On Thursday, the City of Miami Commission unanimously passed a resolution to officially name the neighborhood between 79th and 54th streets and NW 6th and NE 2nd Avenues as "Little Haiti". To most, officially recognizing "Little Haiti" is a no-brainer and a symbolic gesture that acknowledges the impact Haitian immigrants have had on our community.
But for very very white real estate developer Phillip E. Breckinridge, the idea of officially naming the land that has been known as "Little Haiti" for 40 years "Little Haiti" is a travesty and bad for business. He believes the area should be known by its original, non-ethnic name "Lemon City".
"We need to respect the history of the area," said Mr. Breckinridge who purchased several investment properties in the Haitian community around 5-years ago and has watched his property's values stagnate due to the continued presence of Haitians, Bahamians, and African Americans in the area.
The area was initially called Lemon City in the 1800's when it was founded by several families of Lemons. Starting in the 1970's, however, the community became universally known as "Little Haiti" after a wave of Haitian immigrants emigrated to the neighborhood and began to build the rich and vibrant cultural community it is today.
Speaking before the City Commission, Mr. Breckinridge and representatives of his all-white group Developers Objecting to Unnecessary and Costly Historical Enactments, or simply "DOUCHE", asked the City Commission and the people of Little Haiti to "respect history" and continue to leave the impact of Miami's Haitian community unrecognized.
When asked by the Commission to address criticisms levied at him and other DOUCHEs that their objection to Little Haiti's recognition was really an effort to minimize the ethnic identity of the neighborhood in order to hasten gentrification and increase property values, Mr. Breckinridge balked.
"There is really nothing racist or nefarious at all about our objecting to the name "Little Haiti," replied Mr. Breckinridge before mentioning that he had "a ton" of black friends.
"This is about respect for history," said Mr. Breckinridge who noted that he also supported similar proposals to force people to start calling things by their former, out-of-use names, including one that would cause Mohammad Ali to be renamed "Cassius Clay", and another that would change the name of New York to "New Amsterdam". "This is about tradition."
After the vote, an enraged Mr. Breckinridge returned to the area now officially known as Little Haiti and, in a last ditch effort, began to spray paint the words "LEMON CITY" on every sign, wall, or marker he could find. When confronted by the Plantain, Mr. Breckinridge said that he would never stop his efforts to have the land renamed Lemon City, noting that in order for him to get a reasonable return on his investment he needed at least a 40% increase in white residents to the area over the next 3-years. "White people just don't want to buy luxury condos in a place called Little Haiti," said Mr. Breckinridge candidly. "It's nothing personal."