Elon student helps make a place for the past through The Power and Place Collaborative

Elon senior Nyla Rivers extends Power and Place Collaborative efforts to support Alamance intergenerational storytelling.

AACAHC Director, Shineece Sellars, giving a tour of the center

The Power and Place Collaborative recently partnered with The Burlington School to support the Power of Voice Project for 27 high schoolers in the U.S. History class at the preparatory school this spring semester.

The Power and Place Collaborative is a partnership between Elon University, Burlington’s Mayco Bigelow Center and the African American Cultural Arts and History Center.

On March 9, juniors and seniors from The Burlington School toured the African American Cultural Arts and History Center (AACAHC) located at the Burlington Outlet Village. The tour, facilitated by the Director of the AACAHC Shineece Sellars, explored local Black history while focusing on how these stories intertwine with national and global history. Students said they were impressed with the center and its mission.

In preparation for their time at the AACAHC, students viewed digital stories co-produced by local community members and Elon students and discussed themes with Sandy Marshall, assistant professor of geography, and Danielle Lake, director of Design Thinking.

Katie Fennell, a teacher at The Burlington School, said they were excited to share local stories with students and explore how history has shaped Alamance County today.

While at the AACAHC, students participated in a historical figures gallery walk and “game of life” activity created and facilitated by Nyla Rivers ’22, a public health major with a minor in African/African-American studies.

Rivers had students move through the center and engage with photos and biographies of historical Black figures. Students had time to discuss the work and accomplishments of each figure, while making comparisons between these figures and modern day figures.

However, the “game of life” activity proved to be most popular with the students.

The game consisted of various scenarios that allowed the students to make choices while faced with a myriad of factors that could affect their decisions.  This included picking an occupation, selecting a health insurance plan and paying bills that could influence the types of decisions they could make. Each decision had consequences and the students played until they arrived at a stopping point. At the end of the game students reflected upon the challenges and lessons learned.

Nyla Rivers ’22 explaining the Game of Life Activity to students

Student were asked to consider a few questions which included: What did you learn that you did not know before? How might environmental factors influence how someone views a place? What ideas, sources of inspiration or strategies for creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive place did you uncover?

Rivers brought her experience as a member of the Health, Equity and Racism (H.E.R.) Lab and a student coordinator in the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education (CREDE) to these activities.

“I hope that students will gain a better understanding of racial inequities and the hardships people of color face on a daily basis,” Rivers said.

High school students integrated sources of inspiration from these stories in order to conduct their own interviews, completing a Power of Voice project. They said their experiences with the Power and Place Collaborative helped them navigate their interviews and complete their “Power of Voice” Project.

The Power and Place Collaborative is continuing to extend partnerships and foster new relationships between communities in Burlington, Alamance County and Elon University.

Rivers is in her final semester as an Elon student and has committed to encouraging youth to engage with their local communities. She hopes to help youth identify the parallels between uncommonly recognized African-American figures and members of their own community while continuing to facilitate needed discussions of racial inequities that plague Black and brown communities.

The Power and Place Collaborative is excited to move forward with their commitment to support intergenerational storytelling efforts for the greater good of historically marginalized communities in Alamance County.