Ida Floods Another Historically Black Gulf Community

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tags: African American history, Mississippi, Hurricane Ida, Gulf Coast

When Daniel Dedeux opened his front door to head to work on Tuesday, he saw a lake where the street was supposed to be.

As the tide rose in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the waters of Turkey Creek, already swollen by Hurricane Ida’s rains, had nowhere to go but into the roads and yards of Forest Heights, a historic African American neighborhood in North Gulfport.

Dedeux called his supervisor at Ingalls Shipbuilding and said he wouldn’t be able to make it to work. He took a vacation day so he wouldn’t lose pay for the day.

Flooding has been a feature of life in the community. Residents and neighborhood advocates blame Gulfport’s over-development and the lack of investment in infrastructure to address the problem. And some say a planned $32 million road project, across what is now mostly wetlands, could make matters much worse.

As the floodwaters rose after midnight on Tuesday, Ward 3 Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines stationed herself just outside Holly Circle, the subdivision’s main loop, near the four pumps that were struggling to keep up.

She called residents and told them to look outside so they could move cars from flooding roads. Six of them joined her outside. The smell of sewage hung in the air as they watched the water and prayed.

“I think that we have come to a peak in the road,” Holmes-Hines said. “We’re going to do the right thing by this minority community, or we’re going to just be on record that we don’t care. Either way, they’re going to have to make a decision.”


In the mid-1960s, the National Council of Negro Women surveyed Black residents of North Gulfport about their housing. Many rented homes without electricity or running water. The organization built Forest Heights to help change that.

At Forest Heights, those residents could afford to buy a modern home and build wealth for their families. With support from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, it opened as one of the country’s first integrated homeownership developments for low-income residents.

The NCNW adopted it as a model for developments in St. Louis, Missouri; Raleigh, North Carolina; and New Orleans.

Cheryl Clark bought her home about 30 years ago. She was 25 years old and paid $16,000.

“It was a blessing to have these homes,” she said. “If you really couldn’t afford it, you could afford it.”


Read entire article at Biloxi Sun-Herald

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