AFRICATOWN Environmental Organizations pushes for “Community Safe Zones”
Africatown-CHESS (Clean, Healthy, Educated, Safe & Sustainable Community) and MEJAC (Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition) have joined forces with other local organizations to push for the implementation of the phrase “Community Safe Zone” in the wording of Mobile’s new UDC coding regulations set to be voted on by Mobile’s City Council in May.
After the civil war ended in 1865 there were few places in Mobile County where blacks felt relatively safe. Blacks were being lynched and raped at a very alarming rate. Although there wasn’t anywhere that was completely safe, there were a couple areas in Mobile County that were safer than most for blacks. Those 2 places were “The Campground & Africatown”.
The “Campground” was where The Union Army established their military base after the war was over. The blacks moved near that camp because they knew the union soldiers would protect them from any harmful things the southerners could do to them because the south had lost the war and former slaves were set free. That area where Bishop State Community College has their Central Campus is still known as “The campground” today.
Because of the physical location of Africatown and the close knit relationships of the Africatown Natives, any inhabitants of Africatown felt safe and protected themselves from harm that might come from outside of the community. Because of this reputation and the fact that the former slaves were buying their own land, the community begin to grow after slavery ended.
Both C.H.E.S.S. and MEJAC have received national attention for the successful efforts they have made to carry on the Africatown tradition of keeping the community & its residents safe from anything harmful to its existence. The last shipment of enslaved Africans to America landed in Africatown in 1860. For 100 years Africatown governed itself until the residents voted to annex itself to Mobile in 1960. Living under a segregated form of government allowed bad things to happen to the community. Rezoning, industrial encroachment, pollution & lost of land begin to occur to name a few.
Every person that has been in the military knows that a fairly negotiated “Safe Zone” or DMZ is critical for the safety of all troops involved. Consequently, we have proposed the addition of the phrase “community safe zone” be added to sections of Mobile’s new coding laws(open document at top of page). The Africatown community is different than any other community within the Mobile city limits. It is the only community in Mobile that is bounded on 3 sides by water and on all 4 sides with industry. As such, a “one size fits all’ type of city zoning laws will not be appropriate for our Africatown community.Therefore, residents of Africatown need a safety zone that encompasses the entire perimeter of Africatown’s residential areas.
One of the goals we have for Africatown is the creation of an African American Cultural Heritage Destination in Mobile where the annual tourism dollars coming back to the city of Mobile will rival the $1 Billion annual tourism dollars the city of Montgomery, Alabama has received since the opening of its Lynching Museum. To do this, Africatown must be clear from pollution and its residents and all visitors should fell safe from any industrial harm.
Major Joe Womack USMCR (ret.)
Executive Director of africatown-chess.org
Co-Founder of africatownhpf.org