To most people, Miami’s South Beach is best known as one of the most decadent entertainment destinations in America, with hundreds of nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques and hotels lining it’s avenues. Famous for it’s Art Deco architecture, beautiful people and history as a base of operations for the cocaine cowboys of the 1970s and 80s, as depicted in Scarface and Miami Vice, South Beach has also become infamous, for over a decade now, as the backdrop of Urban Beach Week, when thousands of inner city youth and young professionals descend upon the city during Memorial Day weekend in search of a good time and new connections.
Urban Beach Week, considered the largest hip hop street fest in the world, remains one of the last festivals of it’s kind geared towards communities of color. Originally marketed as an arena for urban fashion designers FUBU to showcase their latest gear, this controversial event now attracts over 200,000 visitors, mostly from America’s inner cities, as well as a growing number of international tourists, transforming South Beach during Memorial Day weekend into a colorful showcase of popular culture and the aspirational lifestyle.
Over the four-day weekend, hundreds of police stand on high alert as dreadlocked youth from the surrounding ghetto communities cruise the Avenues in their candy painted cars blasting the latest rap, while thousands of college students, aspiring rappers, entrepreneurs, and others comingle as they navigate the streets in constant pursuit of the many activities that cater to them.
Even though I personally find our communities’ ever increasing obsession with material culture quite disturbing, I am attracted to the creativity and vigor that I’ve witnessed in South Beach during Memorial Day weekend and I believe that it is my responsibility as an artist to continue to try and tell this story without prejudice.