Miami New Times' Best of Miami 2007: Best GadflyJun 10, 2007
MiamiNewTimes.com- June 2007
Before the April fire that burned Umoja Village to the ground, Max could be found grinning and holding his baby boy while sitting on a stained couch in the middle of the homeless shantytown in Liberty City. Part street theater, part protest, the place, which was Max's idea, opened this past October 23 on an abandoned lot on NW 62nd Street. Wooden pallet shacks on the site housed 40 homeless people; they all ate and relaxed in a common area.
Inspired by the closing of the Scott Carver homes and the Miami Herald's excellent opus on the housing department scandal, Rameau created Umoja to shame local officials into creating affordable housing. And shame he has. The place was featured in every media outlet possible, from the New York Times to YouTube to Earth First! magazine. Al Sharpton visited (and donated $1000 to the effort), as did Pedro Hernandez, Miami's city manager (who contributed nothing but an annoyed smirk).
Max's crowning achievement came during a glitzy week of shameless South Florida self-promotion during Super Bowl activities — when he bused in journalists for a reality tour of Umoja and the surrounding poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Fact is, Max has managed to get under the skin of local officials in a way that few activists ever have. Now that the village is destroyed, city leaders are finally listening to Max's ideas for putting affordable housing on the site — after, of course, arresting him for trying to rebuild the shantytown.