Creek Stand: exploring a cultural crossroads


Big Warrior looked out upon an uncertain world from this overlook along the Federal Road in Creek Stand, Alabama in the spring of 1811, the vast Halawakee wetland, teaming with fish and otter and beaver and white tail deer, spreading below his feet represented only a fraction of the good and nurturing land under his family’s care.  As a principle Chief of Tukabatchee town on the mighty and fertile Tallapoosa river at the confluence of the the Uphapee Creek watershed, Big Warrior had to choose wisely the course he would advocate on behalf of his family and kin in the Upper Creek Towns in their emerging relationship with the United States Government. DSC_0239There was this road he was standing on to consider carefully. The Federal Road, built so that the Americans could deliver their war correspondence from their capital in Washington City (later D.C.) to the hotly contested international ports of trade of Mobile and New Orleans on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. By a treaty with the Americans, Big Warrior’s daughter and her husband ran an active and, by accounts and archeological evidence, successful trading and lodging business here, giving this modern Alabama town its name, Creek Stand. Quite literally a place to stand and stretch one’s legs and back after a day’s brutal and exhausting travel on the poorly constructed road through the wilderness of the Creek Nation.


Galena, the ore of lead, from southern Illinois is mounted into the posts that protect the historic marker in front of the Creek Stand A.M.E. Zion Church. Big Warrior may have sent the Galena to his daughter and son-in-law at Creek Stand to smelt into lead for bullets, bullets for sale or bullets to hide, for a ban on the amount of arms a Native American could posses in his own nation was coming in the next few years; a directive from the land hungry speculators from Tennessee and Georgia that would petition the U.S. government for the right to deprive Big Warrior’s people of their land. Maybe Big Warrior’s friend in the Pan-Indian resistance, the Shawnee Holy Man, Techumsah had shared the Galena traders routes with Big Warrior and his family. With bullets from Illinois, deer and beaver skins to London, Big Warrior’s world was epic in scope and ultimately tragic in reality. By 1835, under the insatiable leadership of greed embodied by then Major General Andrew Jackson, Big Warrior’s landscape was no more. The land around Creek Stand was sold sight-un-seen by land speculators from Georgia to eager families of white folks ready to populate the landscape with cotton rows and slave shacks. And so they did with less or more success; an older Alabamian once said, “Cotton in Alabama in the first half of the 1800’s was just like the Cocaine boom in Columbia in the 1980’s, it was just a few families willing to do whatever it took to make all the cash they could”.  Whichever lens one chooses to look at the period of transition from Creek Nation to white owned, slave produced cotton to post Civil War small planters, it should be considered that it all happened in a mere 54 years. The Federal Road was built in 1811 and the American Civil war ended in 1865. So what now?
The Bobcat Flats juke joint that probably ran from the 1970’s to the 1990’s on the remnant of the Old Federal Road is just a pile of rotting lumber and a brick foundation in the woods, probably a good thing, serious drug trafficking has pretty much made juke joints too dangerous to operate in the South anymore. Big land owners have several large hunting clubs in Creek Stand, as if the white tailed deer that fed and enriched Big Warrior and his people just keep getting fatter and bigger on the abundant acorns and cover of the Halawakee Swamp. There was a food CO-OP that tried to grow a good crop of sweet potatoes to give away to folks on a limited budget, but the deer ate them up. Things are old and delicate and somehow wounded in Creek Stand. There isn’t a store to buy anything. Everyone who needs to go do something other than hunt or go to church goes up to Tuskeegee or even further, all the way up highway 29, up to the Walmart in Auburn.

But Creek Stand whispers its story into the ears of sleeping descendents  far away from the A.M.E. Zion Church, where a slave named Jalani, later Steve Pace, who was kidnapped in Africa and brought to Creek Stand, managed to keep the lock that shackled him and passed it down to all the Paces that followed him into the cemetery at Creek Stand…Dr. Lorenzo Pace heard Jalani from his resting place in Creek Stand, he heard his great-great Grandfather tell him the story of the lock, and Dr. Pace, who is an artist, told everybody else, especially children, in his book for children called Jalani and the Lock. DSC_0233

Shari Williams, heard her grandmother’s voice in Akron Ohio telling her about the wonderful sense of peace that came over one in Creek Stand, how you could really listen to the land and the land speaks. Shari is a descendent of Jalani as well, and when she finally came to visit the Creek Stand of her grandmother as a grown woman, she knew she had come home. She now is the director of the Ridge Interpretive Center at Creek Stand, Alabama; finding out more, listening more closely, and telling more people about the land that sings so quietly but so persistantly.



Rosa Parks Museum ambassadors present Wishes Do Come True Posters to the Mayor of Montgomery and the Chancellor of Troy University!
Rosa Parks Museum ambassadors present Wishes Do Come True Posters to the Mayor of Montgomery and the Chancellor of Troy University!

Today, Mobile Studio was recognized by the U.S. Senate for our work with the Rosa Parks Museum honoring her 100th Birthday! Humongous shoutout to everyone who has believed in and participated in Mobile Studio thus far!

Congressional Record – 112th Congress (2011-2012) – THOMAS (Library of Congress)

Whereas the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University and the Mobile Studio will commemorate the birthday of Rosa Parks with the 100th Birthday Wishes Project, culminating on February 4, 2013, with a 100th birthday celebration at the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts in Montgomery, Alabama, where 2,000 birthday wishes submitted by individuals throughout the United States will be transformed into 200 graphic messages: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate–(1) observes the 100th birthday of civil rights icon Rosa Parks; and(2) commemorates the legacy of Rosa Parks to inspire all people of the United States to stand up for freedom and the principles of the Constitution.
Gala evening



Mobile Studio is very excited to invite you to join us for these wonderful upcoming events which are part of our 13-month long celebration of Rosa Parks life works. As a community design partner, we are translating the wishes of Montgomery’s children for the future of their city inspired by Mrs. Parks, into actionable projects that will increase civic health for all. From these calls for safety, equity, courage, and hope to a new city of Freedom Parks and vital civic infrastructures, we have made this beautiful paper and are in the midst of printing posters that voice wishes as messages for the city. The posters will return to their districts, be presented to the city leadership, be mapped and designed into realizable projects extending Rosa Parks legacy into the future of Alabama’s City of Dreams.

Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum will celebrate Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday on Monday, February 4th, with an evening of art, poetry, and an official unveiling of the new Parks commemorative stamp by the U.S. Postal Service.

The celebration event will be held at 6 p.m. inside the Gold Room on the second floor of Whitley Hall at Troy’s Montgomery Campus. Admission is free and open to the public.

The evening’s events will include:

• National Book Award-winning poet Nikky Finney will read her poem “Red Velvet,” which is about Rosa Parks.

• Dr. Riche’ Richardson, an associate professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, will present a lecture entitled “Rosa Parks at 100.” A native of Montgomery, Richardson’s essays have been published in numerous journals such as “American Literature” and “Mississippi Quarterly.” Her first book was “Black Masculinity and the U.S. South: From Uncle Tom to Gangsta,” and she has a book in progress exploring black femininity in the South.

• Museum Director Georgette Norman and Curator Daniel Neil will present the “Rosa Parks 100th Birthday Wishes Project.” For several months, the museum has collected more than 1,400 “wishes” for the future of the city and nation inspired by Parks’ life work from local students and other individuals. Many of these “wishes” have been turned into a series of silk screen posters, which will be presented to local elected officials and leaders for display around Montgomery.

• Bridgett Carol, Director of Marketing for the U.S. Postal Service Alabama District and Donnie Snipes, Postmaster for Montgomery, will unveil the new Rosa Parks commemorative stamp, one of several unveilings happening nationwide this day.

For more information about this or other museum events, contact Museum Director Georgette Norman at (334) 241-8608, or


DSC_0260DSC_0388 DSC_0381 DSC_0368 DSC_0337 DSC_0335  DSC_0327 DSC_0320 DSC_0310 DSC_0307 DSC_0299  DSC_0294 DSC_0291 DSC_0268  With hundreds gathered for a 2nd Amendment Right rally at the Capital and a NFL event in town, Mobile Studio celebrated MLK’s National Day of Service by printing wishes of students from across Montgomery, Alabama, inspired by the life works of Rosa Parks. We have received nearly 1,500 from every district in the city and from as far away as Paris and Burundi. The wishes have been translated to graphic posters- printed messages that speak directly to the future of the city.

Ranging from stop the violence and the killing! to appreciate your bravery and change the world!, the voices of the children are a clarion call to urban action. Not renewal but regenerative design, from soil to civic health, from the roots to the shoots- what is needed includes sidewalks, parks and bike lanes, community centers and excellent public transportation, investment in education and the future of all children today. To make the wishes of these children come true in the City of Dreams, citizens and civic leaders will need to collaborate to rebuild vital community and neighborhood infrastructures. Enter the Mobile Studio, a collective art-based approach to open dialogue about our shared landscapes. We aim to engage the discourse, share the visions and bring the change.

The public silk screening day was held beside the bus stop at which Rosa waited in 1955, in Montgomery’s historic Court Square, a fitting place from which to consider the past, present, and future of downtown Montgomery. Court Square was one of the largest slave markets of the Confederacy. In that clearing beside the first courthouse,  an artesian spring provided water to the emerging capital, as cotton and hay was sold and slaves auctioned at the block. In 1965, a decade after Mrs. Parks acted for equal rights and justice, thousands of people marched from Selma to the steps of the Capital along Dexter Avenue past the Dexter Street Baptist Church and continue to march today to  actualize human rights and justice. However, today, this ground zero is more of a ghost space despite its prominent neighbors. Downtown is half boarded up. Setting the print shop here for this civic workshop was an intentional alignment, a strategic punctum in the studium of the city.

With the Potluck Drumming Choir and Auburn Alabama’s own Less Than Heroes, the field day served to test the acupunctural significance of that haunted terrain in the revitalizing of Montgomery’s civic health and to stimulate the tingling of healing, opening pathways, and channels of sustained service and exchange. Printing these powerful wishes at the epicenter of Dexter Avenue, Rosa Parks Avenue and the State Capital grounds, on what was probably once a sacred mound above the Alabama River, was for the studio, a double move of resistance and wish-making. The posters give power and presence to the children’s wishes for peace, safety, equality, and justice. The event itself celebrates that act, and invites an open dialogue about how we achieve these wishes.

This project is ongoing. We hope you will join us in this wonderful partnership between Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum, Professor Jerry Johnson and his graphic design program at Troy, Auburn University’s Master of Landscape Architecture Program and an international group of students and artists dedicated to the critical and creative practice of being the change we wish to see in the world.

Poet Nikki Finney will be speaking at the commemoration of what would be Rosa Parks 100th Birthday the week of February 4th and prints by Amos Kennedy are showing at the Rosa Parks Museum Gallery Mobile Studio is excited to be a part of this wonderful year-long project!

Check out the several awesome publications about the event posted the Montgomery Advertiser, and the Prattville Press

well and then there is this




Please join us next Saturday at Montgomery’s Court Square to silkscreen the first set of wishes posters for Rosa Parks’ 100th Birthday. More than 2000 wishes for the future of the city inspired by Ms. Parks’ life work have poured in from school children across the city and around the world. The Mobile Studio has worked with Ambassadors of the Rosa Parks Museum, Jerry Johnson and his graphic design students at Troy University and Landscape Architecture students from Auburn University to translate these wishes into visual messages that will be returned to schools and neighborhoods across the city and presented to district representatives on the evening of Rosa Parks’ Birthday Gala.

The day long event will bring the art of silkscreening and the populist tradition of the broadside print to the center of the city, free and fun for all. Bring the family, bring the students, citizens one and all and spend the day in this intriguing urban terrain making art, music, food together to re-new our collective commitment to justice, to equal access to the civic infrastructures and civic health of the the city.

The photograph above is from a Mobile Studio silk screen event last spring at Tuskegee’s Courthouse Square with Mark Wilson’s team of outstanding students from across Macon County and Auburn’s Community and Civic Engagement Program. Next Saturday promises the beautiful handmade Rose Paper, the silky scarlet studio fabric roof and much more. Hope to see you there!

SHILOH SHOW OPENING: a wonderful re-imagining schoolgrounds program and event!

The opening Saturday brought together a great mix of students, school collaborators, civic leaders and friends of Shiloh in the Shiloh Rosenwald School in Notasulga to enjoy the show. It was great to see the student’s sharpest work framed in the context of the remarkable history of Shiloh and the care for land-based education cultivated in Macon County. The mixed-media program featured posters, photos and prints, agricultural displays, models, a slide show, film and laptops set up in the resource room to inspire the next year of community programming. The afternoon inspired many exciting future collaborations and provided thoughtful feedback about the Re-Imagining Schoolyards project to date. Thank you so much for coming out and supporting the Mobile Studio’s first full-scale public exhibition!


DSC_0809A fabulous show in addition to being a provocative design review; the work stimulated conversations about life, landscape literacy, grassroots design/build, and hands-on learning. We explored the many potentials of schoolyards: playful to productive, meditative to magical, and the intention of constructing these landscapes with the communities of Notasulga, D.C. Wolfe and the Fews School in the future. Perhaps only the first in a system of co-operative extension design/build programs across the southeast, prototypes of this collaboration, like the Rosenwald Schools, could multiply across Alabama.  Many thanks to the excellent reviewers: Kevin Moore, David Hinson, Judd Langham, Jacqueline Margetts, Michael Robinson, Charlene LeBleu, Rod Barnett, and Birgit Kibelka from Birmingham for joining us for and sharing their thoughts. Please come next Saturday, 12-5 pm to Notasulga for the opening of the Re-Imagining Schoolgrounds: from roots to shoots Exhibition at the Shiloh Rosenwald School.