Butler displays revitalized communities in Schaffer

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“Lost in the flood: A community’s resilience rises above disaster” is the most recent photo exhibit on display in Schaffer Library. “Revitalized Community: Bordeaux Since the 2010 Flood,” opened in the Beuth Atrium of Schaffer Library with a reception featuring remarks by Professor Deidre Hill Butler.

This exhibit is a tribute to the state of Tennessee who experienced a major natural disaster. Over two days in May of 2010, almost 14 inches of rain pummeled Nashville and the middle Tennessee region.

The deluge forced the Cumberland River, among others, over their banks, resulting in massive flooding. When the waters receded, 26 people had died, there was $2.4 billion in property damage and few neighborhoods remained intact.

While home in Schenectady, Deidre Hill Butler watched accounts of this devastating flood on the news. An associate professor of sociology and director of the Africana Studies program, Butler had started her undergraduate studies at Fisk University in Nashville.

As a result from the flood and Butler’s interest, a research project emerged from the chaos the disaster left in its wake. Butler returned to Nashville where she talked to residents, partook in community meetings and rallies and chronicled the efforts to rebuild the damaged areas. She focused on Bordeaux Hills, a predominantly black working-class neighborhood along the Cumberland River.

The rising waters had torn homes from their foundations causing hundreds of residents devastated by the floods to be left without homes. However, many families and businesses decided to rebuild. Even more interesting, despite the damage, an influx of new residents chose to make Bordeaux their home.

Well informed on topics related to the sociology of African-American culture, Butler was inspired by what she learned from those affected by this catastrophe. She said what stood out to her the most about this disaster was that she truly “witnessed a story of revitalization,” and that “this catastrophe wasn’t nearly happening on the scale of Katrina, but the flood of 2010 really reshaped Nashville.”

Thus, the result of Butler’s research is “Revitalized Community: Bordeaux Since the 2010 Flood,” a photo exhibit that is free and open to the public. It explains the tragedy of the 2010 flood and delves into how the community came together to rebuild.

The exhibit is a collection of photos that members of the community shared with Butler. They explicitly show the damage caused by the flood, along with the efforts to recover the damage. Butler opens up about how she, “wanted to share my Nashville community with my Union community and show that in the era of the movement for black lives, there are many spaces of black community resilience that should be shared,” said Butler, who joined Union in 2001.

Something that is extremely important to Butler in regards to her exhibit is that the Union community is able to gain something from the display. The biggest hope is that as a whole, Union can challenge mainstream representations of the black community by learning through experiences such as this disaster.

The exhibit that is shown in Beuth is a smaller version of one Butler has curated in the past at the Bordeaux Public Library last year. At the reception for the renovated library residents came out and shared stories of the flood and its consequences.

Butler will go on to present her research at the Nashville Conference on African-American History and Culture at Tennessee State University. This project is supported by a faculty research grant, the Sociology Department and the Africana Studies Program.

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