Miami is a diverse city with a rich history. Founded in 1896 by Julia Tuttle, it is now home to people from all over the world. As the city has grown its story has been documented by many people. One of them is Dr. Marvin Dunn. Dr. Dunn is a nationally respected scholar in race and ethnic relations. He is a filmmaker, a historian, has authored many books, and appeared on numerous national television broadcasts.
Dr. Dunn writes history because if it isn’t done it gets forgotten. He believes written word is critical to the continuation of human experience and is “the most durable human record in history.” Anne McLaughlin, a teacher of computer science applications at the Dr. Marvin Dunn Academy For Community Education, a school he helped found, that was recently renamed in his honor, describes Dr. Dunn as a “very good person that wants good for all.”
Dr. Dunn calls Miami his home, saying “my heart is here I wouldn’t be anywhere else”. He is currently preparing for an exhibit which will show the History of Black Miami in photographs and made himself available to answer some questions about himself and his work.
You can’t teach art, but you can teach writing.
Do you consider yourself an artist?
I don’t consider myself an artist, no. Art is a matter of inspiration. You can’t teach art, but you can teach writing. Art has enduring value. All art whether music, painting, or architecture, all goes to understanding humanity. That’s what art leads us to, is understanding the world through someone else’s eyes, and it always, in the end, serves to make mankind better. Making humanity more known to itself, more understanding. Produce art for that, not to make money, that’s a perversion of the craft. Getting the thing done is what matters, and then it stands on its own or falls. But if you’re only doing art to make a buck, quit now.
What challenges did you face when it came to publishing your work?
The biggest challenge is time, the time to write a book good enough to be published. It’s hard to find time to produce polished enough work. These days, you can publish yourself. The challenges that I see in our world are ones of political division, disregard for our environment, people using fresh water more than we should, saltwater intrusion, and the leadership in Washington. For example, the USA leaving the Paris accords.
To solve these problems, we need a change in leadership, and to energize young people. Major changes in the world have been brought about by young people. For example, South African apartheid was solved by young people taking chances for change, and the same is happening all across the world.
I was a Naval officer on aircraft carriers. The United States of America has 13 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers worth billions of dollars a pop. Most countries don’t have these. We’re building them to drive jobs. We’re the biggest weapons producer and seller in the world. Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex.
Well thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. I’m sure it will inspire people to get to work on making these changes. Who inspires you and what would you say are the most important things in life to remember?
In life, try to be fair to everyone. Fairness towards others and being treated as such in return. Trying to get more than others is awful, and so it’s important above all to be fair. My mother inspires me more than anyone. She was the Valedictorian of her class. She had strict discipline and imparted on me skills for learning. She pushed me and encouraged me to make something of myself.
I often wonder if my parents would approve of what I’ve done. Although I’ve met Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, three presidents, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton, no one has inspired me as much as the lifetime of inspiration I have received from my mother.
“Good writers read in depth.”
What 3 tips would you have for someone looking to follow the same career path as you?
First, read! Second, read. Third, read. You can’t write if you don’t read. Read and it will come out of you naturally. Good writers read in depth. Fill your mind with the record of the human experience not just what you like, or want to study. You need a broad understanding of every aspect of your historical period. Because if you only read about the events you’re interested in, you’ll miss out on critical context that relates to the before and after of your event. Read. Everything comes after that.
That makes perfect sense! Last question. You’ve lived in Miami for a really long time, you know about gardens and plants. What are your some of your favorite places and what do you do in Miami on a day off?
My favorite food is sweet potatoes. My favorite place to eat in Miami is Sergios Cuban American and on a day off I love to spend time with my grandchildren.
Stay connected to Dr. Dunn by following him on Twitter, and don’t miss his exhibit Black Miami in Photographs later this month.
Black Miami In Photographs is a photo exhibition designed to celebrate the rich history of Black people in Miami by telling a story that has become shrouded in mystery, despite Black people having played key roles in the development and incorporation of the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County. Based on Historian, Dr Marvin Dunn’s book “Black Miami in The Twentieth Century”, the exhibition opens February 20th at 7pm and will feature a lecture by Dr. Dunn.more »