Miami As Text (’19-’20) by Jessica Horsham

Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and is in her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special. Her current endeavor, the Miami in Miami class taught by John W. Bailly, will take her on this journey of emerging her in her very hometown to discover all of its unknown and secret places. These are her Miami as Texts. *All images CC by 4.0*

Metro As Text

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Top Right and Bottom Right Pictures by Lily Fonte

The Melting Pot: Connected by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University traveling via Miami-Dade Metrorail on September 11, 2019.

When people think about Miami, it is always the typical beaches, late night clubs, and other debauchery that is associated with the memory. When people try to describe Miami, it then focuses on the people who live here, which is always essential, they describe it as a melting pot of different races, religions, walks of life, and ethnicities. However, what people fail to realize is that this very concept is reflected in the city itself, its layout and its neighborhoods; and on September 11, 2019, we were able to fully explore this via the Miami Dade Metrorail, a vein that runs through the heart of Miami and its neighborhoods. In the 1980s, the metrorail was adding more stations and expanding in the post-World War II economic success that the U.S. was experiencing. However, as Miami’s city planning has proven to be inefficient, the city continued to grow and the metrorail simply could not keep up—the citizens needed more, and this has pushed the dependency of most people towards cars and private vehicles. Today, the metrorail, metromover, and the metrobus struggles with ridership as these other means continue beat out the rails despite it being less efficient. Today, we got to experience the true Miami for what it is, beyond its people, through the most efficient means: the metrorail. From the Lowe Art Museum, hosting two of the most incredible El Greco pieces—who was a Greek painting in Spain, how Miami is that—to Vizcaya’s unique blend of Europe, the Americas, and Tequestas to Overtown’s amazing Jackson’s Soul Food, these spots are all representative of the true Miami melting pot. Each neighborhood filled with some history that links all of us “Miamians” to one another and to our land. Too often we feel as though we never have any linkage to the city where we reside and call our hometowns, however, if you ever just take the time to look, as we did, you too will find your roots in Miami. 

Downtown Miami as Text

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Photos by Maria Cruz of FIU

Justice for None by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University in Downtown Miami on September 25, 2019. 

Despite the cultural infusions that have been present for many years, no piece of land in the United States has served as an exception to racism, prejudice, and inequality that once was rampant. However, it is presumptuous to assume that though things have begun to heal, these scars no longer affect us in the “land of the free.” As a result, people continue to ignore these scars, there is no denying its remnants, even in our “diverse and progressive” city. As you walk through the streets of downtown, it is clear to notice one of the most prominent distinctions between the homeless, most of these disenfranchised people are black—how is this possible where are supposed to be considered equal in a land of opportunity? One of the most appalling stops was the Longhouse and its similarities to our current Miami Dade County Courthouse. Both of these structures that were meant to uphold justice for all were places wherein many injustices occurred to individuals who often times were innocent; they were only guilty because of their genes—a pigment in their skin. From slave houses to courthouses, our justice system in its most basic and tangible meaning has been built upon structures that continue to emphasize the paradoxical meaning of equality for all and innocence. In the front of our current justice building, the Miami Dade Courthouse, there is a plaque wherein our citizens are simply labeled as “negroes.” How do we let this derogatory and degrading plaque still stand? In a place of equality? This specific amnesia and ignorance surrounding our history and our current system is what allows these divisions to continue to divide our nation. This is the exact reason why I have chosen to practice law and dedicate my life to it. Too many times does the system designed to protect the innocence corrupt it and unequally punish its offenders. Our justice systems need those dedicated to fight for our citizens, rather than those motivated to send them to our overflowing prisons and ultimately change their lives and those around them forever. Justice is supposed to mean something more, to protect all people, its current affairs does not reflect that and that is why we must change it. 

Deering Estate as Text

All photos by Jessica Horsham CC by 4.0

History is Hiding by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University at The Deering Estate on October 13, 2019. 

The one thing that ties us all together beyond our races, cultures, or religions, the one thing above all is our history. Despite who you are or where you are from, one thing remains true: we all share much of the same history and come from the same place and people. Nowhere is this more evident than on the property of the Deering Estate. The Estate, which served as a home for Charles Deering, is one of the last untouched pieces of property with a truly natural Florida habitat and land unchanged since the Tequestas who lived off of it prior. Truthfully, the land is prime real estate no matter what decade—in paleo-times, the land was warm enough to foster a variety of animals for hunting and even now, real estate developers have done all that they can to get access to its miles-long waterfront access. As we were guided along an unmarked and off trail journey led by Ms. Jennifer Tisthammer, she showed us how they have been able to preserve the Estate for as long as it has been. The Estate itself has been a site that has lasted the test of time, we were able to step into deep solution holes that had developed into caves, seen meters deep and wide elaborate caves, and even analyzed the soil that has shown evidence of the first mankind created fires and have changed the history of the world as we know it. In these solution holes, they had been able to find mammoth bones, saber-tooth cat remains, and some of the largest and fiercest predators ever recorded. Not only this but each of these sites also hold as spots of our land-based ancestors: the Tequestas, much of whom were wiped out or reintegrated into a society that was not their original home, essentially ridding the earth and all of history of an entire group of indigenous people. However, what has become an even bigger shame and a result of the capitalistic society that we live in, is that the Deering Estate has been forced to hide all of their discoveries and these secret paths from the rest of society. In these holes, we were able to discover animal remains and teeth that existed to some creature over hundreds of years ago. However, these life changing discoveries cannot be experienced by the general public for fear that they will disrupt the land, aiming to search for their next gold mine. Overrun by an abundance of trees, weeds, and shrubs, lie the sites of some of our oldest connections to those that roamed the land before us. These sites are being forced to remain covered and hidden because people cannot be trusted to respect these sites. History is being hidden out of a necessity to protect it. As much as those who try to reap the sites may argue, this is a part of our collective history, these are our ancestors and we must do what we can to protect it. 

Chicken Key as Text

Picture 1 by Lily Fonte CC by 4.0, Picture 2 by Jessica Horsham CC by 4.0

The Plastic Plague by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University in Chicken Key on October 23, 2019.

The world has been going through a recent pandemic that has been largely ignored until the very recent years: the world is plagued with plastic. How is it that our very Earth has began to accumulate so much plastic and toxic waste that it is now in our very own food sources and other animals? How have we let it get so far? From looking at all of the data and statistics, it is easy to lose yourself down the rabbit hole and struggle to find a way wherein you can be of actual help and reverse the tide that we have allowed ourselves to fall into. However, when looking at how essential our Florida mangroves are to our daily lives, it can definitely give you a starting point. The mangroves provide many uses that affect us each and every day. Beyond, creating one of the most diverse ecosystems for a plentiful amount of species, they also provide a first line of defense for coastlines, such as ours, that experience strong winds and waves, caused by storms and other harsh weather; they help to minimize any damage that could occur inland. Also, mangroves are one of the only systems that are able to break down stronger pollutants and are able to store high amounts of carbon from the air. These mangroves are essential to our lives and though they are truly our first line of defense, in more ways than one. The plastic debris that has continued to ruin our environment and oceanic habitats often times will get caught in the mangroves and remain there, littering their own special environment and slowly killing our best natural defensive forces. It has been more than time for all of us to do more about it since it is clear our government and representatives will not. Our previous governor, despite calls from his own mayors and elected officials, refused to even acknowledge the devasting effects that global warming and pollution has had on one of the largest cities and most essential in the state of Florida. We were able to collect over 5 canoes full of trash and that still was barely half of the key and even every single thing. This is devasting, this is not the America that is supposed to be leading by example nor does it resemble the America Trump decides to speak upon. We are nowhere near perfect and that is evident in our very own backyards. We must do more, at current projections there will soon be more plastic in the ocean than fish if we do not act soon. Just from a few hours alone, we were able to clear so much plastic, what would happen if we did this more often or with more people? Or even moved away from plastics all together? One thing is for certain though, the path that we are heading down currently will only lead to destruction and death if we do not start the change now. 

Wynwood As Text

Did You Remember the Names? By Jessica Horsham of Florida International University at the Margulies Collection in Wynwood on November 6, 2019. 

Art is not always beautiful, art is not about the beauty, it is about the feeling. Franky, “this art’s not beautiful.” These were the words of Mr. Margulies as he spoke about the impactful art installation above by Magdalena Abakanowicz. Magdalena manipulated the cloth to resemble the shapes of the women, men, and children lost in the Holocaust. No two pieces are the same, representative of the very distinct people who the Nazis tried to rid of their individuality and their humanity. These headless pieces are reminiscent of the horrors and atrocities that so many were unable to escape. As Mr. Margulies continued to remind us throughout his collection that he purchases art for the feelings and emotions they create for him, that he simply purchases and displays these amazing pieces simply because he likes them, and it makes him feel something. As a standalone installation, the walls covered in black, this piece is one that captures an emotion of a century, of the years of pain, the years of reintegrating into life, picking up the pieces and figuring out how to move forward. The feeling on this piece is ominous, however, it reminded me of someone, or some people. 

Arnold Hirsch, Theo Reiss, Marcel Bulka, Maurice Gerenstein, Henri Goldberg, Max Teitelbaum, Otto Vertheimer, Jacques Benguigui, Raoul Bentitou, Max Balsam, Esther Benassayag, Joseph Goldberg, Mina Aronowicz, Jacqueline Luzgard, Paulette Mermelstein, Suzanne Szulzklapper, Claude Reifmann-Levan, Armand Teitelbaum, Jean Ament, Edmond Gamiel, Isidore Kargeman, Elie Benassayag, Jean Balsam, Marthe Spiegel, Liliane Gerenstein, Jacob Benassayag, Charles Weltner, Gilles Sadovski, Max Leiner, Georges Halperm, Renathe Krochmal, Mina Halaubrenner, Santa Spiegel, Zygmund Springer, Richard Benguigui, Marcel Mermelstein, Samuel Adelsheimer, Liane Krochmal, Emile Zuckerber, Jean Claude Benguigui, Albert Bulka, Lucienne Friedler, Claudine Halaubrenner, Fritz Loebmann. Moise Reifmann, Hova Reifmann, Suzanne Reifmann, Lucie Feiger, Marie Friedler, Miron Zlatin.

Did you remember their names?  

History Miami as Text

History as We Remember by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University at HistoryMiami Museum and Gesu Catholic Church on November 20, 2019. 

History is written by the winners, by the dominators, by the colonizers. It is the reason why we rarely see stories of those shipped across oceans, forced to work in fields, or those who struggled to survive after foreigners claimed land that already had belonged to another group of people. The United States, like so many before, has chosen to forego many of these stories that their statehood has existed upon. Selective amnesia is one that has taken over the entire country, embedded itself in its many museums and while many in Miami would like to think of themselves as progressive and minorities, they themselves seem to forget its history—those who call it home do not even know of their own ancestral ties to the land. As we scoured the city to understand ourselves and our collective history, we were fortunate enough to be led by our gracious Professor Bailly to some of the most monumental sites as well as by Ms. Maria Moreno, an educator at the HistoryMiami museum. Our adventure began with Ms. Maria Moreno, who led us through the entire history of the city wherein we call our home beginning in the prehistoric times. She brought forth the changing landscape of Miami, actual tools used by the first “Miamians,” but most remarkable, was her attention to detail of the stories of those who history has chosen to forget. Maria, made sure to emphasize the stories of the men and women who were brought here on slave ships, the way the natives adapted to these foreigners, and the atrocities committed against the people here. Maria acknowledged the lack of representation but admitted that upon its original curation, those forgotten were indeed forgotten. However, as the pressure on our generation has continued to build with the power and duty to remind those who have forgotten about our past, Maria did so gracefully; she was able to translate the power behind these stories and remind us all not just about the donors, but about those who were working on the ground to build Miami and the efforts being taken to remind others of their work, such as those men who laid the train tracks in Flagler. After this remarkable and insightful tour, we were able to see a direct touch of our European colonizers and their mark left in the Gesu Catholic Church. Upon walking in, it was clear to see its Spanish colonial influence, this church is remarkable. From its altar to the incredible stained glass to represent the light of life that the church can offer, it is reminiscent of Spanish churches. However, one must not get lost in the beauty on the walls but must instead turn around upon entering to really see its colonial history. Often times, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and even priests are solely depicted as white, European people. However, as seen in the picture above, they were depicted as people of a darker complexion. Why now? Why would they suddenly change their appearance? It was simply to attract followers who looked as they did, primarily the natives to the land. By presenting images of the most holy in resemblance to themselves, it would serve to encourage them to convert and follow those who looked as they did and were rewarded. But this simple gesture simply isn’t discussed enough, these details are not explained to those visiting. It simply exists as it does, without a second thought to it. However, behind this, is thousands of men, women, and children, who already had pre-existing beliefs and were killed for not converting; these people are a part of our history, and despite what side you stand on, it is a part of yours too. 

UNTITLED as Text

Underlying the Billions of Dollars by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University at UNTITLED Art Fair on December 4, 2019. 

Miami Art Basel has encompassed the city of Miami yet again. Changing the landscape through sculptures, an increased amount of street art, artists crawling out from all over the world, massive tents planting themselves in the middle of streets, the middle of beaches—all in the hubs of Miami. Miami has struggled to define itself and its people have struggled for years to gain a definitive culture, of unity, but for a short time period during the start of December, nothing else matters to the people. Not the increased trash and debris created from this event nor the increased air population via the house-sized air conditioning units to keep the massive tents housing billions of dollars’ worth of art preserved.  Our adventurous day took us to two of the largest and most interesting fairs, Art Miami and UNTITLED; after learning so much about art, the specific pieces, new artists, galleries, and the entire art business, my mind continued to drift back to Xavier Cortada’s installation outside of UNTITLED. This entire trailer, the letters we wrote to our future, his private art works created from Antarctic ice, screamed at its visitors to pay attention, to work collectively. Of all things I have learned about contemporary, abstract, or any piece of art, the one thing I have admired most about it all are the ideas and messages that are communicated through these various mediums. Xavier Cortada forced all who passed by to stop for a minute and truly reflect on the biggest threat to our existence right now. It is not a big, orange wig in the White House, it is climate change. Global warming. Here, very presently in Miami. This issue is one that we are at the forefront of and must combat each and everyday. Our Chicken Key clean ups are simply not for fun or to canoe out and lounge about—they are about fighting this monster, our possible future, together. That is the only way we can ever change things. As we pinned our letters to the doors, they were rather somber, all of us wishing we could do more and make more people care. However, we all were expressing the same feelings, all of us “Miamians,” all wrote about saving our planet, our Miami. This was the message Xavier wanted to show us, and in a way he did. I began to think that hope is possible, each of us recognized the very real consequences of our current lifestyles, each of us has begun to change and argue and advocate for greater change city wide, then we can tackle it state wide, then nationwide, then internationally, we will make waves. Xavier taught us that if we all have the same vision in mind and are able to keep that, then maybe we can save it and that letter to the future will no longer be the reality we face in our lifetime. But once again, it is up to us, to my generation to make these waves. Without our earth, our environment, our home, those billions of dollars will mean nothing. 

Everglades As Text

Photos by Jessica Horsham CC by 4.0
Photo in the bottom left square by Sofia Guerra CC by 4.0

“Is This Still Considered Miami?” by Jessica Horsham of FIU at Everglades National Park on January 22, 2020

Submerged in swampy water up to my knees, my body wrapped in layers of clothes in an attempt to keep myself warm and dry on one of Miami’s coldest days is where my professor, John Bailly, decided would be a great day for class—and he was right. Out of the 1.5 million acres of land across South Florida which is a home for various habitats and wildlife, Park Ranger Dylann Turffs decided that a spot off to the middle of an empty long road would be the best spot for us to begin our journey into one of the great cypress domes of the Everglades National Park. Slough slogging through the Everglades kept one question in my mind: how is this still considered Miami? Away from the suburbs, the cars, the night lights, and even the ocean, driving over the slowest and widest moving river, the Everglades is a sacred secret away from all of that. As we were guided through the crystal yet muddy waters, it was hard to deny its beauty, balance, and overwhelming peace. Deep in the dome, there was absolutely no signal on our phones, no noise from the city beyond our tree barriers, just the natural sound of nature and laughs as my peers fell in the occasional hole, and it was the most beautiful experience. As someone who had always marveled at the Everglades but never had the opportunity to experience it beyond an airboat ride, this journey connected me to the true Miami. The Miami before the sports cars, art deco, and nightlife that has made our city infamous; slough slogging through the Everglades connected me to the untouched, unbridled Miami, one that our collective ancestors learned to live with instead of against. Pulling off to the side of the road, seemingly at random, and plunging into the heart of a cypress dome might have just been the perfect afternoon to reflect and truly redefine the preconceived notions of what we consider to be “Miami.”

Miami Beach As Text

Taken by Jessica Horsham, CC by 4.0

A Treasure, Not So Hidden by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University in South Beach on February 19, 2020. 

Miami’s little own Île de la Cité, known for its fast cars, miles of endless beaches, or its waterfront dominated by the rich and lavish, Miami Beach is much more than what has been commonly depicted. From being transformed from a marshy, mosquito infested swamp land, to the beautiful and culturally rich city attracting more than 23 million tourists yearly, Miami Beach has seen it all. Miami Beach is an entire historical wonder, from having history rich museums, such as the Jewish Museum of Florida, it is home to the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world. As we traveled along Ocean Drive, weaving throughout the streets of Miami Beach, and really analyzing the architecture, I could not help myself but to be in awe of my city. The Art Deco that was rightly preserved is a stark contrast to the looming 30 story buildings that has now defined our downtown area. These buildings were once destroyed almost entirely, and what would Miami Beach have been? “A sea of condos.” Instead, by preserving these historic buildings, it has helped to shape the unique “Miami culture” and truly to give its inhabitants a definitive culture to call their own. Nonetheless, as we travelled back in time on the rooftops of some of these buildings, or through their original limestone lobbies, I found myself wondering how we were still in Miami. As we dove off of the main street onto one of the cutest side alley with cafes, away from the noise of the city just beyond it, it could not have been further from the Miami Beach I am used to and have grown to know, these little side streets, with amazing wonders such as the Besty Orb, just prove to show that these European inspired streets make Miami a true melting pot and beautiful mixture of all things, past and present. However, one of the biggest threats facing such treasures of the city is climate change. Simply importing sand from elsewhere to rebuild our eroding coastal lines is only a temporary fix to an ever-growing crisis. Soon enough, the treasure that is our Miami Beach, from its Art Deco architecture to its beautiful museums will be nothing but a sunken island that once was the heart of a culture and city. 

Lotus House as Text

By John Bailly, CC by 4.0

Rebirth by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University at the Lotus House Shelter on March 11, 2020.

The lotus is often regarded as a symbol of enlightenment and rebirth; it grows deep within dark, murky waters but is often noted as one of the most beautiful flowers. This is exactly what occurs at the Lotus House Shelter in Overtown, an area that suffers from extreme poverty. The Lotus House has transformed itself into a massive village with tons of moving parts: on site job training, therapy, wellness centers, dining services, and a doctor’s office right next to it. The shelter is also one that helps to house families, from talking with some of the Lotus House team, I was surprised to learn that they have helped to house families with even up to seven children; they do not discriminate and as long as you are placed with them and follow their rules, you will not be turned away. Also, almost all of the women who now work for the shelter and are a part of the administration of the house are all former residents. Each of these women have survived against extraordinary odds and serve as a beacon of hope to residents I would believe. They are the role models who have made it out and continue to be successful, they are sure to connect with the residents on a much deeper level. While volunteering, we tackled various projects. My group was in charge of completely cleaning out the loading dock, removing the donations and trash from it and then deep cleaning and sanitizing the area. It was great to hear the excitement, surprise, and gratitude from the many employees who popped in and out of the area. After lunch, we went floor by floor to sanitize and wipe down all of the tables, chairs, desks, and couches in the common area or recreational area on each floor. This part felt the most rewarding to me. For many women and children, they call the shelter their home. At the end of the day, no one wants to sit in a dirty house or worry about their children playing in the areas and getting sick or anything else. While it may have seemed such a miniscule task, we were able to make sure that we affected each individual on each floor. Keeping these areas clean and sanitized not only helps to keep the residents’ health well, but it just creates a new atmosphere in the area. These women have already been homeless for long enough, they should not just have place to bounce in and out of, they should have a home. So, whatever we could do to make these spaces feel like home, we were more than ready and willing. Organizations such as Lotus House not only impact its residents but truly changes a community or a neighborhood from the ground up. Many of their services are free and open to the public as well as their residents, their roots have been planted in a neighborhood that needs it the most; the Lotus Village continues to expand and grow and so does the amount of lives they touch and warriors they help to strengthen.

Deering Estate as Text

Photo by Jessica Horsham, CC by 4.0

More Than a View by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University about the Deering Estate on April 26, 2020.

Walking through the shady, cobbled walkway with trees branching out and connecting above you makes it easy to get lost in the aura of the Deering Estate. Once you descend from the walkway, the beautiful Biscayne Bay is right in front of your eyes and it is simply beautiful—from the well-manicured lawn, almost perfect restored and preserved buildings, to its incredibly tall trees. However, despite its picturesque views and perfect wedding setting, Deering hosts several throughout the year, the Deering Estate serves as a connection to our collective past, it is a cultural, environmental, and historic asset. Geologists have been able to discover that the land that the Deering Estate is located on has been around, and with human habitation, since prehistoric times. Florida’s first people, the Tequestas, lived on this land and evidence of their presence is marked all throughout—whether by the Middens or sacred burial sites. There is also an airplane, the Cocaine Cowboys Plane, that is now being overgrown by mangroves; the Prohibition Era wine cellar is extremely impressive, Deering has so many unique features. From the pronounced Miami rock ridge to the tropical hardwood hammocks, plentiful solution holes, and miles of trails, the Deering Estate provides its visitors with not just a beautiful view but also an understanding of what Miami looked like pre-Europe and preserves various native habitats to Florida that are continuously disappearing. The Deering Estate is more than a pretty view—it is a sanctuary, a home to many species, a window into the beginning of Florida, and our connection to our geographical ancestors.

Quarantine as Text

Photo by Jessica Horsham, CC by 4.0

The “Pause” by Jessica Horsham during the Quarantine on April 24, 2020 from her desk.

As much as I must say that I genuinely appreciate being forced to stay at home and reconnect with loved ones, and finally addressing all of the mental health checks that had been previously pushed off due to a lack of time, I must also admit that this quarantine has me worried for different reasons. While there is much to worry about during these times with such a painful virus as this, it is also raises serious worries about our government. If nothing else, this quarantine has simply showed how severely underprepared our country is to handle any mass disruptions to our daily lives. How have we not learned from the multiple natural disasters that had previously devasted many areas? How is that that stockpiles of essential supplies stored specifically for emergencies were empty? How is it that a majority of Americans have been worrying about getting evicted or keeping their light and water on? How is it that many Americans now have to also worry about how to feed themselves and their children? How are the programs designed to be our “safety nets,” barely survivable without a pandemic on our shores? How is it that there are mass crowds of people demanding to reopen states, directly defying government orders without any repercussions, but if a small group of black men stand nearby a park or outside of a restaurant, they can be charged (and most likely will be) for obstruction of justice, criminal mischief, loitering? How do those protesting value their looks and other unnecessary items more than human life? Many of those same people, from these same states, march often saying all lives matter though, even that of unborn fetuses, but do they care about the lives they end by simply refusing to stay home? Or most alarmingly, that people of color can be shot and killed in their own homes, retrieving their wallets from pockets, holding a phone that somehow looks like a weapon simply because the responding officers “felt threatened,” but when large crowds carrying assault rifles, hunting guns, and much more are approaching these same officers on the steps of buildings they are intended to protect, because their complexion and shade is much lighter, suddenly there is no threat? This quarantine is a time for a reflection, a time of thoughtfulness, I can only pray that after this we emerge with a newfound understanding and demand change, otherwise, what’s to prevent another catastrophe from happening?

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