Written By Josie Gulliksen
August 9, 2023 at 4:00 PM

Singer Chastity Hart gives a soulful performance at a past Sandrell Rivers Day celebration. Photo by Gregory Reed

Keeping the memory of community arts icon Chief Sandrell Rivers, whose lifelong efforts to expand arts and culture in Liberty City were legendary and are still resonating today, is the mission of Sandrell Rivers Day happening at Sandrell Rivers Theater on Saturday, August 12.

Chief Rivers, who was conferred as a Chief by a Nigerian dignitary in 2004, left her mark on the arts community bringing legendary black artists like Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee to the Joseph Caleb Center. She was also an arts administrator for the Miami-Dade County Parks Department where she left an indelible mark as well.

Aware of the Chief’s importance to the Liberty City arts community, the event honoring her was conceptualized by Technical Director Kenyatta DeShazior when he arrived six years ago to the Sandrell Rivers Theater.

“As a child, I performed at the Joseph Caleb Center as well as the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center and upon graduating from Howard University I returned to Miami and managed the Joseph Caleb Center,” said De Shazior. “I brought my talents back home.”

Sandrell Rivers Day will showcase performances by a variety of local artists from all facets of the arts community and will also present the Humanitarian Award to Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall.

Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall who will be honored with the Humanitarian Award at this year’s Sandrell Rivers Day. Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Larry Fields, Executive Artistic Director of Fantasy Theatre Factory, the theater’s resident managing company, said “this year the committee was almost unanimous about the honoree, something that honestly I’ve never experienced since we began this event.” But that he also said was not deliberate and something they all wondered why it didn’t happen sooner.

Saxophone player Jesse Jones Jr. wows the audience at Sandrell Rivers Day. A Miami native, Jones Jr. is a fixture on Miami’s music scene. Photo by Gregory Reed

Dr. Bendross-Mindingall, a lifelong educator in the classroom, as a principal, administrator and current District 2 Miami-Dade County School Board Member, also founded the Positive African American Role Models mentorship program, was herself a Liberty City resident and is a regular at Sandrell Rivers Theater performances.

“I grew up on the Liberty Square Housing Project not far from the theater so for it to bear her name is absolutely deserving and those of us that grew up in that area were very happy when that happened,” said Bendross-Mindingall. “I knew Sandrell very well so for me to receive this recognition. I am indeed pleased and honored.”

Bendross-Mindingall and Chief Rivers’s families were very closely connected and the two had a tight knit friendship. “I remember us going to the Caleb Center where Sandrell also did a great job,” said Bendross-Mindingall.

The event is a full circle moment, said Fields because “Chief Rivers represents something so fundamental to the mission of our company Fantasy Theater Factory. We are also all about expanding access to the arts and culture to everyone and work to build upon that each year.”

Bringing the community together is something they’re proud of and on August 12 they continue that tradition with DeShazior, the program’s curator saying,  “I was inspired to create a program that truly showcases the talent that’s been produced right here in Liberty City.”

Ja’Nia Harden and the Harden Project perform their blend of soulful jazz for the audience at Sandrell Rivers Day. Photo by Gregory Reed.

Performing will be Shawney Whitaker, daughter of Sandrell Rivers singing “Proud Mary” and “Can’t Stand the Rain” in honor of her mother;
Namphuyo Aisha McCray, daughter of American singer/songwriter Betty Wright also singing dedications to her mother and Chastity Hart, a singer and actress with M Ensemble Company.

“Those are just some of the scheduled performers and the Sunshine Jazz Organization will be providing musical entertainment in the lobby prior to the program,” said DeShazior.

Both Fields and DeShazior want to continue the tradition of showing the Miami community the talent and creativity that is right on NW 7 Ave., right in their backyard.


WHAT: Sandrell Rivers Day, honoring Chief Sandrell Rivers and Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall with the Chief Sandrell Rivers Humanitarian Award

WHERE: Sandrell Rivers Theater, 6103 NW 7 Ave., Miami

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 12 from 6-9 p.m.

COST: $15, $10 for students and seniors

INFO:  and 305-284-8872 is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at

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