Smithsonian meeting at Fort Mose a success


Derek Boyd Hankerson reported to Historic City News on the success of the event that was held yesterday at Fort Mose with the Directors of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

This was the second in a series of events sponsored by Senator Hill, which continues to highlight international travel and tourism, multicultural experiences, the Gullah-Geechie Heritage Corridor, and the African-Caribbean Experience in Spanish Florida.

The Smithsonian Directors Florida trip, which included site visits in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Tallahassee, and Miami was organized by Dr. Deborah Mack, however the St. Augustine leg was coordinated by Derek Hankerson and James Bullock friend’s of Senator Hill’s, and members of the core 450th Celebration. Dr. Mack is an independent consultant with twenty years of experience in developing public programs; exhibits, curricula, and publications for well know cultural institutions in the United States and abroad. Dr. Mack was appointed to the Gullah-Geechie National Heritage Commission in 2007.

The main topics covered at the meeting included the promotion of tourism in Florida and how to get information to the nation! As well as developing a partnership on a National and International level, and steps for the final phase of exhibits installation, the recognition and inclusion of Fort Mose by the National Park Service to the Underground Railroad Network, and the Gullah Geechie Heritage Corridor.

Also, at the meeting residents learned that the overall goal of the Smithsonian’s was to document, preserve, and present the lives and stories of people that had often been marginalized or ignored.

Senator Hill spoke about the tremendous opportunities to create partnerships through trade and tourism with Caribbean and Latin American Countries. He went on to say “that there would be tremendous economic gains from Heritage Tourism in this region. The Gullah Geechie Heritage corridor alone will bring $1 million dollars a year over ten years.”

Mr. Daniel Fils- Amie, Chairman of the Haitian-American Historical society spoke about the need to recognized Gen Jorge Bissau, Haitian Born leader who after the Haitian revolution became a Spanish General who received Spain’s Highest Military Honor, and was the second highest paid man in all of Spanish Florida in the late 1700’s.

The honored guests, and feature speakers were Lonnie G. Bunch, III, Director, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture and Dr. John Whittington Franklin, Director of Partnership and International Programs. The panelists also included Dana Ste. Claire, 450th. Exec Director, and Interim City of St. Augustine Cultural Heritage Director Dana Ste. Claire, Commissioner Ken Bryant, Vice Mayor Errol Jones, and State Senator Tony Hill.

Other in attendance included former Mayor George Gardner, Dr. Dorothy Israel, Rev. James Rawls; St. Paul’s AME church, Florida State Park staff, local historian David Nolan, Anthea Manning, British Night watch, and the Junkanoo festival. Chuck Ponce, Director Tours of St. Augustine, and Old Florida Museum. The Executive Board of the Fort Mose Historical Society, Dia Kukenndall, Public Affairs Manager, Visit Florida.Org, Brendan Burke, L.A.M.P. Archaeologist, St. Augustine, Lighthouse, Phil McDaniel, St. Johns County Cultural Council, Albert Syeles, Romanza 450th, Jennifer King, Director, Advertising and Marketing the Hester Group, and Willie Martin, Martin Radio group, and other St. Augustine residents.

Near the conclusion of the meeting classically trained artist Alexandra Barbot unveiled a portrait of Gen. Bissau. A tour was given to the guests, by James Bullock, and a brief question and answer period concluded the program.

Photo credit: Phil McDaniel