Modern Black Churchgoers in Miami-Dade County, Florida
Place, Nature, and Memory
Keywords:Black migration, American rural south, de-greening, African-American spirituality
Leaving behind rural, land, and sea-dependent, and strongly place-based existences, many Blacks immigrated to Miami, Florida from the rural United States south and from the Bahamas during the first half of the twentieth century. This Black diaspora retains contacts, from sister-church relationships, to family ties, to the deep power of memory, that connect these Miami settlers to their ‘homelands’. This research was ethnographically based and took place among churchgoing Blacks in Miami. Research included participant observation at various churches in addition to over fifty interviews with congregants framed by three in-depth case studies. The findings revealed connections to the natural environment among churchgoing Blacks influenced by these place-centered memories of their youth. From their love of plants to knowledge of agriculture, fishing and land-use patterns to the concept of sharing food and self-sufficiency, their rural and/or island roots had profound impacts on how these subjects perceived the interaction between people and nature. The interpretations of nature that sprang from the diasporic experience were manifested in environmental attitudes, concerns, and select activism that demonstrated the potential to affect positively urban and suburban neighborhoods and nature.
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