Africatown: Old Plateau Cemetery

Africatown
by Staff

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Mr. Gary Autery aiding with excavations on his Great -Grandfather’s homesite in Lewis Quarter

In the summer of 1928, Zora Neale Hurston conducted anthropological fieldwork near Mobile, Alabama at Africatown.

The field site had been a suggestion of her academic advisor, Franz Boas, who proposed that she collect West African folklore from Africatown’s most famous resident, Cudjo Lewis. Lewis, along with 109 other captive Africans, survived an Atlantic crossing aboard the Clotilda, the last documented slaver to make the Middle Passage.

While reflecting on his 68 years on American soil and five years of enslavement, Lewis provided accounts of great loss; he had buried his three sons and his wife and longed to return to his boyhood home in Ghana. Lewis also described moments of great happiness such as when Confederates fled Mobile in April of 1865 and he recounted that …”After dey free us, you understand me, we so glad, we make de drum and beat it… [like we were on] African soil.”

The United Nations used this account in March of 2009 to commemorate the victims of the trans-Atlantic slavery and to illustrate resonate moments of Africans claiming their freedom. Despite early research interest by Hurston and recent attention by the United Nations, few attempts have been made to pose connections between Africatown and the African continent, describe the difficulties of forging a community within the post-Civil War American South, or compare Africatown with other 19th/20th century African Diaspora sites.

Through fieldwork in January 2010 and again in the summer of 2010, members of the Africatown Archaeological Project worked to address these questions and aid the local descendant community in preserving cultural resources.

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The Mis-Education of Mobile on an Oil Pipeline Through Africatown

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Photo: Cleon Jones, left fielder of 1969 World Series champion New York Mets, watches oil pipeline trench being dug across the field where he learned to play baseball: Jo Billups

Enabler. That’s the current jargon for a very old idea. The serpent was an enabler. He didn’t force anything upon Eve. He just helped her decide to do what she wanted with the apple but shouldn’t.

Teachers’ tasks include showing students how to avoid the snares of enablers. But the head of Mobile’s public schools has become an enabler of adult misbehavior.

Superintendent Martha Peek came to the alumni quarters of Mobile County Training School on February 21 for a meeting about a crude oil pipeline. The odd name is a legacy of segregation, when the school system regarded black children as fit for vocational instruction, not academics. But the graduates have retained the name with some pride and have prominently attached the initials MCTS to the wall of their room, which also displays the long history of the school and the surrounding community.

The place was filled with alumni, neighborhood residents, and others wanting the superintendent to explain the clang of steel and chug of heavy machinery as she spoke. This racket came from sections of three-foot-diameter pipe going into a trench dug through the schoolyard.

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For decades paper mills clattered and fumed and stank across the street from the school. When they closed in the 90′s activists envisioned a transformation of the area. Long before industry overtook this riverside bluff a few miles upstream from downtown, it was home to descendants of the last arriving American slave ship in the mid-19th century. Departure of the paper mills raised hopes of combining a revived residential zone with exhibits and attractions depicting the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the way its human cargoes fashioned new lives for themselves in an alien place. Africatown was the name for this vision.

Instead, other industries sprang up at the paper mill sites and began chewing into the edges of the residential tracts. Recently a tank farm on the south flank of the neighborhood expanded and a proposal came before the Mobile city planning commission for a new tank farm on the north flank so huge it ought to be called a tank city.

The pipeline snaking through the schoolyard connects these tank complexes with other pipelines to refineries elsewhere, and with the downtown terminal of the Canadian National Railroad bringing tars sands crude from Canada, and with oceangoing tankers moving crude to and from global markets. The emerging picture sketches plans by global energy interests to turn Mobile into a major handling hub for fossil fuels. And the school with a pipeline gash across its campus is at the center of the hub.

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Africatown residents protest oil pipeline construction

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Protestors oppose a Plains pipeline and gather for a rally on McKinley Street, while work crews prepare the area for its construction.

February 07, 2014 at 5:23 PM,

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MOBILE, Alabama – There were no “miracles” Friday to stop the bulldozing of a backstop where Cleon Jones once played baseball many years ago.

“They call it all in the name of progress,” said Jones, a pivotal member of the 1969 “Miracle Mets” team that won the World Series, and a professional baseball ballplayer from 1963-1976. “They are certainly tearing out history.”

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Jones and wife, Angela, both residents in the Plateau community, sat in a parked vehicle to survey an area north of downtown Mobile that has become a construction site for a Plains Mobile Inc. crude oil pipeline.

There was nothing they could do but watch. A few feet away from them, about 20 protestors from the community showed up to discuss their concerns about the pipeline project, which will be under construction for approximately the next two months.

The protestors stood close to the Mobile County Training School’s property line, which is where Jones played baseball as a high school student in the early 60s.

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Mobile Alabama’s Historic Africatown At Risk From Tar Sands Oil Storage Tanks, Pipelines

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March 8, 2014
How do you entice tourism to a polluted, industrial port city?

By Glynn Wilson –

MOBILE, Ala. — Joe Womack of Africatown is not happy with the administration of his old school, the Mobile County Training School, from where he graduated in 1968. He is not happy with the administration of his home town of Mobile. And he’s afraid for the 250 kids who attend the middle school now that the Plains pipeline company out of Texas has pushed forward with digging an oil pipeline right through the school yard.

Thomas Bates Says There Will Be ‘No Responsible Economic Development’

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On the day construction began, he and other members of the historic African-American community where the last known shipment of slaves landed in the United States, were staging a protest.

“The next thing we knew they were plowing right through the field,” he said in a video interview this past weekend right after Mardi Gras ended and Lent began. “We don’t like it. We don’t appreciate it.”

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“We’re disappointed with the city,” he said, the politicians who are supposed to protect the people and the public interest. “No one’s told us anything.”
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Plains pipeline company destroyed a school yard to build an oil pipeline and concerned citizens want it fixed: Glynn Wilson

At the same time, an ad hoc committee formed by the Mobile City Council has been meeting to make recommendations on whether a planned oil storage tank city right across the street from the school on an old International Paper brownfield site should be approved or prohibited. The site is in an area called Hog Bayou where people used to hunt, fish and get baptized in nearby Three Mile Creek.

Now Womack, who worked for Shell Chemical in Louisiana back when a chemical plant explosion and fire killed school kids not far away in Norco, is worried about the safety of the kids in the school if the city goes ahead with allowing a rapid expansion of oil and petrochemical storage and transportation hubs along the riverfront.

“I can just visualize the same thing happening here if there is an explosion in those big tanks right across the street,” Womack said.

While residents in Africatown see all the industrial development in their community as another atrocity in a long line of racist, classist, environmental injustices thrust upon poor communities for generations, the chamber of commerce-minded city administration is trying to capitalize on the growing exportation of oil and gas through its port, as well as the importation of Canadian tar sands crude making its way to the Gulf Coast by rail. At the same time, there is an ongoing effort to talk the talk of trying to encourage more tourism to spur the local economy.

Womack and other critics, like David Underhill of the Mobile Bay Sierra Club, say it is ludicrous to try and have it both ways, and they don’t seem to be able to get any answers from public officials or company management about whether the Africatown pipeline or the pipeline under construction through the watershed of the city’s only source of fresh drinking water will carry standard oil or chemically diluted or heated tar sands crude.

There are no federal, state or local regulations that limit what a company can pump through a pipeline once it’s built, so there is much suspicion that the tar sands crude could end up in the storage tanks and be pumped through the pipelines right under a school yard and a creek that feeds Big Creek Lake.
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The Mobile water board wants to keep liter bugs out of Big Creek Lake, but settled with Plains pipeline company to allow an oil pipeline to run through its only source of fresh drinking water: Glynn Wilson

“These new pipes they are putting up would be the same type of pipes if they wanted to run tar sands,” Womack said. “So they would have, if they wanted to, the opportunity to change over from regular crude to tar sands.”

Residents and concerned citizens recently had a meeting with school Superintendent Martha Peek to voice their concerns and ask questions, but she said her hands were tied because the new corporation was somehow allowed to operate under an easement agreement dating back to the 1950s, which the company can renew every 30 years for less than $400.

“A lot of laws have changed since 1951,” Womack said. “I think if someone wanted to challenge that they could.”

The problem is, it is too late to challenge it. The school yard is already torn up, and by the time this story is published, the pipeline will mostly be in the ground.
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Cleon Jones, left fielder of 1969 World Series champion New York Mets, watches pipeline trench being dug across the field where he learned to play baseball

Womack said Plains has offered to spend $30,000 to $50,000 to help the school rebuild the athletic fields to “historical condition,” but it is not clear whether that means its former glory or to just before they tore it up to dig and install the new pipes. Back in the day, when Cleon Jones played there and later went on to play left field for the 1969 World Series champion New York “Miracle Mets,” along with Hall of Famer Billy Williams, there was a baseball field, a football field, a running track and locker rooms.

“We would like to see it restored back to original historic conditions,” Womack said. “We don’t know if it’s going to take $30,000 or $100,000 because we are just beginning to plan. We didn’t ask them to come in to our house and tear it up. They came here and tore it up. We want them to fix it back.”

The day before we visited the school, we shot video of the city committee meeting in Mobile’s government building looking out over all the industrial activity in the port city. One of the members of the committee is Thomas Bates, who worked for the Evonik chemical company, formerly known as Degussa. In trying to prevent environmentalists on the committee from placing restrictions on the proposal to allow companies to build oil storage tank farms in Africatown and other places along the riverfront, he indicated that tank farms would be the only “responsible economic development” that could ever happen in the area, since he didn’t think any company would ever try to build a “high rise condominium” there.
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Looking down on the port city from high in Mobile’s government building: Glynn Wilson

But he has obviously not bothered to talk to anyone in Africatown, certainly not Joe Womack, who said there is a plan to develop a museum, a theme park and an entertainment district.

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In 2012, the community was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Soon after that, citizens formed a nonprofit organization called the Africatown Community Development Corporation. The mission is to put together a vision and a plan to restore the area back to its historic condition, before all the industrial development polluted the community and made it unsafe.

The plan is to entice more residents to come into the area, which will become impossible if it becomes home to massive tar sands tank farms and more oil pipelines. Since International Paper pulled out due to tougher environmental regulations and when cheap timber became available in Siberia when the Cold War ended with Russia in 1989, Womack said Three Mile Creek has come back and people actually fish there now.

“The idea is to bring it in tune to Mobile’s vision for tourism,” Womack said. “It’s within two miles of downtown Mobile.”

They want to replicate the slave ship Clotilda, which brought those last slaves to America from Africa, and build a museum and entertainment district around it.
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A mural featuring the slave ship Clotilda hangs on the wall in the Mobile County Training School: Glynn Wilson

“We don’t have to put up storage tanks,” Womack said. “That’s a menacing threat to the community. No one here wants to see that.”

Anyone who would say you have to build storage tank farms because no one is going to do anything else is “someone with a small vision, in my mind,” Womack said. “I would gladly like to sit down at the table and talk to that person to try to see if I could get them to expand their vision.”

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The Story of Mobile’s Africatown Pipeline

Published on Mar 8, 2014

MOBILE, Ala. — Joe Womack of Africatown is not happy with the administration of his old school, the Mobile County Training School, from where he graduated in 1968. He is not happy with the administration of his home town of Mobile. And he’s afraid for the 250 kids who attend the middle school now that Plains Southcap has pushed forward with digging an oil pipeline right through the school yard.

On the day construction began, he and other members of the historic African-American community where the last known shipment of slaves landed in the United States, were staging a protest.

“The next thing we knew they were plowing right through the field,” he said in an interview this past weekend right after Mardi Gras ended and Lent began. “We don’t like it. We don’t appreciate it.”

See more here – Mobile Alabama’s Historic Africatown At Risk From Tar Sands Oil Storage Tanks, Pipelines
http://www.newamericanjournal.net/201…

Video produced to go with a larger story with photos in the New American Journal @ NewAmericanJournal.Net, an alternative, independent news organization registered as a publication of Locust Fork Publishing LLC.

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Support Chokwe Antar Lumumba for mayor of Jackson, Miss.

March 20, 2014

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by Asha Bandele

Even as we are still reeling from the unexpected death of our beloved Chokwe Lumumba, his children know that the best way for us to honor Chokwe is to continue to do his work. Central to Chokwe’s vision was to lead the development of a Black-led city in the South that was rooted in true democracy and a deep swell of compassion for the people who live there.

Chokwe Antar Lumumba mayoral campaign postersAt the time of his death, Chokwe was doing what his detractors said he couldn’t: calling people together, despite differences, to work for the common good and interests of the citizens of Jackson. The 1 percent sales tax he was able to achieve will ensure the necessary building of the municipal infrastructure neglected for years. When I traveled to Mississippi to bid farewell to a man who had been a mentor – a movement – in my life, I met an elder who told me that Chokwe did more in eight months than others had done in eight years.

The work must continue.

Last Tuesday, after deep counsel with family and Chokwe’s closest political advisors in government and life, his son, Chokwe Antar, an attorney and senior partner in the successful law firm that his father built, took up the mantle. With hundreds standing in the rain, Rukia Lumumba said of her family, “My father was the guide. My brother is the light.” And with that declaration, her brother, Antar, supported by family, friends and all of his father’s colleagues and advisors, announced his candidacy for mayor of the City of Jackson, willing to step in and move forward his father’s vision of justice and equality for the people of Jackson.

The best way for us to honor Chokwe is to continue to do his work.

We must join those who support him. And we must do it today. The election is on April 8, and without the funds needed to support Antar’s campaign today, we risk the gains made in the city – not just the infrastructure building and the spirit of cooperation but the work done in City Council, including getting the first ever anti-racial profiling ordinance passed, and all the work that is poised to happen: the economic undergirding of the most vulnerable and the fair application of the law that will ensure a truly safer city.

Chokwe Antar Lumumba and his wife Ebony eagerly awaited the March 18 birth of Alakè Maryama Lumumba. Announcing her birth, her dad explained that Alakè means one to be honored, Maryama means gift of God and Lumumba means gifted. “Our family is overjoyed by the arrival of our little girl and are more resolved than ever to make this world a better place for all of our children,” said Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

I have known Chokwe Antar since he was a teenager and watched him grow into a brilliant man, loving husband and, as of yesterday, a proud father. He was the closest of advisors and collaborators with his father when they successfully got the Scott Sisters out of prison and was my guide when I covered the story for Essence magazine.

On the campaign trail and during his father’s tenure, Antar walked in step with his father, helping to build out a strategy and vision for the people of Jackson, while ensuring the law practice thrived. When he ascends to the office of mayor, he will do so not only standing on the shoulders of his father and his mother, Nubia, but standing beside the dedicated and wise counsel his father pulled together to ensure a Jackson Rising.

The election is on April 8, and without the funds needed to support Antar’s campaign today, we risk the gains made in the city – not just the infrastructure building and the spirit of cooperation but the work done in City Council, including getting the first ever anti-racial profiling ordinance passed, and all the work that is poised to happen: the economic undergirding of the most vulnerable and the fair application of the law that will ensure a truly safer city.

Asha Bandele

Join me in supporting Chokwe Antar for mayor of Jackson! Join me in supporting the people of Jackson, who for too long have suffered and deserve leadership that is ethical, just and guided by an unbreakable bond and abiding love.

Please make your donation here today. Help Chokwe Antar lead Jackson into becoming a model city, a mighty demonstration for what the rest of our cities might be if they were governed with an eye on justice, not on simply four more years.

Thank you all so much for making your donation today! Thank you for sharing this with your networks today to encourage their support! And most of all, thank you for believing that a just, compassionate and healthy Jackson – a model for the nation – will rise!

Asha Bandele, editor-at-large at Essence magazine, poet and author of “The Prisoner’s Wife” and “Something Like Beautiful,” political activist and community organizer, can be reached via Twitter at @ashabandele and on Facebook. Tweet #LumumbaLegacy.

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America’s Hip-Hop Foreign Policy

How rap became a battleground in the war on terror
Hisham Aidi Mar 20 2014, 8:49 AM ET

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A rapper performs at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2012. (U.S. Embassy Kabul/Flickr)

For several years now, American and German officials have struggled with how best to respond to Deso Dogg. The Ghanaian-German artist, whose legal name is Denis Cuspert, gained popularity during the mid-2000s as a pioneer in Germany’s gangsta-rap scene, performing with DMX and recording tracks like “Gangxtaboggy,” “Daz Iz Ein Drive By,” and “Meine Ambition Als Ridah.”

In 2010, following a car crash, he embraced Islam and began documenting his Malcolm X-like transformation—from a life of women and bling to the “straight path”—in lyrics and music videos. Soon enough, he left hip-hop altogether and became a Salafi named Abu Maleek, embracing an ultra-conservative strain of Sunni Islam that frowns upon music and the use of instruments.

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