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Amid Concrete, A Beautiful Oasis Of Green Was Born

Written By Gina Perez
October 20, 2021 at 5:57 PM

Students from Miami Jackson Senior High School’s Generals Strikeforce Drumline kicked off the Oct. 4 event with a high-energy performance. (Ely Delcorto/ The Allapattah Collaborative, CDC)

Every community needs a place where the residents can come together and share ideas and what better place than in a setting surrounded by nature — a garden. The newly opened Storytelling Garden is the winner of the Miami Foundation 2016 Public Space Challenge. The new outdoor space is next to the Allapattah Library and offers the community a place where they can gather and self-expression is encouraged.

The Storytelling Garden is a place where community residents can come and enjoy poetry readings from the small stage, watch a movie, or just enjoy some quiet time outdoors. Have you ever seen a pink talking cactus? On the Garden grounds, there’s one. It’s called The Sound Cactus by Stereotank, an art installation that plays oral stories, on a loop, about the history of the community and its residents.

The first narrative will be “The History of the Allapattah Library” chronicled by Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Miami-Dade School Board District 2 Member. The community is encouraged to take part and share their stories and become part of the fabric that makes this community special. Allapattah is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Miami, with a rich history.

With the proximity of Miami Jackson Senior High School to the Allapattah Library, less than a block away, the library plays a key role in the students’ education. And as good neighbors that they are, the Miami Jackson Senior High’s General Strikeforce Drumline performed at the opening ceremonies welcoming the invited dignitaries and other guests to the Storytelling Garden.

The students at Jackson Senior High already use the library as a resource for their academics, a place for study and, most times, to log on to the library’s complimentary Wi-Fi for their school projects. With the addition of the outdoor space, students will go over to the Garden and enjoy their lunch outside before going inside to the library; or they can stay and do their homework outside as the Garden has an internet connection as well.

“With the Storytelling Garden, we see it as a way of activating more interaction with the library and the community. It would be outdoors, but it would be a good gathering spot. It’s a small oasis in the middle of a lot of concrete,” said Elysa Delcorto, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Allapattah Collaborative.

From left to right: Benji Power, Storytelling Garden Project Lead; Santander Arguelles, Allapattah Collaborative, CDC; Giovanna Medina, Storytelling Garden Project Lead; Martha Whisby, Office of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Keon Hardemon; Mary Cowart, aid to Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall; Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Miami-Dade County Public School Board Member; Lindsey Johnson, Office of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Keon Hardemon; Miami-Dade Public Library System Director Ray Baker; Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava; Allapattah Community Fellows Alumni Elianyer Navarro and Fernando Salgado; Elysa Delcorto, Allapattah Collaborative, CDC; Mileyka Burgos-Flores, Allapattah Collaborative, CDC; Angela Cruz, Allapattah Collaborative, CDC. (Courtesy of MDPLS)

“The community inspired the new green space,” said Delcorto. Mileyka Burgos-Flores, Executive Director for the Allapattah Collaborative CDC. Urban architect Giovanna Medina and Benji Power, RAD Program Manager from the Public Housing and Community Development, came together with the Collaborative to work on this project. For all of them, it was about, “connecting with the community and taking advantage of using the resources that are already there and using them to their full potential,” said Delcorto.

The plants used to give the Storytelling Garden its character are native to Florida or friendly to the local ecosystem. And a dedicated group of volunteers came together to plant the vegetation that included such plants as Dade County Pine, Silver Saw Palmetto, Wild Sage, Scorpio Tail, and Wild Coffee, to name just a few, sculpting the Garden and creating a calming, peaceful sanctuary.

The rain did not stop Stereotank from giving a demonstration of the Storytelling Garden’s Sound Cactus art installation for guests, including Miami-Dade Mayor Daniela Levine-Cava. (Ely Delcorto/ The Allapattah Collaborative, CDC)

The Collaborative, in conjunction with the Miami-Dade Public Library, are planning to host events at the Storytelling Garden that will engage the community to enrich the heritage and cultural identity of the neighborhood. The plan is to hold events that will have people wanting to come out and to reconnect with one another and their community. One idea that is being discussed is to stream movies outside in the Garden. The team is hard at work planning the schedule of events that they plan to roll out this coming November.

Keep a watchful eye on the events calendar for the Collaborative and the Library by visiting their website so you will not miss any event: Allapattah Branch Library Events Calendar tab at www.mdpls.org/branch-allapattah; The Allapattah Collaborative CDC at www.allapattahcdc.org.

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