Creek Stand: exploring a cultural crossroads

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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.

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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?
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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.

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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.

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MOBILE STUDIO RECOGNIZED BY THE US SENATE!

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

ROSA PARKS 100th BIRTHDAY GALA & NIGHT WITH ACCLAIMED POET NIKKY FINNEY!

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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 gmnorman@troy.edu.