Celo Faucette was born in 1947 in Glen Raven, Alamance County and grew up during the civil rights era. After living in Alamance County during segregation, Faucette tells stories of Burlington that haven't been documented in history books. He provides a perspective that helps accurately depict the history of Alamance County.

“People from all over - from Richmond all the way to – anywhere around Raleigh, Durham area would come to North Park because we had the best park for blacks to come to at the time,” Faucette said.

Faucette’s story is part of a project to record a history of Alamance County through the Black community's stories. 

Elon by Design’s project, the Power and Place Collaborative, is creating an extensive record of oral history from Burlington's Black communities. The project is a collaboration between the African American Cultural Arts & History Museum, Elon University and the Mayco Bigelow Community Center.

Joseph Navin | Elon News Network
The African American Cultural Arts & History Center is seen off of Corporation Parkway in Burlington on Feb. 3.

The project started in 2020 and was created to “record, preserve, and present stories from and about people and places in Burlington’s African American Communities,” according to Elon by Design’s website. 

Danielle Lake, director of Design Thinking, is the “collaborative catalyst” of the Power and Place Collaborative. She said she is focusing on connecting Elon University to the greater community.

“Something like this is a way to share about the power and the potential of the county and to share that across generations,” Lake said.

Professors Lake, Sandy Marshall and Vanessa Drew-Branch all teach classes that require students to create digital stories by interviewing Burlington residents. The students assemble the stories into short videos which serve as the oral history records that make up the Power and Place Collaborative.

Lake said the program has recorded approximately 50 stories since its creation. She said the stories are diverse, span across Alamance County and each video recounts a unique oral history about a community member. She said these stories historically would not have been told or shared. 

Lake said that students are assigned to different community members to interview. Students conduct research and craft questions for an interview that will highlight the importance each member holds within the community. Then students conduct the interviews, record and edit a video that will be presented.  

Sophomore Tyberious Brooks was assigned to interview the Rev. Larry Covington, a Burlington pastor at Ebenezer Church.  

The five-minute interview consists of Covington telling stories from his childhood, and explaining how he participates in his community today through faith. Brooks said participating in the collaborative helped him to connect to the greater Elon community.

“I got to learn about its history, I got to learn about the great people who have come from Alamance County, I got to just grow closer to it, and it helps me feel more at home,” Brooks said. 

Brooks was able to connect because of an academic course; he doesn't think the course is necessary to form cross-community connections and recommended students look into the Power and Place Collaborative.  

“You need to at least attend an event or learn what it's about,” Brooks said. “Just so you can go out and see the place that you live.” 

Brooks said that he does notice the disconnect between Elon and the greater Burlington community.

Lake said the Power and Place Collaborative works to help bridge that gap. 

Lucy Garcia ’23 worked on a project in the collaborative in its early stages back in 2020. In the fall of 2020, Garcia was in honors seminar class: Place and Placemaking, taught by Lake and Marshall.  

The class did various walking tours in Alamance County and their final project was to make oral history videos for the Power and Place Collaborative. Garcia said she interviewed Burlington resident the Rev. Donna Vanhook who expressed how resource-rich Alamance County is. 

She said the tours and interview sparked her interest in the history of Burlington, and she continued her research, eventually writing her honors thesis on the topic. 

Garcia said she focused on an area called Black Bottom, a name given to describe a collection of Black businesses. Black Bottom was on Worth Street, where Zach’s Hotdogs is today in downtown Burlington.  

In the 1960s the businesses that made up Black Bottom were moved across the train tracks, where property values were lower and there was less infrastructure, Garcia said. She said this move was an urbanization attempt to push out the Black community in Burlington. 

“It shouldn't be a privilege to have a good record of Black history in Burlington,” Garcia said. “Knowledge is power, and building community is vital -- that's really what the P and P Collaborative has taught me.” 

Bobbi Ruffin, the recreation superintendent for Burlington, is a community partner in the collaborative.   

Ruffin said she sees the collaborative as an opportunity to acknowledge, honor and learn from the history that's collected through this program. She said the collaborative is creating a space for community relationships to grow.  

“Not only are Elon students meeting community members, gathering and editing stories,” Ruffin said. “They are building relationships with these individuals in spaces off-campus.”   

Power and Place has worked to unite the community with Elon University students and faculty, and it also takes on the important task of acknowledging history, Ruffin said.  

Lake said she is proud of the growth she’s seen in the collaborative. The public libraries and youth schools are involved in the program and hold public screenings and community dialogues.  

The Power and Place Collaborative has opportunities for those who are not in classes taught by professors who work on the program, Lake said. 

On March 13, the Power and Place Collaborative will be hosting a public community event at Elon Community Church titled “Embodied wisdom: Catalyzing social change.” The event will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  

Elon By Design’s website said the event will feature two speakers, who both have experience bringing about change within communities. The event will open a discussion on how the Elon’s community can connect with Burlington's community.  

“How do we build bridges across our differences?” Lake said. “How do we connect and really support each other and create the kind of community that we all want to be in?” 

The Power and Place Collaborative will continue its work to record oral histories and Lake said they hope to establish story walks – panels in parks showcasing an excerpt from a story – in local parks in Alamance County. Lake said they hope to add these story walks to feature the stories of different members of Alamance County’s community.Every interview and more information on the Power and Place Collaborative on the Elon by Design website under the Power + Place tab.  

“Something like this is a way to share about the power and the potential of the county, and to share that across generations,” Lake said.