When some of the senior alumni look at Miami Carol City Senior High School, they see a loss of pride.
Maybe it was because the neighborhood lost a bit of its identity in the formation of Miami Gardens. Maybe it was local kids now has more school options outside of Carol City. Maybe it was the school renovations that tore down the building where the beloved superstructure lay. Either way, it was something there should be taken up.
“Many of the kids now do not have school pride,” said Tracey Vincent, a 1998 graduate of Carol City. They need to see “school pride, where we came from and how we feel now. A lot of people who came from Carol City are really great.”
That wish led to Chief Hall Picnic, an annual gathering to celebrate all that Carol City has to offer. After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the festivities return Saturday at Carol City Park with a concert, electronic giveaways and free food.
“People from Houston, Alabama, North Carolina, people from New York – they all fly down to reunite with their classmates they have not seen for years, sometimes decades,” said Moses Washington, a 1998 graduate of Carol City. .
The origins of the picnic can be traced back to Washington, Vincent and Lee “Freezy” Prince, who in the mid-2010s began discussing how they could bring their hometown Carol City together. At the time, they felt that the pride of the neighborhood was not the same as it used to be. So they set up a Facebook group called Chief Hall, a popular meeting place in the old building, started adding candidates and encouraged everyone to represent their class. Then the idea of a picnic was raised.
“We wanted to make sure all the kids in the community could see that we were going to a school, we’re coming back and flowing into the community,” said Vincent, who is now a mental health counselor for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
The first picnic took place in 2016 and has grown in size ever since. Thousands of people attended the events in 2018 and 2019. City officials began showing up, including then-Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert in 2018, whose dancing skills were still a hot topic nearly five years later. Even the class competition got a little tougher.
“Each class will come up with their own theme” for their tent, said Prince, a 1996 graduate. “For example, ’98 class, their tent looked like a football field in the year they won states. the girls to the dancers for everything. Class in 2007 they had a whole candy store where they fed all the kids in the building. ’96 had a club, like Pac Jam, like a nightclub with music, dj’s and everything. “
Myrticia Gray, a native of Carol City who graduated in 2011, had been attending similar alumni picnics for some time. But Chief Hall Picnic was unlike anything she had ever seen. Part of the attraction had to do with what Gray described as “the energy” – alumni from classes as far back as the 1960s have been known to come – but also the importance of the real Chief Hall.
“It was a place where ancestors have been, the legacy formed, the amount of opportunities created inside these buildings – it was something you will never forget,” Gray said. “Chief Hall was a very special place. The whole structure – we had art, paintings, quotes all over the walls – was something amazing. I would definitely say it was a piece of art. “
Prince added: “It’s an honor to actually walk through Chief Hall. So when you say ‘Chief Hall Picnic’, it’s reviving the whole community.”
While the 2022 picnic may not showcase the flare of previous years on tent decorations, the concert tour – which includes Trina, Major Nine and Kiddo Marv – will certainly bring the community forward. And if the picnic’s return is not reason enough to celebrate, it may be the circumstances that necessitated its pause, Washington says.
“It’s going to be big,” Washington said. “When we were in quarantine and with COVID hitting us so hard, we lost a lot of loved ones. This is a great time for us to get around our friends.”
This story was originally published April 15, 2022 1:56 PM.