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September 8, 1998

The Merging of Cultures

by Edmund Tsang


The image that Alma Bryant High School, formed by the merging of Alba High School and Grand Bay High School, represents the joining of farmers from Grand Bay with fishermen of Bayou La Batre, while an obvious one, is inadequate to illustrate the complex interactions among the diverse communities of south Mobile County and between these communities and their natural environment.

The 1990 Census shows that Grand Bay was far from the image of a farming community: Of the 3,172 employed persons 16 and over, "farming, forestry, and fishing" accounted for only 1.3 percent of the occupation, while 41.8 percent worked in the City of Mobile, and another 14.6 percent in Pascagoula and its surrounding areas. In Bayou La Batre, "farming, forestry, and fishing" accounted for 13.8 percent of occupation of employed persons 16 and over, while 14.9 percent worked in the City of Mobile and 6.2 percent in Pascagoula and neighboring areas; another 41.3 percent worked in the City of Bayou La Batre.

The median household income in 1989 for Grand Bay was $24,760, compared to $17,660 for Bayou La Batre. (The median income for the state was $23,597 for the same period.) For persons 25 and over in Grand Bay, 67.1 percent had attained high school graduation or higher; it was 45.7 percent for Bayou La Batre.

In Grand Bay, 18.5 percent of persons 16 and over who worked in 1989 worked less than 35 hours per week; of these, 44.7 percent worked 1 to 34 hours per week, 40 to 52 weeks a year. For Bayou La Batre, they are 24.2 percent and 40.7 percent, respectively. [See attached Table]

Now that Exhibit #1 of The Merging of Cultures, "The Fisherman and The Farmers," has been completed, fine art photographer Sheila Hagler and writer Peggy Denniston move on to Phase Two, in which they plan to teach students at Alma Bryant to use the art of photography and creative writing to capture the uniqueness of each culture represented at the new high school.

"We have begun with the obvious," Hagler said, "but we will work with the students to pursue understanding aspects of each community and culture as they come together." Hagler and Denniston hope that "with the inside perspective of the students, we will focus on the individual qualities of those who have chosen this place as home. The Media and Photography project will study the merging of all of South Mobile County by isolating one moment at a time."

"As students from different backgrounds learn about each other's special qualities, they will also learn to understand the vast, competitive world more easily," a statement of the project reads. "Using art, students will collaborate to develop their own vision."

Armed with support from the South Mobile County Educational Foundation, Citizens for a Better Grand Bay, and the Mobile Arts Council, Hagler and Denniston bought cameras from Russia for the students and drafted lesson plans. And if all go according to plan, an exhibit of the students' work will be the final highlight of the project.


POPULATIONBayou La BatreGrand Bay
Total 5,3167,702
White (% Total)4,135 (77.8%)6,713 (87.1%)
African-American416 (7.8%) 918 (11.9%)
Native American5 (0.1%)47 (0.6%)
Asian Americans753 (14.2%)23 (0.3%)
Hispanic origin102 (1.9%)48 (0.6%)
Persons 5 and over who speak a language
    other than English
Persons who do not speak English "very well"52063
EDUCATION LEVELBayou La BatreGrand Bay
Persons 25 and over3,0384,498
        High School Graduates (including equivalency)1,0021,580
        College Graduate77265
        Graduate & Professional Degree3672
Persons 3 year and over and enrolled in schools1,4682,088
        Pre-Primary School50119
INCOMEBayou La BatreGrand Bay
Married- Couple families
Female House, no husband
% Families Below Poverty Level25.8%13.1%
EMPLOYMENTBayou La BatreGrand Bay
Persons 16 and over3,6875,516
Employed 16 and over1,8553,206
        Private wage and salary workers1,4732,644
Work in Mobile city2761,327
        Mobile county5121,053
        Bayou La Batre city766126
        Pascagoula city, MS90291
        Remainder area of Pascagoula, MS7108
        Moss Point, MS1864
Occupation (major categories)Bayou La BatreGrand Bay
        Executive, administrative, managerial89344
        Professional Specialty92328
        Technician & related support27109
        Administrative support, including clerical193499
        Service, except protective and household223275
        Farming, forestry, and fishing25643
        Precision production, craft, and repair270564
        Machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors115222
        Transportation and material moving118212
Selected Industries (major categories)Bayou La BatreGrand Bay
        Wholesale and retail trade595915
        Transportation, communications, and other utilities123213
        Finance, insurance, and real estate1678
        Professional and related service188584
        Business and repair services57194

Source: 1990 Census

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