Moonlight is just the beginning of what the black arts community can achieve

Last year, our city got a whole slew of new museum and artistic directors, and this year they’re ready to shake things up. We’re going to be spending this month making the city’s movers and shakers nail down some resolutions and predictions for their work in 2017. This week we’re talking arts.

Marshall Davis, director of the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
Marshall Davis, director of the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center

Marshall Davis is the director of the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, a center that opened in 1975 in Brownsville to create a space for arts training and education for Miami-Dade County’s African-American community. It offers instruction in dance, drama, music and visual arts. Davis has been its director for the past 30 years.

Respect and transformation in Liberty City

For us one of the big successes was “Moonlight.” I have to highlight that because one of our former students from our arts academy some years ago was a man by the name of Tarell A. McCraney. His life story and play was the foundation for that movie… Some of the scenes were shot here and that brought a lot of attention to the center. He did that to make sure we were highlighted. This was the foundation for him to achieve the outstanding things he did. That, coupled with the play we did last year, “Simply Simone,” which had Carbonell recognition (basically the South Florida Tony awards).

There are wonderful things happening in the Brownsville and Liberty City area. We’ve been doing wonderful work with the community, giving them respect and the ability to transform themselves.

Shows to watch out for

Next year, in January, we’re doing a play called “Venus” which is an outstanding play that talks about how African women are perceived based on their physical appearance. Also, our musical instructor Isis Roberts, who has been here for 20 years, is doing a play called “Journey” with current and former students, many of whom have gone on to get degrees in music and are returning for this event.

We’re also doing a play called “Entourage,” and in this professional artists will be opening up for the emerging artists. … We also have a show called “Together We Dance,” where we’re bringing together urban dancers in different dance companies throughout South Florida to participate in that show.

More people like Tarell McCraneys and Robert Battles

Things are becoming much more dynamic for the black arts community. One thing that’s missing is that South Florida needs to look at how they are losing opportunities because they’re not funding films that are coming this way in the way New York does. That’s the direction we should be headed in.

With support from the Knight Foundation, The Miami Foundation, and the Cultural Affairs Department, I think new organizations will be emerging.

I’m going to make sure the arts academy will provide training for our young people and make that better. In the past, we’ve been successful and had people like Tarell McCraney and Robert Battle [a Miami native who is the artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater], and we hope to have more people actualize themselves in the arts.