Pensacola and Mobile have been targeted for African-American heritage preservation initiatives that would raise their heritage tourism profile nationally in 2018. Africa Town in the Mobile area and several sites in Pensacola have been approached to document the lynching of Blacks during segregation, the local white investment in the slave trade from Africa to local ports, and the HBCU-CBO Gulf Coast Consortium funded by the Kellogg Foundation.
One of the most significant “shot in the arms” happened on a recent episode of “Finding Your Roots, the Henry Louis Gates Jr. hosted PBS celebrity genealogy show, the musician and producer Questlove (Amir Thompson) was given a chance to uncover his family’s earliest days in the United States. While the show attempts to create suspense on the revelations of a Black family’s background, this show was significant in relation to Gulf Coast Heritage Preservation.
The guest that evening was Questlove, born January 20th 1971 as Ahmir Khalib Thompson, known professionally as Questlove. He is an American percussionist, multi-instrumentalist, DJ, music journalist, record producer, and occasional actor. He is best known as the drummer with Black Thought for the Grammy Award-winning band The Roots. The Roots have been serving as the in-house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon since February 17, 2014, continuing the role they served during the entire run of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He is also one of the producers of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Additionally, he is an adjunct instructor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University.
Lewis Gates in his personal style shared with Questlove that his family has a distinction of his family’s roots being descended from the last Africans ever brought to the United States as slaves. The fact that was added to the enlightenment of Questlove’s family’s background was that they landed in Mobile more than a half-century after the international slave trade was officially banned on a boat named the Clotilda.
Additionally, the Equal Justice Initiative based out of Montgomery, Alabama is spearheading a project to document the lynchings around the nation by placing the dirt from the sites of the hangings and paying homage to those victims. They work with local communities to raise the issues of children in adult prisons, the excessive punished reaped on African-Americans by the American Justice System, including the need for sentencing reform. The group is described as one of our nation’s most effective legal and advocacy organizations.
Another project that focuses on African-American History is the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project. This initiative has researched 48 documented sites where captive African men, women, and children first arrived following the tragic voyage across the Atlantic Ocean known as the Middle Passage. Pensacola has been identified as one of the locations where the white business establishment invested directly into the West African slave trade bringing their slaves directly into the Port of Pensacola. The group’s Executive Director, Chinn based out of Washington D.C. has visited Pensacola and Mobile to determine the local interest in erecting an historical marker to document the research.
Then there is the HBCU-CBO Gulf Coast Consortium funded by the Kellogg Foundation which is focused on Africa Town in Mobile and Wedgewood in Pensacola. The Deep South Center of Environmental Justice, Inc. and the Texas Southern Mickey Leland Public Works Center are managing the HBCU-CBO Consortium targeting locations also in Mississippi, New Orleans, and Houston. The mission of the project is to respond to the community needs and issues of the African-American population on the Gulf Coast.
The focus of this project, funded by the Kellogg Foundation, has been launched with an initial emphasis on environmental issues which both Mobile’s African Town and Pensacola’s Wedgewood are being severely impacted. Both health and quality of life are in the process of being addressed by Historical Black Colleges and Universities like Florida A&M, Texas Southern, Jackson State, and Alabama A&M.
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