African American Students Learn “Immersion” Interviewing,
Videotaping for Community History Projects
WILL’s 2005-2006 Youth Media Workshop helped
12 male African-American students at Urbana High School make a
pilot video about the Douglass Park area of Champaign, which for
many years was the social center of the black community in
In addition, African-American girls at
Franklin Middle School learned about
“immersion” journalism to get in-depth information
about the lives of African-American women in the community.
Urbana High School
Youth Media Workshop project at Urbana High connected
African-American males to local African Americans who
participated in the Douglass Community Center Drum Corps.
They produced a video, And the Beat Goes On: The Spirit
in the Legacy of the Douglass Center Drum Corps, which
premiered at Boardman's Art Theatre at noon, Saturday, September
Urbana High social worker Grace Mitchell is working with the
WILL project, a partnership with Urbana High and Dr. William
Patterson of the U of I African American Cultural Center. A
grant to WILL from the Illinois Humanities Council helped
fund the Douglass history project.
At Franklin Middle School
University of Illinois journalism professor Leon Dash taught the seven Franklin students the immersion technique he
developed, in which each girl will interview the same person
seven times to find out about her life.
The students will then make a radio documentary using their
“We’re adapting the immersion technique for radio.
We don’t know yet what the documentary will be about,” said
Kimberlie Kranich of WILL AM-FM-TV. “The girls will shape the final product using the material they
have gathered from their interview subjects.
The community members who are subjects of the interviews,
ranging in age from 45 to 92, are Erma Bridgewater, Imani
Bazzell, Ruby Hunt, Fannie Patterson and Catherine Hogue.
Serving the Community
“These projects reflect the ongoing commitment of the University
of Illinois and WILL to serve underserved communities. The Youth
Media Workshop exemplifies that vision,” said Patterson,
project co-director. The workshop is also receiving
assistance from Amy Aidman, U of I research assistant professor
of communications and media studies, who is pursuing grants for
the project as well as looking at how this project teaches media
During the 2004-2005 school year, the Youth Media Workshop
worked with girls at Franklin Middle School to produce a
documentary about the desegregation of Champaign schools.
This is the third year that the Youth Media Workshop has worked
with Franklin girls, teaching them the skills to research and
produce a radio program. This year’s project is being funded by
a grant from the Champaign School District and by proceeds from
a fundraising dinner held last spring.
Kranich said the girls interview the women about early childhood
memories of school, family, church and events outside the
family. Then the students will use results of the interviews to
focus on defining moments in the women’s lives. “We want the
students to make connections to their own lives and to events in
society that are related to interview subjects’ lives,” said
For the first time, workshop participants are using flash card
digital recorders, going out into the field to record the
interviews at the women’s homes.
Several of students created a short radio program about issues
facing young people that aired in November on WRFU-FM in Urbana,
a new community radio station. “Having the opportunity to
produce that program really accelerated the pace at which
they’re learning new skills,” said Kranich.
Documentaries made by the Youth Media Workshop students the two
previous years focused on school desegregation in
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