Tasha Thomas standing in front of the mural painted by her father, Oscar Thomas.

What Will Happen to Domino Park’s Mural & Trees?

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Locals are concerned about the fate of the historic mural in Domino Park (Maximo Gomez Park), commemorating the 1994 Summit of the Americas, and its shade trees.

We’ve heard of plans to paint over the mural, cut down one of its tallest trees and increase the height of one of the park’s walls. The Domino Park regulars we spoke to said they were not in favor of replacing the mural. They just think it needs touching up. They were vehemently against cutting down any of the trees, which contribute to keeping the park cool.

About a year ago, Little Havana Commissioner Frank Carollo told me about his intentions to remove the mural, but I didn’t take it seriously at the time. I expressed shock, anger and disbelief, especially since the mural is historically significant. It documents the 1994 Summit of the Americas meeting, which brought to Miami then President Clinton and other Heads of State and Government from the Americas (but not Cuba).

More recently, when city employees confirmed that the plans were serious, I became very concerned, and scheduled a meeting with the daughter of the man who painted the mural: Oscar Thomas.

About the Summit of the Americas

The mural documents the very first Summit of the Americas, which took place in Miami from December 9 to 11, 1994. This gathering produced 59 mandates addressing 23 themes. The Summit’s Declaration of Principles established a pact for development and prosperity based preservingn and strengthening democracies throughout the Americas. Goals of this summit included:

  • Expanding prosperity through economic integration;
  • Eradicating poverty and discrimination in the Hemisphere;
  • Guaranteeing sustainable development while protecting the environment.

You can read the first Summit’s Plan of Action here.

The Summits are periodic meetings that bring together thirty-four democratically elected Heads of State and Government of the Americas to discuss and make decisions on issues of relevance for the region. At these gatherings, leaders discuss shared policy issues and values and make a commitment to take actions at the national and regional levels. They discuss issues such as economic growth, employment, poverty, environmental sustainability, energy security, discrimination and crime, and how to democratically adopt and implement effective and efficient public policies.

The Summits provide a forum where Heads of State and Government establish a a diverse array of priorities, with democracy as the focus. The Summits are now organized by the Organization of American States.

The Summit of the Americas Mural in Domino Park.

About Muralist Oscar Thomas, Jr.

Oscar Thomas, Sr. was a Costa Rican immigrant of African descent. During his too-short life, he became famous for his murals and and billboards, including his mural of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Liberty City. In 2001, a group of black artists and civic leaders were outraged when Thomas’s popular MLK mural was removed from its original location; it was later returned, but has since been replaced by a mural by Addonis Parker. A photo of Oscar Thomas painting a mural is archived in the Florida Memory collections.

Tragically, Thomas died at 41 due to complications from diabetes. His daughter, Dr. Tasha Thomas, says that the Summit of the Americas mural is one of the last public works he completed before his death. This year, 2017, marks the 20th anniversary since Thomas, Sr. passed.

Dr. Thomas is currently writing a book about her father. She has found over 100 articles in the The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, Biscayne Times, Miami Times, and other publications mentioning her father’s community service and artistic talents. Read more about Oscar Thomas, Sr. at this website dedicated to him and his legacy. Below is the MLK mural painted by Thomas (photo credit to 305mia at English Wikipedia/CC by 3.0).

MLKMIA

Why the Secrecy? What Happens Next?

I do not know anyone who admits to having seen the new plans for Domino Park. City employees have confirmed that plans exist, but the only rationale we’ve heard for the proposed changes is that the trees attracted homeless individuals (!!).

Why the secrecy? Why the lack of public involvement or awareness about plans that would significantly impact Miami’s best-known park, Domino Park? Why chop down a healthy shade tree during a government-sponsored campaign to expand Miami’s tree canopy? Miami has only a 14 percent tree canopy, when the ideal urban tree canopy is 30 percent.

If you care about the mural and want to speak out against its removal, you can fill out a petition that Oscar Thomas’s daughter has organized (see her website dedicated to her father, too). I welcome your comments below, too. You can also participate in a Little Havana tree planting effort on August 31, from 8:30 to 10:30 am (pdf).

Below is an interview with Oscar Thomas, Sr.

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3 Comments

  1. Paul S George says:

    Insanity to remove the mural and cut down any trees in Domino Park or elsewhere. For what purpose? Insane! Etc

  2. I agree with you, Dr. Paul!

  3. Anneliese's Morales says:

    Edited comment typos, meant to say the following:
    I am vehemently opposed to removal of this Mural and the canopy trees! The lack of transparency and community outreach for this project is a tremendous dissappointment and infuriating to say the least. Residents and stakeholders have been volunteering with our City of Miami Government to support a “Live Healthy Little Havana” initiative, yet information about this historical public space change hasn’t even been discussed with the Host Council nor any Sub-Committee. The consensus is for the Mural and the trees, not against them. Wondering what it takes for our City Mayor and City Commissioner to speak up? What are they waiting for? The park at the LH NET on 12th Ave looks more like a rock wall than a park, as grass and trees were replaced with rubber and playground equipment instead claiming maintenance costs as an excuse. It’s shameful, and enough is enough. Furthermore, the same exact issue is happening with our City of Miami Government and its plans for Virginia Key, which are also unacceptable. Lack of disclosures from the City to the VK Advisory Board are also very, very alarming.

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