Buskerfest Miami 2014 Wrap-Up

If you work in, live in or visit Downtown Miami with any frequency, you’re most likely familiar with how deserted it can sometimes seem. Most days, a majority of the restaurants and retailers close their doors at 6pm and the streets assume the character of a Western frontier town from the early 1800s. Cue the famous western whistle theme and lone tumbleweed rolling through the frame. However, if you were in downtown on Friday, December 12th from 4-8pm, you would’ve been treated to the sounds of brass bands, jazz groups, string quintets and incredible scenes like these:

(More photos available here)

You may be asking yourself, “were these taken in Miami?” And the answer is an emphatic “YES!” These captured moments represent just a sprinkling of the over thirty-five performer groups that formed the Buskerfest Miami 2014 Street Performance Festival. The goal of the festival is to show what can be. As Downtown Miami transforms, literally before our eyes, it is imperative that the streets remain walkable, safe and full of life. The alternative is a collection of isolated high-rise buildings and mega developments with no street-level culture – a place where everyone drives to get where they need to go and the environment itself hinders any attempt to build a true community. The Buskerfest Miami Street Performance Festival is designed to show how transformative art in the streets can be, and in that goal it was hugely successful.

Performers, residents and even passersby paused for a moment in their busy, hectic lives to enjoy a moment of solidarity with one another and at the same time, revel in the cultural diversity of Miami’s performance community. In a city with an ever-rising cost of living and a limited number of performance venues, Buskerfest Miami 2014 proclaims, “forget all that noise – let’s just go party in the street with our friends (and soon-to-be-friends) and remind ourselves that we ARE a community not meant to be segregated by money, status or circumstance.” Regardless of where you come from or what you have, we all share the street and that is something that should be celebrated.

We, the organizers, wish to thank our incredible performers, our versatile and courteous volunteers, our engaged and excited attendees and the city that made it all possible – Miami, Florida. It could not have happened without you all or the generous support from organizations including the Miami Foundation, the Miami Downtown Development Authority, Tiliarts, the Downtown Miami Partnership, Trinity Cathedral, Miami-Dade Transit, Emerge Miami, Whereby.Us and many, many others. Thanks for the memories and keep it tuned to buskerfestmiami.com for future events, including our upcoming Ear To The Ground series and of course, next year’s Buskerfest Miami 2015 Street Performance Festival.

Much Love,

The Buskerfest Miami Team

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Florida’s Access to Justice Crisis


Photo Credit: Paola Calvo-Florida, ACLU of Florida

By Leah Weston

In a landmark ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright, the United States Supreme Court enshrined the individual right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Gideon clarified that the Sixth Amendment, which provides for “the assistance of counsel” for all “criminal prosecutions,” requires courts to appoint lawyers for criminal defendants who cannot afford one. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Hugo Black concluded that:

Reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to us to be an obvious truth. Governments, both state and federal, quite properly spend vast sums of money to establish machinery to try defendants accused of crime… That government hires lawyers to prosecute and defendants who have the money hire lawyers to defend are the strongest indications of the widespread belief that lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries.

What Gideon did not do, however, was extend that Sixth Amendment right to civil legal cases. Non-criminal legal cases comprise the bulk of all cases in our legal system and touch many areas of our lives. You can lose your home, your job, your family, and your livelihood in many types of legal proceedings because you cannot afford legal assistance. Unable to afford a lawyer, thousands of Americans who are not trained in the practice of law are forced to navigate an extremely complex legal system and represent themselves pro se, often against opposing parties who do have legal representation, like creditors, landlords, and, the government. Having access to a lawyer helps prevent the most vulnerable individuals and families, those who live at the edge of their means, from becoming destitute or homeless.

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10 Reasons Why Marriage Equality in Florida is AWESOME!

Tampa Couple
10. More weddings = more cake.

9. So far, not a single toaster has applied to marry a llama.  The “slippery slope” argument appears to be without merit.

8. LGBTQ kids will see that it really does get better.

7. We may stop hearing heartbreaking stories about long-term partners being denied the right to visit their dying partners in the hospital.

6. Opponents of same-sex marriage will maintain the right not to marry someone of the same sex.

5. We are likely to see an increase in rainbow clothing, flags and stickers in the coming weeks.

4. Spouses will inherit each other’s property instead of opportunistic distant relatives.

3. Attaining a major goal in a civil rights battle is kind of a big deal.

2. I will personally save thousands of dollars on glitter-bombing-related expenses.

1. Love is the most important thing in the world.

(Psst.. Know any LGBT couples that want to get married? Please share this FAQ from the ACLU with them: English / Spanish)

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New Years Resolutions for Miami in 2015

Happy New Year
New Years is a time that many of us take to reflect on the year past and set goals for the year ahead of us. At a recent Emerge Miami meeting, we decided it would be fun to dream up New Years Resolutions for our dear city. Miami has come a very long way over the last few years, and we must celebrate those victories. But we also know that Miami is a city with many major challenges. Emerge Miami thinks that our city is up for the challenge. The following is a list of some of our crowdsourced resolutions for Miami. These aspirations come from diverse perspectives among Emerge Miami’s membership, but all have the common thread of wanting Miami to be a better place to live for ALL citizens.

  1. Miami resolves not to give away any public land for private benefit at taxpayer expense in 2015.
  2. Miami will finally start to address residents’ and taxpayers’ concerns about quality of life issues and stop subsidizing billionaire developers.
  3. Miami will take significant steps to end corruption among its leaders.
  4. Miami will become more affordable to the middle class.
  5. Miami will stop seeing Jesus’ words, “The poor will always be with us,” as a commandment to be followed and start treating them like a challenge to overcome.
  6. In 2015, Miami will shift from a culture of “me” to a culture of “we.”
  7. Also, we desperately need more polka bands.
  8. Miami will unveil a modern, comprehensive Transit Master Plan.
  9. Miami will grow the world’s largest marshmallow.
  10. Miami will exclusively make decisions that favor the local residents, ensuring high quality of living, talent retention, and a platform for our communities to grow, put roots, and ensure a livelihood for all with a long term vision (that includes environmental) not just for the moment.
  11. Miamians will go for a walk on January 1, 2015 and realize they live in neighborhoods and think making them better is within their grasp.
  12. Miami resolves to vote in record numbers, even in local elections.
  13. Miamians resolve to take transit once a month and/or try the new City of Miami bike share program.
  14. Miami will seize and develop green space opportunities.
  15. Miamians and their local leaders resolve to be more collaborative  and less competitive. Perhaps a shift to an at-large district system would be better.
  16. This coming year, Miami will not support any corporations that accept corporate welfare. Miami-Dade County will not allow any more Wal-marts to open.
  17. The DecoBike/CitiBike bike share program will expand to include Mt. Sinai and Jackson Hospitals.
  18. Miami resolves to encourage real citizen input that informs decision-making. Changes that affect our community need to be open to discussion, public meetings need to be accessible, and our leaders need to be transparent about the political process.

What would you like to see for our city in 2015? Tweet us your New Years Resolutions for Miami @EmergeMiami or jump in on the conversation on Facebook.

Posted in Announcements

Buskerfest Busks at Dusk

December12,20144:00 pm — 9:00 pm

Buskerfest Miami 2014
Buskerfest Miami Street Performance Festival returns to Downtown Miami on December 12th. From 4-8pm, local musicians, theater groups, comedians, acrobats, dancers and more will be showcasing their talents at ground level of the Metromover Inner Loop stations. The final performance and wrap-up party begins at 8pm at the Tina Hills Pavilion in Bayfront Park. Guests will be treated to a feature performance by local hip-hop fusion powerhouse Dangerflow with support from The Alt Default, one of three “best bands” of Buskerfest Miami 2013.

The event is FREE for attendees and offers a unique opportunity to meet the local performance community and revel in the diversity of Miami’s culture. Attendees can pick up a Buskerfest passport at any stop to track their travels, select their favorite act of the night, enter a raffle and cash in on deals and discounts offered by downtown businesses, restaurants and bars.

Buskerfest Miami is a collaborative organization dedicated to improving civic life through public street performance. The Buskerfest Miami Street Performance Festival is generously supported by the Miami Foundation, the Miami Downtown Development Authority and Tiliarts, part of the Tilia Family of Companies. For more information, please visit buskerfestmiami.com

RSVP on Facebook or Meetup

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Stuffed from Thanksgiving Turkey? You’re Lucky: Anti-Public Feeding Ordinances Hurt the Homeless

Problematic historical origins, gluttony, and commercialization aside, Thanksgiving is about appreciating what you have and giving back to those who have less, which is why laws like Fort Lauderdale’s ordinance against sharing food outdoors need to go before they inspire politicians in Miami and elsewhere to follow suit.

You may have heard about this ordinance from news stories about 90-year-old Arnold Abbott, who has faced arrest and received multiple citations for violating the ordinance and giving out food to the homeless in city parks.

The public justification for these laws is that they will actually benefit the homeless, by requiring washing facilities and toilets as well as the ability to maintain exact food temperatures. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler claims that he wants these feeding programs to move indoors and get permits.

The real reason seems to be, however, that upper-class developers and business owners believe that homeless individuals’ disheveled appearance will scare away potential patrons (it’s important to note that Fort Lauderdale also passed an ordinance allowing police to confiscate property left in public spaces). After all, retrofitting a simple truck or van to meet these standards is beyond the means of most of the small nonprofits doing this work. Not to mention that the vast majority of commercial food trucks don’t meet these standards, but they seem to be excluded from these regulations because they attract paying customers.

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It Takes a Village to Build a Sea Level Rise App Or, “I Am Not a Scientist, But I, Too, Can Understand Climate Change”


My parking lot on a floody day earlier this year.

I grew up in Southwest Florida in the 1970s and 1980s, a long time before there was any talk of sea level rise or climate change. We never saw a major hurricane. Hurricane Andrew, the “big one” that hit Miami, didn’t arrive until 1992. I moved to Manhattan in the late 1980s, where I lived for 18 years, and then to Philadelphia, where, in 2012, we were completely unaffected by Hurricane Sandy. I returned to South Florida in 2013, never having experienced a major weather event.

The September day I arrived at my North Miami Beach apartment, the skies were clear. It started to rain when then the movers came. Two hours later, my car was sitting in six inches of water.  I thought it was a fluke. Then it happened again. And again. And again. Fall 2013 was very rainy, and I learned to watch the weather so that I could move my car out of the flooded areas of my parking lot if necessary. What was happening?

My colleagues at FIU, Juliet Pinto and Kate MacMillin, had just completed their award-winning documentary, South Florida’s Rising Seas. “It can be a sunny day, and we can have a week, two weeks of a lot of water,” Miami Beach resident Christine Florez says in one of the film’s most memorable passages. I told them about my parking lot. They thought it might be related to climate change.

Climate change? In my parking lot?

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