Power and Place Collaborative builds bridges with community

The Building Bridges: A Night of Intergenerational Storytelling event was presented by the Power and Place Collaborative.

With the vision of creating an inclusive, diverse and interactive experience, the Power and Place Collaborative hosted the Building Bridges: A Night of Intergenerational Storytelling on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at Burlington’s Mayco Bigelow Community Center at North Park.

At each table sat a mixture of community members and Elon students from a variety of ages and ethnic backgrounds sharing stories and ideas, with the power of community on full display.

Director of the Mayco Bigelow Center Bobbi Ruffin-Alston speaking during the Building Bridges event on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

And for Bobbi Ruffin-Alston, director of the Mayco Bigelow Center, the locale for the Building Bridges event couldn’t have been any better for such a display.

“Historically, North Park was where Black people could come to in the city of Burlington when we were segregated. So you all can imagine how much history lives here, how many family celebrations live here, how many swim lessons happened for our families,” Ruffin-Alston said. “When we have folks coming in and sharing their stories … it just warms my heart. But we also have to keep those stories alive. That’s why this work is so important to me.”

The Power and Place Collaborative is a partnership between Elon, the African American Cultural Arts and History Center and the Mayco Bigelow Center and strives to preserve and present stories from and about the people, places and moments of Alamance County’s Black communities.

“My goal for this evening is that Elon students might learn from the people who come from the community and I’m very honored that you came to spend the evening to share and talk,” said Heather Lindenman, assistant professor of English and co-organizer of the event.

The Building Bridges event gave community members the opportunity to bond over the power of stories.

Elon students, local K-12 students, and community members shared a few of the community profiles during the event – which are on the Power and Place Collaborative webpage. A wide range of stories from elders of the community who have seen drastic changes over the years to younger profiles of people finding their way in Alamance County provided those in attendance with a newfound appreciation of others’ life experiences.

Sandy Marshall, associate professor of geography, said his classes often speak about the powerful role of stories in challenging dominant narratives, strengthening relationships and creating new connections.

“It’s a true honor to hear the stories that are being shared here this evening and to see the beautiful connections being formed across communities of difference,” Marshall said.

On Saturday, Dec. 3, the collaborative will hold its second annual Building Bridges: Belonging in Burlington screening in McKinnon Hall from 10 a.m. to noon. The screening will feature oral history digital stories created over the fall 2022 semester. This program is supported in part by North Carolina Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.