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The Place OutEast

placemaking Dec 17, 2021
Sabrina Whittaker
The Place OutEast

This essay examines an under-appreciated subculture hidden in and near Springfield, a historic district in Jacksonville, Florida. Springfield was founded in 1869 as a predominantly white residential community. The area was meant to serve as a vacation destination for Northerners, but its growth was stunted and thrown off course following The Great Fire of 1901. Today, Springfield is home to approximately 5,700 of the 910,000 bodies living within Jacksonville, totaling less than 2/3rd of a percent of residents.

We're not interested in Springfield as a whole, however. We're going to be more specific than that. The borders of OutEast are small, and the area is landlocked between the historic district and the greater industrial zone. Most visitors overlook OutEast, confusing it with nearby East Side neighborhoods like Oakland. Residents of this place are likely black bodies whose families moved in during or since the last mid-century.

Our research has found that surrounding communities consider OutEast to be a blight due to the decrepit state of homes in the area, and as such, it is the subject of several urban renewal programs. Little is done to support the development of OutEast and the people within, as opposed to its gentrification. As we advance through ideas, we'll use OutEast to showcase how black bodies are simultaneously the same as and different from what Americans are likely to imagine. We will also highlight what a small place in Jacksonville, Florida, teaches us about the experiences of Black bodies living within the United States.



The Core Problem Presented Within This Essay


The spread of misinformation concerning American history is rampant, unfortunate, and deliberate. Following centuries of myths, stories, and overlooked history, most participants of American systems don't have enough knowledge of its history and structure to make informed decisions. This realization is a notably tragic truth for black bodies because the misalignment between explicit and implicit systems highlights their oppression. Comparisons between de jure and de facto discrimination offer examples of the United States' ethical misalignment and help us understand why small, tight-knit subcultures like OutEast form outside of mainstream American culture.


As we know from organizational theory, ethical misalignment between explicit and implicit cultures breeds cynicism in observant participants. It is possible to become so frustrated that you opt to isolate from or rebel against unethical policy within an organization. Within this essay, we argue that the United States produces an environment hostile to black bodies. We furthermore discuss how this has affected OutEast and describe why inhabitants continue to live under these conditions.


Notes on Motivation and Bias


What does bias look like in real life? Perhaps it manifests as the idea that "all black people are the same," but what does that mean?  Is the individual violent, angry, lazy, clumsy, or loyal? What about their taste in music or film? Do they all listen to jazz or rap? Could we visit other places with examples of the concepts illustrated within this essay?


Humans tend to believe they possess complete knowledge of the systems they interact with, which makes sense; the alternate belief would likely encourage them to gain more information before making decisions. We avoid hesitation of this nature because life is short, and it's usually better to assume we have all the information we need during decision-making. We know which levers to pull at work and reasonably expect the tea we like to taste as good as always. When is this not true, and what should we do when confronted with new or conflicting information? We are more connected than at any other time in human history and will meet thousands of people within our lifetime. Surely, we will be confronted with conflicting information often. Should we stop and think critically each time?


  • Would that yield better outcomes?
  • Would it slow us down?


From a data analyst's perspective, we should consider new information if and when it is relevant to our realm of influence. A place, event, or scenario exists within our realm of influence if our direct or indirect actions affect its wellbeing. This is the case for Americans apathetic to socioeconomic issues plaguing fellow citizens with whom they have no other apparent connection. So, to combat bias, we'll ask questions like "who benefits from the structure of OutEast?" and "what can we learn from its history?". The desired outcome of this paper is that readers are more capable of recognizing oppression because they understand WHY black people are oppressed, not just how.


As a Black American woman, I am biased towards the positive development of black bodies within the United States. My drive to research and analyze this topic is fueled by my interests in business, culture, and the empathetic historical analysis of America. I write on this subject because I am uniquely qualified to speak to these experiences and understand that fostering education and community benefits us all. A case study including interviews, observations, and additional research was performed to help readers understand this essay's contents. Multiple angles and perspectives are explored to make information within this essay more accessible and apparent to readers. I could name a myriad of motivations; however, they all support the intention to paint a more holistic portrait of American history to help Americans make informed decisions.


Questions to Guide Your Analysis


  • What level of knowledge regarding history and structure is needed to arrive at various conclusions? What steps could we take towards creating an ethically aligned American culture? What does it mean to be ethically aligned?
  • What types of omissions to the documentation of a system's history or structure are likely to affect an organization publicly; which omissions might be less noticeable?
  • Could it be true that black bodies are more closely bound by their musical heritage, use of double-meanings, or close-knit communities than stereotypes against them? Might black bodies possess the same humanity as neighboring groups, similarly preferring to sing, dance, or network than complain about the pains of systemic racism?


Using OutEast as the study's focus, we focus on similarities between predominantly black spaces and their interactions with the U.S. governing body. We will also ask where some negative stereotypes come from and analyze their purpose.


 "Is it wickedness or weakness? You decide." – Kendrick Lamar


Motifs and Reoccurring Themes


Before diving any deeper into this report, it's essential that you understand that COMMUNITY is a MAJOR themE. During our interviews, we heard it countless times from various residents. Many persons cited it as number one, with the word "Family" ultimately being the most common reoccurring theme of conversation. Our interviewee suggested there were seven core roles within the OutEast community, and a single person may play multiple roles depending on the group's needs. Approximately twenty or more bodies are working together to achieve a common set of goals. These bodies follow a relatively consistent set of rituals and routines from month to month, with some accommodations for major holidays. These roles help OutEast persist as independently as a black space in the United States is able.


  • Repairman: In the place we're discussing, OutEast, our primary interviewee often assumes this role. He offers this service to community members at a discounted rate or in exchange for other services. He's interested in the restoration of old things and regularly recycles.
  • Cooks: Most bodies in this role are female, but both genders participate. The interviewee, a man in his 50s who lives alone, provided an example of one woman that shared cooked food in exchange for repairman services. Likewise, some male cooks offer to barbecue for others.
  • Salesman: These persons trade resources efficiently. They possess knowledge of economics and are the second most likely community member to report code-switching. Code-switching is the use of performative clothing, speaking, and behaviors to navigate white spaces.
  • News-gatherers: Community members who serve in this role bring news of financial opportunities, food drives, and social programs from outside the community to those with limited or no access to the internet.
  • Middle-class: These are typically black bodies that don't want to live within a predominantly white space. To promote wealth within the communities, they usually prefer to hire community members when looking for services.
  • Elders: Older community members that share information and tell stories. An example of this concept in the media is Dave Chappelle, whose mother talks about being a griot. A griot is a storyteller that memorizes music, history, and other narratives important to the culture. It is said that the passing of a griot is equivalent to a library burning down. According to our interviewee, black American griots include the likes of Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby and accounts from writers like James Baldwin or Zora Neale Hurston.
  • Cookout Hosts: It is not uncommon for community members to play this role in addition to another. These bodies are interested in art, music, and hosting celebrations. To promote networking, hosts take turns hosting card games, get-togethers, and reunions.


"And of course, there's drugs, violence, alcohol, and weapons because we've got to maintain an image." – Primary Interviewee from OutEast


During our time together, a frequent and notable reaction from the primary interviewee was laughter. For example, to establish common ground and understand our interviewee's perspective, we watched film clips from his youth together. We watched clips of Shirley Temple films featuring Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, better known as Stepin Fetchit. Stepin Fetchit is a Floridian actor that played the part of a stupid but loyal black man for decades, beginning in the 1930s. He made a minstrel of the black man and effectively furthered America's historic affront on black masculinity. The primary interviewee explained that his laughter was because he knew the situation was helpless, and Stepin Fetchit was just an actor playing into stereotypes for economic gain. Our primary interviewee is a Black man, and unfortunately, his perspective isn't easy for someone with no other knowledge of a black man's behavior to adopt. Many Americans were fooled by Stepin Fetchets acting. It didn't help that Shirley Temple, a female child, was strong and brave. Resultingly, the slow burn of systemic racism still powers late-stage capitalism despite the repealing of many racist laws because the ideas are already present within the minds of American people.


Diversity within the Black Experience


How does black culture differ from stereotypes and mainstream American culture? Our primary interviewee shared that widely emphasized values such as loyalty and trustworthiness were essential with the borders of OutEast. He rejected suggestions that inhabitants living in this place were lazy or dumb. "We value resourcefulness, innovation, and curiosity over what they teach you in school." Our primary interviewee alludes to popular white culture values such as pure logic systems, individualism, and homogenous behavior. The founders of America and her early systems were a homogenous group of landowning white males violent enough to overthrow the king's army. Our interviewee believes, "[white bodies] want to maintain supremacy in this country." The implication here is that white bodies like when the system they've built runs smoothly, without regard for the black experience. History suggests that Americans of all backgrounds are willing to kill for opportunities to advance socially or economically, which encourages some black bodies, such as those OutEast, to isolate from mainstream culture.


"There Goes the Neighborhood" vs. "It Takes a Village"


In 1955, Emmet Till, a fourteen-year-old from Chicago visiting his cousins in Mississippi, was brutally murdered for whistling at a white woman. He was antagonized, shot, tortured, wrapped in barbed wire, attached to a 75-pound fan, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. His mother made the bold move of having an open-casket funeral. Emmett's death is a defining moment in American history and the impetus for films such as "All the Way Home," a 1957 thought piece on the integration of American neighborhoods directed towards white adults. Our interviewee was born in 1965, one year after the 1964 civil rights act, and boasts being one of the first black inhabitants of the neighborhood thanks to his white-passing grandmother.


A white-passing black body is a black body with relatively pale skin able to navigate white spaces more easily than darker bodies. During this time, she worked for white bodies as a maid. According to our interviewee, "they trusted her because she didn't look Black." Not everyone was happy with the changing neighborhood, however. Over time white bodies left the neighborhood in search of what they believed to be more wholesome communities. During our interviewee's youth, white bodies were publicly against gratuitous displays of violence but were not yet ready to integrate Black bodies into their home life. During our research, we found that in 1969, East Jacksonville was set ablaze after a white cigarette salesman shot a black man he'd accused of stealing. The man also shot into a group of school children. "What was not burned was looted as rioters threw rocks through the windows of business like Bill's Clothing. In addition, vehicles were burned, a policeman was struck with a brick and two people were injured by gunfire." The neighborhood has never fully recovered from this event. It's a familiar story, however. Earlier in the century, "Black Wallstreet" in Tulsa, Oklahoma, burned down after a white woman was reportedly raped on an elevator.


American white bodies tend to champion individualism and believe it's the black bodies responsibility to conform and adhere to a disproportionately white American culture if they want success. When black bodies choose not to conform, they are punished for it socially and economically. Indeed, history is taught such that the sting is taken out of American slavery and other modes of oppression against minorities. Several accounts depict a white savior saving black bodies from themselves up by giving them clothes, purpose, and passage out of Africa. It is easier than believing the reality of black people as whole beings kidnapped their home and separated from their families. To avoid contention with mainstream American culture, inhabitants of OutEast limit how often they leave the community and cautiously interact with visitors. The occurring theme of "Family" makes sense when placed in the context of forgotten history, limited opportunities, and no escape from the effects of systemic racism.


Some white bodies that understand the humanity of black bodies feel white guilt, an uncomfortable side effect. However, the most appropriate reaction is not pity but the expansion of their communities to include persons of various backgrounds from across the United States. Such expansion would result in a more holistic understanding of America's history and a means for detecting harmful elements within its structure.


"The oldest institution is the family. Why don't we act like we're family?" – Primary Interviewee from OutEast.


If You Don't Know Your History, You're Doomed to Repeat It


As discussed, participants must understand the structure and history of a system to navigate it intelligently. Navigating places means making decisions that support the desired outcome from entering a space and performing particular actions. It follows that if Americans are denied reliable information, their efforts won't yield the expected result. Instead, the participants may appear ignorant or unintelligent regardless of their ability to problem-solve.

Despite repeated attempts to escape harmful systems through various methods, African Americans find themselves locked within a disappointing reality where governing systems simultaneously evolve to maintain oppression and the economic value of white spaces. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then the evolution of OutEast is both sane and tragic. Its isolation is a response to observed futility and reminiscent of arguments against integration from the likes of Muhammad Ali or Malcolm X. Whether a body intends to join mainstream culture or isolate themselves to study and maintain their own, the only way to be sure bodies are making sound decisions according to their goals, is to increase their knowledge of America's history and structure


This is easier said than done because when myths and stories misalign an implicit system from the explicit system it supports, the changes tend to stick around for a while. During our interview, our contact shared an anecdote from his father about material loss. The sentiment is that white bodies have the authority to take everything from you, but the lessons you've learned, so you should learn as much as you can. You may think that we aren't likely to witness, but considering several houses are missing from the neighborhood, replaced by overgrowth, the advice rings true for many residents OutEast. One resident and community members explained that this was why reunions are so important for black people; they encourage positive memories, information sharing, and networking.


Rituals and Routines


So, what does a typical day look like for members of this community? Of the twenty-plus persons considered and the handful surveyed, it was noted that many residents opt to wake up early. Their days start with activities like cleaning, yard work, or appointments outside of the community. The repairman, for example, may begin his day by reviewing the items he salvaged the previous day, surveying the neighborhood for abandoned material or new clients. The interviewee was sure to note that everyone separated their tossed items to make this process easier. Next, the repairman must decide whether to restore the items he finds or sell them for junk. This process takes a few hours, and while the repairman makes his rounds, other members are doing their part to maintain a functioning system as well.


Sometime around midday, members of the community are likely to take a break. During this time, they may drink, laugh, and exchange information with one another. What they have to offer depends on their backgrounds and which role they hole to serve in that day. Our interviewee insisted a special note be made for News-gatherers, who must "do what the Romans do" in order to source information about upcoming needs and opportunities. By this, our interviewee means code-switching their costuming and performances to avoid the type of issues you run into when you're away from home (i.e., Insults, Stereotyping, Police Brutality, etc.) Social hour is followed by store runs, errands, and trading to minimize costs. Those that work outside of the neighborhood may return around this time.


"No one should ever go hungry, they won't let you miss a food drive. Anyone that can't make it due to health or age is taken care of without question." – Primary Interviewee from OutEast


In summation, the place OutEast is an example of how black spaces operate as small organizations to protect community members from the pains of systemic racism in the United States. We also see how the unethical nature of the United States' governing body has weaponized the fears and values of white Americans to preemptively destroy threats to the economic and social prosperity of white bodies within the United States. As a result, groups more closely aligned with traditional American values succeed, while the black body, America's Bastard child, is repeatedly blamed for her mistakes.


Accompanying Field Notes


  1. What sorts of music and film do you believe tell this story, if any?
    1.  Not enough!
  2. What kind of people share these beliefs, if any? Could you think of examples of this in the media?
    1.  We watched source videos together
  3. Please describe the history of the neighborhood.
  4. Race, place, and other social identities shape the group.
    1.  Interviewee believes Lucille Ball had to be smart enough to play stupid, similar to how Stepin Fetchit played stupid for economic gain. Acknowledge the difficulty of her real-life interracial relationship.
    2.  Shirley Temple. "I watched this when I was younger. We were taught to laugh at attacks on black masculinity. The actors were so talented that we believed they were stupid, and so were we."
    3.  Female community members help the community by cooking food and trading resources. Males are more likely to offer repair items or complete labor-intensive work.
  5. Rituals and Practices
    1.  Rebuild (Carpenter Background, Special Skill, Restoration)
    2.  Storytelling/ Educating the Youth/ Sharing Knowledge of the History and Structure of the System. (Theme: Community)
    3.  Recycle
      1.  Salvage or Look for Client
      2.  Decide whether to restore it or sell it for junk.
  •  Drink and exchange information (specialty according to their background.)
  1.  Store runs
  2.  Some people put their things out for people first
  3.  Run errands or trade to minimize costs
  •  Take care of their houses, cleaning, and landscaping because no one else is taking care of the neighborhood.
  •  Lots of people are concerned about food and giveaways. "They won't let you miss a food drive." The only way someone should go hungry is to
  1. Values and Beliefs
    1.  Family; the reason why.
    2.  Good morals. Load sharing. You can't do everything that you need to do by yourself, and you need community. So valuing community is an excellent moral to have.
    3.  They also offer recommendations based on street cred like Nipsey Hussle's high regard in Deep Reverence.
    4.  Lack of knowledge. doomed to repeat history. They also share critical information with one another, news gathers.
    5.  Linked Social Fate of Black People – Blacks everywhere are invested in the wellbeing of other black people because they know the stereotypes that go along with being black. Those of us that know history are connected through our ancestors past suffering.
  2. The way the group deals with race relations
    1.  Code switch and blend. Perform according to the rules.
    2.   Mixed allegiances.
  3. The importance of space.
    1.  It's your plot of land. It feels like home in a world that's hostile. "A paradise, like the garden of Eden"
    2.  Familiarity breeds contentment. Like a Salmon, he returns to where he was born. He wants to feel content.


Field Notes Continued: Additional Sentiments of Interviewee


  • We're not allowed to learn about our shared heritage.
  • Black bodies have lived in the United States as long as white bodies; why isn't their history taught?
  • Musical heritage, double meanings in songs, beats, dancing, sharing information through storytelling, peaceful. Cookouts Celebrating.
  • Interviewee says he believes black bodies only attack when provoked as opposed to preemptive attacks like we might see from some European cultures exercising war strategy.
  • We believe in community. Stories about how to navigate white spaces. The same and different than you think.
  • What have we learned?
  • Someone has to do something about these atrocities. WE have to do something.
  • Let this be an example of every black place and just one.