Camp's 'ghetto' show called insult Miami leaders defended, then apologized for planning a 'Ghetto Style Talent Show' as part of a summer camp picnic. A city press release that promised a ''Ghetto Style Talent Show'' and ''Watermelon Eating Contest'' during a summer camp picnic in the heart of Miami's black community drew sharp outrage on Monday from some Model City residents who live near the park where the events are scheduled. The press release said, ``campers who think they know the true meaning of ghetto style will take to the stage to prove just how ghetto they are.'' ''We're not trying to be ghetto, we're trying to come out of the ghetto and be a civilized people,'' said Model City resident Grady Muhammad, who added that the billed talent show portrayed the neighborhood's youth as ''subhuman'' or ``animals.'' Likewise, the watermeloneating contest echoes unflattering stereotypes and is ''an insult to black history and black pride,'' said Marvin Dunn, a Florida International University psychology professor and an expert on Miami's historically tense race relations. The events are part of a grand finale picnic for Miami's summer-camp program, which provides affordable summer camps for thousands of children aged 7-13 citywide. Thousands of children from across Miami are expected to attend the picnic on Friday at Hadley Park, 1300 NW 50th St., which will also feature a chess tournament and sidewalk art contest. Miami's parks department Monday afternoon defended both the talent show and watermeloneating contest, but soon did an abrupt about-face. At 4:37 p.m. -- about an hour and a half after being questioned by the Herald on the issue -- Parks Director Ernest Burkeen issued a formal written apology for the ``Ghetto Style Talent Show.'' SHOW RENAMED 'The word ghetto was used to imply a down home show, not something offensive, but embracing the culture of today's youth and their language. The show has been renamed the `Funky Talent Show,' '' Burkeen wrote. The watermelon contest, for now, is here to stay. ''It's the summer, it's hot, and watermelons are eaten on a regular basis by kids in our parks,'' City spokesperson Kelly Penton told the Herald. The picnic will include children from not only Model City, but across the city -- about 3,000 kids. Dunn, of FIU, recalled how Jim Crow-era images and postcards often portrayed blacks as watermelon-eating buffoons. ''If I eat a piece of watermelon, I do it inside,'' Dunn said. ``I have that little piece of historical damage that you just don't get away from.'' There were no charges of racism leveled at City Hall on Monday, in large part due to one fact: Burkeen, the parks director, is black. ''So it just has to be insensitive,'' said Dunn, who is also black. He sighed. ``It's upsetting.'' Burkeen called the watermelon issue ``probably an old stereotype that dates back to the 1950s. This is 2005.'' ''We didn't look at it as a stereotype,'' Burkeen told the Herald. ``We looked at it as another food contest, like bobbing for apples or something.'' ''Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously,'' he said. Burkeen also said that the words and images blared across the world by rap music artists are ''far more damaging'' to the image of African Americans than the use of the term ''ghetto'' to describe a talent show. ''When you talk about some of the sex and violence that's around in this rap music -- that's played every day, that's celebrated every day,'' Burkeen said. ``It's about perspective.'' Rap music for decades has identified itself as a product of the ghetto. Clothing inspired by the musical genre is described sometimes by those who buy it with the word ``ghetto.'' TROUBLESOME CHOICE University of Miami sociology professor George Wilson -- a self-described ''white Jew from New York'' who studies race and ethnic relations -- said a simple Google search on the Internet revealed that the word ghetto had become ``a little bit of a term of art.'' But Wilson said the word still inspired thoughts of criminality, low intelligence, and lack of respect for authority in others. Coupling a ''ghetto'' contest with the watermelon reference made both the more troublesome, Wilson added. ''I think it's shameful,'' Wilson said. http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/12221860.htm ------- But WE ALL know what would have happened if she was white.