Floating 'Water Rights' Show Brings Back Black History To Miami Beach

May 28, 2019

A floating digital billboard in the ocean off South Beach Monday afternoon aimed to make black visitors feel relaxed and at home at the beach. 

The project, called “Water Rights,” was created by artist Johanne Rahaman with support from the Knight Foundation and a $20,000 grant from Oolite Arts, a local organization that fosters visual artists. 

Rahaman saw the need for a project like 'Water Rights' to counteract the negative image of the black community and water, which she says has been implicit in recent moves by the city to cut down on partying during certain times of the year. 

"It’s an examination of the African diaspora relationship to water throughout history to contemporary,” she said about the project. 

The artist, who's also the founder of Black Florida, an online visual and audio archive of the black community throughout the state of Florida, combined historical images and contextual quotes that were screened on a digital billboard that floated from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on South Beach, between 5th and 30th streets. 

Among the images featured were photos of people partying on South Beach, dancing in the streets, hanging out by a pool, participating in Gay Pride, fishing and an ancestral ceremony at Virginia Key Beach -- Miami’s first black beach during segregation. 

“The purpose of the show is to bring images back from previous Urban Beach Weekend shows and from across the state to create a sense of... home," she said. 

Rahaman said the project is important to understand that even though the times are different, certain groups still need to feel more welcomed in Miami Beach. 

Rahaman says she saw fewer black visitors on the beach than in other years, but the message was there. 

Click on the arrow below to see part of the "Water Rights" video: 

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May 27, 2019 at 3:19am PDT