Miami has not always had a strong background in my family’s history, but we have begun to make it our home. Our story begins with my father, Bennie Holmes, who was born and raised in Miami but has few stories to tell about the experience. It seems many of his memories have dissolved with time. The few tales he does have are saturated with his youth and speak about immature actions, such as him stealing fruit from his neighbors’ mango trees.
However, one story does manage to stand out from the other mischievous ones, offering me a glimpse into the historical Miami race riots in 1980. He starkly remembers sitting on the bus as he and his fellow classmates watched demonstrations in the streets and acts of violence. Then, soon after his graduation from Miami Southridge high school, my father entered the military and met my mother, Roxanne Morton.
My mother is originally from Gary, Indiana, and was already the mother to my sister, Rhea Berry, who was 2 at the time. In a progressive switch of gender roles, my mother asked my father to marry her, and they quickly moved in together in Miami. My family, as it was budding with only three members, alternated between living in Miami and Indianapolis during this time period. My sister would often be sent to live with relatives in Indiana as my mother and father both strove to create a better home environment for her. When my brother was born he was also sent to live in Indiana with my sister, as making ends meet in Miami was becoming gradually more difficult.
Eventually, just a year and a half after my brother was born, I came along. After asking for many details over the years, I can give the details of my birth quite descriptively. It was a Monday in Miami, Florida, at Baptist Hospital. I was born on July 16 at 10:42 p.m. I was in Miami for just about three months before my mother flew with me to Indianapolis because she wanted to be closer with all of her kids.
My father stayed behind to work in Miami for a while and sent us money to keep a consistent amount of income. We found an apartment that we could all comfortably reside in. My father was the last to leave Miami and did not return for years. Within these 10 years I spent my childhood in Indiana, growing up in a culture vastly different from the one I would have come to know had my family stayed in Miami.
I have two homes. I owe a lot of who I am to Indiana, but Miami is where I defined who I am as I developed from an adolescent to a young adult. When I was 10 years old my father traveled back to Miami for the first time in 10 years to see his mother. I believe it was during this visit that my father realized how homesick he was, and a few months after he came home from his visit he requested that we move back to Miami.
Of course, the idea was not met with much resistance as everyone was quite keen on the idea of moving to Miami. My brother and I were only kids, and we did not even realize our history in Miami, just that it was a whole lot closer to Disney World than Indianapolis was. My sister, Rhea, had just graduated from Lawrence Central high school and was all for beginning her start in such a famous city.
Not much planning went into the idea of moving; it all happened in such a rush. My father called my grandmother Dorothy to ask if we could stay with her, and when she said yes, it jump started our move. Just a few months later our house was up for rent, our belongings were packed, and we were in a van driving to Miami from Indiana.
I did not realize the impact of our decision to move until the school year started. We had found a place to live on our own, a duplex, and my brother and I were enrolled at Cutler Ridge middle school. The cultural diversity was amazing.
In Indiana I was surrounded by predominantly Caucasian people, but when I moved here there were so many different races and ethnicities that opened my eyes up to the rest of the world around me. Hearing about the different places that these people had come from caused me to honestly take a look at myself and think about where I came from.
I’ve heard many people describe Miami as a “melting pot;” however, one idea that truly resonates with me is the “salad theory,” where, rather than different people coming to Miami to become like each other, various people come to Miami and bring their own unique aspects, and for the most part, everyone still lives in harmony together.
In Miami I have found my home in different ways. I watched my brother blossom and dwell more comfortably in the environment around him. My sister has found more opportunities than she can recount, and I have found an identity that I did not even know I was looking for at such a young age. I found people whom I honestly care about and have watched them grow into adults. My father has made his way back home again as a nurse and seems content with his life at 44. I could not have asked for a better home.