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LHS students take part in 100 Lenses program

Linden High School students Jesseca Anderson, Nyeshia Daniels, Shanice Gracie, D’Anthony Jackson, Reuben Jones, Shadrika Martin and Cory Tinsley were among 29 participants of the first annual Black Belt 100 Lenses Summer Camp hosted by the Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF) and the University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships.

Students spent five days on the University campus after having taken nearly 50 photographs to represent the culture of Marengo County and the Black Belt region in general.

The Black Belt 100 Lenses Camp took place June 6-10 and included participants from Choctaw, Dallas, Lowndes, Marengo and Pickens counties.

Students began the Black Belt 100 Lenses experience with an orientation session toward the end of the spring semester, at which time they were given 35mm cameras and challenged to take photographs that represent both positive and negative aspects of their communities.

Throughout the week on campus, students shared their photographs with other participants, wrote about the significance of them, and discussed some of the common themes that were evident in the photographs from all five counties.

Black Belt 100 Lenses was piloted in Sumter County in 2007, and has since been conducted as a series of meetings during the school year in Bullock, Greene, Hale, Macon, Perry and Wilcox counties.

The Black Belt 100 Lenses project seeks to depict the culture of Black Belt region through the eyes of its youth by giving them a voice and a forum to raise and address issues that affect them and their community.

High school students from both public and private schools have studied their culture through photography, discussed the issues and assets in their communities, and generated ideas for positive change.

At the conclusion of the camp, students’ parents were treated to an exhibit of their children’s photographs and writing as well as a banquet in their honor. During the banquet, students from each county presented their idea for a Community Action Plan. Each county group had brainstormed the about potential projects to address some of the problems that they felt were most crucial in their county. Marengo County students decided to focus on helping their local elderly by volunteering to help with home and lawn improvements or other small tasks.

“These students were such a joy to work with and get to know,” stated Whitney Green, BBCF Arts Coordinator and Black Belt 100 Lenses Co-Director. “They are all so bright and really care about their communities. I cannot wait to see their projects in fruition throughout the rest of the summer and this fall. And, of course, I hope their desire to help their communities continues to grow.”

In addition to the implementation of students’ Community Action Projects, public photography exhibits will be held during the fall in each of the five participating counties. Details will be released as plans are confirmed.

“The success of this pilot camp has BBCF’s staff and partners excited about the 2011 Summer Camp,” stated Felecia L. Jones, BBCF Executive Director.  “Whitney Green and Elliot Knight [Black Belt 100 Lenses Co-Directors] are working as we speak to prepare for students from Bullock, Choctaw, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter and Wilcox counties to participate next year!  What an amazing opportunity for the students and the entire Black Belt region.”