MACON, Ga. — On Wednesday morning, students in Macon-Bibb’s Teen Communication Program visited the Elaine H. Lucas Senior Center to interview local seniors. The kids and teens operated camera equipment and conducted an interview, asking the seniors questions about their teenage years, growing up in Georgia, and their experiences with racism.
The Macon-Bibb Parks and Recreation’s Teen Communications Program allows kids and teens from sixth to 12th grade interested in video production, journalism, and content creation to gain experience and learn the basics.
The free program requires equipment or experience, just an interest in the field.
Jakhya Reid and Leautumn Person are members of the group and helped conduct the interview. They are both 14 years old.
“I wanted to learn how to edit and work a camera,” Reid said.
Reid has been involved since November and has recorded basketball games and interviewed coaches with the group.
“I like meeting new people and interacting with everyone,” Reid said.
Leautumn Person joined the group because she wanted to learn how to use technology “like the professionals.”
“I’m looking forward to being able to interview people and get their outlooks,” Person said. "It’s important to get the older generation's outlook before there’s no more."
Different members of the group operated the camera and audio equipment.
Reid and Person interviewed four seniors and asked them questions about their life as a teenager and their experiences with racism.
“As a teenager, it was different from today,” interviewee Deborah Jones, who grew up in Augusta, said. “When you said ‘the other side of the tracks,' it was exactly that.”
Many of the interviewees, who all grew up in Georgia and ranged from 66 to 85 years old, were in school during school integration.
“I remember when I was in high school, we had this program called the Red Cross,” interviewee Deborah Jones said. “Because I was Black, I could not work in the hospital with the other nurses.”
This had a profound effect on her teenage experience.
“Our grades suffered,” Jones said. “We had less opportunities, we couldn’t do most of the things the white kids could do.”
Interviewee Sally Devereux talked about her experiences growing up as a sharecropper’s daughter in Washington County.
“In my era, it was systemic,” Devereux said. “There was always an area where Blacks could go and areas that whites could go.”
Interviewee Ernest Gillis, from Vidalia, had similar experiences.
“In Vidalia, when I was a teenager, we were not able to go to movies with whites,” Gillis said. “As the years went by, we were later able to go to the movies, but we had to sit upstairs.”
The students also asked the interviewees why they think racism exists and how it can be solved.
“I think it’s tied to a desire for having privilege over others or a sense of thinking that one group might be better or more important than another,” Devereux said.
One of the seniors who was interviewed, Ruth Hill, was raised in Macon.
“I think if everybody just started to love God and love themselves, they wouldn’t treat anybody differently,” Hill said.
At 85 years old, Hill was the oldest of the interviewees.
“I like working with young people,’ Hill said. “I like to encourage them to do what they’re best at doing, because it’s important.”
To learn more about the group, visit the program’s website.