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Posts from the ‘Tell About the South’ Category

Tell About the South: Stories to Save Lives

Anna Freeman spent summer 2018 working with both Darius Scott and Rev. Bill Kearney to collect oral histories in Warren County, NC as a part of the Stories to Save Lives project. The project was originally started by Dr. Ross Simpson to study sudden death from preventable causes in rural communities. The oral history field work sought to garner direct input from members of these communities as to why these illnesses proved so pervasive and deadly not only to provide a better perspective on present issues, but to possibly inform better empiric questions. Some themes of interviews collected are: a changing social and economic landscape which makes it much more difficult to keep up with more traditional agricultural gardens, a lack of access to institutional and community based healthcare, and the desire for a tight-knit community resembling what was once had in the past.

Ina Dixon joined the Stories to Save Lives project as a graduate field scholar in the fall of 2018. Her work this has focused on collecting interviews from community members involved in the Health Collaborative in the Dan River Region including Danville, Virginia and Caswell County, North Carolina. The Health Collaborative is a grassroots organization that improves the health and well-being of the region through initiatives that promote healthy eating, active living, access to healthcare and creating healthy spaces. In this presentation, Ina will discuss the background of the Stories to Save Lives project, and how its community and humanities-minded work builds a deeper understanding of health and care in the South through oral history.

Nicholas Allen conducted interviews at Galloway Ridge in addition to interviewing seniors in rural Orange County and conducting a single interview in Trinity, NC. Allen’s interviews focus on exploring themes related to coping with late life and how to find joy and raisons d’être. His talk draws on “Of Modern Poetry” by Wallace Stevens as a touchstone as this poem similarly explores the themes of navigating what brings joy and determining “what will suffice” in the face of death, late life, or any iteration of a finite future. Allen looks to explore the intellectual progression that occurs in reframing what is enough, what is joyful, and how that progression occur mentally, particularly when seated within the context of contemporary American culture and views on end of life.


Tell About the South: Ever Wonder Where Your Garbage Goes?

This lunchtime discussion was hosted by Blair Pollock, the solid waste planner for Orange County who initiated public recycling programs for the county beginning in 1987. He holds a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from UNC-Chapel Hill. Pollock discussed the history of Orange County’s landfill, which is now closed and in long-term care. During his presentation, he addressed the ongoing challenges for recycling and waste management, and provided tips for how you can make a difference.

Tell About the South: Southern Mix

Growing up in the Triangle, Anna-Rhesa Versola felt like an outsider. Born in the Philippines, her family moved to American when she was three for her father to receive medical training. Soon after they moved, Ferdinand Marcos, the president of the Philippines at the time, declared martial law and they decided they had to stay in America. In an area where Asian-Americans were in the minority, she remembers people objectifying her appearance. Strangers would come up and touch her hair, they would say she looked like a doll, they would even reach to touch her eyes saying they were doll-like. Even when she went on to study journalism at UNC Chapel Hill, she remembers few people looking like her on campus.

Emmanuel Lee, undergraduate researcher for Southern Mix, and Anna-Rhesa Versola, founder of Southern Mix

After graduation, while working at a crime reporter, Versola went on the mission of trying to find the name of the first Asian-American student to attend UNC. She was shocked to find out how few resources that were available to answer her question. She found that even parts of academia dedicated to documenting diversity were lacking in representation of Asians and Asian-Americans. The Southern Oral History Program, whose interview archive holds over 6,000 interviews, only had forty-seven interviews with people of Asian descent when Versola tried to search through their collection. This lack of representation lead to the creation of Southern Mix, an oral history project focused on collecting the voices of Asians and Asian-Americans living in the South.

Yesterday, we were joined by Anna-Rhesa Versola as well as Emmanuel Lee, an undergraduate researcher for Southern Mix, as part of our lunchtime discussion series, Tell About the South. Versola discussed her motivations to found Southern Mix and her memories as a child that compelled her to start the project while Lee presented interviews he collected over the summer for the project.

Lee was raised in Hickory, North Carolina and is Hmong. During our discussion, Lee reflected on how even though there were “Hmong Days” at his school growing up, he still felt embarrassed about his culture. Even though he would wear traditional Hmong clothes to school to celebrate Hmong Day, non-Asian or Asian-American children would  make comments or ask questions that made him uncomfortable and ashamed. It was only once he got to UNC Chapel Hill that he started to fully embrace his identity as Hmong.

Lee discovered the Southern Oral History Program through a friend and rushed to apply to perform research for Southern Mix. Like Versola, he wanted to see more representation of Asian and Asian-American voices, especially from less represented Asian ethnicities, and to challenge seemingly complimentary stereotypes Asian and Asian-American groups face such as being called “model minorities.” Collecting these interviews also allows Asians and Asian-Americans to bring visibility to their personal histories and allows them to validate their lived experiences.

As the undergraduate researcher for Southern Mix, Lee decided to return home to Hickory to collect his interviews. Lee wanted to collect interviews from people who were already comfortable with him so they would speak more candidly and honestly when answering questions about their culture. The resulting interviews from the summer came from both Hmong and Filipino interviewees.

During the Tell About the South discussion he shared two clips from interviews he collected over the summer. The first was from his interview with Marita Poblete who is Filipino. In this portion of their interview, Poblete discusses citizenship.

The second clip he shared was from the interview with his mother, Pai Lor, who is Hmong. Lee’s sister provided the English translation for this interview and in this clip Lor answers a question about what it is like to be a woman in Hmong culture.

Through continuing to collect interviews, Southern Mix hopes to expand representation of Asian and Asian-American voices in archives and to create a greater awareness of the Asian community’s presence in the South.

Tell About the South: Mishio Yamanaka, Tues, April 17 at 12:30 pm

Mishio Yamanaka, a PhD candidate in UNC’s Department of History and the 2017-18 McColl Fellow, will show how Creoles of color in New Orleans achieved the partial desegregation of public schools during Reconstruction and resisted resegregation in 1877. In her dissertation, she argues that public schools catalyzed Creoles’ civil rights debate, as they considered educational opportunities fundamental to racial equality. By examining school records and family histories, her project reveals how Creoles of color forged a community-wide desegregation campaign during the Reconstruction period.

This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs to Patrick Horn at will be appreciated. Light refreshments will be served.

Tell About the South: Kimberly Kyser, Thurs, Feb 22 at 12:30 pm — This Event is Full

Talking about table manners is a prickly proposition–and big business in the twenty-first century. Join us for a “proper” southern luncheon with Kimberly Kyser, author of Ticket, a thoroughly modern etiquette book that demystifies the dreaded prissiness of “proper” behavior. Kyser draws on personal experience, historical research, and humor to remind us that social skills—especially table manners—are important and will always be a mainstay of civilized conduct. 

Born in Hollywood and raised in North Carolina, Kimberly Kyser graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Art History. She then studied at the Parson’s School of Design, New York, and later earned a B.F.A. in painting at the Atlanta College of Art (now SCAD). After a career in the fine arts with exhibitions in the Southeast and works in private and public collections in the US and abroad, she opened Kimberly Kyser, Inc. to design and manufacture special occasion clothing. She has 30 original pieces on display as part of the 20th century fashion design collection at the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte.

This event is at maximum capacity, but we hope to offer another one like it soon.