AFRICATOWN/Port of Mobile meeting – “A good beginning”

AFRICATOWN/Port of Mobile meeting – “A good beginning”


Around 2010 I sat in on a community meeting in Africatown where a flatbed trucking company, Boyd Brothers, were trying to convince Africatown residents that it would be a good idea if residents would approve the rezoning of land located near the Africatown Community Gardens and allow Boyd Brothers to build their trucking terminal in Africatown near residential homes and the community Middle School. The residents voted no and Boyd Brothers withdrew their proposal saying that they would not build where they are not wanted. Since that time I have noticed a reluctance by the industries in and around the Africatown Community to share their growth plans in the community via a legitimate community meeting as required by a Mobile City Ordinance. The Africatown Community has observed numerous trucking companies, trucking drop yards & warehouses built without a community meeting informing residents about what is going on in their historic community.

A great example of what I am talking about happened in 2013, about 6 months after Africatown had been placed on the National Register for Historic Places. An oil pipeline was laid underneath Africatown’s Middle School Baseball/Football field & school playground, thus shutting down the school’s playground for the entire school year, without an official community meeting with the residents notifying them that this was about to happen. Consequently, several meetings with the community were conducted by Mobile’s School Superintendent to try and calm the tensions built up by community residents. Although no answers were given to the question “who knew what and when”, whenever it was mentioned that the school system had talked to members of the community and given permission to build the pipeline thru the athletic field, that anger by residents is what fueled the development of a coalition between Africatown and Downtown residents that resulted in the formation of The Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition (MEJAC) and eventually led to that organization causing the local oil industry to pull back on their plans to ship Tar Sands Oil to the rest of the world thru The Port of Mobile.

I referred to the meeting between The Africatown Community and The Port of Mobile as “A good beginning” because of several reasons: 1. It is the first community meeting conducted (within weeks) after the Africatown Roundtable Discussions in which one of the objectives was to improve communications between The Africatown Community and Mobile’s Business Community, 2. The Port of Mobile is one of the primary leaders in Mobile’s Chamber of Commerce and it is always important that leaders step up first and pave the way for others, and 3. Although the meeting was very generic and did not give anyone any meat and potatoes to chew on, it did happen, thus giving hope that there will be more meetings to come that will lead to deeper discussions about which direction the port expansion is going and how does it affect Africatown.

This meeting, presented by The Port of Mobile,  only talked about the port’s Critical Infrastructure Funding Strategy as it relates to projects and grants with geographic proximity to the port of Mobile. They talked about the Grants they have applied for and the amount they have asked for. The Grant Applications Mentioned were:
1. Port Infrastructure Development – The Rehabilitation of Pier D2 – Funding Request is $6 million
2. EPA Clean Ports Program – A conduit for private operators & port users to receive federal funding for community benefits – Funding Request is $100 million
3. Consolidated Rail Yard Expansion and Infrastructure & Safety Study – Funding Request – $45 million
1. Facilities Modernization – $300M over 10 years
2. Determine Feasibility of Main Docks Expansion – $850M
3. Dredge Material Management – $50M over 10 years
4. Study to Analyze Sediment Flow in the Mobile River – $500M
1. Chickasaw Lead Line – $8.67M
2. Container Terminal Expansion (HUD) – $230M
3. Pier B South Rehabilitation – Expand Capacity – $71.3M

4. McDuffie Coal Terminal Improvements – Increase Efficiency – $6M

The Port of Mobile is the 13th largest port in this country and looking to get even larger. Millions and millions of dollars have been sent to Mobile’s Port from the state capital in Montgomery and from the nation’s capital in Washington D.C. The result of those fund will make The Port of Mobile even larger. The Port of Mobile cannot expand south because of the water. It cannot expand east without expanding into Baldwin County. It cannot expand north without spending tons of dollars to develop the Tensaw River Delta. The only direction it can expand locally is thru Africatown and Prichard. Africatown’s Environmental Organizations and others are committed to preserve Africatown by ensuring that any expansion of The Port of Mobile goes around or over Africatown and not through it. In addition, The Africatown Community is looking to partner with The Port of Mobile in some of their Grant Applications so that Africatown can receive direct funds from some of the funding available rather than funding that has indirect benefits to Africatown.
Dr. Major Joe Womack USMCR(ret)
Executive Director of
251-404-9558 &
Leader, Doer, Storyteller

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