MIM Spring 2020 Lotus House Service Project Fauzan Sheikh

Windy Day in Downtown Atlanta by Fauzan Sheikh

Student Bio

Hello! I am Fauzan Sheikh. I would describe myself as a person with a solid set of plans and a set direction for life. Currently I am a Junior headed to my Senior year in Florida International University enrolled in the Honors College. My area of studies is in Construction Management and I am enrolled in the Moss School of Construction at Florida International University working on their bachelor’s degree program. My profession is Estimating as I am the Assistant Estimator currently at Zahlene Enterprise Inc., which is a construction company located in Medley, FL. I was born in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, raised in Miami, FL, and I currently live in Pembroke Pines, FL. Being enrolled in Miami in Miami with professor Bailly as my instructor, has truly opened my eyes to what Miami really is.

Volunteer Pass at the Lotus House by Fauzan Sheikh

Lotus House is an Organization that was built upon viewing the needs of so many women and children that are displaced primarily in the City of Miami that need immediate assistance and attention for survival. Lotus House provides sanctuary, support, education, tools and resources that give women and children hope and the will for self-betterment. The Sundari Foundation Inc. is a non-denominational and non-profit organization that has been working hard ever since it was created to help the poor, homeless, and disadvantaged women and children. The Sundari Foundation was created by a small but very eager group of volunteers who were committed to help aid the women and children in their community.

Miami in Miami Helpers by Professor Bailly

This opportunity to serve the community and return the blessings that are given to us to those who may not be as blessed was given to me by the FIU Honors College through the Miami In Miami class. Serving the Lotus House is not part of my major or my predicted career, but it is something that I undoubtedly enjoy very much. Being a Muslim, my faith is Islam. Islam teaches us to return to those in need and it is part of our religion to the extent that if we can help and we do not, we are not considered proper Muslims. This was not the first time that I was volunteering for an organization that helps the poor and needy because I am a normal attendee for Project Downtown Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, which is also an organization that feeds the poor and homeless every weekend. Having prior experience from Project Downtown I very much understood the purpose and the necessary ethics required to fulfill this volunteering opportunity at the Lotus House.

Self Sanitation | Photo by Gabriela Lastra

We arrived at the Lotus House on the morning of Wednesday, March 11th, 2020. Upon arrival at the Lotus House I saw just from the first 10 minutes of being inside the facility, how important organizations such as these are for the face of humanity. Before we were even given instructions on what our agenda for the day would look like, I saw women and children all around myself and none of them looked sad or even close to looking depressed. This made me realize how ungrateful I can be even though I have everything that a human can need or even want.
We were instructed to take good care of ourselves and make sure we disinfect ourselves regularly because Covid-19 was just at a rise at that time. Blanca and I were put together as a team and we were assigned to clean all glass panels on the doors and windows as well as disinfect and sanitize all door handles and chairs in the lobby since that was the highest traffic area and people are constantly coming in and out. After I was done disinfecting, I was given a mop and bucket. I now held the mop and bucket for the first time in my life and I thought I knew how to use it, but I was not very good at it. Blanca showed me how to drain the water out of the mop itself, so it is not too wet nor too dry. Having to mop floors in specific made me realize how privileged I was to not have to do that throughout my life.

After everyone finished their designated assignment and I completed thoroughly disinfecting and mopping the cafeteria we could get in line to serve ourselves with food once the people deserving of the benefits were done eating. Not only does the Lotus House provide food for the people in need, it also provides quality foods that are high ion nutrition and great for health. I picked a fish sandwich for myself with a side of salad and a side of soup.

After I finished eating, I was asked to once again wipe down the handles of the entrance and exit doors. While I was doing that an elderly lady called me to come up to her. She complimented my hair and told me how she loved how shiny and silky it looked. I carried on a conversation with her and she told me how difficult her life was, and she wouldn’t know when her next meal would be. She was truly grateful of the Lotus House and satisfied with the services provided to her.

Becoming exhausted from cleaning floors, wiping windows, and disinfecting door handles had never felt so satisfying. We had just as a class helped the people who truly need the assistance. This was a class that would bring even those with the highest of egos down to earth and make them realize what they have is a blessing and not just something given or something they deserved from the womb. There are millions of people out there that do not know if they will eat, or even worse, if their children will eat today. There was a warm feeling in my heart after leaving the Lotus House that stayed present for quite a few days.

Citations

“Where Hope Blossoms.” Lotus House Shelter, lotushouse.org/.

MIM Ineffable Miami: Overtown (Formerly “Colored Town”) by Fauzan Sheikh

Fauzan Sheikh Slough Slogging through Everglades National Park

Student Bio

Hello! I am Fauzan Sheikh. I would describe myself as a person with a solid set of plans and a set direction for life. Currently I am a Junior headed to my Senior year in Florida International University enrolled in the Honors College. My area of studies is in Construction Management and I am enrolled in the Moss School of Construction at Florida International University working on their bachelor’s degree program. My profession is Estimating as I am the Assistant Estimator currently at Zahlene Enterprise Inc., which is a construction company located in Medley, FL. I was born in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, raised in Miami, FL, and I currently live in Pembroke Pines, FL. Being enrolled in Miami in Miami with professor Bailly as my instructor, has truly opened my eyes to what Miami really is. I emphasize that I was raised in Miami, but I was part of a closed circle which was limited to my schooling, family, and friends that were from my area. I only wished to travel outside of the state of Florida, and outside the United States itself. Not only did I learn what a gem Miami is itself, but also the light and dark history behind it all. My Ineffable Miami project this semester will be on the city of Overtown, which was formerly known as “Colored Town”.

Geography

Map of Historic Overtown by Google Maps

Overtown is a Historic predominantly Black city which is adjacent to Downtown Miami. The northern boundary of Overtown is NW 20th Street; the southern boundary is NW 5th Street; the western border is marked at the Miami River and SR-836; and the eastern border is the East Coast Railway and NW 1st Avenue. The surrounding cities include Downtown Miami, Town Square, Edgewater, Wynwood, Allapattah, Little Havana, and Brickell. Interstate I-95 passes directly through the heart of Historic Overtown and is also a topic of great controversy.

History

Johnny’s Records Storefront by Miami-Grid.com

The History of Overtown is one that you would see in a movie or documentary, and consequently there are many movies and documentaries based on the historical events occurring in Overtown. Overtown was once a highly populous and growing city with a booming industry. We can first begin talking about the major event that led to the decline of Historic Overtown. Interstate 95 is a highway that many Floridians use for their daily commute to and from work, for access to the other highways that connect the residents of Miami, as well as the tourists to the beaches as they are the spotlight of Miami, and is also a major highway that Floridians use to commute out of state as well. The expansion of Interstate 95 was planned in the 1950s and in the 1960s the expansion of the highway was constructed directly through the center of the city of Overtown. This major event displaced hundreds of families, and thousands of residents. The initial idea for the expansion of Interstate 95 was to expand along the Florida East Coast Railway, which would have been the option that would not have torn Overtown in half, but was an idea that was opposed by the businesses of downtown Miami and the city’s chamber of commerce. The plans that went into effect instead, was to build near Northwest Seventh Avenue which was passing through the City of Overtown. The displacement of thousands of residents, primarily black, was not overlooked by the white local and government officials but was accepted. There was an opposition from the locals at Overtown, but they were Black, and did not have any influence in the decision since they were considered second class citizens.

Riot of 1980 by CNN

The Miami Riot of 1980 is still considered to be the worst riot in the history of Miami. Miami-Dade police officers were involved in a “high speed chase” in the end of 1979 involving Black insurance agent and motorcyclist Arthur McDuffie. There is specific emphasis on the original story behind the death of McDuffie being caused by a motorcycle crash, but the report of the coroners reported otherwise. A responding officer that was following the chase testified against the initial story claiming the death was caused by crash following a high-speed chase and reported that the police officers had beaten McDuffie to death with their metal flashlights. McDuffie was beaten so badly that the prosecutors referred to the condition of his skull as like being cracked open like an egg. McDuffie was a strong man and did not die until four days after the beating as a result of injuries. The riot was not a result of the beating of an innocent black man, or even his death which followed the beating. The riot was the result of an unjust decision. The case was sent to a jury in Tampa, FL, which was behind even Miami when ending of segregation and the come-up of equality was considered. The jury in Tampa granted the officers who had brutally beaten McDuffie to death immunity and announced them as not guilty. The Great Riot of 1980 in Miami was the result of this unjust decision. The Great Riot of 1980 affected the city of Overtown and Liberty City the most and resulted in long clashes between the black community and law enforcement.

Demographics

Overtown is currently at an all-time low considering population and households. The decline was caused primarily by the expansion of Interstate 95 through the heart of Overtown. Currently the total population sits at approximately 10,004 residents and 4,228 households. Overtown consists of 6,762 people that are Black accounting for 67.6% of the population. 2,375 Hispanic residents reside in Overtown and is the second largest race of the city accounting to 23.7% of the population. There are only 722 white residents, 7.2% of the population and the other 1.5% of the population are from other racial backgrounds. The sex of the residents of the city of Overtown is about equal throughout the different age groups.

Landmarks

Exterior View of the Historic Lyric Theater Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Phillip Pessar


The Historic Lyric Theatre was built in 1913 by a man from Georgia named Geder Walker. Miami Metropolis called the Lyric Theater “the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by colored people in all the southland”. Throughout the glory days of the Lyric Theater legends such as Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Sammie Davis Junior, Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday, and many more performed to entertain the residents and visitors of Historic Overtown. Walker passed away in 1919, following his death, his wife Henrietta continued to operate the Theater until 1959. In 1959 the Theater became a church. In the 1960s smaller riots and confrontations in order to achieve freedom caused the Theater to become shuttered until 1988. The Black Archives History and Research Foundation purchased the Lyric Theater in 1988 and began to restore it. The Lyric Theater is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The restoration was completed, and the doors finally reopened in the year 2000. The new Lyric Theater included a new lobby, box office, and administrative offices, as well as many other additions. Ever since the reopening there have been many events held within the theater. The late Whitney Houston filmed a music video there, in 2005 Missy Elliot threw a party at The Lyric Theater during the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, and a local documentary was filmed there as well. The Lyric theater faced a renovation once again and reopened during Black History Month of 2014 and claimed its title of being the oldest operating theater in Miami.

The Dorsey House is located on Northwest Third Avenue in Historic Overtown and has a nameplate right up front. People may have heard the name D.A. Dorsey by reading the name of a park or a technical school that were named in his honor. D.A. Dorsey was the first black Millionaire in Miami. The Dorsey House has featured multiple renovations and struggles since it was built in 1920. The historic building is now accessible by the public as a museum. The architecture of the building is very Bahamian, and this was the popular style of architecture in Coconut Grove. The Dorsey House is located in between the Historic Lyric Theater and The Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dorsey was born in Quitman, Georgia, and was the son of a sharecropper. Dorsey moved to Miami in 1896 and worked for Henry Flagler’s Florida First East Coast Railroad Company as a Carpenter. D.A Dorsey purchased what is known as Fisher Island today from Herman B. Walker in 1918. The purpose of the purchase of 21 acres of land which totaled to the entire Island, was to provide a beach for colored people because at the time there was none.

Green

Map of Williams, Dorsey, and Gibson parks By Google Maps | Highlights by Fauzan Sheikh

The Historic city of Overtown has many green spaces, which include six public parks. The largest and the most famous of the six parks are Gibson Park, Dorsey Park, and Williams Park. Gibson Park is signified by the name Overtown Optimists Club on the map. Gibson Park offers After School, Summer Camp, Winter Camp, Spring Break Camp, Master Swim, and Learn to Swim Programs. The Overtown Optimists Club is at Gibson Park and offers Dance, Travel Basketball, Swimming, Flag and Tackle Football, Cheerleading, Mentoring and College Tours, Tee Ball and Baseball as well. Dorsey Park is named after D.A. Dorsey, the first Black Millionaire, owner and builder of the Dorsey House, and the previous owner of Fisher Island. Dorsey Park offers Baseball, Basketball, Bathrooms, Computers, Dog Walking Track, Outdoor Gym Equipment, Playground, Picnic Tables, Racquetball Court, and many Youth Programs. Williams Park offers all the same amenities as Gibson Park and Dorsey Park with the addition of Bicycle Racks.

Transportation

Miami Metrorail Mural in Overtown by: Fauzan Sheikh

Overtown is a City in Miami Dade County so just like the rest of the county the traffic, roads, and Transit is just as poorly planned. Being a community primarily of lower income families, the residents heavily depend on public transit. Overtown has local Metrorail stops which make long distance commutes to work and school within Miami-Dade County a bit easier for people that cannot afford their own private vehicles. There are three Metrorail stations in Overtown, the Southernmost station known as the Virgin MiamiCentral Station, the Central station known as Historic Overtown/ Lyric Theatre Station, and the northernmost Station named the Culmer Station. The Metrorail Stations in Overtown are full of Art on walls, whether it is registered professional murals, or Graffiti.

Food

When we visited Overtown with the Miami In Miami Class led by Professor Bailly, one of our stops was at Jacksons Soul Food, which is a renown restaurant in the city of Overtown. Jacksons Soul Food is a spot that you must stop at when you visit Overtown whether it is with friends, family or even alone. Authentic Soul food is served here. Jacksons Soul Food is a family owned and managed restaurant that has been open for a very long time. Excellent service was provided, and food was served in a timely manner even though we were a very large group of over 20 people. I ate steamed seasoned fish, with a side of Mac and Cheese and French Fries, accompanied with a fruit punch lemonade which was quite visually appealing. As we sat and ate the owner/manager of the restaurant told us stories of Historic Overtown and how the city is at a steady decline.

Businesses

Jackson Soul Food is an excellent example of a non-chain family owned business in Historic Overtown. There are not many other restaurants that serve Soul Food nowadays and Jacksons was the first I had ever seen or been to eat at. Another great business in Overtown that is popular amongst residents is Just Right Barber Shop and Beauty Salon. Just Right Barber Shop and Beauty Salon is one of the few examples of an all in one place for all genders that provides services for both male and female. Forrest Pilates is a Pilates Studio and gym owned and ran by Maria Forrest in Historic Overtown. There are not many fitness related amenities such as gyms in Overtown, so this is an attraction for not only residents of Overtown but also residents of Little Havana since it is located right at the border of the two Cities. All businesses in Historic Overtown are very friendly and everyone knows one another since it is a very small and tight community. When a resident walks into Jackson Soul Food the servers already know what the expected order should be. When a resident goes into a Barber Shop or a Salon, the beauticians and Barbers know whatever the consumers need to get done.

Summary

Although Historic Overtown has been on a decline ever since the construction of Interstate 95 was completed straight through the heart of the city, and the city is nowhere near as prosperous as it once was, after viewing a few documentaries which included interviews from locals, visiting Jackson Soul Food and devouring their food, and visiting the local churches, the overall vibe of the city is very warm and welcoming. Overtown residents hold a great amount of pride for where they reside and still have the will to fight for their city and to eliminate the urbanization which would destroy local businesses and cause residents to have to leave their homes. The crime rates in Overtown may be high but mainly because of drug related problems, not theft, murder, or anything that would be life threatening. I would like to see Overtown prosper once again as it did prior to the 80s and have people from its surrounding cities come in to enjoy the lively night life.

Citations

“About Overtown.” Afmfl, afmfl.org/index.php/common-good-initiative/about-overtown/.

shaanmiami April 10, 2019 3 Comments. “Past/Present of Segregated Miami.” Miami Grid, 11 Apr. 2019, miami-grid.com/2019/04/10/segregated-miami/.
“About Overtown.” Afmfl, afmfl.org/index.php/common-good-initiative/about-overtown/.

“Miami Riot of 1980: Black Motorist Arthur McDuffie Beat To Death.” Black Then, 28 Jan. 2020, blackthen.com/miami-riot-of-1980-black-motorist-arthur-mcduffie-beat-to-death/.

“Riots in America – CNN Video.” CNN, Cable News Network, 29 Apr. 2015, http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/04/29/riots-in-america-ts-orig.cnn.

“Age and Sex in Overtown, Miami, Florida (Neighborhood).” The Demographic Statistical Atlas of the United States – Statistical Atlas, statisticalatlas.com/neighborhood/Florida/Miami/Overtown/Age-and-Sex.

“Historic Overtown’s Lyric Theater.” Historic Overtown’s Lyric Theater, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/venues/tour-historic-overtown-s-lyric-theater.

“Experience Historic Overtown, Florida.” , Florida, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/history-and-heritage/18-historic-sites-in-miamis-overtown.

“Who Was D. A. Dorsey?” D. A. Dorsey Technical College, http://www.dorseytechnicalcollege.com/who-was-d-a-dorsey/.

Time Out Miami. “Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex.” Time Out Miami, 5 Apr. 2018, http://www.timeout.com/miami/things-to-do/black-archives-historic-lyric-theater-cultural-arts-complex.

Dixon, Lance. “This Historic House Is Paying Tribute to One of Miami’s Black Pioneers.” The New Tropic, 19 Feb. 2019, thenewtropic.com/miami-dorsey-black-history/.

“Gibson Park.” Parks & Recreation – Gibson Park, archive.miamigov.com/parks/park_gibson.html.

“OOC Dance Team Keeps The ? Energy.” Overtown Optimist Club, 1 Nov. 1970, http://www.overtownoptimist.org/.

“Dorsey Park.” Miami, http://www.miamigov.com/Residents/Parks-Directory/Dorsey-Park.

“Williams Park.” Miami, http://www.miamigov.com/Residents/Parks-and-Recreation/Parks-Directory/Williams-Park.

Areavibes. “Overtown, Miami, FL Transportation.” Overtown, FL Transit – Public Transportation, Amtrak Train Stations & Airports, http://www.areavibes.com/miami-fl/overtown/transportation/.

MIM Ineffable Miami: Fauzan Sheikh

Ineffable Sunset:

Bio

I am Fauzan Sheikh currently a Junior in the Honors College and FIU School of Engineering. My major is Construction Management and I am currently an Assistant Estimator at Zahlene Enterprises which is a construction company located in Medley, FL. I was born in Karachi Pakistan, raised in South Miami, FL, and I currently reside in Pembroke Pines, FL My goal is to finish my degree as soon as I can to lead my life into a successful career within the construction industry. I have always been very involved with every institution I was enrolled in. During my time in Southwest Miami Highschool (2013-2017) I played Varsity football and my team won the district championship. I was also in Student Government during my senior year in high school. Broward College brought me closer to my religion through the MSA (Muslim Student Association) chapter of Broward College. I became the Vice President and did a great amount of community work alongside my Muslim brothers and sisters. Our MSA did everything from feeding the homeless in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale to the riddance of misconceptions about Muslims through peaceful talks and debates. At Broward College I was also a member of HSC (Honors Student Committee) which not only aided me through opening doors to scholarships and academic success, but I also spread the knowledge I gained to help the students who I studied amongst. I am blessed to have FIU in my own hometown. The diversity here at FIU is outstanding and the opportunities for minorities like me are in surplus. Being an FIU Panther for only three weeks has made me realize how if I choose the correct path, success is just the reach of a hand away.

Geography

Map of Sunset: Bestplaces.net

Sunset, FL is a city in South Miami and the cities that it is bordered by are Kendale Lakes, Glenvar Heights, Westwood Lakes, Kendall, and Olympia Heights. The Don Shula Turnpike as well as the Snapper Creek Expressway are two highways that run directly through the city of Sunset, FL.

History

Hurricane Andrew in Sunset, FL

A historical event that truly had a huge impact on the City of Sunset, FL was the arrival of Hurricane Andrew. August 24th, 1992 was a day that not only the city of Sunset, FL, but the entire region of South Florida will never forget. At the time when Hurricane Andrew struck Florida, it was the strongest hurricane to ever strike Florida. Roofs were ripped off the foundation of homes and thousands of Sunset, FL residents were displaced, hundreds were injured.

Demographics

The 2010 census reveals everything to know about the demographics of the city of Sunset, FL. There are approximately 16,389 residents, 7751 of which are male, and 8638 which are female. 14.8% of the residents are White, 43.2% Black, 9.2% Latino (which is very low compared to the rest of Miami), and 3.9% are from other races. The median age range for residents of Sunset, FL is 44.4 years which is 2.4 less than the rest of Florida. The average household income in Sunset, FL is $81772 which is much greater than the rest of the state of Florida since that is at $52,594 the estimated income per capita is $33358 in 2017 which grew a great amount since 2010, when it was $23,735. The average home values in Sunset, FL are $412,044 which is almost double that of the rest of the state, which is $214000.

Food

Deep Dish Pizza: Yelp

Manhattan Chicago Pizza is a non-chain restaurant. New York style Italian food is served here. When I went into the restaurant, I was welcomed by a staff of four people which were all immediate family. I ordered a Fettuccine Alfredo as well as their famous Deep-Dish Pizza. I was provided with excellent service and the food was hot and fresh when it came out.

Business

Daytime view of The Shops at Sunset Place entrance: Greater Miami and the Beaches

The Shops at Sunset Place is the most grossing place to be in the city of Sunset, FL. The Shops at Sunset Place is an open mall with great entertainment, dining, and shopping options. The AMC 24 is an excellent place to watch movies, and GameTime is also another option for entertainment. There are delicious spots to eat such as Buffalo Wild Wings. The Shops at Sunset Place is an excellent shopping mall that has all your favorite brands such as: Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble Superstore, Forever 21, Gap/Gap Kids, Hollister Co., It’s Sugar, Love Culture, The Disney Store, Victoria’s Secret and Z-Gallerie.

Summary

Sunset, FL is among the most overlooked cities in the entire Miami-Dade County. Even when you try googling the history, aside from Wikipedia there are very few sources that have any information. Sunset, FL is a city with beautiful homes and landscape. The quality of living is great, and it is in need of more respect as well as attention.

MIM Service Project: Fauzan Sheikh

Project Downtown Miami/Ft. Lauderdale

Project Downtown Volunteers

Project Downtown Ft. Lauderdale/Miami is a subgroup of a larger organization known as Project Downtown. The story of how project downtown was conceived is beautiful and as described on their website in two sentences: “Project Downtown is an initiative that began with a few students that were dissatisfied. Dissatisfied with the plight of homeless and needy individuals in cities across the nation, dissatisfied with the blind eye that society has turned toward them, and dissatisfied to their own non-contribution to the betterment of their own communities. So they turned their dissatisfaction into action.”. there are people all over the world as we see on the news, specifically in third world countries, that do not know when other next meal will come to take away the pain of malnourishment. What we do not realize is that there are not only people in other countries, but there are thousands of people all around us, whether they are the beggars we see at the corners of the streets, somewhere in our neighborhoods, in the downtown of our cities, or even students that we study amongst. Food and shelter are the most necessities for a human yet there seems to be still a shortage for everyone even in this country of The United States, which can be referred to as the superpower of the world.

Project Downtown Food service

On Saturday morning I woke up at 7am. After I showered and dressed, I drove to my friend’s house in Davie, FL where we prepared pasta, cut watermelon, organized the drinks and the snack bars which we bought from Costco. We had everything ready by 10am which is approximately when we loaded the cars up with all the food. We arrived at Downtown Ft. Lauderdale at 11pm and parked right next to Stranahan Park which is where the food was to be distributed at noon. Immediately we began to set up the tables which were to hold all the food trays and the rest of the distribution material. The lines began to form by 11:30am and became seemingly infinite by 12pm. Everything went smoothly and there was enough food to feed everybody, and some even took extras with them.

Volunteers with Rachel (far right)

Amongst the homeless was a woman named Rachel. Rachel had not eaten for many days and still had the energy of a teenager. The amount of love and respect I have for this woman is about the same as a family member of mine. Rachel can be described as one of the most thankful people in this world because of how satisfied she is with whatever she has in this world. Claiming that she is an alien from another planet that arrived on a spaceship to Earth is her trademark introduction. After conversing with her for a small while she finally opened up to me and told me that she was thrown out of the house by her own children. The level of difficulty raising a child is for a parent and the amount of pain a mother experiences when giving birth to a human is unimaginable until experienced. It is so sad how there are so many people just like Rachel who are neglected by their own family and have nothing else to help them survive. When our group of volunteers was getting together for a picture Rachel joined and called us her new family and when we were leaving, she approached me and said told me, “you are a gentleman”.

Project Downtown Blanket Drive

Project Downtown held a blanket drive on Saturday, November 30th, 2019. The nights are beginning to grow colder the further we get into winter. Although food is necessary for survival, so is warmth. We as volunteers collected over 200 blankets which were distributed to the homeless people in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale. The Project Downtown Blanket Drive was aided by college students in collecting blankets which took about two weeks. The feeling of satisfaction for providing somebody with anything that they truly need which makes them happy is unrelatable and there may not be a better feeling in this world.

Project Downtown Hygiene Kits

Saturday, December 7th, 2019 a group of us college students got together on behalf of Project Downtown and created hygiene kits. The hygiene kits were separated by gender. The hygiene kits contain toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, towel, shampoo, and for the females there are pads and other feminine hygiene products. Very early in the morning a group of student volunteers gathered at Salah Tawfik, which is an Islamic school as well as a mosque and put together all the hygiene kits.

A lot of the planning and organization for Project Downtown happens inside of mosques throughout the United States. Knowing that the new generation of college students have the heart to take initiative for such an amazing cause is heartwarming.

Miami In Miami: Fauzan Sheikh

I am Fauzan Sheikh currently a Junior in the Honors College and FIU School of Engineering. My major is Construction Management and I am currently an Assistant Estimator at Zahlene Enterprises which is a construction company located in Medley, FL. I was born in Karachi Pakistan, raised in South Miami, FL, and I currently reside in Pembroke Pines, FL My goal is to finish my degree as soon as I can to lead my life into a successful career within the construction industry. I have always been very involved with every institution I was enrolled in. During my time in Southwest Miami Highschool (2013-2017) I played Varsity football and my team won the district championship. I was also in Student Government during my senior year in high school. Broward College brought me closer to my religion through the MSA (Muslim Student Association) chapter of Broward College. I became the Vice President and did a great amount of community work alongside my Muslim brothers and sisters. Our MSA did everything from feeding the homeless in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale to the riddance of misconceptions about Muslims through peaceful talks and debates. At Broward College I was also a member of HSC (Honors Student Committee) which not only aided me through opening doors to scholarships and academic success, but I also spread the knowledge I gained to help the students who I studied amongst. I am blessed to have FIU in my own hometown. The diversity here at FIU is outstanding and the opportunities for minorities like me are in surplus. Being an FIU Panther for only three weeks has made me realize how if I choose the correct path, success is just the reach of a hand away.

Miami as text

At 10:30am our class arrived at the Dadeland South Metro rail station to begin our first excursion of Fall 2019. From the minute I stepped foot into this metro rail station I realized how different life is only a 45-minute drive from the city that I live in. Miami is a very populous city with very high vehicle traffic. The Miami Metro Rail system was built as an aid for the people who reside in the city and need safe and time effective transit for basic commute, to/from work and school. I had a sense of attraction from the rattling metro tracks, beeping of car horns, and the smell of fuel combustion, which would drive your everyday individual away. Life in South Miami is truly the fast life.

My first exposure to the arts in Miami was in our very first stop at the University of Miami, to view the Lowe Art Museum. As we entered the museum we were greeted with great respect and the basic rules of the museum were given to us. The rules were set to conserve and protect the amazing artwork that this museum contains. Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541 – Apr 07, 1614), formally known as El Greco was a Greek painter of the Spanish Renaissance. Prior to this excursion, I had only learned about who he was and how amazing his works of arts are. Not one but two of his pieces are conserved here locally within the walls of the Lowe Art Museum. Grateful is the way to describe what I was upon being revealed to the works of his art.

Further into our Excursion we exited the metro station onto the Viscaya stop which was the part I was most impatient for. My first attendance at the Viscaya Gardens was when I was only an adolescent with absolutely no knowledge about what this place was. Professor Bailly briefed us in our first-class lecture about what Viscaya was and what it means to us today. The very entrance of Viscaya made me feel as if I am no longer in south Florida but instead somewhere in Europe. Viscaya is the prime example of beauty created with the hands of man, but within the walls of this landmark is a very dark past. Professor Bailly not only presented us with the actual means of the construction of this landmark but also made us realize how normal whatever happened within these walls was during the time it was created. Viscaya was created to be heaven on earth and the concept came from god-like ambition in man.

A city known as Overtown was the next stop of our excursion. We dined as a class at Jackson Soul Food located in the heart of Overtown. The hospitality of the hosts of this family owned restaurant was adjacent to that of the people of Pakistan. Beyond the amazing food and energizing fruit punch was how the family runs this restaurant which such pride and happiness. Our entire class had happy bellies and the owners had great business from us. After dining at Jackson Soul Food, we walked around the corner to Mount Zion Baptist Church. This church was once part of a prospering Overtown before Highway I-95 was built directly through it. Overtown is a primarily Black neighborhood full of welcoming and kind residents. The state of Florida inconsiderately built I-95 directly over the top of this church. There is tons of pollution in the air and the noise of traffic is very bothersome to the residents. When our class was standing outside of the church, we were directly underneath the highway.

The last stop of our excursion was at the Northside Station. This stop was the briefest but not under-appealing by any means.  The Northside Station had a piece of artwork by Purvis Young. I was caught off-guard when I saw this huge mural painted on the wall at the actual stop. After viewing the Purvis Young painting, we had a short post-excursion discussion and I began to miss the class before we even went our own way. I am more than looking forward to the rest of this seminar.

Downtown as Text

Miami-Dade Court House

This week in Miami in Miami took us to the heart of our city of Miami. we explored the entire Downtown area or more specifically the more historically substantial buildings and parks. There really was not one part of what we explored that I found more intriguing than the other. We saw all sorts of structures that looks like wood cabins from the North and buildings that made us feel as if we were standing in the streets of Greece.

We ate at a Mediterranean restaurant known as Fresh Lebanese Kitchen. Immedietely I felt as if I was home because of the generous portions of food and the Muslim hospitality that I can only find within my own family. There I ate a Chicken and Lamb Shawarma Wrap with a side of Babaghanoush and pita bread. When we finished eating we walked right across the street to the Miami Dade Courthouse.

The Miami Dade Courthouse building is one that stands out from all the buildings that surround it. After overeating at the Mediterranean Restaurant I sat on the steps of the courthouse as Professor Bailly went over the history of the building, how it came to be, and what work is done within it. Outside of the Courthouse was a statue of Henry Flagler and right beneath his feet was a plaque that informed us of his significance. Being a student in the Construction Management program at FIU, I always am observant of structures which was why the courthouse building left me starstruck.

Views at Vizcaya

Vizcaya In Depth As Text

We once again entered Vizcaya, this time the tour being more in-depth. The beautiful construction made of limestone mixed with stones and shells is just something that is not the most common, nor is it efficient. Professor Bailly showed us areas that were made to express love and true feelings for your significant other which personally gave me many ideas for the future. This time around we were introduced to the variation of design styles and artwork within the rooms of Vizcaya. Not one room had the same style of artistry if compared to the other. The Kitchen area was full of chinese ceramics and had a brighter pallete of colors throughout. The floors of the kitchen were made out of cork so the constant movements of the maids and servants do not disturb the never ending peace of their owners. Their were rooms with Rococo and Neoclassical furniture and artwork. The artwork that is enclosed within the gates of Vizcaya was the work of Paul Chalfin who was an artist and interior designer with an interest in architecture. Revisiting Vizcaya with my family and explaining everything from even half of the detail that we received from professor Bailly will truly change their perspective.

Deering As Text

Crystal clear water at the Deering Estate



The Deering expedition was the first that I arrived before anybody else because I was excited to go on a hike for the first time in my life. I emphasize this being my first hike because I made a bad decision while getting dressed, I took out my brand new white Adidas Superstar shoes because I wanted to look good on a hike for some reason, not realizing that we are not even going to be hiking on a trail but instead off. After arriving I had enough time to walk around the wooden cabins next to where we parked realizing that is not even the Deering Estate on its own but instead just simply some later built offices. Still trying to look half decent I asked a classmate to braid my hair since we had fellow expeditioners still arriving to the Estate. Once our tour guide arrived, she began to show us soil samples and explaining to us the natural events that this location may have gone through over the past few centuries that resulted it to look the way it does today. I studied Geology since I am in the school of Engineering at FIU for the Construction Management program, which means we are required to know the breakdown of soil and how it is formed. Much of what was being explained to us by the tour guide made lots of sense to me and I was immediately engaged. Before we departed toward the trail, we were all assessed for preparedness and the emphasis was on clothes that covered most of our bodies as well as if we brought some sort of water supply. We walked through the gated entrance of the trail and were stopped once more for review of the cautions we need to take and what to avoid. Being advised that there will be trees called poison wood, that cause extreme irritation if contact is made with the skin, there will be solution holes in the ground made over many decades that even fall 10-20 feet deep randomly scattered everywhere, and venomous insects that we need to look out for, my smile from excitement slowly went away as I became more vigilant of my surroundings.

Cutler Fossil Site

Our first significant stop and my personal favorite was the Cutler Fossil Site. I felt very special being permitted to view this site because it is off limits to the public. We were told to turn the airplane mode on our phones on so that way the location in our pictures cannot be tracked to this preserved area. The Cutler Bay Fossil Site is a sinkhole within the preserve that contains human remains of the Indians that occupied the land as well as a great amount of animal remains. Beds that the Indians would sleep on were carved within the limestone walls and tools they used for their everyday lives are scattered everywhere in abundance. Of the thousands of bones found there were tens that are of animals that are extinct. The data that surface from the Cutler Fossil Site just shows how diverse the biology of the land of the Deering Estate truly was and still is.

Once extinct Itala Butterfly

The biodiversity of the Deering Estate Preservation area does not end at the Cutler Fossil Site upon the review of the fossils that it contains within but also all around there are endangered animals that find haven on this land and strive within it. There is a butterfly species known as Itala that flies freely in the Deering Estate. Little that we know about this species of butterfly is that it was once extinct for a long time until it was rediscovered. There were many discoveries we made as we were walking through the forest and one of those discoveries was a perfectly preserved skeleton of a small animal that was on the ground. The Skeleton of the animal seemed as if we could pick up all the bones and put in a display since none of the bones seemed to be missing. There were many attempts to gain ownership in these lands by even the government and the South Florida Water Management District but as it stands today, these Pine Rock lands are in great hands.

Chicken Key As Text

To still arrive to this expedition on time was seemingly far-fetched while looking at the navigation which stated there are two accident and roadwork ahead. I parked my car in reverse into some bushes right across from the gated entrance of the Deering Estate to avoid wasting time to find parking. I got a call from a TA asking me if I am coming or not and I told him that I see him right in front of me so as soon as I arrived to the docking area, my canoe partner and I climbed aboard the final canoe. I feel as if I always do something wrong when it comes to preparation for our expeditions. Just as I wore my brand new (white) Adidas Superstars to the Hike the week before, which got pretty much destroyed, I committed myself to an extremely strenuous chest workout the night before this expedition. I was telling myself that this canoeing would be great post-workout stretch but looking at the island in the distance not getting any larger than an ant in my palm was not very reassuring.

Dock-point for canoes on Chicken Key Island

Arrival at the island meant nothing less than getting down to business. At first glimpse, it felt like as if someone had already done all the necessary cleanup, but as we walked deeper into thee island we realized that in order to protect the beauty and to preserve the nature of these small islands, these cleanups are a necessity that is unfortunately being overlooked or at the very least not being assessed to the importance. There was a wooden bench area where we gathered all the trash and within the hour it was already full and ready to be loaded into our canoes in order to make room for more trash. Approximately two hours into the cleanup we were slowly realizing that there are a few students, and most importantly Professor Bailly himself as well as Jena who is a very close friend of mine who still have not reached the island. Once they finally arrived, they had many tales to tell. Professor Bailly for one had to carry a student on his back through the swamp and Jena had fallen straight into a solution hole as if she was in an animated TV show. After cleaning up we as a class went swimming in the clear and beautiful waters.

Views on Chicken Key

The most difficult task I attempted and thankfully found success in was to remove two ropes that were at the very least 20 feet in length, buried deep in the dirt and tied around the roots of the mangroves. My favorite find at the island was a few perfectly preserved Horseshoe Crab exoskeletons that Professor Bailly and the fellow expeditioners found, one of which I brought home with me and am going to take the professor’s advice and drying it in the sun, then spraying it with a few coats of clear coat paint. As the time to canoe back to the Deering Estate came close we were all dreading the trip back. All of us expeditioners were tired and burnt from the sun. knowing that I have a nice shower and comfortable bed waiting for me at home is what motivated me to stand up and get ready for the trip back. Instead of two people on a canoe as on our way to the island, it was three on the way back, but we were also towing a whole other canoe which was full of trash and tied to ours. Now we were un-comparably more tired than on our way to the island and we had double the weight to paddle, not even the tied was in our favor this time around. As the Deering Estate got closer I kept looking back at the Island and began to miss being on it. Working in order to preserve the beautiful nature of Chicken Key gave me somewhat of an emotional attachment to the island and I am more than looking forward to doing this again very soon.

Wynwood As Text

Prison gallery at The Marguiles Collection

Wynwood is a city that helped my span of knowledge for art expand immensely. The traffic is one of the worst in the city of Miami, the roads are rougher than those of my hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, and it felt as if everyone was here for the same purpose, “to take pictures with the walls”. Thinking about how full of color this city must be, I purchased an entire outfit just for this expedition. A white sweatshirt with the stencil drawing of the sesame street character with a pair of light blue jeans, and khaki tennis shoes was my choice of an outfit. My emphasis on my outfit is important because the reason for my outfit which included simple colors was so that the setting around me would contrast and the walls would be the emphasis of the pictures. Although the walls were not part of our itinerary, we explored a part of Wynwood that I had never taken interest in, the world renown art museums that are just so easily accessible.

The Marguiles Collection As Text

Simple box at The Marguiles Collection

The story of Mr. Marguiles’s life, who is the owner of The Marguiles Collection, was very impactful to me and gave a sense of inspiration to me in the sense that “change” is possible. Mr. Marguiles was questioned one day by his girlfriend that, “what else is there besides Football and Girls in your life?”. His wife answered “art”. The Marguiles Collection started small and grow slowly over the course of decades. What was ironic was that the girlfriend ended up being one of the coaches for the New York Giants and he became the owner of the world renown Marguiles collection which is an absolute swap of interests. We were taught that “there are  two actual ways of looking at art, first is visual response which can be when you look at something and you like it, and the send is to look at art with your mind which can be conceptual art, when you find something that was not purposely made by the artist, and what is in the mind rather than the retina””- Mr. Marguiles.

At first the art which we viewed was from the Mono-ha Movement, the School of Everything, and work that is not fabricated which is just a great variety of materials in their natural state put together. Next, we went onto art which had movement and life in it such as the wall of photographs of life in a prison as well as the breadline which was meat to show the life during the Great Depression.

              After the tour of the Marguiles Collection we walked to a bakery called Zak The Baker. This bakery had a sense of life in it. Full of customers the bakery was but the process of bread-making was what caught my eye since there were people happily making it in the back. Personally, I purchased a Salmon sandwich which was covered in Jewish Rye Bread as well as cabbage and cheese. Walking around in a city with so much life not only boosted my knowledge in art but left me in a great mood regardless of how tiring it was. Another great expedition is now complete.

HistoryMiami As Text

Bayiews

The HistoryMiami museum is just as the name suggests, about the history of Miami. Upon entry the tour guide treated us with great respect and even gave us free return tickets with which we can even bring along guests of our choice. We toured the museum in what was seemingly chronological order. The development of the human species from being prey of everything around them to climbing to the top of the food chain is present within the art on the walls. There was a mural that showed the humans hiding from all the primary predators and right next to it was a mural that showed humans advancing and with much less fear of the environment. Before this portion of the tour of HistoryMiami Museum I believed that Dire Wolves were just a fantasy beast from the Game of Thrones television shows until I saw the actual jaw with bone ripping teeth. We next entered the developing phase of the Miami area during the times of colonization. Slavery was the norm at the time and Black Americans had very few rights. There was a man known as Francisco Menendez, who was a free black slave which was also a captain serving the military of the Spanish crown. After many attempts to seek the rights of the citizens then failing Francisco fled and carried on his life on becoming a pirate. Francisco was captured then given the opportunity to regain his status in the military because his skill at what he did. This story was of great significance, but I had never learned about this beautiful piece of history from the very area that I reside until the tour of the HistoryMiami Museum. There are many exhibits in the museum that have debatable remarks on history but there is not much that cannot be backed by evidence.

For lunch a group of us got together in search for a mom and pop’s style restaurant which led us expeditioners to walk the area until we found this Greek restaurant with an intriguing menu. Most of us ordered the Meat Gyro Wrap while a few ordered Greek Salads, Hummus, and stuffed vegetables. The wait was long but expected as this was a very busy and seemingly well-known spot for food. Once the food arrived, the amazing taste made the wait worthwhile. Post-lunch break we caught up to the class walking through residential and commercial high-rises which lead to u walking upon the Freedom Tower. Professor Bailly is a man that can engage any student by making the expeditions personal to them. I am Muslim, so the racism against us in this country by the many closed-minded individuals that surround us makes life a bit uneasy. The freedom tower of Miami is based upon a church in Seville, Spain. The irony was conceived when professor Bailly explained to us that this church in Spain, that the Freedom Tower of Miami is almost an exact replica of was originally a mosque built by Muslims to worship Allah with just a bell tower added on top of it to convert it into a church. What strikes me is that the “Freedom” Tower in this very country is a replica of Muslim architecture, yet Muslims are being attacked by the leaders in the United States.

Freedom Tower of Miami

Miami Art As Text

Untitled Art Entrance | Photo by Blanca Alcaraz

Amongst the finest cultures in the playground of art is at the doorsteps of the residents of Miami. The area of Miami Beach is turned into sets of conventions for miles along the coast for a week of the year. These conventions include Untitled Art, Art Miami, Art Basel and many more. The first convention that we viewed was Untitled Art. Two weeks prior to this convention our Miami In Miami class was given promo code to enter and receive free tickets to join the Untitled Miami convention. Something that these conventions focus on is to make the entire setting of the convention very minimalistic, which means al the walls are white and the floor itself is gray. The reason for this minimalistic setting is to ensure that all the art, which is scattered in booths throughout the convention is highlighted. Untitled Art opened in 2012 as a Primary Art convention and is still serving the same role. Primary Art Conventions serve as a resource for artists that are new to the market and wish to display their works to show the public in search of sales and fame. At the Untitled Art convention, we were greeted by the manager who explained to us everything we needed to know about the convention and what parts were the highlights of the year.

Letters to the Future

We were assigned a mission prior to entering the Untitled Art Convention. Our mission as a class was to write letters to the residents of Miami of the year 2119, which is an entire century from now. The purpose of this mission was to establish the alarming reality of global warming, what it is causing now, and what our state of environment as residents of Miami will look like in a century from now. The letter I wrote stated: “To the future generations, children and adults of 2119. Children and Adults that are still living in South Florida, or what is left. You will “NOT” see the beauty of Miami as we see it. You will “NOT” stand where I am standing writing this letter. What my generation is doing now will hopefully benefit you. Enjoy the fruits of our labor”. As harsh as my piece in this mission may sound it is the inevitable, unless we ourselves can be that change now. Right across was a booth with five water paintings. These paintings were produced using actual Antarctic Ice and water. The paintings included threatening messages that contain great value. As researched, there is millions of tons of Antarctic Ice melting due to global warming causing the sea levels to rise. The reason why this portion of the fair is so significant to us residents of Miami is because the day will come when, where all these art fairs are located along the shoreline will no longer be able to have a space for display. Miami itself as a city is barely above the sea level and the shoreline has already shrunk over the past century and is only speeding up the process due to emissions.

Text Box: Art Miami Display
Art Miami Display

The conclusion of the Untitled Art Convention only meant the conception of more art. We were assigned to take a lunch break after visiting the Untitled Art Convention then driving to the area of the Art Miami Convention. We had just enough time to drive and find parking at a lot near the Art Miami Fair sine the area was grossing in popularity from people all around the country and some from even around the world, which meant the already horrendous traffic was only bound to be worse. Our class was sponsored VIP tickets to grant us free entrance into the world renown Art Miami Convention. The Art Miami Convention is a secondary art convention. Secondary art is art that is being displayed and sold at a convention having the name of the artist that was already once on the primary market. Most secondary art is sold by businesses, sellers, museums, and collectors that have purchased the art from the artist. You may find a piece by Picasso or Romero Britto at a secondary art convention. My favorite displayed art piece was a set of multisided objects constructed of lights and mirrored/tinted glass which gave the illusion of un-ending reflections. The honor of having the chance to walk amongst people that came to our home-town of Miami from all around the world and visit world renown are convention was unreal and I will definitely be revisiting next year.

Everglades As Text

The morning of our expedition through the Everglades was one of the coldest in a year and considering a hike through the Everglades wetlands was seemingly unorthodox since being a resident of South Florida we are used to two seasons, one of which is just hotter than the other. The Everglades is natures gift to South Florida as it is a haven to hundreds of thousands of species of animals and a vital source of fresh water for the residents of Florida. In 1947 the Everglades forest was announced to become a National Park to conserve the landscape which was depleting rapidly due to the expansion of homes and industries in South Florida.  Once all the students arrived at the initial meetup spot, professor Bailly introduced us to Dylann Turffs, who is a Park Ranger for the Everglades National Park. Ranger Turffs explained to us everything we must expect, pay close attention to, and watch out for in the area where we will be hiking, or more specifically, slough slogging. Slough slogging is the proper phrase to describe hiking through a wetland such as the Everglades which is popularly known as the River of Grass.

We travelled to the area of the Double Dome in which we were to hike in the formation of a parade since it was just a single lane road and about a dozen cars of FIU Honors Students following Park Ranger Turffs. Ranger Turffs opened the trunk of her car and had us pick out a walking stick of our liking. There was a great amount of emphasis on the importance of walking sticks and how they must be used. We then walked into the Double Dome, which was our first trail following Ranger Turffs and within the first 20 feet our legs were submerged in ice cold water halfway up to our knees. There were random holes underwater that were not visible to us, which is where the role of the walking sticks came into play. The further we went into the trail the deeper the water rose. There were areas where the water reached almost to our waist. There were areas that were much tighter than others but they were the safer ones, as explained to us by Ranger Turffs, if we see a large area of sky where there are no trees, chances are there is an alligator hole right beneath that. Ironically enough shortly after we had our first and only encounter with an alligator which was swimming about 25 feet away from where we were slough slogging. I heard Jena Nassar, who is also an FIU Honors student participating in the Miami in Miami course, scream in terror because she felt something touch her leg shortly after we saw the alligator,  which quite frankly spooked the rest of the crowd as well. A few other students as well as I felt something come into contact with our legs as well and then we confirmed they were the Spotted Garfish of the Everglades swimming through our legs. It felt unreal to be surrounded by such a beautiful landscape in such a raw manner. We were literally part of the landscape itself with unlimited exposure. Time came for us to leave the Double Dome and move onto the next part of our expedition but a part of me just wanted to stay a bit longer.

Views from the Anhinga Trail Boardwalk

We walked out of the Double Dome to where we had parked our cars on the side of the road and cleaned up as fast as possible in preparation of our next hike which was to be through The Anhinga Trail. The Anhinga Trail is named after a bird species which is native to the Florida Everglades. Before entering the actual trail area, the class rested a bit, ate food, and used the restrooms. Upon entering the trail, we immediately spotted a male and female Anhinga close to one another in the distance. If you long to see Florida Alligators, then the Anhinga should be the destination for you. There were Alligators from small to extremely large right off the trail.

The Anhinga Trail portion of our expedition was much more relaxing as we did not have to worry about sudden 10-foot drops in which we may get stuck or encountering a dangerous predator. We ended our Expedition at the end of the Anhinga Trail and the feeling of not wanting to leave was just not going away, until one of our classmates mentioned “Robert is Here” which is a famous local farm and fruit stand where they also sell fresh smoothies and milkshakes. Upon arriving to Robert is Here, we got into a very long line of locals and visitors all trying to get their hands on one of the many varieties of fresh fruit drinks Robert is Here has to offer. I chose t buy the Key Lime Milkshake because I had never seen or heard of one before and to my surprise it was very delightful. I will return to the Everglades National Park very soon.

Key Lime Milkshake from Robert is Here

South Beach As Text

The Betsy Orb. Photo by Blanca Alcaraz

Miami Beach is the name of a city known worldwide. Residing only a 30-minute drive with clear traffic, this city has vibes and views of a whole different era. South Beach is a part of Miami Beach city that has conserved a lot of its original architecture from when the city was just becoming a growing community. The Betsy Orb for instance is a part of the Betsy Hotel. The Betsy Orb is meant to imitate a beach ball stuck in between two buildings representing the fun this city is well sought after. Even though this city represents purely happy times, the history may not be as pleasurable because it is subjective. Black African American slave labor was used in building this city. Years after the civil war, Henry Flagler invested in the expansion of Florida as a state and raised Miami from the dirt. Although he is looked at as a hero, he was using slave labor through systems that the south had created against African Americans.

Park Central Hotel photo by Blanca Alcaraz

The classic architecture in Miami Beach involved many illusions to make the city seem to be upscale even though it was a low budget urban society. Land was cheap and the hotels buildings and any sort of tower was made with vertical lines and designs incorporated within to give the impression of a building that is much higher. The South Beach area of Miami Beach has kept more of the classic retro architecture of the city than its northern region. Although for the African race the city of Miami Beach may bring forward a sad history, for the Jewish community the city of Miami Beach was a haven and a new start coming from their dark times. There are dozens of events held throughout the year for the Jewish community, tons of Kosher eateries since there are many orthodox Jews and quite a few synagogues as well.

Tiffany on 8th Street photo by Blanca Alcaraz

Although the city of Miami Beach is looked at just for the part-all-night vibes today, there was a dark history in the development. There were also times of hope from the views of the Jewish community. Today the city of Miami Beach is focused on the conservation of its original beauty and new ways to better traffic flow, since it is a city where you can reach short distance destinations faster on foot than on a motor vehicle.

Lotus As Text

The Lotus House is a home. Home for countless women and children. The Lotus House is the means for survival for so many women and children that are in the bottom of the chain of financial success. Located in the Heart of Overtown, the Lotus House is indeed located in the midst of low-income families. Lotus House is an organization that was conceived from viewing the needs of a very large community of women and children that are displaced primarily in Miami-Dade County. Food and shelter are prioritized but are not the only thing provided by Lotus House. Lotus House is a very large facility that provides support, education, and tools that will help the women and children build a life for themselves. Our service at Lotus House was not my first experience working with those in need. Almost every weekend on a Saturday my friends and I get together and go to Downtown Ft. Lauderdale to provide food, water, blankets, and personal hygiene products to the homeless people, right outside Stranahan Park on the corner of Broward Boulevard and Las Olas Drive, with an Organization called Project Downtown.

We arrived at the Lotus house Wednesday, March 11th, 2020, at morning time. The class met in the main lobby at the Lotus House. We stood amongst the people that were residing at Lotus House while the Staff began to direct us on our agenda for the day. Covid-19 was just on a come-up so immediately the main concern was to direct us to make sure we keep ourselves clean and do not touch our faces. Our class was divided into teams for different areas such as the library, children’s play area, cafeteria, loading dock, lobby, salon, etc. Blanca, and I were paired with eachother and oversaw cleaning all doors and windows, sanitizing all door handles, and mopping the floor of the cafeteria. Undoubtedly this was a lot of work and took us hours to complete but there was a sense of usefulness, content, and self-upliftment throughout the day.

Gender Neutral Bathrooms photo by Gabriela Lastra

I personally had many new experiences on this day of service. I for the first time mopped in my life. I had never done that before because I never felt the need to, but it was a whole new experience for me. After finishing all our work, we were permitted to make the lunch line and help ourselves to a full three course meal. After we finished eating, we once again cleaned up the cafeteria leaving it spotless and cleaner than when we had arrived. This day of service at Lotus House was one that would be an ego-killer for anyone. When you have to get your hands down and dirty, not for yourself but for the people who come below you in economic standings, it really teaches you that we are all humans that come from the same womb and we all bleed red.

Deering Estate As Text

The Deering Estate Boat Basin photo by Mahanoor Abbas

Entering the Gates of The Deering Estate is nothing short of entering a portal, stepping away from the world as it stands today. Located in South Miami-Dade County in the Village of Palmetto Bay is land full of treasures that have yet to be found completely. Scientists, paleontologists, people from all natures that have been working on the Deering Estate involving its research are in awe from the marvel of findings that have been found on-site. Access to the Deering Estate is not normally done through public transportation as the access is limited. Parking for cars is ample and it is also free. Blessed are those who have a chance to visit, and rare are those who get to step onto sacred lands with people to teach us every step of the way such as our Professor, John W. Bailly.

The Stone House and The Richmond Cottage by John W. Bailly

In Fall 2019 I had attended the Deering Estate three times. We hiked through the depths of the Deering Estate with the Miami in Miami Expeditioners, we canoed to Chicken Key Island to clean up marine debris, and I also attended a spoken word workshop with Canadian Poet Shayne Koyczan. Last semester I wrote about and covered the natural and historic aspects of the hike through the still uncovered lands of The Deering Estate and wrote about our experience cleaning Chicken Key Island. This semester we were provided with an excellent virtual walking tour with excellent details written on Professor Bailly’s website.

            The Richmond Cottage is a structure that was originally built in 1896 as a home for S. H. Richmond and his family. I am majoring in Construction Management so I after studying many different types of structures, modern and old, I feel obligated to say that at least in South Florida there are not may structures standing today that come even close to being composed of what the Richmond Cottage is composed of. The Richmond Cottage has a two-story balloon frame and is one of the oldest wooden structures in Miami-Dade County, which makes it the last remaining structure of the former town of Cutler. In the year 1899, a three-story gabled addition was made to the home which transformed it into the only inn within the area. The Richmond Cottage became an outpost for visitors and people that had to do with the business of the East Coast Railroad produced by Henry Flagler. Soon after the Richmond cottage was closed in 1915, Charles Deering purchased it as a winter home and soon renovated it.

            In 1922 the Deering Estate Stone House was completed by the great design works of Coral Gables Architect, Phineas Paist. The first thing that came to my mind after studying structures and construction for a few years now was how strong the structure of the Stone House is especially in comparison to the Richmond Cottage. Eighteen-inch thick poured concrete walls are what the entire perimeter of the structure is composed of meaning, it can withstand almost any hurricane and natural disaster that is bound to occur in the State of Florida, since we are surrounded by water. Beautiful coffered ceilings, which remind me of our custom-built family house in Pakistan, and centuries old iron fixtures are part of the aesthetics, giving it the appearance of Old-World residences at Sitges and Tamarit. The Stone House was also a showcase for a massive art collection.

            A brief two-minute walk from the Great Stone House is the famous Boat Basin that Charles Deering had built as a safe harbor for his two boats, the Barbee and the Mar-y-cel. Right along the Boat Basin is a grassy area optimal for having a picnic with views of flocks of birds flying over your head as well as the iconic Biscayne Bay. The Boat Basin is the best place in Miami that humans can get up close and personal with Manatees in their natural habitat rather than in captivity. The water within the Boat Basin is of very calm nature and has clear fresh water which Manatees find ample for congregation and mating. There is a great amount of fragile marine life within the boat basin beyond even manatees which is why no watercraft of any sort is allowed in. the types of marine creatures you may be able to spot in the boat basin would include, turtles, rays, sharks, and even dolphins! Visitors can witness thousands of birds, particularly Ibises, flying as a flock every day during sunrise and unset from the mangroves to the Mainland.

            These are the attractions that any visitor can have access granted for touring at the Deering Estate. Although we visited and explored the forest and lands beyond any normal individual can have access to as well as the chance to canoe through the Biscayne Bay to Chicken Key Island, the Great Stone House, The Richmond Cottage, and The Boat Basin are by no means inferior.

Quarantine As Text

Quarantine brought us together photo by Fauzan Sheikh

The Quarantine of 2020 will be written in the lives of whoever lived through it as something that changed not our personal lives, not lives within a nation, but the lives of every habitant of this world as a whole. My life has been spent exploring beyond what was close to me, Parties every weekend, a busy work and school schedule, as well as engrossment in everyday hobbies. There is nothing wrong with what my life consisted of, rather it was very healthy and preoccupied. This Quarantine initially brought out the rage, anger, stupidity, and close-mindedness in people as it very well did flip everything upside-down. I myself initially claimed this quarantine to be what destroyed my life as it was because of how used to everything I was, but it really did bring out many great things at the end.

There is absolutely no doubt that this quarantine has had a partial negative impact on my life as well as the lives of many others. I have lost my job and have now been unemployed for almost two months. I am blessed to have a family to live with and a father who is working hard even through old age that puts the bread on the table for us to eat. Bread however is n understatement because my mom is nothing short of a world class chef. Initially I was very worried about how I would be able to afford my bills and everyday expenses. Soon I came to realize that my major expense was spending money on eating out, whether it was alone or with friends. I started posting what my mom would cook every day and received immediate attention from my followers on Instagram. A lot of my friends and their families have now been influenced on trying to cook whatever is on the menu at my house in their own homes. Thankfully I know how to manage my money properly and I allocated enough savings to pay for gas, vehicle insurance, and phone bill, which are my only mandatory expenses. I am now eating quality meals that taste beyond what I can ever purchase with my money, in the comfort of my own home sitting side by side with my entire family.

Scion tC2 AKA “Juniper” photo by Fauzan Sheikh

If anyone was to ask me for a physical and visual representation of my personality, I would point them to my car, whose name is Juniper. Juniper has had many modifications done to it, a process which took me over a year and still is not complete. Working on my car is my absolute favorite hobby and I spent many hours of my life doing so and plan on continuing. Before the quarantine went into effect, I collected more parts for future installations just in case I do not have the ability or the resources to do so later. Whenever I am free, I open boxes of brand-new car parts and install them. I have a lot of stress when it comes to life and what I work hard for, working on my car very much alleviates that for me. I dominate the racetrack with my car, and I have been told that I have a natural skill when it comes to racing around a track. Juniper and I have won many races and once this quarantine is over Juniper will be back better than ever.

I would assume that it is safe to say, all my hobbies are generated by whatever I feel would be necessary to alleviate the stress that this fast-paced society would bring into our lives. A hobby of mine that not many people are aware of is that I love gardening. In my house I have planted myself an Ataulfo Mango tree, Pink Guava tree, Ajwa Date Palm, Papaya Tree, Pomegranate tree, Pineapple plant, Aloe Vera Plant. All these plants are important to me, but there is one that I hold the closest to myself and that is the Ajwa Date Palm. Ajwa is a variety of dates originally domesticated in Saudi Arabia by the Prophet Muhammad. I come from a religious Muslim family and Prophet Muhammad was the founder of Islam. Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca and is the fifth pillar of Islam and is mandatory for every Muslim to commit if they are financially able to. My parents went on Hajj in 2014 and brought back Ajwa Dates which is when I decided to plant the Palm from seed. Mango season is now here, and I will soon be consuming the fruits of my labor within a month!

Listing my prior habits and activities, I very soon came to realize the bitter fact that I had truly neglected the most important thing I had, and it is something that I was born with, khandaan (Urdu for: Family). “Ties that cannot be created, destroyed, nor altered. The past will fade taking away memories and people who will soon disappear, except the relation of a human with their direct family, because those ties run as deep as the blood flows.”. having to spend time with my family I realized how much my own younger sibling have changed when it comes to the normal transition of growing up, and it sickened me to realize that I was not always there for them when they needed me. The life in this westernized nation in which we reside, life is very fast-paced, and it take a very minor action of neglect and the world changes without you being aware.