Living Democracy

Ashby Henry discovers 'new home' in Camden

Less than a year ago, I did not know what the City of Camden was, I did not know anyone from Camden (except for the governor), and I could not have pointed it out on a map. Now, it is a place that I can call home. 

I visited Camden twice before I moved in for the summer of Living Democracy, and I quickly got the impression that the town was made up of good, kind, hardworking people. It is that and so much more. 

I have been welcomed as one of their own this summer, and I am so honored to have gotten to be a part of it, even for a little while. The people I met are smart, interesting, hardworking, genuine, and care deeply about their communities. 

Spending most of my time at Blackbelt Treasures, I got the privilege of getting to know the staff. 

I cannot thank my community partners, Sulynn Creswell and Kristin Law, enough. Their efforts to introduce me to the community, answer my questions, and suggestions on who to talk to were incredibly beneficial, and my internship would not have existed without them. 

My thanks also go to all those I interviewed, spoke to, or met. It was intimidating for me to move into a community I knew almost nothing about, without knowing anyone previously, but every step of the way I was greeted and welcomed by this community. I am so thankful for all those that I got to interview. I enjoyed the interactions I had and enjoyed getting to know new people. 

Those I spoke to may not have even realized the impact they made on me, simply my engaging in conversation or answering my many questions. 

Another person I must thank is Betty Anderson. I met Ms. Betty for the first time on my first visit to Camden last December. She took the time them to show my mother and I around her museum. Little did I know then the impact Ms. Betty and her museum would have on me. 

I chose to dedicate my project this summer and the proceeds received from it to Ms. Betty’s museum for an air conditioner. Ms. Betty has worked very hard over the years to accumulate, display, and maintain her Shoe Shoppe and Quilting Museum, though she is still without air conditioner. 

In observing how difficult the heat made it to comfortably maintain the museum and give tours, I decided this was a strong investment. The museum itself is full of local history, and a big lesson I learned this summer is how significant that history is. 

Personally, I had never considered West Alabama to be a historically and culturally significant part of the state. I knew very little about it. But constantly throughout the summer I learned that Wilcox County is such a treasure, as are the people there. Contributing to Ms. Betty’s museum was a small way for me to help preserve that history and beauty. 

I am so thankful for Ms. Betty. For her introducing me, allowing me to help her, and for becoming a friend. 

The investments you make are important, and I am so grateful I got the chance to know and to love Camden. Though I grew up only about an hour north of it, I learned about its differences and quirks, the challenges it faces, the people who live there, how they interact, and how they worship and how they live. 

Embarking on this summer I was very unsure of what it would bring. I am so grateful that it brought me a new place to call home.




June 24, 2021
The Collinsville Panther Pride Band is back
The Collinsville Panther Pride Band is back

The sounds of trumpets and tubas pierce the air in the band room at Collinsville High School.  But this is no ordinary practice. 

By Laney Mayfield
June 30, 2021
Gov. Ivey comes home to celebrate new T-Pier and big fishing tournament
Gov. Ivey comes home to celebrate new T-Pier and big fishing tournament

On the afternoon of Sunday, June 27, Governor Kay Ivey came back to her hometown of Camden to cut the ribbon on Roland Cooper State Park's new 160 foot long and 128 feet wide T-Pier that provides boaters greater access to the Alabama River.

By Lauren Landers
June 29, 2021
Elba's Giving Garden gives back to the community
Elba's Giving Garden gives back to the community

Auburn University’s Oquendo Bernard is harvesting good things during his summer of Living Democracy in Elba. 

June 21, 2021
Elba celebrates their first Juneteenth
Elba celebrates their first Juneteenth

It was a rainy day in Elba, but the Mulberry Heights Coalition group persevered to host the opening ceremony of a Juneteenth celebration at the old high school grounds at Gaines Memorial Park, in the Mulberry Heights community, for the first time in Elba.

By Oquendo Bernard
June 18, 2021
Stitching together a bright future in Camden
Stitching together a bright future in Camden

Samantha Gomez, a Youth Organizer for the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI), saw an opportunity when a member of the executive committee, Sarah Bobrow-Williams, reached out in hopes of starting an extension of the Southern Journeys sewing program in Camden. 

By Lauren Landers

By Ashby Henry
Last Updated: September 11, 2022