Oral history group to present Woman’s Club program



24 October 2011

The GFWC Woman’s Club of Hannibal is pleased to announce that a local youth Oral History Project will be the featured program at its opening luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011.  In the past, the club has hosted many notable speakers at its kick-off event, including 10th Circuit Judge Rachel Bringer, and Judge Mary R. Russell of the Missouri Supreme Court.  The proceedings begin at noon at the Hannibal Country Club, 1200 Country Club Drive.
The Oral History Project is an impressive collaborative effort sponsored by the CPR (Community Partnership for Reconciliation Hannibal, Missouri), under the auspices of a grant received by the Hannibal Arts Council from the Disciples of Christ. This partnership began in January of 2010 “to address racial issues in Hannibal and to facilitate dialogue and healing”. A variety of concerned community leaders made the commitment to meet monthly in order to continue this dialogue about race relations. Participants include such leaders as the director of the Mark Twain Museum, the former director of CASA, the director of FACT, a former vice-president of Ford (who also worked in Human Resources for Pillsbury, Sears and United Airlines!!), the Director of the Hannibal Arts Council, a MODOT representative, and the pastor of Willow Street Church. The entire group is passionately interested in the children of Hannibal, the next generation, and considers them to be the town’s greatest asset.  Simply stated, the mission of the project is to help the youth enter adulthood “without the stain and stigma of racism that affects both black and white equally” (quote from the original grant proposal). To this end, child oriented programs have been developed by the CPR panel to engage local youth in integrated team building activities. The overall goal is to raise awareness (and appreciation) of the history and cultural heritage of both races.
With the implementation of the Oral History Project, the CPR has provided some very special young people (some 18 in all) with an exciting opportunity to create their own oral history documentary. Assisted by former Associated Press photojournalist, Pam Taylor, the teams of students engaged both African-American and Caucasian citizens of Hannibal in order to learn their personal stories. More than anything, the CPR wanted the children to learn Hannibal’s history, from slavery through segregation, and on to our current local social environment.  Along the way, the student teams discovered the town’s African-American heroes, “the ones who became business owners, a United States Assistant Attorney General, musicians, corporate vice-presidents — those folks who help make Hannibal strong.” Ms. Taylor, who came all the way from Arizona, worked with the student teams (ranging in age from 13 to 15) on proper interview techniques, use of professional audio equipment, and audio editing procedures.  She worked closely with CPR volunteer support during the first week of August in order to ensure the success of this multimedia project. An educator, as well as journalist, Pam Taylor has produced an award-winning documentary using teen-agers in mixed race situations in Arizona.
Students chosen for this ambitious endeavor came from various racial and economic backgrounds. Every candidate was interviewed closely to determine their level of responsibility, respect for others, and willingness to work in a team effort.
The end result of the collaborative effort is a very professional multimedia production that includes photos interwoven with audio clips from those who were interviewed.  More importantly, the students themselves were interviewed and recorded as they described their feelings before, during and after the project.  It is an enlightening glimpse into what each of them learned about the racial heritage of Hannibal, and ultimately how they feel it will change them.
The students and the CPR volunteer support personnel worked incredibly hard — 972 hours of togetherness. The teams went on trolley rides through the history of Hannibal, toured the Mark Twain museum exhibits, met the editor of the Courier Post in the newsroom, learning valuable interview techniques.  Businessmen and women were interviewed, along with working mothers, artists, musicians, and even 108 year-old Mary Carter, currently a resident of Beth Haven Nursing Home.  The CPR volunteers were delighted to find the students opening up to each other and the interviewees as they talked more freely about racial issues. New friendships and understandings were formed as they worked and relaxed together.  Ultimately a new trust has been formed between races and generations in our town. In that regard, the original mission of the Oral Project has begun, way beyond the hopes of the CPR panel. The group is strongly considering another grant proposal for 2012. 
What the Woman’s Club of Hannibal will be presented on October 11 at its opening luncheon is just a taste of the full audio documentary, or trailer if you will.  Over 600 minutes of interviews were captured for the completed DVD, and mindful of the time constraints posed by the venue, it was carefully edited down to about 16 minutes.  This shortened version has condensed two-minute interview highlights from every adult featured in the documentary. During the editing process, Ms. Taylor’s goal was to preserve the complexity, richness and sensitivity of the feelings expressed by both the youth and elders about Hannibal’s racial history and heritage. It is hoped by the CPR team that by the end of 2012, the Hannibal community can see a fully developed audio documentary.

Copyright 2011 Hannibal Courier-Post. Some rights reserved

Hannibal, MO



 
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