Auburn University students participating in the 2013 Living Democracy project (plus one past participant and a community journalism student!), along with Dr. Mark Wilson and Professor Nan Fairley, journeyed to Collinsville and Hobson City on March 1-2, 2013.
We toured the fabulous Collinsville Public Library, an excellent example of a community preserving and making public use of a historic building. We dined at a local, Mexican restaurant, as authentic as one can possibly be outside of the country of Mexico. The food was delicious, and the conversation with librarian Jennifer Wilkins, assistant Margaret Goldthreat and board member Myles Smith was equally good.
DeKalb county has to be one of the most beautiful places in the state, and the view of rolling hills and grazing cattle from the porch of the farmhouse where we lodged could not be beat. We learned that Audrey makes fabulous pancakes, and bacon cooks well in the oven. And Marian is the toast master.
Saturday morning, the group visited Tigers for Tomorrow at Untamed Mountain, an exotic animal park and rescue preserve. “We are a last stop preserve,” owner Wilbur McCauley said on our guided tour, “and the animals that come to live with us remain here for the rest of their lives.” This non-profit organization, with over 140 animals including tigers, mountain lions, African lions, bears, wolves and black leopards, has to be one of the most unique organizations in the state.
The habitat for all of these animals is shrinking worldwide, and although public policy related to owning these types of animals as pets has increased (partly due to organizations such at Tigers for Tomorrow), there is still much work to be done. Sustainability is a key theme for the tour, and the organization practices what it preaches through the creation of its buildings from reclaimed lumber and other materials.
Following the tour, we headed to Hobson City for a conversation with board members of the Hobson City Community & Economic Development Corporation, Charity Richey-Bentley, Marvin Jones, and Jean Newton. Hobson City is the first African American municipality in Alabama (est. 1899) and has much for which to be proud. Jones and Newton discussed growing up on Hobson City, as well as their hopes and dreams for the town.
We were very fortunate that the day and time of our visit allowed us to attend the city’s 2013 Black History Month program, at a building near the very successful Hobson City Community Garden. We were deeply impressed by student performers and inspired by guest speaker Dr. Walter Hill of Tuskegee University. The theme of the event was “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality.” Following the program, we enjoyed an exceptional, locally-prepared meal, complete with greens from the community garden. We were honored to be a part of the celebration.