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Helping Elba Tell Its Story Inspired Moore

Jelani Moore, 20, is majoring in media studies in the Auburn University School of Communication and Journalism. In the summer of 2014, he took his passion for storytelling to Elba as part of the AU College of Liberal Arts Living Democracy program.

In addition to writing features on characters he discovered, Moore also found creative ways to help Elba tell its own unique story. Moore headed a project to bring a colorful mural to downtown Elba, bringing people from all areas of the city together  for the effort. Articles he wrote for, including one about the mural, brought state-wide attention to the south Alabama community.

“The mural and my writing affected people the most,”  Moore said as he reflected on his 10 weeks of living and learning in Elba.

The mural, a colorful depiction of life in Elba, was painted on an exposed wall in the downtown square. With supplies donated by local businesses and the city, residents from all over Coffee County came together to position, trace and paint for a week. Moore said citizens of all ages created a work of art that he feels sure will stand the test of time.

When he was not putting his paint brush to the wall, Moore was putting his pen to paper, writing stories about local citizens. “Jelani was the most published person in Elba within a few weeks,” Laurie Chapman, one of Moore’s community partners, said. Moore regularly wrote about his adventures—and misadventures—in Elba for the local newspaper, the Elba Clipper, as well as for  Moore said he believes his articles brought new attention to the town of 4,000.

While in Elba, Moore worked primarily with the staff of Restoration 154. A non-profit run by Elba locals, Restoration 154 has a goal of completing 154 projects for the community.  Chapman, one of the directors for Restoration 154, worked closely with Moore throughout the summer. He also enjoyed working with Restoration 154’s boat rental company, Pea River Outdoors.

Moore helped with community events such as movie nights and pool parties to raise money for Restoration 154’s goal of renovating the historic Elba Theater. According to Philip Box, a Restoration 154 founder and director, said the community group enjoyed the new ideas Moore brought to town.  “He made us more vibrant,” Box said.

Moore said he feels that his ability to network and connect with people from different walks of life helped improve his experience in Elba. The people of Elba are “so kind and down-to-earth,” Moore said, that getting things accomplished came easily.

 “Jelani is a uniter,” Chapman said, “and is so good at bringing a diverse group of people together for a common cause.”