Mississippi Student Sings of Oil Spill Devastation

A Gulfport, Mississippi student did the only thing she could when oil ravaged the Gulf – she wrote a song.  Aubrey Hays was 17 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. She saw the sea, suddenly, in pain.

“Broken lives and broken bones, this broken place we once called home is drifting away,” the words of her song describe her new reality after the oil spill.

She’s lived on the Gulf Coast all her life and felt she had to do something.

“I heard about the oil spill and I’m like, gosh, this is really bad, you know, and I called a bunch of clean-up organizations and was like what can I do to help?” Hays says. “So they all said you can’t really do anything because you’re not 18 yet.”

Wanting to help is natural for Hays. She’s been part of WINGS Performing Arts in Gulfport for years. The group combines the arts with community service.

“Well, I was worried about the animals, but I was also worried about the livelihood of the people that depend upon the sea, the fishermen and everything,” Hays says.

The thing she knows how to do is write a song.

“The song is just about the different effects the oil had on the animals and the people that live on the coast. And it’s kind of like my way of giving them a voice,” she says.

Hays is one of many students doing projects related to the oil spill. Gulfport High School Principal Michael Lindsey says an oral history project on the oil spill continues to attract attention.

“We’ve had several people from New York to Pennsylvania come down and they’ve even interviewed some of our students,” Lindsey says. “They’re doing projects on the effect of oil here on the coast and the way it’s affected our life and the beaches.”

Lindsey says an internationally-watched event like the oil spill puts the high school students in the center of many long-term issues.

“Not only are we teaching them concepts. We want to teach them how those type of events affect our economy, the city, the whole environment. We want them out in the community, put ‘em in some real world situations,” Lindsey says.

One of the real world issues that bothers Hays most is the impact of the oil spill on the dolphins and other sea animals. She made a CD of her offering, The Song of the Sea, and donates the proceeds, $1300 so far, to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.

“Getting money and having people donate money is not an easy task. But doing that shows their commitment and their dedication to help,” says Moby Solangi, Director of the Institute. “Keep in mind, for human beings you’ve got the Red Cross, United Way and FEMA. For animals, it’s us.”

Solangi says projects like The Song of the Sea show the Institute is accomplishing its mission.

“Having stimulated young people’s minds is what the Institute is all about,” Solangi says. “We want to have young people understand the importance of their environment, the importance of how they are associated with the entire ecosystem, how we are all dependent on each other.”

Hays is graduating this spring and heading to college in the Fall. With dead dolphins and sea turtles continuing to wash up on the Gulf Coast, it’s likely her song will be the voice of the sea for a while longer.

“It’s the cry of the gull, it’s voice of the whale, it’s the flash of the fish, it’s dance of the dolphin, it’s the prayers of the people, it’s the hope for tomorrow, it’s the dreams of the children, it’s the song of the sea.”

Rhonda Miller, MPB News, Biloxi.


Broadcast history: Mississippi Public Broadcasting, April 8, 2011

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