The City Mobile should finally get rid of the Azalea Trail Maid program. It’s imagery of the antebellum south, an era before the civil war in which slavery flourished is really a desperate attempt to hold on to an imaginary, romanticized time that never existed in American history. Yes, I know the Azalea Trail Maids are the allegedly the Good Will Ambassadors of the city who exude the “finest in Southern charm and hospitality” according to their website.
But to me and so many other Black Mobilians past and present and Black visitors alike, those massive colorful hoop skirt dresses is really a nod to the movie “Gone with the Wind” complete with swirling sound score, a romantic back-and-forth, a violent war and oh yeah the fate of four million Black men, women and children who generationally had been enslaved for over 300 years.
As a Black child growing up in Mobile, I grew to despise everything those dresses symbolized and the supposed southern “values” the Azalea Trail Maids stood for. And for clarification this has nothing to do with how many years it finally took to integrate the program with Black Trail Maids. Instead it’s the imagery the city is seemingly clinging to that is all too incongruent with what it really is today, a majority Black city that is attempting to grow its economy and population.
Mobile is proudly home to numerous international companies such as Airbus, ThyssenKrupp and others. So the last thing that a modern Mobile wants to project at the annual Macy Thanksgiving Day parade is a hundred or so mostly white young ladies reminding audiences around the world that the antebellum, pre-civil war and slave driven economy is not dead, but is still alive in the minds and hearts of two-hundred thousand Mobilians!!
In fact over the past few years, I’ve brought friends to Mobile for Mardi Gras. One friend from Chicago often recounts the anger and shock he felt seeing how Mobiilans proudly allowed a man to ride his bicycle before and after the parade with a giant confederate flag attached to it. It’s even harder to explain how imagery from the racist south such as the Azalea Trail Maids is somehow a modern-day Goodwill Ambassador of the city.
Here’s an idea!! Mobile should disassociate itself from the Azalea Trail Maid program and seek more modern and progressive way and marketing to project itself as a city that’s on the move. Mobile let’s finally remove ALL of the racial imagery and pain and allow it to finally be buried and placed in a museum where it belongs. And from those ashes let’s grow a new Mobile of Tomorrow!
Herndon Davis is site manager of the Growing Mobile Alabama page at https://www.facebook.com/GrowingMobileAlabama/