Urban Waterways Research Trip: Bayou la Batre, Alabama

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - Paul Nelson with friends and supporters at the site of his former oyster processing plant which was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – Paul Nelson with friends and supporters at the site of his former oyster processing plant which was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution.

The last stop on our Gulf Coast tour was the historic town of Bayou La Batre, made famous by the movie Forrest Gump.  Here local activist and former 3rd generation shrimper Paul Nelson leads efforts to improve services for the town which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina when the highest storm surge ever recorded in the area (16 ft), and then again by the BP oil spill, 5 years later.

Mr. Nelson had a prosperous oyster business back in 2005, and a processing plant, the foundation of which is pictured below.  No stranger to rebuilding a business, Mr. Nelson restarted his fishing business as a younger man after another disaster, but says of this time, “I am too old to begin again.” Now, the foundation of his oyster processing plant is a home to an RV and trailer, which provide permanent housing for Mr. Nelson’s relatives, 10 years after Katrina first made shore.

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - The concrete foundation is all that remains of fisherman Paul Nelson's oyster processing plant which was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – The concrete foundation is all that remains of fisherman Paul Nelson’s oyster processing plant which was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - Paul Nelson gives a tour of Coden and Bayou La Batre, Alabama which was devastated by both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – Paul Nelson gives a tour of Coden and Bayou La Batre, Alabama which was devastated by both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - Paul Nelson gives a tour of Coden and Bayou La Batre, Alabama which was devastated by both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – Paul Nelson gives a tour of Coden and Bayou La Batre, Alabama, showing us a new waste treatment plant that the local government had built.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - Paul Nelson gives a tour of Coden and Bayou La Batre, Alabama which was devastated by both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – The Gulf Coast shoreline of Bayou La Batre, where vacation homes were rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - Paul Nelson gives a tour of Coden and Bayou La Batre, Alabama which was devastated by both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – An ante-bellum home which was rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it is situated on the Gulf Coast road in Bayou La Batre.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - A home abandoned since Hurricane Katrina. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – A home abandoned since Hurricane Katrina.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

We stopped at the local cemetery, where Mr. Nelson’s own stepson is buried. He died at the age of 28 of an unknown health issue.  Mr. Nelson has been active in advocating for the disbursement of Katrina/BP funds to help with the health issues he reports all around the Bayou La Batre – Coden communities.  He has written passionately on behalf of his family and neighbors, detailing the continuing travails in the community.  In a December 2010 letter submitted to ehumanrights.org, he writes:

Coden has never seen so many people pass away in such a short time. My neighbor Delaphine Barber, age 75 lost her home and died from a heart attack about a year after Katrina. Other neighbors who died, trying to survive in the [formaldehyde emitting] FEMA campers, and hoping to see their homes rebuilt were: Sally Dismukes, age 72, died of a heart attack; Tommy Barbour age 56, died of lung cancer; Michael Goleman, age 36 father of two teenage daughters, suicide; Shirley Clark, age 65, complications from a staph infection; Randy Hall, age 45, lung cancer; Nancy Maples, age 57. Most have spouses or children who are still hoping to see their family homes rebuilt. My mother Hilda Nelson died after living in a FEMA camper over a year and hoping for assistance to rebuild the family that never came…

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - The cemetery serving Coden and Bayou La Batre Alabama. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – The grave of Mr. Kevin Dewayne Craft, Mr. Nelson’s stepson, who died of an unknown health ailment in 2013 at the age of 28.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Mr. Nelson locates many of the community’s health problems to after an oil dispersant was sprayed over the Gulf Coast shores in the aftermath of the BP oil spill. The dispersant was meant to put the oil on top of the water at the bottom of the ocean.

Today Mr. Nelson continues to advocate on behalf of his beloved Bayou La Batre.  The first day we went to see him Mr. Nelson never showed up.  He was in the hospital dealing with complications from diabetes and blood clots.  Despite his illness, Mr. Nelson insisted we come back the next day, finishing the tour in his modest pre-fabricated home, where Urban Waterways researcher interviewed him for several hours.

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - Local activist Paul Nelson gives an interview in the trailer that serves as his home after his home was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – Local activist Paul Nelson gives an interview in the trailer that serves as his home after his home was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 - Coden, Alabama - A vignette in the home of Paul Nelson. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 12, 2015 – Coden, Alabama – A vignette in the home of Paul Nelson.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

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The Gulf Coast seen from Bayou La Batre, the setting for the movie, Forrest Gump. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Museum/Smithsonian Institution

All the interviews and audio we collected our available by making an appointment with the Anacostia Community Museum Archives.  We encourage you to visit our archives and use our research for your own studies.

 

 

 

Urban Waterways Research Project: Africatown, Alabama Part Two

Oluale Kossol, known as Kudjoe Lewis, last surving member of the slave-ship Clothilde, and Africatown, Alabama resident.

Unaware I was at the time, but in making our research trip to Africatown, we were following in the footsteps of acclaimed writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston who visited in 1928 in order to interview the last remaining formerly enslaved man in America, Africatown resident Cudjoe Lewis. Originally born in what is now Benin, Cudjoe Lewis was born Oluale Kossola and captured in his early twenties to be part of the cargo of the Clothilde, the last ship to transport captured Africans to the United States.

December 8, 2015 - Joe Womack of Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 8, 2015 – Joe Womack of Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

You can read more about the lives of the passengers of the Clothilde in the book by author Sylviane Anna Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama. Today, the descendants of Africatowns original settlers are some of the few African Americans who can trace their lineage back to Africa.

Urban Waterways researcher Katrina Lashley and I met with Joe Womack, a local activist in the Africatown community at the old Mobile County Training School, the local high school, where the Africatown historical collection is housed in a cinderblock building used for events called, “The Den.”  There the community works to preserve their history and maintain their community, while protecting it from ongoing environmental concerns.

The various displays preserving Africatown’s history, lineage, an individuals are testament to the pride this community takes in sharing their heritage, and the tenuousness with which they have been supported in their efforts to preserve this historical village.

 

December 11, 2015 - The Mobile County Training School in Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The Mobile County Training School in Africatown, Alabama. This is the local high school of Africatown.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - The Mobile County Training School in Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The Mobile County Training School in Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - A historical exhibit in Africatown near Mobile, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – A historical exhibit in Africatown near Mobile, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - A historical exhibit in Africatown near Mobile, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The MCTS Class of 1969.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - A historical exhibit in Africatown near Mobile, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – A memorial to William Clark, community servant of Africatown. Mr. Clark served 26 years in the Alabama House of Representatives in the district that serves Africatown.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - A historical exhibit in Africatown near Mobile, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The Class of 1958.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - A historical exhibit in Africatown near Mobile, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – Commemorating Heritage Day in the Africatown neighborhood of Lewis Quarters, a historically significant subdivsion, now cut off from the rest of Africatown by lumber mills.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 8, 2015 - Mary Louise Moorer of Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 8, 2015 – Mary Louise Moorer of Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

After we interviewed and recorded several residents stories, including Mary Louise Moorer, pictured above, Mr. Womack gave us a tour of the greater Africatown environs.  The first stop was the large community garden that Africatown residents use for sustenance.

December 11, 2015 - Homes in Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – Homes in Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

December 11, 2015 - The community garden in Africatown, Alabama grows collard greens, sugarcane, and other produce for local residents. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The community garden in Africatown, Alabama grows collard greens, sugarcane, and other produce for local residents.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - The community garden in Africatown, Alabama grows collard greens, sugarcane, and other produce for local residents. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The community garden in Africatown, Alabama grows collard greens, sugarcane, and other produce for local residents.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - Joe Womack of Africatown, Alabama, tours the neighborhood. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – Joe Womack of Africatown, Alabama, tours the neighborhood.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Nearly every waterway appeared to be flanked by industry: Scott Paper, tank farms, Plank Marketing’s storage tanks holding environmental waste imported from Canada line the shores of the Mobile River near Magazine Point, a part of Africatown.  These original tracts of Africatown have been cut off from each other by development, as in the case of the neighborhood of Lewis Quarters.  And Africatown is not alone.  Uniting with environmental and social justice activists along the coast, Africatown is sharing stories through outlets like Bridge the Gulf, and building awareness for their precarious existence not far from the shores of the Mobile River.

December 11, 2015 -Homes in Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 -Homes in Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - The Mobile County Training School garden in Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The Mobile County Training School garden in Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - The Cochrane Africatown USA Bridge. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The Cochrane Africatown USA Bridge, rebuilt to span 2 miles, bifurcates the historic Magazine Point neighborhood of Africatown, which was named after the Civil War munitions storage facility that exploded on that site.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - A tour of the Africatown, Alabama environs which is surrounded by industrial plants. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The Africatown Bridge, spans two miles, and is flanked by the Mobile River, container farms and industrial plants. 
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - Containers and cargo line the shoreline of the Mobile River near Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – Containers and cargo line the shoreline of the Mobile River near Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 - A tour of the Africatown, Alabama environs which is surrounded by industrial plants. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The entrance to Lewis Quarters.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The entrance of Lewis Quarters, built by the descendants of Cudjoe Lewis, is cut off from the rest of Africatown by a meat packing plant and lumber mill, which cause environmental degradation to the immediate environs.

December 11, 2015 - A tour of the Africatown, Alabama environs which is surrounded by industrial plants. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – Lewis Quarters today.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

December 11, 2015 - A tour of the Africatown, Alabama environs which is surrounded by industrial plants. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – Three Mile River, near Lewis Quarters, a tributary to the Mobile River.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 -Homes in Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 -Homes in Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

This is just a brief overview of the historic community of Africatown, Alabama, a Gulf Coast community struggling to preserve itself while facing the challenges of industry, development, politics and resources.

Anacostia Museum Academy: Black History Month Celebration Event

February 29, 2016 - The Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – The Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

This year in honor of Black History month students at Savoy Elementary got together to create a Black History Month program which featured a variety of developing talents in dance, word, writing, yoga, and stilt-walking. The Anacostia Community Museum Academy is based out of Savoy Elementary and the program featured a number of Museum Academy students.

February 29, 2016 - The Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – The Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 - Linda Maxwell of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy makes opening remarks at a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Linda Maxwell of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy makes opening remarks at a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 - The Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – The Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

February 29, 2016 - The Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – The Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 - Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy recite poetry during a performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy recite poetry during a performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 - Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy recite poetry during a performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy recite poetry during a performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 - Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy during a yoga demonstration at a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian InstitutionFebruary 29, 2016 – Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy during a yoga demonstration at a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 - Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy during a yoga demonstration at a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy during a yoga demonstration at a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 - Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy during a yoga demonstration at a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy during a yoga demonstration at a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 - Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy perform on stilts during a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – Members of the Anacostia Community Museum Academy perform on stilts during a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 - The Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

February 29, 2016 – Mrs. Carol Foster rallies her Savoy Players during their performance in a Black History Month event at Savoy Elementary in SE Washington, DC.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Urban Waterways Research Project: Africatown, Alabama Part One

December 11, 2015 - A historical exhibit in Africatown near Mobile, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – A historical exhibit in Africatown near Mobile, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Africatown, Alabama was the location of our penultimate stop along the Gulf Coast for this segment of the Urban Waterways Research Project .  Africatown, which is also known as AfricaTown USA or Plateau, is located just 3 miles north of downtown Mobile.  The origin story of Africatown is inexorably tied to the story of slavery in the U.S.  The slave trade had been outlawed in the US in 1808.  Just prior to the beginning of the Civil War, a group of wealthy southern landowners  wagered a bet that they could defy federal law and import a boat of slaves undetected into the US.  Timothy Meaher, a Mobile businessman, financed the last known ship of enslaved Africans, the Clothilde, to Alabama after betting an alleged $100,000 that he would do so undetected.

December 11, 2015 - A marker commemorates the name of the slaveholder Meaher in Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – A marker commemorates the name of  Meaher in Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Meaher lost his bet, but avoided conviction, likely because of the start of the Civil War.  The majority of the slaves stayed in the area, first as slaves owned by investors in Meaher’s folly, and later as a free people following the outcome of the Civil War.

December 11, 2015 - The only remaining remnant of former slaves homes is a chimney in Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The only remaining remnant of former slaves homes is a chimney in Africatown, Alabama.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

They settled on Meaher’s land, designing a community very much like that of their West African homeland, retaining their language, traditions and culture well into the 21st century.

December 11, 2015 - A tour of the Africatown, Alabama environs which is surrounded by industrial plants. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – Magazine Point, the site where the passengers of the Clothilde first disembarked at the convergence of the Mobile River and Three Mile Creek.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Today, the city of Mobile has built up around Africatown. Access to the Mobile River, including the site where the Clothilde’s passengers first disembarked – a site of historical significance known as Magazine Point, is populated by a tank farm which holds tar oil sands imported from Canada.

December 11, 2015 - Containers and cargo line the shoreline of the Mobile River near Africatown, Alabama. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – Containers and cargo line the shoreline of the Mobile River near Africatown, Alabama seen from the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

According to local activist, Joe Womack, this site is slated to be expanded, and is just one of many afflictions to this area.  He reported in the community website, Bridge the Gulf:

Another tragedy occurred when the Africatown Guardians were convinced to let the Alabama Highway Department rebuild The Cochrane Bridge after it had been damaged during a hurricane. Before then the Africatown residents had always resisted efforts to rebuild the bridge. The Highway Department told Africatown they would change the name of the Cochrane Bridge to The Africatown Cochrane Bridge and the residents fell for it.

 

Today that bridge that used to be about one quarter mile long is now about 2 miles in length and half of Magazine Point had to be destroyed or moved to accommodate this new bridge. That area was next declared a flood zone and now to get a permit to repair older homes, residents must first raise their house to a certain level and most residents can’t afford to do that. Consequently, houses are not being repaired. Miraculously, residents manage to maintain their homes as best they can.

 

Tragically, during the 1990’s an asphalt company decided to relocate from West Mobile to Magazine Point almost in the middle of the night and without going through all the proper channels. After local resident complained and the newspaper did a story on it, the owner’s comments were,”I didn’t think I needed any permits to relocate in this area”. The business was allowed to continue construction after paying only a small fine and is still polluting the area today.”

December 11, 2015 - A tour of the Africatown, Alabama environs which is surrounded by industrial plants. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – Local activist Joe Womack stands underneath the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge near where the passengers in the Clothilde disembarked.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Ironically, Magazine Point is also the final resting place of this last shipment of slaves because Africatown’s Cemetery is located in Magazine Point. Their graves face eastward, towards their African homeland.

December 11, 2015 - The Old Plateau cemetery established in 1876 for Africatown residents. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 11, 2015 – The Old Plateau cemetery established in 1876 for Africatown residents.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

In my travels throughout the country, I am sometimes dismayed by the disregard given to the decaying reminders of a shameful shared history.  I encourage all communities to re-examine their history, and pay homage by preserving the memory and the object that defines our historically significant moments.  As George Santayana famously said, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The community of Africatown represents the resilience and community organizing spirit of a people brought to America against their will, and who survived, adapted, and perhaps thrived, not because of but in spite of (to paraphrase William Faulkner).

This is part one of our Africatown sojourn. To be continued . . . .

 

Urban Waterways Research Project: Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi

December 10, 2015 - The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 10, 2015 – The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

A third stop on our tour of the Mississippi/Alabama coast was the small town of Moss Point, Mississippi.  A small community with a population less than 20,000 people, Moss Point was hit by the strong eastern side of Hurricane Katrina, when it passed 30 miles east of central New Orleans. Much of Moss Point was flooded or destroyed in one day, by the strong hurricane-force winds which lasted several hours and a storm surge exceeding 20 feet in some areas.  You can see some of the devastation at Moss Point in the wake of the hurricane here.

December 10, 2015 - The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 10, 2015 – The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

We were coming to tour the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, a part of the National Audubon Society: a non-profit organization focused on promoting conservation and education about birds and wildlife and the habitats that support them. Perched on the watershed of the Pascagoula River, one of the last, large, free-flowing river systems in the contiguous United States, a state of the art green building houses the center.  This place is a birder’s paradise, with over 300 species of birds enjoying the ecosystem there.

December 10, 2015 - The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Here, Mark LaSalle at the center gives a tour of the wetlands around the center. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 10, 2015 – The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Here, Mark LaSalle at the center gives a tour of the wetlands around the center.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Mark LaSalle is the Director of the Pascagoula River Audubon Center. Mark is responsible for coordinating the continued development of the  Center and expanding Audubon’s educational and citizen science programs in south Mississippi. Mark is a wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans.  Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.

December 10, 2015 - The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Here, Mark LaSalle at the center gives a tour of the wetlands around the center. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 10, 2015 – The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Here, Mark LaSalle at the center gives a tour of the wetlands around the center.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Mark’s passion for his work is palpable as he shows us around the Center and the many sustainable environmental practices they have implemented.  He also saved an original 1930’s boy scout cottage on the center’s site which is used for small group meetings.  He was instrumental in helping the community leaders of Turkey Creek protect that body of water from further development.

December 10, 2015 - The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 10, 2015 – Inside the restored cottage of Mississippi Boy Scout Troop 220, dating from 1932.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Together, Audubon and community leaders in Gulfport, Mississippi are protecting Turkey Creek‘s rich cultural and natural history. When LaSalle became director of the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, 30 miles from Turkey Creek, he brought with him a commitment to the community’s plight. With local activist Derrick Evans,  Mark began small with simple events like Creek Sweep focused on getting people into the “creek” to remove decades of debris.

December 10, 2015 - The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 10, 2015 – Development on the Pascagoula River near the Audubon Center at Moss Point, Mississippi.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Promotion of the Great Backyard Bird Count and a one-day Biological Inventory of the creek helped to highlight just how special the area was as a refuge for common birds and wildlife and as an important stopover for migrating birds in spring and fall. The value of the site for birds led Audubon and the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society to recognize Turkey Creek as a site on the Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail.

December 10, 2015 - The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 10, 2015 – The Pascagoula River Audubon Center coopted the resources of a visiting artist to make these murals on the center’s fence at Moss Point, Mississippi.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

“The Turkey Creek community has long recognized Audubon’s role in helping it raise attention about the value of our natural areas for birds and people and for being the first group of naturalists to do so. Being identified on Audubon’s Coastal Birding Trail by Judy Toups, Don McKee and Mark LaSalle, provided a pivotal boost to our credibility and confidence as a place that is important beyond our immediate borders.”– Derrick Evans

December 10, 2015 - The Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 10, 2015 – The Chimney Swift Tower, built by a boy scout for his project, provides shelter to the only swift occurring regularly in the east. It once nested in hollow trees, but today it nearly always nests in chimneys or other structures. Because the bird can be easily captured and banded in such situations, it has been studied much more thoroughly than other North American swifts. In late summer, hundreds or even thousands of individuals may roost in one large chimney, gathering in spectacular flocks overhead near dusk..
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Many other organizations have joined forces with the Turkey Creek Community Initiative , established by Derrick in 2003 with a mission “to conserve, restore and utilize the unique cultural, historical and environmental resources of the Turkey Creek community and watershed for education and other socially beneficial purposes.”

I left inspired by the good work that Mark LaSalle and his staff do at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Mississippi: from preservation to education, advocacy and coalition building, the center is doing good work to preserve the environmental resources for future generations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

 

Annual Martin Luther King Jr Celebration Event with keynote speaker Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Friday January 15 saw the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life and legacy, an annual program hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum, at the Baird auditorium in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.  The keynote address by Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, and an on-stage discussion on the theme of “Looking Back, Moving Forward” with moderator Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the D.C. Public Library system were well attended.

January 15, 2016 - Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton, Anacostia Community Museum Director Camille Akeju, Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Richard Reyes-Gavilan, and Paul Perry pose for a photograph prior to the commencement of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton, Anacostia Community Museum Director Camille Akeju, Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Richard Reyes-Gavilan, and Paul Perry pose for a photograph prior to the commencement of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Attendees gather for the 2016 Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Anniversary Celebration. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Attendees gather for the 2016 Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Anniversary Celebration. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Smithsonian Institution Secretary David Skorton makes remarks at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Smithsonian Institution Secretary David Skorton makes remarks at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Members of the Anacostia Museum Youth Advisory Board and Museum Academy present themselves before the audience at the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Members of the Anacostia Museum Youth Advisory Board and Museum Academy present themselves before the audience at the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Deputy DC Mayor for greater economic opportunity Courtney Snowden made remarks at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Deputy DC Mayor for greater economic opportunity Courtney Snowden made remarks at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad gave the keynote address for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad gave the keynote address for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad and DC Public LIbrary Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan answered questions from the audience at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad and DC Public LIbrary Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan answered questions from the audience at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Members of the audience ask questions during the 2016 Anacostia Community Museum Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Members of the audience ask questions during the 2016 Anacostia Community Museum Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 - Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

January 15, 2016 – Crazee Praize Nation performed for the Anacostia Community Museum 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Celebration event.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Urban Waterways Research Project: Asian Americans for Change in Biloxi, Mississippi

 

December 7, 2015 - Biloxi, Mississippi - MIickey Sou, a local activist in the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, MIssissippi is active in the organization Asian Americans for Change. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Mickey Sou
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Urban Waterways researcher Katrina Lashley and I continued our gulf coast exploration with local activist, Mickey Sou, of Asian Americans for Change, an advocacy group that was founded in the vacuum created by Hurricane Katrina, where communities found they needed to organize to facilitate more engagement with officials in the chaos of the post-storm recovery. Mickey Sou was born in Montana, the child of Vietnamese immigrants. He was one month old when his parents relocated to Biloxi.

Many Vietnamese emigrated to the gulf coast following the end of the Vietnam war.  Biloxi has a strong Vietnamese community comprised of many of these first and second wave immigrants and their families, who established strong ties in the shrimping community.

 

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou Photo credit: Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou

The warm waters of the gulf coast provided a good living for fishermen dredging the waters for oysters and shrimp. Hurricane Katrina was devastating, but many were able to go back to making their living after the storm clean-up.  The BP oil spill, five years later in 2005 severely compromised the environment and eliminated this livelihood for many.  A website, BridgeTheGulfProject.org, gathers the stories of many Gulf Coast residents and depicts the plight of Vietnamese fishermen four years after BP in the entry here.

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou Photo credit: Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Mickey Sou’s father and sons, Biloxi, Mississippi. Courtesy Mickey Sou

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou Photo credit: Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Mickey Sou and his mother, Mississippi. Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou Photo credit: Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Mickey Sou’s father in Vietnam. Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou Photo credit: Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Mickey Sou as a young boy growing up in Gulfport, Mississippi with his brothers. Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou Photo credit: Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi. Courtesy of Mickey Sou

December 7, 2015 - Gulfport, Mississippi - The Industrial Canal Way where the shrimp boats were parked during and before Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Biloxi, Mississippi – Mickey Sou shows us the Industrial Canal Way where shrimp boats and other sea vessels battened down during Hurricane Katrina.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 7, 2015 - Gulfport, Mississippi - The Industrial Canal Way where the shrimp boats were parked during and before Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Gulfport, Mississippi – The Industrial Canal Way where the shrimp boats were parked during and before Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou Photo credit: Courtesy of Mickey Sou

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou

Personal photographs of members of the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, Mississippi courtesy of Mickey Sou Photo credit: Courtesy of Mickey Sou

The Chua Van Duc Buddhist Temple in Biloxi right after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.   Courtesy of Mickey Sou

December 7, 2015 - Biloxi, Mississippi - The Chua Van Duc Buddhist Temple in Biloxi Mississippi. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 7, 2015 – Biloxi, Mississippi – The Chua Van Duc Buddhist Temple in Biloxi Mississippi today.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 7, 2015 - Biloxi, Mississippi - Anacostia Community Museum Researcher Katrina Lashley and local Miceky Sou explore the neighborhood where the Vietnamese Catholic Church on Oak St. in Biloxi Mississippi sits next door to the Buddhist temple. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 7, 2015 – Biloxi, Mississippi – Anacostia Community Museum Researcher Katrina Lashley and local Miceky Sou explore the neighborhood where the Vietnamese Catholic Church on Oak St. in Biloxi Mississippi sits next door to the Buddhist temple.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 7, 2015 - Biloxi, Mississippi - The Biloxi Small Craft Harbor where local shrimpers dock their boats on the Biloxi coast. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Biloxi, Mississippi – The Biloxi Small Craft Harbor where local shrimpers dock their boats on the Biloxi coast.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 7, 2015 - Biloxi, Mississippi - The Biloxi Small Craft Harbor where local shrimpers dock their boats on the Biloxi coast. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Large gulf shrimp being sold wholesale. 
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 7, 2015 - Biloxi, Mississippi - The Biloxi Small Craft Harbor where local shrimpers dock their boats on the Biloxi coast. Here, shrimper Duc Nguyen sells shrimp to customers directly from his boat. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Biloxi Small Craft Harbor where local shrimpers dock their boats on the Biloxi coast. Here, shrimper Duc Nguyen sells shrimp to customers directly from his boat.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 7, 2015 - Biloxi, Mississippi - Sea gulls, waterfowl and a pelican rest on a pier at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor where local shrimpers dock their boats on the Biloxi coast. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Biloxi, Mississippi – Sea gulls, waterfowl and a pelican rest on a pier at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor where local shrimpers dock their boats on the Biloxi coast.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The gulf coast today is still in recovery from natural and man-made disasters.  We hope that you will follow along as we continue to process and go deeper into our research and share with you in their own words, the experiences of these gulf coast residents and their communities.

 

 

12 Years that Changed Washington Exhibit

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit opening for Twelve Years that Shook and Shaped Washington was a bittersweet affair, held shortly after the passing of Head Curator Portia James in early December.  Portia had worked at the Anacostia Community Museuem for over thirty years, guiding many exhibitions including this last.

 

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Head Curator Portia James, pictured left, was honored at the entrance to the exhibit.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Artist and printmaker Lou Stovall’s work graced the interior lobby and the Kinnard Gallery.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Vintage radio broacasts include WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi show, still airing today on FM 88.5
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Plenty of contemporary photography illuminates the struggles of times.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Chuck Brown and DC Go Go music are familiar to most Washingtonians. 
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

More illuminating were quieter events like the impact of urban planning and local historical events. 
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The development of the DC metro was not without displacement of communities.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Refashioning a federal city in DC explores home rule, racial demoghraphics, urban planning, and womens and LBGT rights.  Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader Stokely Carmichael, left, and H. Rap Brown, minister of justice for the Black Panthers.  in a vintage photograph.  
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

A signature image of community activist,  Rufus “Catfish” Mayfield in 1967 and members of Youth Pride Inc. Mayfield employed over 900 youth to clean up the neighborhoods where they lived. Associated Press Photo

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit, Twelve Years that Changed Washington.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Urban Waterways Research Project : Turkey Creek, Mississippi

Turkey Creek, Mississippi, was once an isolated waterway until the city of Gulfport's growth built around the watershed (which abuts the international airport). Today, Turkey Creek is a watershed at risk of development. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Turkey Creek, Mississippi, was once an isolated waterway until the city of Gulfport’s growth built around the watershed (which abuts the international airport). Today, Turkey Creek is a watershed at risk of development.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

In early December the Anacostia Community Museum Urban Waterways project headed to Gulfport, Mississippi to continue fieldwork on communities facing a myriad of issues on the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coasts.  Long before Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil spill created environmental havoc on this major urban waterway of the Gulf Coast, communities like Turkey Creek, MS, and Africatown, AL, were being formed by newly freed slaves (Turkey Creek), and by slaves that were brought to this country and released before they were sold (Africatown).

December 13, 2015 - The community of Turkey Creek, Mississippi, abuts the waterway of the same name and is surrounded by the expansion of Gulport around the historically African American community. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 13, 2015 – The community of Turkey Creek, Mississippi, abuts the waterway of the same name and is surrounded by the expansion of Gulport around the historically African American community. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Today the damaging legacy of the Jim Crow south where racial inequality informed urban planning has been compounded by natural and man-made disasters which threatens the communities researcher Katrina Lashley and I visited.

 Turkey Creek, Mississippi is the subject of a documentary by Leah Mahan, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek. The film follows local Derrick Evans’ struggle to defend the coastal Mississippi watershed where his ancestors settled as former slaves. Following his journey for ten years, Derrick and his allies confront blatant racism of city officials and short-sighted plans for development that would destroy the ecology and culture of Turkey Creek only to face our nation’s most devastating, natural and manmade disasters: Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster.

 

December 13, 2015 - The community of Turkey Creek, Mississippi, abuts the waterway of the same name and is surrounded by the expansion of Gulport around the historically African American community. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 13, 2015 – The community of Turkey Creek, Mississippi,a sign illustrates the diversity of avian species which frequent Turkey Creek. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

By finding community stakeholders, like bird lovers, Turkey Creek was able to tell its story on the national level, by partnering with migratory birds and the Audubon Society, awareness was raised and action taken to protect the watershed.

December 13, 2015 - The community of Turkey Creek, Mississippi, abuts the waterway of the same name and is surrounded by the expansion of Gulport around the historically African American community. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 13, 2015 – “God Will Make A Way,” is emblazoned over the local church’s carport in Turkey Creek, Mississippi. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Today, Turkey Creek is a small community sandwiched between the Gulfport International Airport, and strip malls.  Like many successful communities, Turkey Creek negotiated a livelihood for its residences when it established a Creosote Plant to employ its residents.  The Creosote Plant is long gone, but we toured one of the buildings associated with the plant that the community is seeking to preserve.

December 13, 2015 - Turkey Creek, Mississippi, where the airport was built near the watershed. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 13, 2015 – Turkey Creek, Mississippi, where the airport was built near the watershed.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

December 13, 2015 - The community of Turkey Creek, Mississippi, abuts the waterway of the same name and is surrounded by the expansion of Gulport around the historically African American community. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 13, 2015 – The community of Turkey Creek, Mississippi, abuts the waterway of the same name and is surrounded by the expansion of Gulport around the historically African American community. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

December 8, 2015 - Mr. Eugene Johnson, a resident of Turkey Creek, MIssissippi talks about life in Turkey Creek outside a building which housed the office of the Creosote plant in Turkey Creek. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 8, 2015 – Mr. Eugene Johnson, a resident of Turkey Creek, MIssissippi talks about life in Turkey Creek outside a building which housed the office of the Creosote plant in Turkey Creek.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Listening to the stories of what these communities struggle with, and witnessing their coalition building as they gather support among like-minded communities along the Gulf was a powerful lesson before the winter holidays.  I was poignantly reminded about how fragile our history is, the depth of human suffering, and the power and necessity of partnership in speaking truth to power.  It is through recording and disseminating stories like those of Turkey Creek and the Gulf Coast that the Anacostia Community Museum seeks to share and store history and culture for the betterment of communities in the future.

December 8, 2015 - The former office of the Creosote Plant in Turkey Creek, MIssissippi. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 8, 2015 – The former office of the Creosote Plant in Turkey Creek, Mississippi.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

December 8, 2015 - The former office of the Creosote Plant in Turkey Creek, MIssissippi. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 8, 2015 – The former office of the Creosote Plant in Turkey Creek, MIssissippi.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

December 8, 2015 - Mark TK, tours the old office of the Creosote Plant at Turkey Creek, Mississippi. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

December 8, 2015 – One of the architects working on preserving historical buildings in Turkey Creek tours the old office of the Creosote Plant at Turkey Creek, Mississippi.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

 

 

 

 

Anacostia Community Museum Urban Waterways Citizen Scientist Program Honored by State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board

October 31, 2015- Graduated student Cristal Sandoval assists new student Iyona Whitehead while Howard University Chemistry Professor Vernon Morris and State Farm Representative Angela Rosser watch the test they students are conducting.  The group were on an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Graduated student Cristal Sandoval assists new student Iyona Whitehead while Howard University Chemistry Professor Vernon Morris and State Farm Representative Angela Rosser watch the test they students are conducting. The group were on an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

It was a wonderful Fall afternoon near Kennilworth Park in Southeast Washington when a bus carrying Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientists, representatives from State Farm Insurance, and local academics from the University of DC and Howard University arrived to monitor the water quality of the Anacostia watershed. After the data collection, the team reconnoitered back at the Anacostia Community Museum’s program room for a presentation and luncheon honoring the State Farm Youth Advisory Board‘s funding of the Urban Waterways Citizen Scientist Program in 2016.

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board is a unique charitable giving board.  It is comprised of thirty students, ages 17-20, from across the United States and Canada. They are charged with helping State Farm design and implement a $5 million-a-year signature service-learning initiative to address issues important to State Farm and communities across the United States. The Anacostia Community Museum is grateful to State Farm and their Youth Advisory Board for making the Urban Waterways Citizen Scientist Program possible.

 

 

October 31, 2015- Students M'Kya Denny and Iyona Whitehead of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen scientist program with teacher Allison Cawood during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Students M’Kya Denny and Iyona Whitehead of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen scientist program with teacher Allison Cawood during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

October 31, 2015- Smithsonian Director Michelle Delaney helps anchor a point of measurement during a visit to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park to watch the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program test water levels.  The program received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Smithsonian Director Michelle Delaney helps anchor a point of measurement during a visit to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park to watch the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program test water levels. The program received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Howard University biology professor Jenelle Burke watches over two students, Takia Holstein, left, and M'Kya Denny, right, during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Howard University biology professor Jenelle Burke watches over two students, Takia Holstein, left, and M’Kya Denny, right, during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Citizen Scientists Program manager Tony Thomas chats with Rebecca Bankhead of the Univeristy of DC, and Cassandra Carcamo of State Farm, during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Citizen Scientists Program manager Tony Thomas chats with Rebecca Bankhead of the Univeristy of DC, and Cassandra Carcamo of State Farm, during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Graduated student Cristal Sandoval assists new student Iyona Whitehead while Howard University Chemistry Professor Vernon Morris and State Farm Representative Angela Rosser watch the test they students are conducting.  The group were on an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Graduated student Cristal Sandoval assists new student Iyona Whitehead while Howard University Chemistry Professor Vernon Morris and State Farm Representative Angela Rosser watch the test they students are conducting. The group were on an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Citizen Scientist alum Zee Wright walks with Howard Professors Tracy Perkins and Vernon Morris during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Citizen Scientist alum Zee Wright walks with Howard Professors Tracy Perkins and Vernon Morris during an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- A group shot of the supporters and Citizen Scientists after an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- A group shot of the supporters and Citizen Scientists after an outing to a tributary of the Anacostia Watershed near Kennilworth Park in support of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Citizen Scientist Program which received support from State Farm.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Anacostia Community Museum Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens poses with State Farm Representative Angela Rosser, Tony Thomas, Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program Manager, Anacostia Community Museum Director of Development Tykia Warden, and Dwayne Redd of State Farm's Youth Advisory Board during a ceremony honoring State Farm's Youth Advisory Board's funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- Anacostia Community Museum Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens poses with State Farm Representative Angela Rosser, Tony Thomas, Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program Manager, Anacostia Community Museum Director of Development Tykia Warden, and Dwayne Redd of State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board during a ceremony honoring State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board’s funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- State Farm Representative Angela Rosser poses with Anacostia Community Museum Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens during a ceremony honoring State Farm's Youth Advisory Board's funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- State Farm Representative Angela Rosser poses with Anacostia Community Museum Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens during a ceremony honoring State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board’s funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- State Farm Representative Angela Rosser and Dwayne Redd  poses with members of the Anacostia Community Museum, student's in the museum's Citizen Scientist Program during a ceremony honoring State Farm's Youth Advisory Board's funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

October 31, 2015- State Farm Representative Angela Rosser and Dwayne Redd poses with members of the Anacostia Community Museum, student’s in the museum’s Citizen Scientist Program during a ceremony honoring State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board’s funding of the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist Program.
Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

About the Citizen Scientist Program at the Anacostia Community Museum:

The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) Citizen Scientist Project (CSP) is an out-of-school time, scientific-inquiry-based enrichment program that introduces at-risk students to STEM concepts and careers through learning about the environment and civic engagement. CSP participants contribute to local, statewide, and national efforts to protect the Anacostia Watershed, one of the nation’s most densely-populated waterways. Program activities include independent and group research, field work that emphasizes science-based inquiry, public presentations, and behind-the-scenes access to Smithsonian scientists and educators.

Important community partnerships allow CSP participants to access professional facilities, world-class research and activities, and supplies and equipment facilitating meaningful community work. CSP began through a partnership with the United Planning Organization (UPO)—a nonprofit that serves low-income residents in the nation’s capital. The UPO group of 40 African American students hails from Washington’s Ward 7 and 8 neighborhoods which are largely affected by the degradation of the Anacostia River. The original group began the program as rising high school juniors, and will graduate this spring. A new cohort of rising sixth graders will join the UPO program this summer and will begin CSP activities in September.

Through CSP, the museum is training four classroom science teachers in Prince George’s County, MD to help implement this unique youth leadership program with students in an out-of-school time capacity. This will impact an additional 40 to 60 students in grades 5 through 12, serving predominately-minority student populations.  By engaging students in Prince Georges County and the District, CSP students will collect water quality data in two of the three jurisdictions of the Anacostia Watershed. Future plans to add classrooms in Montgomery County, MD will see the program “cover” the entire watershed with CSP activities.

 

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