URBANA, Ill. (AP) - Several years ago, Diane Nesbitt’s family members were telling her to get on Facebook. She wanted nothing to do with it, but they signed her up anyway.
And now, the 61-year-old Nesbitt has more than 2,000 friends. She has posted more than 11,000 photos and 500-plus albums - each showcasing various community and family events in the local black community.
Just this year alone, Nesbitt and her camera have captured hundreds of people’s faces at events at the St. Luke Food Pantry, American Legion Post 559 and her church, Mount Olive Missionary Baptist.
“I’m a picture person,” said Nesbitt, a 1972 Urbana High School grad and 1976 Tennessee State alum who returned home and launched a career in social work that’s nearing 40 years - the last 21 as a caseworker at the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.
Outside work hours, Nesbitt’s love for snapping photos - combined with her outgoing personality and newfound appreciation for Facebook - have transformed her into an unofficial historian of the local black community.
“She does not miss anything,” said Patricia Avery, president of the Champaign County NAACP, which will recognize Nesbitt as this year’s Community Service Award winner at Friday night’s Freedom Fund banquet for her dedication to social work.
Avery said Nesbitt adds real value to the community in the way she preserves and captures black life in Champaign-Urbana.
Nesbitt even takes pictures for families at their relatives’ funerals.
Avery and Shandra Summerville, also with the NAACP, said they were touched by a year-end in memoriam slide show Nesbitt assembled and posted, showing pictures of those in the black community who had passed away in 2014.
“She must have gone to every funeral in town,” Avery said. “It was a reminder of just how many of our elders, who were such contributors to the community, that we have lost, and sometimes we forget about that. … You just forget about how much they have done. It was quite nice of her to do that.”
Nesbitt said she attended 25 funerals that ended up in that memoriam. There were five others, but she didn’t know the deceased person and she only photographs funerals of people she’s related to or knows.
One of those included in the year-end tribute was Summerville’s mother. Looking at Nesbitt’s pictures, Summerville said she realized there were people at her mother’s funeral she didn’t know had attended. There were so many people, Summerville said, she couldn’t greet everyone.
“Had I not seen her pictures I would have not known they were there,” Summerville said. “She has captured African-American history informally, which is a key thing that often doesn’t get done.”
Nesbitt, who has two daughters in their 30s and two grandsons aged 14 and 6, said she’s a very social person who loves going to community events.
“I’m always involved in something. I could be at three events in one day,” she said.
Another reason she takes pictures is so people living out of the area can catch up on what’s going on back in Champaign-Urbana.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I don’t think I could ever get tired of it,” she said.
Source: The (Champaign) News-Gazette, https://bit.ly/1OGfGlu
Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com
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