A project may shed new light on Alabama's Black Belt region. "The Black Belt 100 Lenses Project" showcases the culture of the region through the eyes of high school students. The exhibition at the University of Alabama uses photography and interviews of residents of the Black Belt to document what their culture means to them.
Doctor Heather Pleasants is Director of Educational Development at UA's Center for Community-Based Partnerships.
"It actually began in about 2007 with a project that was done here on campus," says Pleasants. "And from that initial work, we decided that it would be really interesting to have the project involve the Black Belt communities, in particular the Black Belt Community Foundation."
Organizers choose students from public and private high schools in 12 Black Belt communities. Students are asked to submit something creative such as an essay, poem or photograph and talk about how participating in the program would be beneficial to them. Pleasants says the selection process isn't easy.
"It's actually one of the hardest things that we have to do because I don't think there's any student that we receive something from where we don't think that would be great.'"
Pleasants says students aren't just limited to photography. They can also document what the Black Belt region means to them with film interviews and written or oral narratives.
"I think across the years of the project, some of the photographs that have been most impactful, you know you notice themes over time and a lot of students who are involved in our projects have pictures of roads or railroad tracks," says Pleasants. "And I think the imagery of a road or railroad track leading off into the distance or leading off to who knows where is a really powerful image for thinking about the future and the past and your connection to that."
"The Black Belt 100 Lenses Project" is on display at UA's Ferguson Center Gallery through June 30th. The opening reception is June 14.