few doors down was the Little Havana to Go Shop, where you can pick up some nice souvenirs. Our stop at the Little Haiti Cultural Center was fun as we Even in the wonderful confines of my 21st floor InterContinental hotel room I caught myself numerous times being swept up in the euphoria of powerboats and jet skiers racing across the pristine waters of Biscayne Bay below or the sailboats taking a more leisurely stroll as the sun glistened off the water. From my window I watched the comings and goings of cruise ships as thousands of over stimulated passengers set sail for the Caribbean. In the distance was South Beach (10 minute car ride from the InterContinental) and a birds eye view of beautiful mansions along the South Florida coast. But there's more to Miami than the allure of beautiful scenery. We were treated to a tour of the African-American experience starting with a 10-minute ride from our hotel to Virginia Key Beach. This beach was established in 1945 as the "colored only beach"inMiami-Dade and became an instant hit. This beach is on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently being renovated. A one-of-a-kind miniature railroad car will transport visitors back to days gone by. The beach also featured a seaside merry-go-round, shops, picnic tables and a place to dance your troubles away. Next came a driving tour ofCoconutGrove,an area first set- tled byBlackBahamians in 1892. We took a tour alongCharles 18 got to interact with some very excited children who wanted to share their art projects with anyone who would listen. The Center was established for residents and visitors to gain expo- sure to Haitian and Afro-Caribbean culture and entertain- ment. Just a short distance from the Center was the Haitian HeritageMuseumand an exhibit by an artistwho captured the before and after of life inHaiti following the 2010 earthquake. It was an eye-opening exhibit. The new crown jewel on the Miami landscape is the AdrienneArsht Center for the PerformingArts. Located on Biscayne Blvd., this facility truly gives meaning to the words "state-of-art." TheCenter is a great place formeeting planners looking for alternative venues. Two properties served as our home away from home. InterContinental downtown has 641 rooms and 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space that can accommodate 3,000 guests. TheDoralGolf Resort and Spa is the ultimate in sport and relaxation. The Spa alone is worth the visit as I amhappy to report. TheDoral has 100,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space and 650 acres of lush tropical garden set- tings for outdoor events. For more information on Miami call the Greater Miami Convention &Visitors Bureau at (305) 539-3084. Black Meetings & Tourism September/October 2011:

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