A water tour related to the last ship carrying enslaved Africans to the U.S. is expected to launch as early as April after the Mobile City Council approved a $193,000 performance contract with tourism officials at Visit Mobile on Tuesday.
Visit Mobile CEO David Clark told councilors the water tour to the site where the Clotilda was scuttled and burned in the Mobile River will be accompanied by a short documentary about the ship. The first phase of the tour will leave from Cooper Riverside Park, but later iterations of it could launch from Africatown.
“We are very confident the film will be completed by May of 2021 to be shown in early summer,” he said. “We’re confident the water tours will be ready to rock and roll at about the same time.”
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) will partner with Visit Mobile and members of the Africatown community to produce the film and tour. Clark said a third phase of the project includes a wayfinding effort, which includes signage as well as historical and cultural markers.
“This is a game changer and it couldn’t come at a better time,” Clark said. “It’s truly life-changing for Africatown and the surrounding area.”
Clark said teaming up with SCAD allows the tourism board to partner with some of the “brightest students and professors in the world.” SCAD has previously worked with Google on a project that asked the question, “How do people research?”
“This is really a tremendous opportunity,” Clark said.
Councilwoman Gina Gregory praised Clark for teaming with SCAD.
“I think working with this group is a great move,” she said. “I don’t think they’ll be as expensive as other groups.”
Councilman Fred Richardson also praised Visit Mobile for working with a college out of Savannah. He lauded the work the Georgia city has done to promote tourism and used it as an example of what Mobile can do.
“The city is about the same size as Mobile, or maybe a little smaller,” he said. “What they’ve done with tourism is just fantastic.”
While there’s not a lot to show visitors to Africatown right now, Richardson said things are beginning to come online to change that. He mentioned the welcome center and the Heritage House museum, as well as the forthcoming tour.
“At the end of the process we’ll have a project that we can not only be proud of in Mobile, but one that people will visit from around the country,” Richardson said.
The contract passed unanimously with each councilor and Mayor Sandy Stimpson signing on as co-sponsors. The impact the project will have on tourism is not lost on council Vice President C.J. Small.
“This is a great game changer for the city of Mobile,” he said. “I’ve been criticized in the past by people in my own district for talking so much about Africatown, but the thing is we need tourism and the tax base to do more things for Mobile. This is something in our own backyard. No one else can say they have this in their own backyard.”
Councilwoman Bess Rich acknowledged Visit Mobile’s work with members of the Africatown community.
“It really is the community’s fabric,” Rich said. “It’s very exciting for the community we all represent.”
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here