Elliot James Southern Storyteller - Writer - Multimedia Journalist

Elliot James is a writer and journalist who’s professional work has centered around political science and cross-cultural relations, arts and lifestyle, and international affairs. In his free time Elliot enjoys reading and writing, playing with his cat and dogs, architecture and historic preservation, the culinary arts, and horseback riding. Elliot currently resides in the state of Georgia.
  • (Main Photo) Hay House. Macon, Georgia

Southern Architecture and Design.

Decor in the American South is often quite regional when compared to other types of interior design. Floral arrangement by Canaan Marshall.
An early autumn day comes to an end, featuring the Woodruff House. Macon, Georgia
Twilight glances one last time on the Walter F. George School of Law. Mercer University
The interior mezzanine level of the Grand Opera House in downtown Macon, Georgia.
November, Hay House prepares for its final Fall wedding after a busy and productive season.
The Bonnybrae-Bedgood house, a 1839 Greek revival mansion on Georgia Avenue, is well under restoration after being listed as one of Macon's Fading Five last year.
Christmas at the Palace of the South: Holiday decorations have arrived at the Hay House.
  • (Main Photo) The Gazebo at the Woodruff House.
Photo Essay.
By Elliot James

Donna Ashmore has be living in the quaint southern town of Macon, Georgia over the past 20 years. She was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to French and Italian parents. It is her Philly charm and firecracker persona that can light up a room. Her boisterous laugh. - Now that is infectious.

Donna is a friend of mine. And, what I love about Donna is her vivacity and love for life. I have heard quite a bit about her career overseas and she always tells me, "the foreign service is for you." - The foreign service. Travel abroad. Delta Airlines. That is Donna in a nutshell.

Although I have known Donna for about the last year and a half, there is so much I do not know about her. It is my intrigue of her life as a international woman that brings me to tell her story. The story of Delta Donna. The woman who gave 18 years of her life working for the federal government and another 14 years to Delta Airlines, the company who has allowed her to continue her travels today.

Donna counts on her fingers and talks with her hands making sure no detail of her life abroad is missed. After the death of her mother and divorcing her husband the same year, she wanted to get out. She applied for the foreign service under the US State Department and was willing to go anywhere. After an eight month security clearance Donna was on her way to London, England. "[The placement officer] called me back and said I have a present for you... You're going to London."

"I wanted to go anywhere, but here." - Donna Ashmore

After a tour of her home to look at souvenirs bought in England and Egypt, Donna paused in the kitchen to talk some more. This is where she tells me about her previous husband and death of her mother for the first time.

This was all "B-T" as Donna calls it. Before Tom. Thomas Sebastian is her life partner. They have been together since meeting in Cairo, Egypt in 1982.

In that moment, she said that all this has allowed her to meet Tom. Her greatest reward.

After completing her first two-year tour in London, Donna was placed in Cairo. She loved this more than working in London. It was so different from what she knew. There is where she met Tom, who was sent to work in Egypt on behalf of the US Navy. After completing their terms Tom and Donna headed back to England for another tour of service. Tom would continue with the Navy and Donna took a job with the Department of the Air Force.

Donna sits here going down "Memory Lane" as she calls it showing pictures of the small village they lived at in the Cotswolds, England. Their 15th century cottage was once the Old Post Office.

Donna sits on her bed proudly showing her Department of State badge which she still keeps in her wallet today. After raising her badge up for a photograph, Donna turns to the side of her bed and quietly takes a long moment to look at herself before putting it away.

After Donna returned to the States from another two years in England, she and Tom moved to Warner Robins, Georgia to work at the air force base. It was not like where she had been working before and the couple would soon move to Dayton, Ohio with Tom's work. There is where she began working for Delta out of Cincinnati.

Donna sits on her couch in the front room laughing because her friend and former co-worker, Tom Holton, did not think she would get the job she wanted with Delta Airlines. She was hired on the spot. Donna still remembers her employment date, May 28, 1991.

After five years in Ohio, Donna and Tom would return to Georgia. She would take a job with Delta working in international group sales in Atlanta, commuting from Macon five days a week.

Donna retired at 54-years-old with an early out package, after 14 years of service with the company.

"My salary and flight benefits keeps us in travel and booze." - Donna Ashmore to her partner Tom, on retiring from Delta.

Once retired from Delta, Donna said, "That's it. I never worked again... I don't want to work anymore."

The next day Donna and Tom are headed to Atlanta for a Christmas party to celebrate the holidays with Donna's former Delta co-workers. Donna is in charge of the Cracker Barrel hash brown casserole. She explodes in laughter after having forgot about the hash browns frozen in the freezer and throws them in a sink of hot water.

"They're partiers!" - Donna Ashmore on Delta people.

Now, Donna's international experience did not begin with her time in the foreign service or with Delta, but with her family. Her grandmother, Victorine Bechaz (far right) was from Chamonix-Mont-Blac in the French Apls. She wanted to be a dressmaker and study in Paris, but because of World War I, she was sent to the United States to be with her brother.

Donna's grandmother would eventually become employed at the Wanamaker's department store in Philidelphia and met Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt (middle). Vanderbilt took a liking to Bechaz and hired her because they both spoke French. There Bechaz would make the turbans for Sabu, the Elephant Boy, and his porcelain dolls (lower left).

Donna takes a pause as she reads family recollections about her grandmother. "She was never happy here," Donna said.

After 32 years of working in international affairs and travel, Donna said she has no regrets.

"I was happy to take Delta, I was happy to leave Delta," she said.

"It's just been a fun life." - Donna Ashmor

International Work

Culture | Wildlife | Travel | Non-profits
Mini Travel Stories
"The door is always open," said Haseem. Haseem is a groundskeeper at Kennemeyer Primary School located in the Grassy Park area in Cape Town, South Africa. He is an avid Liverpool Football Club (F.C.) fan and knows much about the area. He stopped to say that "the area is okay." Located in the Cape Flats, Grassy Park is primarily a Cape coloured area. The term coloured, although seeming to be quite a controversial word in much of the world is commonplace in South Africa. The name is a formal racial group throughout South Africa that represents those citizens that can link their heritage to the former slaves that were forced over from East Asia, India and Indonesia during the colonization of the country. The coloured person, today, in South Africa is anyone who can link themselves to one or all of these ethnic groups. It is also someone who may have a mixed ethnic background that includes one of the native black South African tribes. For whatever reason it is known and said that the coloured communities throughout Cape Town are widely riddled with gangsterism and gang violence. This includes issues of alcoholism, drug violence and theft. However, Haseem said that it is the surrounding areas of the primary school, like Lavender Hill and Lotus River that have a harder time with safety rather than the immediate Grassy Park area. Hassem said that it is primarily gangsterism that troubles the Lavender Hill and Lotus River communities. Although the school's area is somewhat safer, the school children do face problems. Most of them come to the campus after having to battle issues at their homes. "It is because of their parents," said Haseem. According to Haseem, of the children who do fall into trouble at Kennemeyer, many of them are coming from homes where alcoholism and drug problems exist. He said that the students see what their parents do and they do it as well. Following suit of their parents the children start developing alcohol and drug related habits at a young age. It causes the children to underperform at Kennemeyer and some eventually dropout in the seventh, sixth, and even fifth grade. This is where young learners will start to follow down a tumultuous and rocky path in their lives. Some will follow into joining local gangs or lead a harder life with less opportunity due to their lack of formal education. Even though some students are facing tremendous hardship at home, whether fueled by gangsterism or not, Kennemeyer is a well supported school and performs well. Kennemeyer has implemented quality educators into the teaching force, positive curriculum and a variety of extracurricular education opportunities for students to participate in after school. What is not a surprise is that students in these areas of Cape Town are not uncommonly faced with these types of problems and hindrances to their education. The many issues in the surround communities or at-home are stunting on the majority of the primary schools throughout the city.
Sydney stands outside the old training center in the township of Khayelitsha with newspapers in hand for distribution in is community. He asks for his picture to be made in what seems to be a call for someone of the outside world to know that he exists. Khayelitsha is the largest township in South Africa. It is located opposite Table Bay in the Cape Flats and runs to the coast of False Bay. Primarily a black South African and Xhosa community, Khayelitsha is located about 35 kilometers East of the Central Business District (CBD) in Cape Town. The paper that Sydney holds is the Vukani. A free newspaper publication that focuses on primarily the black South African townships of Khayelitsha, Langa, Nyanga, and Gugulethu. As a free publication, the paper allows for the circulation of news stories throughout these communities no matter the financial status of the resident. Like Sydney, many people gather outside of the training center to socialize, participate in small business and street vending, or stop in at the Xhosa restaurant that is located there. The training center is also home to a variety of services offered to the community that provide vocational skills training.
Dean is one of several self-taught seal trainers in Hout Bay, located about 20 kilometers outside of central Cape Town. Due to the large disparities between race and socioeconomic opportunity found in Cape Town and the larger post-Apartheid South Africa, many low-income earners have developed creative strategies to form small-profit businesses for themselves. These informal business endeavors have given underrepresented South Africans the building blocks to begin filling in the poverty gap themselves. For a small fee of 10 Rand, Dean and his trusty business partner Bubbles allow visitors and tourist the chance for a possible once in a lifetime photo op. In this, guest of Hout Bay are intrigued, indulged, and delighted by the uncommon relationship that the seaside duo have with one another. This symbiotic relationship seems to have been formed out of respect, perhaps some level of love and mutual gain; Dean receives the income he needs and Bubbles -a days worth of fish. Dean and Bubbles are one pair of the many seal and human teams that can be found throughout the coastal marinas of Cape Town. The great benefit of witnessing the coming together of man and beast is realization of the willingness to live, and that is more than merely surviving. Trumped by great need, the two come together forming a great bond in an effort to undoubtedly help one another. This rare and authentic animal and human interaction serves as a great reminder of what life is about in the simplest terms: giving yourself to others, receiving help in return, and forming steadfast relationships out of love and mutual respect. *Bubbles is a Cape Fur Seal (Arctocephalus pusillus), also known as a Brown Fur Seal. This is a common species of marine mammal found through the Western Cape and southern Africa. Males tend to grow much larger than females, weighing 200 to 350 kilograms and females ranging from 75 to 120 kilograms. Males have an average size of 2.3 meters and females come in at an average of 1.8 meters in length. In the wild the average lifespan for the Cape Fur Seal is 18 years, in captivity that duration extends to 25 years.
Noor Ebrahim wakes up every morning at 4 AM to begin his day. He now, at 72, gives tours at the District Six museum in downtown Cape Town. His name means light in Arabic and he was once a member of the recording trio, Crescendo. According to his book, Noor's Story: My Life in District Six, the area was given its name because in 1867 it was the sixth municipal district in Cape Town. In its beginning it was home to freed slaves, immigrants, laborers, merchants, and artisans. Always known historically as a mixed community, the district would become home to artists, politicians, businessmen, musicians, writers, teachers, sheikhs, priests, gangsters, athletes, stay-at-home mothers and thriving children. On February 11, 1966 during the apartheid government the area was declared a whites only district. It took nine years from that day for the government's decision to affect Noor and his family in 1975. In his book, Noor recalls the first bulldozers demolishing buildings and homes on Williams, Stone and Caledon Street. While on tour Noor said, "The day they demolished their home, I watched them." Over 60,000 inhabitants of the District were forcibly removed to the Cape Flats by 1982. This would be known as one of the most tragic human rights violations during the apartheid era. - Noor was 32 when he was displaced from the District. A lesser know fact is that the first residents to be forced out were black South Africans in 1901. In what used to be the old Methodist church in District Six, the museum opened its doors in December 1994. Now, the museum is opened six days-a-week retelling the stories of the lives that flourished in this once vibrant community and how they were impacted on that awful day in 1966. "We still have a very long way to go," said Noor as he commented on the progress that has been made to reintegrate the city of Cape Town. He tells visitors not to ever be afraid of talking about the government or political leaders, because "we pay their salaries." Noor emphasized the importance of placing pressure on political leaders so that positive change is made. "You are a human being in my eye. You are a person." - Noor Ebrahim
Elliot James stands with author Noor Ebrahim in the District Six Museum

Elliot holds a B.A. in political science from California State University Fullerton, where he focused on geography and international politics. He returned for studies in journalism at Mercer University Center for Collaborative Journalism. Noted as “One of the nation’s boldest journalism experiments,” by the New York Times. Elliot has also studied at Georgetown University and Universidad De Las Americas Puebla in Puebla, Mexico.

He is committed to shedding light on good works surrounding the elimination of poverty, women and children’s rights, global health, gender equality, sexual freedom, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and conservation.

  • (Main Photo) Three Anchor Bay, Cape Town
  • (Main Photo) A female ostrich stands while feeding off the shore of the Cape of Good Hope.
Cape Town students from Pelican Park Primary, Caravelle and Kennemeyer participate in an leadership program sponsored by Mercer University's Mercer on Mission.
International Food, Beverage and Art.

NEWS and FEATURE PHOTO.

McDuffie Center for Strings students play in an empty Fickling Hall in preparation for their upcoming concert for the Townsend School of Music.
Congressman John Lewis came to talk to community members at the Tattnall Square Park Peace Fountain in Macon, Georgia while campaigning for Hilary Clinton. He is the last person alive to have spoke with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the "I have a Dream" march on Washington D.C.
Light fixtures bring cheer to downtown city streets in Macon, Georgia. Making the historic district a fun holiday place for the community.
Cure Mercer had a rewarding Cure Goes Gatsby event this year with good turnout. This annual event raises funds for child surgeries in Niger, Africa.
  • (Main Photo) Turkey being cooked over a smokey grill at the Georgia National Fair in October.
Mini Photo story feat. on instagram: "Showline Bovine"

The cow barn during the Georgia National Fair in Perry is an often well visited attraction, even at night.

(upper left) As the cattle bed down for the night, they remain well aware of their evening spectators. Quiet and relaxed, they intrigue many who pass through the breezeway of the barn. (upper right) Although the night is well underway, some of the admired showstoppers do not seem to want to go to sleep, like this young cow who only moments before was busy mooing. (lower left) Aside from the opportunity to get some shut-eye, the last hours of the fair allow these bovine beauties to eat one last time before morning. (lower left) Many owners take this restful time to bathe and primp their cows before the events of the weekend take place. Many hoping for a blue ribbon.

Sports and Sports Action

Ice Hockey

Although somewhat of a new addition to Macon, Georgia, the Macon Mayhem ice hockey team has a loyal and supportive fan base.
The Evansville Thunderbolts come prepared with a competitive defense during Sunday's game.
The Macon Centerplex ice hockey arena seems like an out-of-town experience for those who have not yet had the opportunity to visit.
Dennis Sicard, right wing, is welcomed off the ice by supportive fans in between periods on Saturday. - Macon Telegraph
After an exhausting game, players raise their sticks in celebration of a 5-2 win against the Evansville Thunderbolts. This victory earned Macon Mayhem first place in the league. - Macon Telegraph
  • (Main Photo) Macon Mayhem vs. Evansville Thunderbolts Nov. 06, 2016.

Football

After a busy football season, here is a pre-season look at Five Star Stadium at Mercer University back in August.
Mercer's first game of the SOCON season showed angsty fans eagerly hoping for a win from the Bears.

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