Sixty years ago, Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr. led wade-in protests to challenge the exclusion of black citizens from Biloxi's beaches, setting in motion Mississippi's Civil Rights movement. The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, in partnership with Biloxi Branch of the NAACP, Mississippi Center for Justice, East Biloxi Community Collaborative, and the City of Biloxi, with funding from the Knight Foundation, created a handicap accessible platform and exhibit for the beach. The temporary platform will be set up in a different place each year commemorating the wade-in protests. The aim is to engage the public to look backward and forward to honor the wade-in protesters' heroic actions and to consider the work needed today to challenge discrimination and injustice. The first organized beach gathering using the temporary platform was held in June 2019. The president of the Biloxi NAACP spoke along with several of the 1959, 1960 and 1963 wade-in participants including Dr. Gilbert Mason Jr, son of Civil Rights leader, Bishop James Black, and Clemon Jimmerson. The event received very good news coverage with the Sun Herald and WLOX Broadcast. The exhibit was up on the beach for a month and viewed by hundreds of beach-goers. PDF’s of the 2019 exhibit panels can be viewed and downloaded here.
The Knight Cities Challenge Grant paid for the design, purchase and fabrication of the temporary handicap accessible beach platform, seating, exhibit and roll-out mat. The metal seating and exhibit system was designed and fabricated as square units that anchor through the platform into the sand. The seating allows beach-goers to sit and learn about the wade-in history. Visitors are invited to respond by text to the question: "Where do you see injustice today?"
The seating and exhibit system are designed to be arranged in many configurations. Each year a new exhibit will be created and installed on the beach at a different location marking the places where the beach wade-in demonstrations were held. This year's exhibit presented an overall wade-in timeline and a panel for each year with the heading: "What happened?"; "What were the risks?”; and "What were the results?"
The platform, roll-out mat and metal seating were given to the City of Biloxi Parks and Recreation Department. The city will be able to use the accessible platform for other events. The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio will coordinate with the city in future years to produce and install the exhibit for the annual wade-in commemoration.