Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Trapped in the Pork 'n' Beans

The Liberty Square Housing Project, aka the Pork 'n' Beans.

Imagine living in a prison with no bars, no fences, no guards; but knowing you're trapped with little or no hope of ever escaping.

That's what Miami New Times managing editor Tim Elfrink found when he visited Miami's crime-ridden Pork 'n' Beans housing project to follow up on the Christmas eve morning stabbing of Phillip Arthur - a 24 year-old father of three - at the hands of his neighbor, Dorian Hinkson.
Phillip Arthur grew up far from Pork 'n' Beans, amid a big extended family in South Miami Heights, where he attended Ruth Owen Middle School and later graduated from Miami Killian Senior High. But after he and Moore began having children — son Phillip Jr. and daughters Anijah and Tanijah — the couple wanted to make their own life in Miami.

(NOTE: Some say Pork 'n Beans, the name given to the Liberty Square projects at Northwest 63rd Street and 14th Avenue springs from the projects' most popular food. Others say it's used because the roofs there are tinted sweet orange-red. -Miami Herald, Nov. 19, 1989.)

Arthur's family, like most Liberty Square tenants, had stayed for a couple years but wanted to leave. Today there's a waiting list of more than 1,000 names of residents asking to leave Pork 'n' Beans. But the young dad didn't just have the bad fortune of ending up in one of Miami's worst housing projects; he also got stuck in a single-story, blue-painted unit that shared a wall with [Dorian] Hinkson's home.
(Residents of the Pork 'n' Beans live with violence on an almost daily basis. Five and a half years ago, on July 1, 2006, 9 year-old Sherdavia Jenkins was playing in the housing project when she was killed by a stray bullet fired by warring drug dealers. The Miami Herald pulled out all the stops and covered every angle of Sherdavia's senseless killing. Ironically, Phillip Arthur bled to death just two short blocks from where little Sherdavia was gunned down.)

This time Herald editors decided the story of Arthur's murder was worthy enough to give it a few lines on the inside pages of its Christmas day paper. The Associated Press sent out six line brief. And then, the media moved on.

But, Elfrink decided to dig deeper after looking into Hinkson's background and checking out his rap sheet.

Elfrink followed up with a visit to the housing project; talking to neighbors of Arthur and Hinkson.
About five years ago, the unemployed native of St. Vincent lost his wife, neighbors say. And then his kids moved out. Hinkson, in turn, began struggling with serious mental illness — and with police.
A few days ago, Elfrink attended a memorial service for Phillip Arthur at a small Homestead church.
Last Saturday, more than a hundred mourners packed the Homestead Christian Center Ministries, a small church adorned with velvet curtains a few blocks west of Krome Avenue. They remembered a quiet father and placed flowers on his ivory-hued casket; his sisters, Clarenesha and Clarandra Cowart, sobbed as they read poems about their brother.

Toward the end of the service, his brother Mark wiped his eyes and walked to the altar with a wireless microphone. In a keening tenor, he sang a song likely to resonate with everyone still left in Pork 'n' Beans. "Why can't we just fly away?" he sang. "Why can't we all just fly away?"
Read Elfrink's full story by clicking here.


  1. I can perhaps explain why you've seen a jump in views. Pork and beans was featured on an episode of "The First 48" on A&E last week. People are probably like me, and wondered why they're called that, and looked into it. Hope this helps.

  2. I also seen it on the first 48 this project has been on the show more than 1time and the crime is allways gang related

  3. I'm watching an episode of "The First 48" right now, where there are two warring factions. They live two streets apart from one another, yet the members of these two gangs simply want to kill each other. Even though I grew up in an inner city neighborhood with plenty of gang activity, I will never understand the gang mentality. Some of these young men have excellent families. Their mothers care about them and raise them with better morals than this. In any case, I just wanted to echo the thoughts that it is a sad situation when young people have a main goal in their lives of killing other young people, instead of striving for excellence in their own lives. They want to do these killings rather than excelling in their areas of talents and gifts. What is the answer for this violence?


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