Ok, I realize that this post doesn’t have my usual Palmetto title, but it’s still apart of the Palmetto Journey. In The Promise of Palmettos I made my characters Lauren and Delmar urban planners. I couldn’t help it. Although I no longer practice the profession, planning will always be with me. I must say that like me, the LaCrosse cousins are more preservationists. We all have to be growing up on the sea islands because we have sworn to make it our business to hold on to what we hold dear. And like me, it could be their downfall…
A few months ago, there was a discussion on my social media planning group concerning the fact that there are a high number of Black planners leaving the profession. It is a concern that needs further examination, but I can’t talk about other Black planners. I can only talk about me. I spent eight years after graduating from the University of New Orleans writing long range housing plans, transportation plans, and presenting more rezonings before city council than John saw (A nod to my Daddy there). Not too much preservation though. I had grown to accept that and I fell into an expected routine of going to work and trying to survive the politics. Then I moved to Georgia. It was there that I was turned off from practicing planning for good. Ironically, it was a preservation issue steered me in that direction. To me to construct a long range plan is to pay homage to the history of the place for which you are planning. I’m a Hampton University woman and nothing will ever change that, but I appreciate the historical structures of Fort Valley State University, which is what I tried to emphasize when writing a plan that would include the campus as a part of the Fort Valley community. Unbeknownst to me, the powers-that-be were keeping an imaginary score card on what I can only venture a guess. That was my second strike. Oh, you want to know what was “Strike One.” Strike one was having a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning in the first place.
What I also found interesting about FVSU is the fact that it is the only 1890 Land Grant Institution in the state of Georgia. Yes the only. And that, was strike three. The director went ape you-know-what crazy when I wrote that in the draft of the plan.
“What do you mean Fort Valley State University is the only Land Grant institution in the State of Georgia?!” He bellowed. “Did you forget UGA?!”
If I weren’t so stunned by the ferocity of which he expressed himself, I would have explained to the man that FVSU is the only 1890 Land Grant institution in the state of Georgia, meaning that it was established under the Second Morrill Act in that it provided an education in agricultural sciences for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Pretty practical considering the time period, don’t you think? Last time I checked, the University of Georgia is a traditional institution of higher learning, not an HBCU (No offense to my UGA graduates). So the director was correct in that the University of Georgia, established in 1784 was a land grant intstitution. Older than FVSU, it was established under the First Morrill Act. Anyway, I resigned. I was done with him. I was done with planning.
That door closed and God opened another one. Ironically, I taught the Morrill Land Act in United States History in one of the five high schools in Macon, GA. I also got an opportunity to work with a special group of collegues, most of whom graduated from FVSU…the only 1890 Land Grant Institution in the state of Georgia. So there!