Macon in the mirror: Who are we and what do we think of ourselves?

March 10, 2013 

You figure that as a local you pretty much know what people who live here think of the place.

But do you ever ask?

You might see Macon as a Southern beauty, a historic treasure set along a river the ancients knew for its “bubbling” or “boiling” water.

You may consider Macon a lazy-but-bustling-enough anti-Atlanta, a haven of easy commutes and cheap living.

Perhaps there are parts of it you wouldn’t dare tread, neighborhoods doubled over, socked by poverty’s gut punch, where crime is as common as church.

Yet maybe you love it still.

As John Buckner, a 25-year-old who lives on Walnut Street, says, “The Mississippians who lived here a thousand years ago put a spell on the river. Once you drank her water you never leave her shores, and I am beginning to think that’s why I am here. My heart is here. ... There’s something about it I can’t explain.”

Or, it could be, you’re one of those who views Macon as a has-been, bogged down in and by its past, paralyzed by politics and inequities both real and perceived. A place where you, for better or worse, reckon you’re stuck.

You may even poke fun at it, or look past what you see when you motor through its threadbare stretches.

“This isn’t my Macon,” you might think.

Then again, you might cruise through Yoshino’d subdivisions or breeze past old-money enclaves and think something similar: “Who lives here?”

Whatever you see, your neighbors almost surely see something else. A reflection of any city depends on who’s holding the mirror. Unfamiliar turf is often misunderstood, forgotten, ignored and, sometimes, feared.

But crumbled houses and drug dens and all the trappings of despair don’t necessarily breed discontent.

Just listen to Edward Holt, who lives in the Unionville neighborhood.

“All the trouble, all the bad neighborhoods, it just turns you into a better person,” Holt, 25, says. “Actually, it turns you into a positive person. You get tired of going through the same (mess) all your life. You want to try something new.”

What about you? What do you want? What do you see?

We’re asking.

We’re building something of a family album of modern-day Macon and Bibb County.

In the next few months, we will talk to hundreds of locals.

We want to know what you cherish and what you fear. We want to know why you are here and what you think the future holds for the people who call this home.

It is easier to focus on what doesn’t work, on what we have lost as a community.

It is harder to describe why Macon is a place you won’t give up on: a place you have chosen to stay when your neighbors have bolted and urged you to do likewise; a place that maybe you believe in, paper mill and all; a place where life sometimes seems overshadowed by self-loathing and insecurity.

There is power in identity.

If we know who we are, if we understand who lives among us -- not just next door, but across the railroad tracks, across the river -- if we can talk candidly about what troubles us and also what strengthens us, maybe we can tackle the former and build on the latter.

Video compiled from interviews by Burgess Brown, Laura Corley, Felicia Fowler, Bryson Jones and Katherine Manson who are all students in Mercer University's Center for Collaborative Journalism. The CCJ has partnered with the Telegraph and GPB to provide real-world experience to students in the Journalism and Media Studies program.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service