Third Quarter 2023 Update from the Africatown Business & Community Panel
for our next quarterly
Africatown Business & Community Panel Meeting
Thursday, September 21, 11:30 am-1:00 pm
hosted by member MAWSS at their offices
4725 Moffett Road, Mobile, AL 36618
We look forward to seeing you!
4th Africatown Bridge Challenge in the Books!
The 4th Africatown Bridge Challenge 5K Run/Walk fundraiser held on Saturday, June 17, was one of the largest in recent years, with 177 registered runners/walkers and 50 more registered on site. Despite threats of inclement weather, the morning was beautiful and resulted in a lot of last-minute registrations. This caused a bit of a delay as we crunched the data for our awards ceremony, so we thank all the runners and walkers for their great patience! The ACDC also had a record number of sponsors who made the event and fundraiser possible. They include: Kimberly Clark (Gold); Alabama Port Authority, Merchants Transfer, Mobile County Commission, and Plains All American (Silver); Alabama Power Company, Canfor, Cowles/Murphy/Glover & Associates, The Cooper Group, and Vulcan Materials (Bronze). In addition, Alabama Power Service Company sent their service corps of volunteers who are experienced in races to assist, which was invaluable. More than $30,000 was raised to support the Community programs and events hosted by the ACDC, which plans to make the Bridge Challenge an annual event, improving on it each year.
City Holds Third Community Meeting for Africatown Welcome Center Design, Hopes for Groundbreaking by Year’s End
Members of the ACDC attended the third community meeting hosted on July 31, 2023, by the City of Mobile at the Hope Center to garner feedback for the construction of the new Africatown Welcome Center, and they liked what they saw! Most of the meeting was dedicated to residents and attendees placing stickers with comments on the design options. One of the options, as shown above, illustrated the Center fronted by a great lawn and across the street from the Plateau Cemetery. The City and its architects said they are hoping to get shovels in the ground for the project by the end of the year. Meeting hosts also reminded us that the project at hand is for the design and building of the structure, but the Community will still need to weigh in, down the road, on the educational elements that will be housed there. The ACDC successfully applied for the $3.2 million grant to build the Welcome Center from RESTORE ACT funds and has turned the project over to the City for project management. To learn more, read Lawrence Specker’s story on AL.com here. For questions about the project, you can email [email protected] and sign up for project notifications via text by texting MOBILEAFRICATOWNWC to 91896.
Bioswale Dedication Marks Third Addition to Heritage House Site
While the Heritage House museum exhibiting Clotilda artifacts opened to great acclaim in early July, there are now three additions to the property that broaden the impact outside its walls. Earlier this year, we reported on the unveiling of the original commissioned sculpture meant to interpret the story of the 110 enslaved people aboard the Clotilda. It was followed by the installation of a healing garden providing an outdoor space for quiet reflection. On Friday, August 11, Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood, joined Birmingham Southern College and the Mobile County Training School to cut the ribbon on a newly installed bioswale that will mitigate flooding and runoff in the Community and serve as a living laboratory for the Mobile County Training School students to learn about the environmental impacts of climate change. Commissioner Ludgood called it the perfect complement to the property by connecting the nearby school to the project which helps to heal the earth. Photo credit to Brady Petree, Lagniappe.
ACDC, Cleon Jones Challenge Tourism Partners, Others to Invest in Community
Tourism — and traffic — have picked up in the Africatown Community with the recent opening of the Heritage House museum. Soon, a new Welcome Center will be going up that will entice even more visitors to the Community. And while the global attention brought by the finding of the Clotilda and the resulting tourism is an excellent opportunity for Africatown, it will only be so if it brings needed investment for the community’s infrastructure to support beautification, home renovation, and construction, small businesses and the Mobile County Training School, says ACDC President Cleon Jones. Jones says the ACDC receives phone calls daily from people whose families once lived in the Community and would like to move back. Infrastructure investment not only makes the Community more appealing for tourists, he says, but it works to support the development of a Community that once boasted 10,000 residents and a great number of self-sustaining small businesses. With the departure of nearby industries and good jobs within walking distance, the population has dwindled to under 2,000 who now live in a food desert. ACDC’s mission is to increase the quality of life in the close-knit community so it will support current residents and additional residents who want to move back, in turn, supporting the historic neighborhood school that spawned many famous athletes and contributors to society. The future of Africatown includes a balance of more residents, school students, businesses & industries, and tourists. This was the picture Jones painted for Opportunity Alabama (OPAL) when representatives visited with him and other members of the ACDC on August 15. OPAL is a non-profit organization focused on catalyzing investment in meaningful projects and underserved places across Alabama. Stay tuned!
Merchants Transfer Holds Three Community Meetings to Discuss Warehouse Fire
Merchants Transfer participated in three Community meetings with residents and area businesses to share information about the recent warehouse fire on Papermill Road in late July. The fire, which started on July 19, ignited post-consumer recycled paper that was stored in the warehouse. Mobile Fire Rescue Department (MFRD) responded immediately and did not deem the fire a threat to nearby residents or businesses, so did not issue an emergency notification. The fire did not involve any hazardous wastes but, due to the nature of the tightly rolled post-consumer recycled paper, was difficult to extinguish, and smoldered for a week. Merchants’ first call, upon learning about the fire, was to notify a nearby property owner and ask him to notify the ACDC, which he did. Two days after the fire, Merchants met with the Papermill Road Initiative, an organization it started earlier this year that gathers members of the ACDC, residents, local businesses, and the Mayor of Prichard to discuss improvements to the Papermill Road corridor. On August 2, the Merchants’ President spoke at the regular meeting of the ACDC, and on August 7, the company participated in a third meeting hosted by District 2 Councilman William Carroll at the Hope Center. Merchants commended the MFRD for the exceptional work they did to control and extinguish the fire and noted they would no longer be handling post-consumer recycled paper at that location.
ABCP Member Gulf Coast Truck & Equipment Invests in New Headquarters
Christmas promises to come early this year for the employees of Gulf Coast Truck & Equipment. November is the estimated move date into a new headquarters and operations center they have been constructing on industrial property at Bay Bridge Road and Conception Street. Construction began September 22 on the 65,000-square-foot building that will soon welcome its 55 employees as a significant upgrade from the facility the company has occupied since 1945! With so much new space, company representative Kelly Sheffield says they hope to host the ABCP for a meeting in the near future!
News You Should Know
The Africatown Business & Community Panel (ABCP) looks forward to welcoming Honeywell UOP at our next quarterly membership meeting on Thursday, September 21, at MAWSS headquarters on Moffett Road.
Honeywell UOP, located north of the Community in Chickasaw, has welcomed ACDC and ABCP members, as reported here, for a narrated tour of its facility and operations. Their membership in the ABCP brings our current membership to 21, the largest in our history, dating back to 2016. Please join us in welcoming Honeywell UOP and thanking the other members of the ABCP for their support of our Community! They are:
Alabama Port Authority
Alabama Power Company
Canfor Southern Pine
Chippewa Lakes LLC
Cooper T Smith
Cowles, Murphy, Glover & Associates
Gulf Coast Truck & Equipment
H & S Commercial and Industrial Supplies and Services
H.O. Weaver & Sons, Inc.
Kemira Chemical, Inc.
Plains All American Pipeline
Rogers & Willard
Southern Intermodal Express (SIX)
Vulcan Materials Company
For those interested in joining the ABCP, please contact Mary Mullins Redditt at [email protected] or 251-802-3341.
Green Partnership Keeps Community Trimmed
In early August, ACDC became the proud owner of a shiny, new, green John Deer commercial mower, thanks to its partnership with the ABCP. Some of the overlooked work that the ACDC does regularly is to traverse the Africatown Community, cutting empty lots and lawns for those residents and property owners without the means. On any given day, you will likely see Cleon Jones, or his trusty sidekick, Carnell “Bama” Thomas, out and about, trimming up the Community. It’s no wonder the two commercial mowers in service were getting pretty worn out and ready for retirement. To continue keeping the blighted properties
and the Gateways cut and cleaned, ACDC came to the ABCP with a match opportunity to purchase the new mower and the ABCP stepped up to the plate to pay half the $11,535 cost. ACDC was also able to purchase a new tractor just in time for plowing the Jake’s Lane Community Garden for fall planting, so look forward to a bountiful harvest next quarter!
Plateau Pacers Hitting Their Stride
Three weeks after the Africatown Bridge Challenge, ACDC Member Rochelle Williams and her Plateau Pacers hosted another fundraising walk for Community members and others on Saturday, July 8, in conjunction with the opening of Heritage House. The event drew 75 participants and sponsorships from ABCP members Kemira, Merchants Transfer, Plains All American, and Vulcan Materials. This is the second year for the walk. With the motto, “Health is Wealth,” they also hope to make this an annual event. All proceeds go to a scholarship fund for the local schools supported by the Community. Next up: Be on the lookout for the Pacers’ Halloween Spooktacular Block Party for area youth on Halloween evening!
Port Projecting Record High Revenues for 2024
The health of Mobile’s Port is strong, according to a report from its July Board meeting. It’s no secret the leadership at the Port has been investing in the modernization of its facilities and offerings to compete at an even higher level with other U.S. ports, and those investments appear to be paying off with operating revenues expected to reach over $174.5 million next year, after years of climbing revenues. Spokesperson Maggie Oliver said the Port had generated approximately $25.4 billion in economic value for the state and supported more than 150,400 jobs. The ACDC is proud to call the Alabama Port Authority a partner and friend and congratulates them on their success.
ACDC Food Pantry Distributions Continue Each 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the Month. . .
with a record number of volunteers! Come join us beginning at 7 a.m. at the Hope Center!
ACDC Mission and Accomplishments
The Africatown Community Development Corporation (ACDC) was incorporated in 2013 as a domestic, non-profit, 501c3 corporation to preserve and protect Mobile’s African-American Heritage. The ACDC’s efforts have been largely focused on reducing blight and beautifying the historic neighborhood, encouraging former residents to return home to live, and increasing the rolls and quality of education at the historic Mobile County Training School, the second oldest school in Alabama and the training grounds for many professional athletes. In January 2016, the City of Mobile released the Africatown Neighborhood Plan, a model for improving the historic community. ACDC was engaged in the development of this plan and also in coordinating its efforts with neighboring businesses and industries along its border.
Board of Directors:
Cleon Jones, President, Jeffrey F. Bell, Shaune U. Morrisette, Thelma Maiben-Owens, Lister Portis, Ouida Shears, Jacqueline Tunstall, Carla Rigsby Varner, Lorna Woods and Anna Stratman (Honorary)
Acting Program Director:
In addition to collaborating with the City of Mobile on a Neighborhood Plan, hosting and manning regular community cleanup, neighborhood reunions, youth development, and holiday events, the ACDC:
- In 2015, in partnership with Alabama Power, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and other public and private partners, launched a successful Jake’s Lane Community Garden to serve as a social and education center and provide fresh vegetables for our community, located in a “food desert.” The quantity and variety of fresh produce grows with each passing season, along with the addition of commercial-grade gardening equipment and we are preparing plans to develop a “MarketPlace” to sell excess produce within and outside our community;
- In 2016 the Africatown Business & Community Panel in collaboration with local businesses and industries operating or headquartered in the vicinity of the community regularly met and communicated about goals and activities. The ABCP provided matching funds for a Strengthen Alabama Homes initiative grant received from the state of Alabama that inspected and repaired 60 neighborhood homes, allowing residents to stay in their homes and make them more resilient in inclement weather.
- In July 2017, worked with ALDOT, Arc Terminals (now Zenith Energy), and other public and private partners to host the successful, inaugural “Africatown Bridge Challenge,” the first-ever fundraising event for the community that brought over 560 diverse entrants to walk and run over the Africatown Bridge and raise funds for our Community Garden and MarketPlace. Additional races were hosted in 2019, 2022 and 2023. ACDC hopes to make this a regular, annual event.
- In January 2018, Al.com/Press-Register Reporter Ben Raines uncovered what was believed to be the remains of the Clotilda, the last illegal shipment of slaves into the U.S., carrying the ancestors of members of the Africatown Community and ACDC Board members. With news stories about what may be the most culturally significant find in the U.S. in recent history and over 800 media accounts of the exploration around the world, the ACDC has become an international resource for the Community. The discovery of Clotilda was confirmed in 2019.
- In February 2018, became the recipient of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ Healthy Food Financing Program with a grant to support the continued development of its Jakes’ Lane Community Garden and MarketPlace to sell fresh produce within and outside the Community.
- In February 2018, was granted a RESTORE ACT Council grant to construct a $3.2 million official Welcome and Heritage Center for Africatown. In addition to serving as a welcome and tourist information center, the new facility may serve as the site for the permanent exhibition of Clotilda artifacts.
- Throughout our history and in 2019-2021, the ACDC has also: established two improved gateway signs on Africatown Boulevard; had painted and restored a mural of the Clotilda on Africatown Boulevard; partnered with the City of Mobile, and Alabama Power on an exterior painting project for eight homes in the Community; restored the interior, exterior, porches, bathrooms, and floors in seven homes in the neighborhood; replaced three roofs; in partnership with the State of Alabama Fortified Homes roofing project, installed 12 new roofs; installed an above-ground vegetable garden for Mobile County Training School students; installed 150 smoke detectors in community homes; supported Kidd Park with sports equipment, uniforms and food; supported the Mobile County Training School with painting projects, sponsorship of Fall Festivals, purchase of baseball and softball equipment, mowing grass and painting to maintain the school campus, and purchase of a sofa for the teachers’ lounge; partnered with the Elk’s Club for youth initiatives including Christmas toy distributions and Easter Egg hunts; hosted the Africatown Sports, Leadership and Academic Camp for 10 years; hosted several community cleanup events with the U.S. Navy from Pensacola; cut grass and cleaned up blighted areas on a regular basis; partnered with Mobile County on the Heirship Workshop; planted crepe myrtle trees on several community streets; and helped to establish the MCTS Alumni Den with its rich historical artifacts and memorabilia.