(Photo taken during the 20th Reunion Weekend – June 23-25, 2017)
“What good could ever come out of Miami Gardens?” some may ask. Well, sit down and let me tell you.
There is a high school that goes by the name of Norland. Before city incorporation and during an era of civil change mixed with “white flight” because of the influx of African-American and Caribbean families that came to that quiet area looking for a piece of the American dream, something magnificent was in the making. They forged neighborhoods of gold and sent their children to a “maroon and grey” painted school in order to build a legacy that resonated beyond those dual two-story buildings that sat majestically on 195th street and 12th avenue. This was a legacy that went beyond the yearbooks and beyond the stories told to many who would listen. The stories of Norland were shared like folk tales amongst the black alumni from the high schools in Dade county that began with the word “Miami”.
Out of all the chapters that wrote the story for Norland, it was the Class of ’97 that was a part of the greatest era to ever emerge from that small section of North Dade where hard working citizens lived in split level three and four bedroom homes amongst oaks that rolled, a lake named Scott and manicured green lawns as far as the eye can see. Where hard working citizens built an oasis of dreams through their children. The Class of ’97 is amongst the last of that special era of excellence. That sweet time in North Dade where the living was easy and carefree.
As a member and graduate of that chapter in history, I walked, talked and sat in classrooms with the seeds of excellence. I was planted amongst saplings that became the tallest pillars in society. Doctors, Lawyers, Educators, Musicians, Entrepreneurs, Members of the Armed Forces, Law Enforcement, Public Services, Corporate Businessmen, and Women just to name a few. ‘Tis so sweet to have written that chapter with my ’97 brothers and sisters. There was a “prestige” that surrounded us. Everyone in Dade county knew about “dem Norland boys” or “those Norland girls”. And if you had the honor and privilege to say that you were apart of the Class of 1997, you were looked upon with awestruck wonder by classes prior to and afterward.
As l looked upon the faces of greatness this past weekend which was our 20 Year Reunion, I was humbled and filled with a gratitude unspeakable. That weekend was soooo powerful that I , a grown woman in her 30’s was catapulted back into her teenaged years. I saw the halls I walked through, smelled the air that surrounded the campus and even the heard the loud hum of HVAC equipment between each of the buildings as I walked from class to class. My eyes beheld the sepia-toned sea of students in the pep rallies, assemblies and other school-wide gatherings as my ears heard the faint sounds of every hit from Bad Boy Records. My class was special. Those days were special. You see, as ’97 watched ’94, ’95, and ’96 walk the Viking halls, we silently calculated our own strategy for classwide greatness that rocked the school and etched us into the minds of the teachers and administrators where our memory is still vivid to this day.
When I think of the words “Miami Norland Senior High”, I get a tinge of excitement and honor. But when I say Class of ’97, I am arrested with pride and valor. The ’97 edition of The Norland Vikings was bad enough to sail upon an ocean of dreams on dry land then come back 20 years later and sail that very same ocean in eternal victory.
Forget about Sparta. This is Norland and we’re the ’97 Vikings. The best to ever do it!
So, if you ever happen to venture through a small section of Miami Gardens called “The Norland Area”, go to 195th and 12th then drive slow. Although the old building no longer exists and a new one stands, the richness of the Norland legacy still permeates the air and the history of ’97 can be felt in the foundation of that hallowed city block.
Miami Norland Senior High Class of ’97 yesterday, today and forever.