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Influence October 2019

(upbeat music) – Welcome to Influence, the show about one of the
university’s founding colleges, the College of Agriculture
and Life Sciences. I’m your host, Emily Shaw. On today’s episode, we’re gonna learn about
an award winning program through the Department
of Landscape Architecture in Africatown, Alabama, and our first guest is Associate Professor Dr. Chuo Li, from the Department
of Landscape Architecture. Welcome, Dr. Li. – Hi. Thanks. – I’m excited to know about Africatown and how MSU came to be involved in such a large scale project. – Well, this project actually started with another project in 2017. We were contacted by the
National Park Service, the few office, and they want to see that
if there is a possibility for collaboration in help with a community in Mississippi, that was
Eden Village in Yazoo County and then after successfully
completing that project and led to the 2018, then we kind of what
to work together again and that was the Africatown project and then come along. Basically, it was more a collaboration. The community, they submit a proposal to National Park Service ask for help and that’s how we also got involved. – Excellent, so a partnership with the National Park Service
– Yes. – That led to even more. So why is Africatown significant? – Well, that community
has a very unique history, very significant social and cultural, these social cultural history. Africatown was probably the only community that was viewed, that was viewed and lived
by African American. It was started in these, the community was settled by these 110 African captives and there was brought to United States by a ship called Clotilda in the 1800’s, and at that time the Atlantic slave trade was already been banned, so that was deemed as illegal. That’s why these people
has remained in the land and then build their own community, so it has this very significant history and also these shipwreck of Coltilda, the archeological findings of the remains and that brought lots of
publicity to the community, but the community was so struggled with lots of environmental
and social problems. There has these huge health issues because of the industry pollution and the social fragmentation is central, so that’s why we feel that it’s really a project
with great significance and then the student will benefit a lot from working with the community. – What were the goals of the project? – The goals of the project of course it’s a service learning project, so the main goal is really
for the student education. Student that, through the course, actually we have two courses
involved in the project. One is Undergraduate Design Studio that was a design studio for fall and then the other is the
Graduate level Design Studio 2, so two class of students, they kind of work together to involve with that project. The main goal is really
education service learning for the student to involve
with real world project and to learn how to really
design for a real community with the real issues, but of course, another aspect is the community will benefit a lot from students’ work. They can use students’ work
for applying for funding and then also create a
vision for what the community could be in the future. – So you utilize more
than one student team. Can you tell us about that? – We have, when we were first contacted they give us a very large scope. They talk about the blue way connection. It’s a huge scale project and then we, Professor Buzar and I, we kind of talk to the community, have a lot of conference
meeting beforehand, so we decide that the
problem is more appropriate to narrow the scope into three sites. Three most significant
sites of the community and the first is the reclaiming the space under the Africatown Bridge. That bridge was basically was built I think, I can’t remember exactly, but probably 90’s. That total divide the
community into two parts, but the space underneath that, the community has a lot of
attachment to this space, so that’s the first site. And then the second site,
we want to reconnect the Hook Bayou and the Community Center, so try to connecting all these interests, points of interest within the community. And then the third is in
the south of the community, that is this Lewis Landing and this place of baptism try to reestablish the
history of these sites. So that I think we have a student who will later on kind
of elaborate on that, so that’s the main three
area we’re working on and then we divide the
students into three teams. For each team they work on
these three specific sites. – Excellent. Well, thank you Dr. Li, and yes, we will hear
from a Graduate student in just a moment. (upbeat music) – [Narrator] Imagine a
car designed to travel 100 miles on a single gallon of gas. (car engine revving) Engineered to lead the way
in energy independence. It will inspire you to rethink how cars actually work. Imagine the car of the future. We are. At Mississippi State University, where we ring true. – Welcome back. Our next guest is Simon Powney, a Graduate student who worked
on the Africatown project. Welcome, Simon. – Thank you for having me. – Absolutely. I’m excited to hear about your work as part of the Africatown project. – Great. Well, I was the Graduate student working with a team of undergrads on a series of sites that
were on the south side of the community. These sites were identified as being potential project locations, and they were all related
to the Three Mile Creek. – Okay. – That ran along the to the south of where the
community was established in the 1800’s. These locations were all very important to the community and
still remain important but have become, over time, slowly separated from the main core of the community because of industry growing
up alongside the creek, and so we were looking
at ways of reestablishing that connection back to the community. Like I said, there was five sites, one of them was where one of the early community members set up his family location. That’s site number one on this plan. Lewis Landing, he used this location for fishing, and it still is used for
fishing by the community. – Excellent. – Another site further along was, we located, or identified
as being a good potential park location, where you could use the edge of the creek to walk along. And then a next site, along number four, was actually put into place for boats so that you could actually
then use the creek as part of this national park’s blue way, so that people can paddle up and down it, and it would connect to
other parts of the community to the north of here and back to the more
central parts of Mobile. My site was number five, which was identified as a location that potentially in the past had been used, in talking with
the community members there, they had pointed out
that the creek down there was used a lot by the churches in the early days before
they had established church buildings for baptismal, so the community on Sunday’s would go down to the creek and preform
baptismal in the creek so we are picking up on that, on that idea by using an old railroad line that has now been abandoned to reconnect back to this core of this community or back to where the church areas were and reconnecting that
back down to the creek. This park was also a
good way of reconnecting to the wildlife and the native plants and reestablishing that connection because a lot of the
early community members used the wild areas around the community for hunting, a way of providing food and nutrients on a daily basis, so there was a connection
that was lost there when that industry built up again, so that was my project, was part of that. – Excellent. I believe we have some drawings from your project.
– Yeah. – That show some of
your ideas for the area. Tell us about the poles. – Yeah. These are, I call them totem poles, but they’re really reclaimed logs that floated down the Mobile River. There are 110 of them, so Dr. Li had talked about the Clotilda, which is what established this community when the slaves were brought here and released
because they weren’t allowed to be slaves. Slavery had already been
abolished at that point. The community set up in this area, and so these totem poles
represent the 110 people that were on that ship.
– Excellent. – These totem poles are at
the very start of my park, so you would walk through these. This is connecting you with the community and establishing that these represent the people that lived here at that time, and then there’s a trail that
runs all the way from there down through this abandoned railroad line all the way down to the creek, down through some wildlife wetland areas, some educational signs
would be established along there so that we can talk to visiting school kids about
the history of the area and why this was important, why this community is very important. There was also, I proposed a pavilion halfway down that would
be a community pavilion that could be sued for religious events or it
could be used for teaching these school kids, it’s a shaded area. And then the trail goes on down and finishes up at this place of baptism at the very bottom. I used one of these single
totem poles to represent the location, or possible location, of how people were dunked into the water there and they can walk around it and it’s a good spot to be
able to get out into the creek. You can actually see the
creek in either direction. Not shown in there is
a very industrial area that’s an oil refinery or an oil transfer place
across the road from it and railroad tracks next to it. There’s also a connect with these poles that one of them faces east and establishes a sort of notional idea that it’s facing back
to where this community came from because they
came from West Africa. I can’t remember the name, sorry. – Very impactful.
– Yeah. – It’s exciting to see. And thank you for talking
with us about your work on that team project. Thank you for joining us on this episode of Influence, where we learned more about the Department of Landscape Architecture’s award winning work in Africatown. See you next time. (upbeat music)

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