“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”
– Gwendolyn Brooks, from Family Pictures (1971)
As a springboard for countless generations of Gulf Coast families, East Biloxi was a place where all people could make a living, build a home and participate in community life, no matter their ethnic heritage or economic status. Shaped by its place on the water, East Biloxi landed many in the marine industries, providing a means to move up the economic ladder. With unyielding natural and manmade challenges, life in East Biloxi made families and individuals resilient and strong.
While maritime-related industries helped families thrive, opportunities dwindled through the decades. Industries that once supported Biloxi’s east side are now in lower demand. In place of the old skills are service industry jobs in casinos, restaurants and hotels. Today’s East Biloxi has scant opportunities for upward mobility. Four out of 10 East Biloxians are employed in the service industry, where earnings are inconsistent and prone to drastic seasonal fluctuations. East Biloxians are increasingly drawn outside the area for better employment, housing, retail and family services. Most residents can’t even do that and must thrive the best way they can in challenging circumstances.
Historical conditions in East Biloxi mirror those in disenfranchised communities across Mississippi. In the 20th century, Jim Crow policies entrenched racial and economic disparities, while segregation in all aspects of civic life created a huge imbalance. Many of these problems are interrelated and cyclical. Gaps in education drive gaps in employment and income. Low income limits options for healthcare and housing. Household instability reduces options for services, leaving families vulnerable to predatory lenders. Neighborhood instability deters the location of good housing and retail options. A general dissatisfaction with immediate circumstances reduces participation in civic life. Given these facts, a once vibrant neighborhood becomes a less viable place to start a career or a family. To push back against a cycle of adversity, the EBCC seeks to close gaps by empowering an already strong and unified community to revitalize East Biloxi as a catalyst for better tomorrow.