Seabreeze Bop City

Seabreeze Bop City is a place-based, collaborative project focused on addressing land use and land rights issues that stem from systemic inequalities and climate change.

Seabreeze, NC, a beachside community first established by formerly enslaved Alexander and Charity Freeman in 1855. Over time, Seabreeze became a thriving beach resort and an extraordinary example of a Jim Crow-era community composed entirely of black-owned land and businesses, giving people of color a rare chance to celebrate and relax at the seashore during segregation.

Once an incubator of African American music and culture, the community is fading. This is partly due to the end of segregation and natural disasters amplified by climate change; however, most notably, Seabreeze is one of many examples of the scourge of Black land loss across the Southeast. Seabreeze is in a prolonged struggle with legal difficulties stemming from heirs' property issues, a legal status for property that results from the informal transfer of land from generation to generation, clouding ownership and making the property vulnerable to predatory speculation. In recent years, the community has lost hundreds of acres of beachfront property with very little compensation, representing a pattern that has repeated over and over in the US throughout the last century, limiting the ability of Black Americans to build generational wealth and contributing significantly to today's racial wealth gap.

Today, there are few physical traces left to recall the vibrancy of its heyday. Many extended Freeman family members are still in residence, though much of the property in the neighborhood is undevelopable and under threat as heirs' property. The project seeks to reveal the history of the place through immersive media and XR technologies and by extending these tools, create innovative community design tools.

Seabreeze Bop City is a pilot project to develop a model and platform to compellingly document the scourge of Black land loss across the Southeast. We hope to raise broad public awareness while providing an evidentiary tool that families can use to communicate their ancestral lands' significance during the heirs' property legal process.

Our goals are to develop a reusable, flexible framework for community-based service-learning projects using Unity. Leveraging XR media to augment traditional methods of student fieldwork and community engagement, we aim to create new channels and techniques for community-based project development, public engagement, and the accessibility and dissemination of project work. Additionally, through the design of virtual environments in Unity that embody historical information, within virtual and physical contemporary landscapes, our goal is to tell compelling place-based stories and build preferable futures through immersive and accessible online content.