More than one concept of fun can co-exist in Miami this weekend as the NFL hosts its Super Bowl championship. Like me, if you continue to disengage from the NFL in support of Colin Kaepernick, you still can enjoy all that the city offers.
There is more to Miami than South Beach and strip clubs. Though, both can be quite entertaining, consider exploring more of this vibrant city with these eight events or sightseeing locations.
For the Culture: Egbe Festival
Get your Wakanda on at the Egbe Festival, a celebration of African culture that takes place at the historic Virginia Key Beach Park, an area in Miami where Blacks engaged in aquatic recreation during a segregated south. The Egbe Festival, a name from the Yoruba people that loosely translates into society or sect, highlights members of the African diaspora—from the US, the Caribbean and African migrants who have made South Florida their home.
Egbe Festival captures a growing phenomenon in the US since the 1950s when Blacks began to reclaim their African roots by institutionalizing it in cultural and spiritual practices. Today, you have artists from the likes of Beyonce and Jay Z to Erykah Badu, and even jazz artists such as Cassandra Wilson and Dianne Reeves or former Alvin Ailey principal dancer, Judith Jameson practice or embrace a form of African spirituality. Even the famous “get your life right” fixer, Iyanla Vanzant openly talks about her spiritual practices of the Yoruba people.
The Egbe Festival occurs on Saturday, Feb. 1 from 12 p.m. to midnight. Planners have laid out out a host of activities: live music, African dance and drumming, arts & crafts, a fashion show, and an extensive vendors market with a wide selection of food.
Ethnic Enclave: Little Haiti
Known as Lemon City for well over 100 years, this section of Miami near Biscayne Bay north became one of the most popular ethnic enclaves for the Haitian diaspora. Little Haiti, at its peak was home to about 100,00 residents. Now, the community fights for this identity. With developers gradually encroaching on land that has been heavily populated for the past 70 years by working class and low-to-low-middle class families, gentrification wants to prevent the permanent naming of the district as Little Haiti. Regardless, community members persist.
When Little Haiti was Lemon City, or its other sobriquet, Little River, it was the largest settlement after the Civil War in 1865. Today, it carries the history of being the longest, continuously settled area in Miami (of course after the Native folk were largely removed).Until white flight in the mid 20th-Century, Lemon River comprised of whites, African Americans and a small, but visible Bahamaian and Afro-Cuban immigrant population.
For 30 years, African Americans dominated as residents of Lemon City, but in the 1970s that changed. Fleeing from the Jean-Claude “Papa Doc” Duvalier regime, 60,000 Haitians made the neighborhood their home. Reformulated into a strong, mostly-Haitian community, the district fills its calendar with home-country festivals, businesses, restaurants and rituals. On any day, you can indulge in Haitian-style barbecue; or lambi an Sòs Kreyol, a stew of slow-simmered conch in a tomato sauce with garlic, onion, and fresh herbs; and another culinary favorite, Sòs Pwa Nwa, pureed black beans in coconut milk.
A touch of Cuba: Little Havana
Downtown Miami or the Latin Quarter where Little Havana situates itself, is at the heart of a district that whisks you away from Gringo and Yankee culture without leaving the US. While many Cubans, and Cuban-Americans have left Little Havana, it is still a significant cultural landmark documenting how these Caribbean immigrants transported their home cultures and identities to carve out a significant presence in the US.
Since the mass exodus to a home that once housed hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles, now Little Havana is an enclave for Latin American culture and people. Nonetheless, the markings of Cuba and its Cuban-American culture resonate in this corridor of Miami—from the domino-playing abuelos to coffee dives serving thick Cuban java, or the ice cream shops serving dollops of dairy goodness, you know this is not Kansas. Another signature part of Little Havana is its cigar bars and stores offering, hand-rolled stogies stuffed with premium tobacco from Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Mexico and beloved Cuba.
Another thing to note is that Little Havana teems with Latin American art, both public shows and private displays. As an epicenter of Latin artists around the world, take the time to indulge in its many exhibitions. Once you have explored Little Havana in the day, make room for a nightlife that will literally keep you rocking until daylight.
Art: Wynwood Walls
Because Miami is a city that has year-round sunshine, viewing the city on foot gives you another perspective of its beauty. Capturing the city’s massive art scene is Wynwood Walls, one of the largest, outdoor graffiti and street art exhibitions in the world.
Located in the Warehouse District, Wynwood Walls also features both local-global and noted-emerging artists. The public art project, started by developer, Tony Goldman, transformed the city‘s, Warehouse District, into an area that gets a lot of foot traffic outside of South Beach and Miami indoor malls.
| Read: Boutique Museums to whet your curiosity |
Roti and Jerks
Caribbean eateries are a dime-a-dozen in Miami. From Bahamaian seafood spreads to Haitian sauce-heavy dishes, the options are almost endless. However, while you are there, you must try out roti, a popular Caribbean food that looks like a wrap or tortilla, but the flat bread has several thin-thin layers with peas rolled into it. It is served with a curry stew made of meat, seafood or vegetables.
If you Yelp or Google roti, every bread maker this side of the Mississippi pops up. But, there is one roti shop that had me banging down a Trini sisters door.
L.C. Roti Shop is located in a Caribbean-dominated strip mall off of 2nd Avenue in Miami Gardens. When I walked in, the owner was celebrating her birthday and slanging roti variations like it was second nature to her limbs. The place is no-frills with a steady flow of regulars who pop in, pay then walk away with bags full of aromatic food that I swear was flirting with me as it walked out of the door. By the way, each roti comes freshly made, so order a ginger beer or Red Stripe while you wait 20-or-so minutes.
Now there were about four Jamaican restaurants I dreamt about after leaving Miami, but one stole my heart because of its convenience. The Jamaica House Restaurant serves the island-nations most popular comfort food all-day, every day, because it is 24 hours. I probably do not want to the see the kitchen, but the introduction to the Jamaica House came during a clutch moment in my life.
One night after languishing in a pool until 4 a.m., with wrinkled fingers and poofy hair, I found my way to the Jamaica House to soak up the bottles of wine I’d sipped throughout the night. The line to the modest-sized, cafe-style, West Indian gem, was out of the door. After that, there was the longest 40-minute wait of my life for my order. But, when you go to a Jamaican restaurant, that often comes with the territory. Thank goodness, the wait was well worth it. One taste of the escovitch fish and I inhaled it.
If you love crustacean and are in Miami between October and May, you’re in luck because its crab season. For three days, I combed through restaurants craving a pile of steaming crabs and an IPA, but the costs were outstanding. Already, I’d spent more on things I didn’t plan for, like disrespectful parking prices. Did I tell you that parking is a beast in Miami? Well, it is.
On the second to the last day of my stay, while lounging at another pool, there was a family that brought to their cabana, literally four heaping piles of crab legs, Coca Colas and Heinekens. I perked up. “Where did they get that at?” I asked myself. I must’ve looked like a little wounded puppy because the woman kept eyeing me, as if she wanted to tell me something.
At last, I could not take it anymore. I went to her and asked. She laughed and said, “Oh, I thought you wanted some of our food.” I laughed thinking, “You damn right I did.” But I just smiled and shrugged. She responded, “We got these at Winn Dixie.” That information knocked me off my socks. Winn Dixie, a famous budget-friendly grocery store, seasons, boils and steams your seafood. Me and hubby rushed to the Winn Dixie and ordered 2 pounds. We ate like royalty.
Clubs and walking on hot sand is not for everybody. Oh, did I mention to find another beach other than South Beach, its hella dirty. But I digressed. Like I said, the booty shake clubs and the poop-filled hot and sandy beach with seaweed grabbing at your toes is not for everybody.
For those who indulge in the rich scents of tobacco, try out a cigar bar. We recommend Top Notch Cigars Lounge and Whiskey Bar. It has a nice vibe, good music, great spirits, succulent coffees and most importantly for us, a diverse crowd that is grown, grown, and far from the hookah bar vibe. At Top Notch, I brought a book, a crossword puzzle and some writing materials so that I could savor the cigar and atmosphere.
Another plus is that you get to commune with people who are not too preoccupied with selfies and phones. Strike up a great conversation between puffs, and you might learn some really dope things about Miami, or meet a potential business partner. However, that night I brushed my teeth three times to remove the dank smokey taste and washed my hair. Cigar bars are not for the faint at heart, but a great experience.
Reggae & Bass Clubs
Strip clubs or go-go joints are like penny candy in Miami. In fact, you really don’t have to go to a strip club to see beautiful or tattooed bodies contorting and spinning in ways you wish you could. You just go to the club on a Friday night and voila. That’s why I recommend that you go to a club, club.
Once again, I cannot endorse a specific club, but can tell you that there are two types of urban clubs in Miami: reggae and bass (or what we called when I went to FAMU, booty shake). The reason I say this is because regardless of what club you go to, rather hip hop or Latino, a chunk of it is dedicated to reggae and bass music. Just get ready to wine and twerk.
Spa Day in the Down Time
The best wax and pedicure I got was in Miami. I wish I wrote down the place I went to in the Downtown area, but the shop used a special tool where they repurposed a hand mixer into an electronic emery board. The woman held that thing to my feet and it started to snow in July. Dead skin everywhere. I felt so bad because she had on a black shirt. After applying that beast of a machine on my bear claws, it looked like she had a dandruff snow squall on her.
But since I forgot the name, I want to suggest a good pampering spot for the brothers after a weekend of partying. Make an appointment at, Hammer & Nails, a grooming shop for men. Though it is gender-inclusive, it holds all the trappings of a man-friendly space—big, leather chairs for pampering services, an in-house barbershop and beard grooming.
Founded by former screenwriter, Michael Elliot, who penned the contemporary Black-classics, Just Wright and Brown Sugar, he went on the investment show Shark Tank to get funding for what he saw as a great franchise opportunity. Though, he was turned down by the show’s investors, he raised capital to continue his vision. Now, 14 salons later, the concept of a grooming space for men continues to bloom.
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