Nestled between big tall trees, blue skies and greenery, you'll find a community center buzzing with a variety of social services.
Driving by or walking along Northwest 27 Avenue and 164 Street in Miami Gardens you wouldn't know it even existed.
The Community Resource Center in Miami Gardens is one of 12 social services hubs owned by Miami-Dade County and operated by the Community Action and Human Services Department.
Customarily, all 12 Community Resource Centers are named after the area in which they serve.
But, last week at the Board of County Commissioners meeting, the Community Resource Center in Miami Gardens got a new name: The Reverend Dr. Edward T. Graham Neighborhood Center.
Commissioner Barbara Jordan with the support of fellow commissioners voted unanimously to rename the resource center after a parade of friends and family members shared their experiences about the late reverend spoke in favor of the resolution. Included among the speakers was the grandson of Graham, Richard Harris.
Harris meet with County Commissioner Barbara Jordan because he didn’t want people to forget the work of his grandfather in the community. He asked for a significant place on which to put Graham’s name.
“He was a marvelous person, but he was a great grandfather. When I look back … there are just so many memories of my grandfather that I won’t forget,” Harris said at the commission meeting on Nov. 19.
Jordan’s item was co-sponsored by all her colleagues present for the vote.
“As an African American County Commissioner, I am proud to say Rev. Graham paved the way for me and many others,” Jordan said in a text to The Miami Times. “Graham was a true public servant, visionary and civil rights icon. By memorializing the work of Graham, we are ensuring that our trailblazers will not be forgotten.”
Jeffery Swain, dean of Campus Ministry at Florida Memorial University and 58-year resident of Miami-Dade County spoke in support of the renaming the center because of Graham’s connection to the institution.
“I’m elated to speak in support of the renaming. Graham played an important role in bringing Florida Memorial University here [Miami Gardens] in 1968 because the KKK threatened to burn it down,” said Swain.
Thelma Gibson, a resident of Coconut Grove, founder of the Miami-Dade County’s first Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and wife of the late Reverend Theodore Roosevelt Gibson showed support, too.
“I was so delighted when I got the call from Graham's grandson about the center being renamed,” Gibson recalled. “He paid his dues in the city of Miami and throughout the county of Dade, so it is truly befitting to rename the center in his memory.”
Miami Gardens councilman David Williams also spoke in support of renaming the center and informed Miami-Dade County Commissioners he recommended a resolution in the city in support of the name change, which passed unanimously on Nov. 13.
FOUNDED URBAN LEAGUE
Graham was no stranger to activism.
Throughout his life, he was regarded as a man of faith and conviction, locally and nationwide.
Graham was born Sept. 23, 1904 in South Carolina. After graduating from Benedict College and Columbia University, he relocated to Miami in 1943.
While living in New York City, just before moving to Miami, Graham worked with white businesses and civic leaders as well as Black artists during the Harlem Renaissance period in the early 20th century. There, Graham developed tools to tackle racial segregation and prejudice, which he would continue to use for the advancement of others in his lifetime.
Locally, Graham served as the executive director of the United Service Organization and later founded the Urban League of Greater Miami, which is now under the leadership of T. Willard Fair.
Graham championed many events in Miami in an effort to end segregation and oppressive policies directed at African-Americans. The advocacy work of Graham included “wade-ins” on Haulover Beach, “sit-ins” at lunch counters and campaigns to integrate police departments.
In 1948, Graham became the pastor of Mt. Zion Historic Baptist Church in Overtown.
He also was instrumental in facilitating then-called Florida Memorial College's move from St. Augustine in 1968 to what is now called Miami Gardens.
In 1970, Graham was the very first African-American man appointed to serve as a city of Miami commissioner; he later served as the city’s vice mayor. From there, Graham went on to serve as a Miami-Dade County board member in 1972.
Graham died on March 28, 1987.
The Reverend Dr. Edward T. Graham Neighborhood Service Center is located at 16405 NW 25 Ave. in Miami, Gardens. For more information visit: https://www.miamidade.gov/global/socialservices/home.page.