Power and Place: How a dozen perspectives paint Alamance County's portrait

·3 min read

A series of micro-documentaries details Alamance County's racial and cultural growth through the eyes and experiences of more than a dozen men and women.

The culmination of a project spearheaded by the African American Cultural Arts and History Center, Mayco Bigelow Community Center, and Elon University, the project was titled the Power and Place Collaborative and was screened at Elon University's Moseley Center on Saturday. It featured interviews of Alamance County residents of different backgrounds, ages, and experiences. The interviews were conducted by Elon University students.

Those whose stories were featured in the project were Brenda and Omega Wilson, Chuck Fager, DeJuana Bigelow, Ernestine Ward, Garry Wiley Jr., Jay Mebane, Terry Moore, Roger Moore, April Mitchell, Gloria Diaab and Janice Ratliff.

This year's project is a continuation of similar oral history projects that happened in 2019 and 2020. The effort to record oral histories dates back years to the previous director of the African American Cultural Arts and History Center, Jane Sellars.

Project participants touched on a range of topics, from their childhoods to how the Alamance County community inspired them to pursue their current professions and activism work. A theme across many of the stories was racial growing pains.

"The people in the Army, they practically stayed in the school," said Terry Moore, one of those featured.

Terry Moore was born in the late 1950s and he spoke about school desegregation. He said it was a scary time for black students.

"There were some scary things," Terry Moore said before describing instances of having to hide while a passenger in his father's car so as to avoid confrontations with groups of people. "If you saw some things ... going on he would make us lay down in the car, in the backseat of the car, until we got passed."

A few of those featured were local activists who spoke about the effort to improve Alamance County.

"You know what, I do God's work," Lewis said in her video. "Color has nothing to do with it. It's how you think in your heart."

A member of Alamance County's Branch of the NAACP, Lewis has spent decades fighting against the racism she sees in her community.

"I ran for city council, I ran for mayor, county commissioner, and school board, all four," Lewis said. "The main reason was to let people know that African Americans are here."

Barbara Lake-Harrison, a guest at Saturday's screening, spoke about her own experiences in Alamance County. She mentioned not being able to use a train ride as a child only to come back and have her children use the very same ride she was prohibited from using decades prior.

Acknowledging these kinds of stories is important, according to Elon University professor Dr. Carole Troxler, another screening guest.

"I thought, overall, it was positive," Troxler said. "It's good to hear from people that put up with that. I think the [theme] of freedom runs through [all of the stories]."

To watch each of the videos, visit the Power and Place Collaborative page on Elon University's website.

Dean-Paul Stephens covers racial justice. Follow him on Twitter @DeanPEStephens. If you have tips, send an email to dstephens@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Times-News: A documentary series tells the story of Alamance County, past and present

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