Beyond Vizcaya | A Storytelling Initiative is an effort to gather and tell the stories of the people and events that make Miami the international icon it is today and is made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. For more, please visit BeyondVizcaya.org.
My Journey Through Beyond Vizcaya
Oldine Monestime, Volunteer Activities Fellow at Vizcaya, shares her experience behind the scenes in bringing these stories to life.
“Going live in five, four, three, two…” Those were the words I heard right before every Beyond Vizcaya livestream session that would air. Once that count ended, it was my responsibility to introduce, engage, interview and ultimately bring to life the Miami stories we came to share for that day. There were no cuts, no teleprompter, and no break to commercials. This was good old-fashioned storytelling that was live… Having to perform… without a teleprompter and carry a conversation or story from end-to-end was where the challenge presented itself. However, my love for telling stories motivated me to take on the challenge, and it is what got me through this journey with Beyond Vizcaya.
The magic of storytelling
As if facing that challenge was not enough, our very first livestream guest was none other than a public figure. My producer and I managed to solidify an interview with Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones… our goal and mission was to tell the senator’s personal family story of migration. So, by engaging with the senator in talking about the rich history behind the Bahamian settlement in Coconut Grove, connecting with him in sharing my own Bahamian family roots, as well as bringing in Vizcaya’s tie that involved the Bahamian contribution to the construction of the estate, it allowed for something unique to unfold. That was where the magic of storytelling arose and allowed for the success of that particular piece.
A grandson learns about his grandfather
With Beyond Vizcaya, making an impact through the stories we shared was essential. One particularly impactful story that comes to mind is the piece my producer and I put together in honor of former Vizcaya Estate houseman Eustace Edgecombe. With the help of our museum archivist, we discovered that Mr. Edgecombe had living relatives in Miami. We thought it would be a good idea to make contact.
Of course, the chase for a story is rarely without adventure. The gentleman (who) answered the door must have thought we were trying to sell him something. After all, we were unexpected strangers knocking on his door. After introducing ourselves and explaining why we were at his door, he reluctantly revealed that he was a grandson of Eustace Edgecombe. He told us his name was William Edgecombe. Mr. Edgecombe expressed that he was not in the least bit interested in helping us. He went on to reveal that he did not have much of a relationship with his grandfather, Eustace. We did not lose hope though… and I remained in contact with him in hopes that he would reconsider. After several weeks, he did!
My producer and I were able to invite him to the estate and give him a private tour of the home. We showed him the space where his grandfather worked and shared some archival materials with him that pertained to Eustace. Seeing William open up and share the little bit of memory he had of his grandfather and seeing him light up when he saw the posted image of Eustace that is placed in the living room stanchion was truly an indescribable feeling. One could also notice how he absorbed everything he was learning about his grandfather during his visit. Thankfully, he allowed us to record this experience to share with our viewers. It is truly a special story.
Sharing the Black Experience in Miami
Beyond Vizcaya also seemed to have allowed us the opportunity to navigate through some uncharted territory when it came to sharing the history of Miami… there were topics that carried very serious tones and tackled issues pertaining to racism and prejudice.
Our piece with Dr. Marvin Dunn allowed us to share first-hand accounts of major events like the McDuffie riots. The conversation also moved on to other cultural matters and presented the opportunity for me to be vulnerable and share my own experience as a Black Haitian-American woman having a recollection of Black Americans treating Haitians very negatively. That hour-long conversation with Dr. Dunn barely scratched the surface of things we could have talked about pertaining to Black Experiences in Miami, but it surely got the ball rolling. A few viewers shared with me how they appreciated that segment in all its authenticity.
Valuable stories to tell
Beyond Vizcaya also afforded us the opportunity to share a story that brought awareness to food disparity within the inner cities of Miami. This allowed us to stress the importance of Urban Farming and mention Vizcaya’s legacy to the practice.
Part of the Beyond Vizcaya series includes a special recorded feature on Dr. Dorothy Fields, founder of the Black Archives. The collection was the first of its kind in the city and aims to preserve Black history in Miami… Lastly, through a partnership with HistoryMiami, community stories of everyday people in Miami are also shared on our website. It goes without saying that we all have a valuable story to tell and that programs like Beyond Vizcaya provide a much-needed outlet to share those stories.