Iconic Miami activist Georgia Jones-Ayers memorialized with street naming

On Friday, Feb. 8, Northwest 22nd Avenue from 79th to 135th streets in Northwest Miami-Dade was co-designated Georgia Jones-Ayers Way. It was an event that would have had Ayers “spitting bullets,” so to speak. She wasn’t one who loved to be in the limelight.

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Bea L. Hines

The street naming was spearheaded by former state Sen. Daphne Campbell back in 2017, when she sponsored a bill in Tallahassee to name a portion of Northwest 27th Avenue for Ayers. The bill was turned down by Miami-Dade County because Northwest 27th Avenue was already named for Ayers’ dear friend, retired Congresswoman Carrie Meek.

In stepped Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime, who identified Northwest 22nd Avenue to carry Ayers’ name because that street didn’t require approval from the Florida Legislature, just Miami-Dade County.

“While it was Campbell who started the ball rolling in Tallahassee, Commissioner Monestime deserves an awful lot of credit for getting a portion of Northwest 22nd Avenue named for Mrs. Ayers,” said Kenneth Kilpatrick, who is executive director of The Alternative Program (TAP), which was co-founded by Ayers and retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas K. Petersen.

“And I am gratified to know that her legacy for police/community relations and fairness for minorities in the criminal justice system is being memorialized with this street co-designation,” Kilpatrick said. “Georgia Jones-Ayers deserves every mile.”

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Northwest 22nd Avenue from 135th to 79th streets has been co-designated Georgia Jones-Ayers Way, in honor of the Miami-Dade activist (pictured in 2011), who died at 86 in 2015.

CHARLES TRAINOR JR. Miami Herald file

Ayres died at 86 in February 2015. Last week’s street naming was preceded by the “Reclaiming Our Power” prayer breakfast, held in the fellowship hall at New Birth Cathedral Baptist Church, and was sponsored by TAP.

“The prayer breakfast brought together the clergy and the community, to begin to pray for the healing of our community,” Kilpatrick said. “It was also an effort to raise funds for TAP, which provides alternatives to incarceration for non-violent adult and juvenile offenders who cannot afford to pay bond.”

It was a good day. Friends and family members told stories of what Ayers meant to them and there was a lot of laughter, and tears, too.

As I sat listening to the speeches, my mind wandered back to the first time I met Ayers. She was Georgia Jones back then, and the Miami Herald sent me to interview this new black woman activist who had became a person to reckon with in the aftermath of the 1970 Liberty City riot. Covering her was one of my first important assignments as a new reporter for the paper.

We met on a Saturday morning at Davis Cafeteria, known in the black community to have some of the best soul food in town. As we sat, eating our grits, eggs and salmon croquettes and drinking coffee, Georgia and I bonded, and became friends for life.

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Retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas K. Petersen receives The Alternative Programs’ Lifetime Achievement Award from program Executive Director Kenneth M. Kilpatrick at the Georgia Jones-Ayers Way street co-designation unveiling.

Photo provided to the Miami Herald

She was the kind of person who demanded respect, and got it, although the respect often came about because of Georgia’s unorthodox ways of doing business. But behind that tough exterior and the sometime profane words that spewed from her mouth, there was a heart of gold buried inside Georgia. I can’t count the good deeds she did for the people in the Miami-Dade community, regardless of their race or religion. All Georgia had to know was that you had a need. Many nights her sleep was disrupted because somebody’s son, husband, daughter or mother had been arrested for a non-violent crime. And Georgia was called to help.

So on that Friday morning, I too, shared a few memories about my friend and sister Georgia Lee Jones Ayers. I was asked to speak in the place of her daughter Debra Taylor, who wasn’t feeling well. As I spoke, I was aware that Georgia never liked for anyone to make a fuss over her. But Friday, I didn’t care… I wanted to make a fuss, and so did everyone who spoke about her. It was the right thing to do for the woman we all still love and miss.

As Kilpatrick said, “The street naming and all the accolades bestowed Friday on Mrs. Ayers was an outstanding tribute to one of the most important civic activists in Miami-Dade County history.”

Ditto.

Gospel Music Awards Brunch

The second annual Black History Gospel Music Awards Brunch, presented by the Miami-Dade Alliance of Gospel Music Professionals, will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at Bethel Apostolic Temple, 1855 NW 119th St.

The event highlights the legacy of gospel music and its significance in the history of blacks in America. South Florida gospel legends who have made their mark in the South Florida community, and throughout the United States and abroad, will be honored at the event.

The honorees are recording artist/producer Virginia Bostic; media/promotions mogul Julia Brown; radio programmer/producer Greg Cooper; on-air personality/producer Wendell Ford; on-air personality Paula Hawkins; recording artist/producer Elaine Nelson; Minister Robert Phillips, an educator/recording artist; the Rev. Gaston Smith, a pastor/community leader; and Bishop James Wright, a pastor/recording artist/producer.

“Our gospel music brunch will celebrate the history and legacy of gospel music and the very essential role it has, and continues to play, in the African-American story in the United States — from storytelling, slave songs, chants, and Negro Spirituals to modern day, traditional and contemporary gospel music,” said Johnny Sanders, an international gospel recording artist and president of the organization.

This is a ticketed event. For details and more information, call 786-832-2362 or email miamidadealliance@gmail.com.

Prayer breakfast

A prayer breakfast sponsored by the Booker T. Washington Alumni Association in celebration of Black History Month will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Church of the Open Door, 6001 NW Eighth Ave. in Liberty City.

Tickets are $20 each and may be purchased by calling Barbara Burrows at 305-633-4331, or by emailing her at bburrows36@yahoo.com. You may also contact Joan L. Ballard at 954-391-8382l or joanballard@comcast.net for tickets and more information.

If you go, please feel welcome to wear your African attire.

Bah’a’is of Miami centennial

The Bah’a’is of Miami invited the public to the celebration of their centennial in Miami, to be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Historic Hampton House, 4240 NW 27th Ave. Keith Clarke of the Miami Jazz and Film Society, will serve as host of the event.

Speakers will include educator Alice Haxton; retired scientist Thomas Carsey; historian Dr. Mavin Dunn; and Dr. Enid Pinkney, Hampton House preservationist. Entertainment will be provided by La Vie.

Clarke said that early Bah’a’is of Miami meetings were met with intense hostility from groups against racial equality, which is a principal Bah’a’i teaching. Other prominent Miami Bah’a’is include Dana Dorsey, Miami’s first black millionaire; Major Alfred Goggins, who served in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I, and was an early black movie actor; James E. Scott, a well-known community leader and developer; George Savitt, who wrote the “Phil Ossifer” column in the Miami Times Newspaper for many years, Toby Emmanuel and Dr. Harold Ginyard, an educator who served in the Miami-Dade School system for 38 years.

The event is free and open to all. Call 305-753-8298 or visit MiamiBahai.org for more information.

Universal Truth Center

The Universal Truth Center for Better Living invites the community Feb. 24 to its Family and Friends and T-shirt and Youth Sunday, starting 8 a.m. with Adult Sunday School, followed at 9:30 a.m. by Youth Sunday School, and Sunday worship from 9:50 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The church is at 21310 NW 37th Ave. in Miami Gardens. The Rev. Charles Taylor is the senior pastor. Call 305-624-4991 for more information.

South Florida People of Color

South Florida People of Color will present the third in a series of Black History Month events at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, at Barry University, “From Black Trauma to Black Healing,” part of the “What is Black?” series.

The program will involve a celebratory component of the Black Independence while featuring a discussion around healing blacks in the Diaspora. Participants will analyze Dr. Joy DeGruy’s Post-traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) and panelists will contribute their perspectives on emotional, psychological, and spiritual healing.

The panelists will be Dr. Tasha Russell, clinical psychologist/drive-by therapist; Dr. Pamela D. Hall and the Rev. Richard Clements form Barry University’s Campus MInistry, and Richard M. Wright, MA, of Expressive Arts Therapy and Consent Culture Specialist.

It’s free and open to the public, but registration is recommended at https://bhm2019series.eventbrite.com.

Brown Bag Lunch Series

At noon Wednesday, Feb. 20, the Brown Bag Lunch Series will focus on the Clyde Killens Collection at the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater, 819 NW Second Ave. in Overtown.

The collection will feature the story of Killens who was known as “Mr. Entertainment” of the “Little Broadway” era of Overtown. The Collection includes correspondence, fliers, newspaper articles, memorabilia, and photographs. The Clyde Killens collection is one of the Archives’ must requested collections. Admission is free.

Also, on Thursday, Feb. 21 , there will be a “Knowing Your Roots” workshop at the theater. This event is by appointment only and will feature researchers who will help members of the community who are interested in looking up their family history. The sessions are 45 minutes each.

COSMOS

The Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations (COSMOS) will have its ninth annual Community Bridge Building Banquet at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Airport Hilton Hotel, 5101 Blue Lagoon Dr.

This year, COSMOS will honor the work and dedication of philanthropists Alan and Vivian Diamond, and Annette G. Alvarez, executive director of the Miami Council for International Visitors, for their efforts in building bridges between the communities. Alex Kronemer, executive producer and CEO of Unity Productions Foundation, will be the keynote speaker and WPLG Channel 10 anchor Calvin Hughes will serve as emcee. Individual tickets are $65 per person. For tickets and to RSVP, call 305-283-2261 or email comcosfla@gmail.com.

Mitzvah Bowl Sunday

A warm Neighbors in Religion salute to the 350 people who participated in 18 projects on Mitzvah Bowl Sunday at Temple Judea’s annual event. The Mitzvah Bowl is an event that brings together a multi-generational gathering of individuals and families who work together to improve the lives of the less fortunate in the community.

The Mitzvah Day activities included:

200 lunch bags prepared and given to the homeless at Temple Judea’s Eisenstat Soup Kitchen and to the homeless in downtown MIami.

Blessing Bags with essential items for people less fortunate in the community.

Creating hand-decorated clay pots for senior residents of The Palace in Kendall.

Making reusable, no-sew bags filled with essential toiletries for women in need.

The three co-chairs of the event were temple members Marsha Botkin, Heather Sosler and Leanne Rutter Arnold. Coral Gables Police Sgt. John Baublitz and Rabbi Jonathan Fisch did their part by donating blood.