Miami Sunpost Top 50 People of 2006Jun 10, 2006
Miami SunPost April 2006
It’s the annual SunPost 50, in which we list a bunch of individuals who have significantly impacted the place we call home: Miami-Dade County. Within these pages you will see politicians, developers, artists, art collectors, entrepreneurs, activists, mass media types, philanthropists and other interesting and important people who have helped make this area what it is, brought a little extra drama to it and/or played prominently in local events of the past year.
Max Rameau - The Revolutionary
Max Rameau is a serious fellow, an activist who has fought various injustices in Miami for the past decade and more. He played a role in the effort to enact the Civilian Investigative Panel that oversees the Miami Police Department, and was an early opponent of the Hope VI project that wiped out Scott Homes in Liberty City without replacing them with promised new housing.
The reason you know his name is that he is arguably the city’s most successful affordable housing developer. On Oct. 23, 2006, Rameau and a band of supporters launched a daring maneuver in the never-ending war between activists and local government on the housing issue. Citing the 1998 Pottinger settlement, in which a judge ruled that the city of Miami could not arrest the homeless engaged in “life sustaining conduct” on public land, they took over a couple of county and city-owned plots on the corner of Northwest 62nd Street and 17th Avenue. They erected tiny shacks made of wooden pallets, plus modest kitchen and shower facilities.
It was dubbed Shantytown, but eventually came to be called Umoja, a Swahili word for unity. National press attention was garnered and notables such as Al Sharpton passed through, while the city of Miami schemed, ultimately unsuccessfully, to shut the place down. Six months later, Umoja is not only still standing, it’s actually flourishing — to the degree that a village of shacks run by a loose confederacy of chaotic individuals used to living on the street can flourish. Rameau, Haitian-born and D.C.-educated, still calmly oversees Umoja, but plans bigger things. He believes the premise of people taking back their land from an unresponsive government is one that can and should be expanded. We can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.