“We are shooting an episode for The Good Road that airs on Public Television in April. We are featuring Da’Cino, Jesse and Mayo from Light of the Village. Jesse is leaving and going to college today so we are giving the story a happy ending. The premise of our show is to find philanthropology in places off the beaten path.
Most of our stories have been ‘drop in and go’s’ shot in Nepal, Myanmar, Uganda and Vietnam. We had to do one domestic story and a guy who had been writing a story about gang violence said we should come to Prichard, so we called John Eads from Light of the Village. It was right after a kid named Mayo got shot and we immediately came down for the vigil. It was a little scary when we first started coming, but we fell in love with the program and the kids and have been coming back for almost two years to tell their stories. We also went with them on their mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. The program that is usually the mission trip started going out to do the same thing for another community. That is beautiful. This is the only story that we keep coming back to because these kids have been an inspiration. They have such insight about life.
Our show is 30 minutes. One episode will be on Light of the Village and the issues of inner-city violence, race, and poverty. The other episode is more about John and Dolores who have been giving their lives to this program for almost 20 years. They could be doing anything else. What is the business of doing good? Doing good is always messy and never clean and linear. They love these kids when they do wrong and when they do good and they are often surprised in good and bad ways. They pour their lives into theses kids and one gets shot. Helping others is fragile work and the embers that people like John and Dolores try to coax into something more can go out anytime, but they do it anyway.
There was a shooting during Mayo’s vigil and we have that on camera. Every time we return, we hear a shooting. Some kids end up dead like Mayo, some get out like Da’cino, and then Jesse is a question mark. He is a leader but his mama once told me she was worried about him. She gave him money for tennis shoes and he used it to buy drugs instead. We went to his house to do a day in the life. Eating meals and reading the Bible. We saw her love and concern for him. In December of last year, her boyfriend shot her dead in front of all three kids. Our story has a happy ending with Jesse leaving for college. But that is really a question mark. Will Jesse be able to make it in the world outside of Alabama Village?
Our show is raw and edgy. We have learned in the darkest areas is where you find the brightest lights. We both grew up as missionary kids in Bankgok, Thailand and have seen the good and the bad of serving others. It is a hero’s journey. You go to these places and leave a little changed. It helps build my faith to see what is good in the world and educating myself. I walk in with a critical view and walk out seeing the good.
We think there are evil people and there are good people and there is not much gray in between. That is not true, there are evil people who got there for different reasons and parts of who they are can be good. There are amazing people who we look up to but they have done something awful and we all have deep-seeded issues. There are no clear heroes or villains.
Anyone who watches our show will see both sides of an issue. We introduce more about the problem. Monetarily something may not make sense, but it changes people and shows hope. What is that worth? If we don’t care for the people around us, then what is going to come of us?”
(This is part of a series of stories from Prichard, Alabama, a once-thriving city on the edge of Mobile. Many people have moved away from Prichard and it struggles with difficult issues from violence, drugs, and education to city government, employment, transportation, and public water. But Prichard is also a reminder that communities are more than the stories of shootings and failures reported every night on the news. It is more than crime statistics and a proud past. There are good people who haven’t given up or are coming back home to Prichard. They have hope and are giving themselves to make a difference. I hope Prichard proves that positive change comes from people like this taking action. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.)