The Betsy's 9th Annual Overture To Overtown Festival

Hosted and curated by Dr. Deborah Briggs, Carole Ann Taylor, and John Stuart, AIA

For the last eight years, The Betsy Hotel has been honoring Overtown’s history and its legacy through the Overture to Overtown Festival.  In 2020, due to COVID-19, the Festival will be virtually celebrated on four Monday nights in September with presentations at 7 PM, in partnership with FIorida International University’s Miami Beach Urban Studios (FIU-MBUS), the City of Miami Beach, WDNA, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, Arts and Business Council Miami, South Florida Cares Mentoring Movement, Miami Jazz Cooperative, Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, and other community partners.


4 Mondays at 8pm EST

September 7: The Place “Over Town” with special guest Dr. Dorothy Fields, Founder of The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc. Born in Overtown, Dr. Fields has devoted her life to preserving the heritage of the African- American community and raising awareness of African-American history to a national level.

September 14: What happened in/to Overtown? With special guest Mr. Timothy Barber, Executive Director, The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc &  Executive Director of the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater. Born and raised in Miami, Mr. Barber has served in his position since 2009, has been adjunct professor at Florida Memorial University and is the visionary behind emerging community- building programs at the historic Lyric Theater in Overtown.

September 21: Lessons Learned with special guest Dr. Marvin Dunn, Faculty member at FIU, Department of Psychology, and founder of the Academy for Community Education (later re-named Dr. Marvin Dunn Academy for Community Education), a Miami-Dade County high school for at-risk youth in the Miami Dade County Public Schools. Dr. Dunn is the author of Black Miami in the 20 th Century (University Press of Florida, 2016).

September 28: Overtown Rising with special guests Neil Shiver and Dr. Graylyn Swilley-Woods. Neil Shiver, Executive Director of the Southeast Overtown / Park West Community Redevelopment Agency. South Florida native, Cornelius “Neil” Shiver has over 20 years of experience in law, business management, public policy and community development – and was appointed to his position in 2018. Dr. Graylyn Swilley-Woods, Executive Director of the Overtown Children and Youth Coalitions and Senior Consultant for Multicultural Tourism Initiatives. Mrs. Woods spent more than a decade promoting the development and advancement of Multicultural Tourism in Greater Miami and Beaches. Recently, Dr. Swilley-Woods received her PhD from Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio and completed a dissertation on heritage community tourism sustainability in urban communities in Miami, Florida.

The Betsy’s Overture to Overtown 2020 online festival program will feature ten performing jazz artists, three poets, and four scholars. Events will be carried live into patron’s homes via Zoom and Facebook Live. To ensure audio excellence, musical performances will be pre-recorded at The Betsy Hotel while poets and scholars will appear live. Each event will allow time for audience Q&A.

The work of legacy Overtown poets will be celebrated through recitations of poems written by W.E.B Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and Muhammed Ali – presented by Geoffrey Philp, the project’s Community Poet in Residence.


Jazz Band


During its heyday, the City of Overtown was often referred to as ‘the Harlem of the South’, because its story is akin to that of New York’s Harlem – and on the National Jazz circuit, musicians often played in both Harlems, as they made their way from one club to another, playing for audiences around the country.  

And in Overtown, stars like Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, and Josephine Baker not only performed, but also spent the night because of segregation laws in Miami and Miami Beach. Unable to stay the night after a gig, they went “over town” to to hotels owned by Black proprietors.

The talents of so many cultural ‘greats’ fostered such world-class entertainment venues in Overtown as the Lyric Theater, Knight Beat, and other clubs. Over the years, distinguished African American intellectuals also stayed there, including W.E.B. Du Bois, author Zora Neale Hurston, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Martin Luther King and Malcom X frequented the area and so did Muhammed Ali.



Roxana Amed


Born in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina, vocalist and songwriter Roxana Amed, resident in the USA since 2013, is considered by colleagues, audiences and critics as one of the most important voices in the Jazz Fusion style, blending Argentine folk and rock with jazz. Roxana has degrees in literature and film as well as formal professional music training. She is an alumna and current faculty member in the Jazz Studies program at Florida International University.


Carole-Ann Taylor

Co-Creator & Vocals

A connoisseur of classic Jazz, Carole Ann has returned to her vocal career after a 30 year hiatus. One of Miami’s most soulful and cabaret singers, she is dedicated to keeping the jazz singer musical tradition alive by reimagining standards that continue to attract new listeners of all ages. The recipient of a contract from Duke Ellington, she studied under Luther Henderson, and has performed with among others Lionel Hampton, Cedar Walton, Buck Clayton, Buddy Tate, Danny Nixon, Billy Rolle, Pete Manger, and Don Mosley. She is the recipient of a South Florida Jazz Hall of Fame Award and performs regularly at The Betsy Hotel on Miami Beach.


Brenda Alford


Brenda Alford, a native of Baltimore, is a highly acclaimed singer, songwriter, educator, author, and actress. She began her career with the Baltimore City Public Schools where she created and implemented a jazz edutainment program for students.  She migrated to Miami in 1992 graduating from the University of Miami Frost School of Music. Brenda has performed widely: at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center, Miami Downtown Jazz Festival, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the Delaware Grand Opera House, to name a few. She has the distinction of being one of the very few vocalists ever to record with renowned jazz legend Horace Silver on the esteemed Blue Note Record Label.  Brenda will release her new Body of Music:  Messages … Songs for the Soul in the near future.  She recently completed a jazz-based student empowerment tour in the Miami Dade County Public Schools.


Nicole Yarling


Nicole is a rich velvet voice with technical skill and personality to boot! She is a star in the jazz community who, like many others, has been at it for years. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, a musical household laid the groundwork for Nicole's career. She is an Assistant Professor of Music at Florida Memorial University and a lecturer at University of Miami Frost School of Music. A protégé of the late Joe Williams, she is also a gifted violinist, educator, and mentor to countless local music students.




Charline Fleureon, La Vie’s given name, realized her musical gift at an early age and began pursuing a music career at 17. In collaboration with producer/musician Stephane Murphy she wrote original music and in 2009 released her first album, Life Music. She has since written and released Alive and Human and travelled with the Maestro east coast tour throughout the USA. She has performed with many national and international recording artists, such as Martha Munizzi, Nigel Lewis, Papa San, and Joe Pace.  LaVie uses her music to encourage and empower all people who seek out and experience La Vie (The Life) that God intends for all to have.


LeNard Rutledge


LeNard Rutledge, born and raised in Miami, is often compared to the legendary Lou Rawls. LeNard grew up in the historic St. Agnes Episcopal Church in Overtown and began his musical career as a drummer, playing in the marching band at Miami Central Senior High. While attending Saint Augustine College in North Carolina he started singing in local clubs and began his vocal career in 1997 performing with the Melton Mustafa Orchestra.  He was named The Miami New Times Best Jazz Artist in 2006 and is currently recording new songs across several musical genres.


Jim Gasior


Jim Gasior is a pianist and jazz educator, based in South Florida. He has performed and recorded with international pop artists and groups – Ricky Martin, Kelly Clarkson, Alih Jey, Chayanne, Jose Feliciano, Little Richard, Smokey Robinson, as well as jazz artists - Benny Golson, Slide Hampton, Freddie Hubbard, Terell Stafford, Patti Austin, John Fedchock, Duffy Jackson, Jason Marsalis, Donald Harrison, Robin Eubanks, Jeremy Pelt, Jay Leonhart and the Jaco Pastorius Reunion Big Band. He performs regularly in South Florida with Wendy Pedersen, Ed Calle, Russ Spiegel, Aldo Salvent, Fernando Ulibarri, and others. Jim is Associate Professor of Jazz and Instrumental Studies at the New World School of the Arts where he serves as the director of the national award-winning NWSA High School Jazz Ensemble They have been finalists in the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington competition thirteen times and his students regularly receive top honors and recognition from Downbeat Student Music Awards, GRAMMY High School Jazz Band and the National Young Arts Foundation. Jim holds a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Music and Jazz Performance and a Master’s degree in Jazz Pedagogy both from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music.He is in demand as an educator and clinician and has given master classes throughout the United States.



Allen Paul


Allen C. Paul, musician, teacher and arranger, began learning the piano at the age of 3, taught by his mother, an elementary music teacher. His early years were filled with discoveries of jazz, blues, funk, gospel – all kinds of musical puzzle pieces that would begin to weave its way into his playing. He capped off this start by winning the Florida State Music Teachers Association Concerto Competition at age 17 and performing with the Tampa Bay Symphony. A graduate of the University of Miami School of Music in Jazz Piano, he quickly became a sought-after sideman with artists of all types and styles. He was a performer on Mary Alessi’s album “Pressing On”, Leon “Foster” Thomas’ jazz project “Brand New Mischief”, and several other projects as a session musician.  Artists that Allen has accompanied include Miki Howard, Betty Wright, Raheem Devaughn, Jaguar Wright, Mike Phillips, Rhonda Thomas, Martha Munizzi, Anthony David, Algebra Blessett, Chantae Cann and many others. His trio project, the jazz fusion band “Unclazzified”, released an EP of original music, and the trio performed at the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2015. He currently performs, writes and teaches privately in South Florida.


Tom Lippincott


Eight- and six-string guitarist Tom Lippincott was born in New Jersey and grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but has made South Florida his home since 1988. As a performer, Tom has had the opportunity to perform and record with such jazz luminaries as Ed Schuller, Don Friedman, Gary Campbell, John Stowell, Ben Monder, Jonathan Kreisberg, and Dave Liebman. Tom is a faculty member in the Jazz Studies Program at Florida International University.


Jamie Ousley


Jamie Ousley has been one of the most in-demand bassists in south Florida since he moved to Miami in the fall of 1998 to attend graduate school in the prestigious Jazz program of the University of Miami. Jamie has released two CDs as leader: O Sorriso Dela (2008) and Back Home (2010). Back Home reached #10 on the Jazz Roots national radio chart. Ousely is on the Jazz faculty at FIU.


Nikki Kidd


Born and raised in Miami Beach, Nikki started singing at the age of four. Her exposure to Miami's different cultures and genres created for her a musical palette that includes jazz, electronic music, reggae, pop, rock, soul and R & B. She is a graduate of the University of Miami where she earned her Bachelors in Studio Music and Jazz Voice”and studied with Kevin Mahogany, Kurt Elling and John Secada.  She was voted the 2018 Miami New Times "Best Jazz Act". Nikki has worked with Gloria and Emilio Estafan, Michael Buble`, KC and the Sunshine Band and performed on Disney's 2018 Christmas Special, with the Nu Deco Orchestra and the Florida Grand Opera. Internationally she has performed in Bangkok, Paris and completed a recent tour of Russia. As she continues to perform with the Nikki Kidd Band her vision of global stardom is becoming a reality. She is preparing to release her first jazz album and her single, "Don't Dream It's Over" is available on all streaming services.


Nicky Orta


Nicky Orta is a highly sought-after electric bassist from the South Florida area.  His knowledge of many musical styles has landed him world tours, gigs and recordings with a diverse array of artists such as Sammy Figueroa (with whom he received a Grammy nomination), Paquito D"Rivera, Julio Iglesias, Cristian Castro, Gloria Estefan, Arturo Sandoval, Mike Stern and Randy Brecker to name but a few.  He has taught at Florida International University and the University of Miami, organized and presented three Jazz Bass conferences in Miami and is a proud founder of the Miami Jazz Cooperative. He has given master classes and lectures in the U.S., Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Panama. He contributed a chapter on the electric bass for the book/DVD, Jazz Pedagogy: The Jazz Educator's Handbook and Resource Guide (Warner Bros. 2002).


Wendy Pedersen


Wendy Pedersen is a graduate of the University of Miami’s Studio Music and Jazz Vocal program. Wendy has won many awards including the Southern Bell/Pace “Jazz Artist of the Year” and a Miami New Times “best vocalist”. Wendy Pedersen’s discography includes her debut CD, “Me + Three”; a Holiday CD, “Ho Ho Ho”; and her newest release, “Under The Influence”.


Leesa Richards


Singer Leesa Richards is a Detroit native, who now calls Miami home. She began her performing career as a professional dancer. Her performance as Mary Magdalene in the national tour of the Broadway musical, Jesus Christ Superstar earned critical acclaim and led to featured performances in several musical productions throughout the U.S. and Europe. A versatile performer, Leesa has performed with artists who include Faith Hill, Whitney Houston, Oleta Adams, Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada and Joe Bonamassa and Barry Gibb. She has recorded with Barbra Streisand and Lenny Kravitz.


Melton Mustafa Jr.


Melton Mustafa Jr., -Saxaphone player extraordinaire, arranger/composer, producer, and educator comes from a family of great musicians. His father, the famed jazz trumpeter Melton Mustafa played in the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands and his uncle, Jessie Jones Jr, also a sax player was an international jazz recording artist and virtuoso. Melton Jr. is known for his flair for entertaining; he has played with so many greats including the Ray Charles Band - and is a 3- time Grammy nominated music educator quarter finalist.  He received a BS in Music Education from Florida A & M where he led the Sax section for the Marching 100, a Master of Education from FIU, and is currently a Doctoral candidate in leadership at FIU. He is executive producer of the annual Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival and is a music teacher at a middle school in the Miami Dade Public Schools.


Rebecca "Butterfly" Vaughns


Rebecca ‘Butterfly’ Vaughns, a Miami native, is the voice of Miami’s  Black community. As a Grammy-nominated poet, she uses spoken word and beat poetry to illustrate and speak on the issues of Black life and culture. She performs free-style and her ability to improvise on the spot always woos audiences.  She is a poet to the stars including Charlie WIlson, Maxwell, Fantasia, Beres Hammond, and Chrisette Michele. Her art of poetry is respected by the likes of Nikki Giovanni, Sonja Sanchez, the last poets, and the late Ms. Betty Wright.


Marcus Blake


Marcus Blake  is a recent Oolite Arts Award recipient. Aside from his larger-than-life creations around Miami, Blake also does collage and acrylic on canvas, as well as performance art, music, poetry and other writing. For those that follow his work, it often seems that there’s no end to how far his artistic vision can take him – and luckily for us, Miami gets to come along for the ride.


Octavia Yearwood


Octavia Yearwood is a public speaker, author, artist, youth advocate, project director, and radio host. Yearwood's clear talent and dedication to empowerment has allowed her to collaborate with notable organizations and institutions to share nationally and internationally. She is the author of the book, HOW THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT?,  an interactive journey; serving as a guide book, memoir and workbook helping readers to walk through the process of self-healing.


Geoffrey Philp


Geoffrey Philp is a Jamaican author of poetry, short stories, novels and children's books. Philp teaches creative writing at Miami Dade College and has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Miami. Peepal Tree has published seven of his books. A huge supporter of Caribbean books and writers, he posts interviews, fiction, poetry, podcasts, and literary events from the Caribbean and South Florida on his blog. Philp’s poetry is included on The Betsy’s Poetry Rail.


Leonor Anthony

Visual Artists

Leonor Anthony, a miami-based Cuban American multi-disciplinary artist and activist rediscovered and captured images taken by Roberto Polillo of global travelling jazz greats from the 1960’s and 70’s and has published the magnificent book, Sounds of Freedom (2019). Leonor’s collaboration is meant to create a sense of hope in a world that may seem hopeless with jazz as the medium that contextualizes and give a voice to that sense of hope.


Mike Harvey


Mike Harvey has been working in television production since 1993.  He is a video production visionary whose work includes location sound and video assist for commercials – Carnival Cruise Lines, AutoNation, Rocket Mortgage, Pepsi and Ciroc Vodka, music videos – for Jennifer Hudson, Jenifer Lopez, Shakira, Flo-Rida, Pit Bull, Mary J. Blige and LL Cool J, feature films – The Irishman, The Comedian and The Last Thing He Wanted, and episodic television – Graceland, Parks and Recreation, CSI Miami and Telemundo’s Moon Over Miami, YouTube – Serena Williams, Timbaland and Pharell Williams, production companies – Netflix, HBO, USA Network and Univision. Through his  production company, MIKE HARVEY PRODUCTIONS,  he has worked with Philip Michael Thomas, Ernst Ranglin and Bob Andy. He received a B.S. degree in music performance from Western Michigan University and then toured the world with Julio Iglesias, performing with Lena Horne, Leslie Uggams, Arturo Sandoval, Nestor Torres and Randy Brecker to name a few.  He is currently performing with Ed Calle and his own band, The Circle.


Langston Hughes

Overtown Legend

Langston Hughes was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of black intellectual, literary, and artistic life that took place in the 1920s in a number of American cities, particularly Harlem. A major poet, Hughes also wrote novels, short stories, essays, and plays.


W.E.B DuBois

Overtown Legend

Scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1895. He wrote extensively and was the best-known spokesperson for African American rights during the first half of the 20th century. Du Bois co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.


Muhammad Ali

Overtown Legend

Muhammad Ali was born in Louisville but molded in Miami. He won the heavyweight championship here. He announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name to Ali here. He declared his opposition to the Vietnam War here. When he moved to Miami on Dec. 19, 1960, Overtown was a thriving black community, a miniature Harlem.

Guest Speakers


Dr. Dorothy Fields

Founder of The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida

There is no place you can go in Miami-Dade County and speak of the history of African Americans without referring to The Black Archives and its founder Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields. Because of her vision and perseverance The Black Archives serves as a symbol of pride in South Florida and is a legacy for future generations.

A native Miamian, Jenkins Fields, a Public Historian and Certified Archivist began as a school librarian and reading teacher who was concerned that there were no books in local libraries about the local black community. In 1977, she created the Black Archives, History & Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc.,saved the Lyric Theater from destruction, restored and expanded the theater's footprint. As a result of her leadership Overtown’s historic Lyric Theater and five other buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located in Miami’s Historic Overtown Folklife Village.

Jenkins Fields is a founding board member of Miami-Dade County’s Women’s Park; Vizcaya Trust; Chapman Partnership Empowering the Homeless; and a charter member of the Academy of Certified Archivists. Memberships include Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, The Links, Inc., Jack & Jill of America, the Miami Woman’s Club; American Association of University Women; Association for the Study of African American Life and History; Association of African American Museums; Dade Heritage Trust; Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Overtown Children & Youth Coalition.

A journalist, she has occasionally contributed to the Miami Times. Her Sunday Miami Herald Neighbors column, Black in Time , has continued since 2008. In addition, she wrote the introduction to Linkages & Legacies: Historical Profiles Depicting Notable Greater Miami, Florida Pioneers of African American Descent, Vol I. , published by The Links, Inc., Greater Miami Chapter.

To connect visitors and residents, family and class reunion organizers, corporate and event planners year round to Miami’s hotels and amazing attractions in 2017 Jenkins Fields established Society Socials & Reunions LLC.

Dr. Dorothy Fields joins us for our September 7th discussion: The Place “Over Town”.


Timothy Barber

Executive Director, The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater

Timothy Barber is Executive Director of The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater, Inc. Born and raised in Miami, Mr. Barber has served in his position since 2009, has been adjunct professor at Florida Memorial University and is the visionary behind emerging community-building programs at the historic Lyric Theater in Overtown.

Timothy joins us for our September 14th event: What happened in/to Overtown?


Dr. Marvin Dunn

Faculty member at FIU, Department of Psychology

Dr. Marvin Dunn is a Faculty member at FIU in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Dunn is also Founder and Director of Roots, an Overtown urban gardening program, and founder of the Academy for Community Education which was later renamed the Dr. Marvin Dunn Academy for Community Education. He is the author of Black Miami in the 20th Century (University Press of Florida, 2016).

Dr. Marvin Dunn joins us for our September 21st event: Lessons Learned.


Neil Shiver

Executive Director of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency

Cornelius Shiver is a life-time Coconut Grove resident, has an Associate degree from Florida State University, a Bachelors of Business Administration degree from the University of Miami, a Juris Doctorate degree from St. Thomas University School of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar.

Prior to attending law school, Cornelius worked as a Production Analyst with Racal-Milgo, an international high-tech corporation based in England and from there he worked for the University of Miami as the Director of Materials Management. During law school, Cornelius worked for the Brickell Avenue law firm of Silver & Garvett, P.A. By the time Cornelius graduated from law school, he was proficient in civil trial litigation, complex commercial litigation and local governmental law. Cornelius further sharpened his legal skills in New York City working for the American Arbitration Association and later, obtaining additional jury trial experience from the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office.

Cornelius has worked in several executive capacities, including President and Chief Executive Officer of Martin Luther King Economic Development, Board-member of the City of Miami Zoning Board, legal and political advisor to former City of Miami Commissioners, Jeffrey Allen and City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, and the Assistant Director of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (“CRA”). 

Currently he is the Executive Director of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency. The Overtown CRA was formed to address prior neglects from the public and private sectors. Cornelius believes that any and all CRA community redevelopment activities must provide a remedy for those who have suffered the longest and the most under slum and blighted conditions.

He joins us for our September 28th event: Overtown Rising.


Dr. Graylyn Swilley-Woods

Executive Director of the Overtown Children and Youth Coalitions

Dr. Graylyn Swilley-Woods is the Executive Director of the Overtown Children and Youth Coalitions. She is a Senior Consultant for Multicultural Tourism Initiatives and recent past Associate Vice President of Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau Multicultural Tourism Department, Business and Education Division. Mrs. Woods spent more than a decade promoting the development and advancement of Multicultural Tourism in Greater Miami and Beaches. Recently, Dr. Swilley-Woods received her PhD from Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her dissertation research focused on heritage community tourism sustainability in urban communities in Miami, Florida.

Thank You to Our Sponsors

We gratefully acknowledge additional sponsorship from WDNA Jazz Radio, FIU Department of Music, FIU CARTA, PG Family Foundation, The Betsy Community Fund, South Florida CARES, Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Miami Jazz Cooperative.