How has the United African Alliance Community Center changed since the filming of A Panther in Africa?”
Pete O’Neal: Our programs were growing and strengthening since their inception. Since the filming of “A Panther in Africa,” and since its screenings in several festivals around America and in Zanzibar, we have received such a positive response, that it has inspired us to redouble our efforts. That redoubling has resulted in our student numbers increasing from perhaps 100 or 150 at the time the filming started, to well over 400 students. I don’t mean that we have 400 students gathered here at one time, but during the course of the week we have a total of 400 or more students who are taking advantage of our programs.
Our programs have also increased severalfold. We now have an electronics teaching program. We have an architecture and construction program. We have French classes.
The thing that we are so very proud of is our new community free transport service. We have a vehicle that’s capable of carrying thirty passengers. We bought, renovated, and converted [a bus] into a passenger vehicle that takes people from the village. Walking the four miles with baggage from our center to the main road, as our village members normally do, takes an hour. Coming back takes an hour. Our bus makes four trips a day. It takes people down, saving them an hour, and brings them back and saves them another hour. It also operates as an emergency ambulance service, so we are very, very proud. And while we can’t credit this entirely to the film, it certainly has been a catalyst, and it has served us well.
Charlotte O’Neal: That’s right. I think because of the film, we’ve had more people wanting to come and volunteer. I think that’s wonderful. We also have students and teachers now who are interested in filmmaking. So, “A Panther in Africa” is definitely a good thing for UAACC.
How do you feel the film has affected you on a personal level?
Charlotte: So many people now want to know what the UAACC is all about. It really keeps us on our toes. We were on our toes anyway, but this doubles our efforts to really make sure that we are setting as good an example as possible. So, if anything, it has made us busier.
Pete, have you had more visits from relatives? And if you have, what has that been like?
Pete: My goodness, have I. You will recall that in the film, I spoke about the possibility of that visit from my mother as being the last one. I thought, “Well, I won’t have an opportunity to be with the woman who gave birth to me again.” I am so pleased to report that she is in fine health and vigor. She returned here last December with my sister that I had not seen in 34 years. We had a wonderful time. My mother, surprisingly, was in such high spirits. Perhaps “A Panther in Africa” invigorated her. My sister and her family, and another sister that I haven’t seen in 34 years, came back two months ago and accompanied us to Zanzibar to watch the viewing of the film there. Relatives are coming in bunches now, and they’re planning to come again. I’ve got a son, and he and his girlfriend are coming out in December. I think the film has been an inspiration for family members to come out and visit.
Interview with Pete and Charlotte produced, directed, shot and edited by Msechu Anwary and Samuel Obae. Msechu and Sam are volunteers at the UAACC and are currently working on a film that looks at the lives of Tanzanian street children.
The trip to Africa was very educational and fun. I got to meet many different people from all types of backgrounds. It was different for me to adjust to the culture, the language and people. One thing I gained from this trip was the chance to meet people who were not rich in money, but were rich in spirit.
Pete and Charlotte were two people I never knew about until this trip. They were two great people who fought for something they believed in and who got the short end of the stick. God turned it around for them. I loved that their mission is to help people learn and make something of themselves. Before I went to Africa, I met a couple of students from Pete and Charlotte’s program who came to our country and attended my high school, DeLaSalle.
DeLaSalle Education Center inspired me to want to do better and to explore other places. They gave me a chance to see who I could really be if I believed in myself.
I am thankful for everyone at DeLaSalle, especially my counselor, Marc Wilson. I know that if it hadn’t been for him and for my teachers at DeLaSalle, I never would have met Pete and Charlotte and I never would have had this life-changing experience.
Today I do community work within my church, assisting my pastor as a youth pastor. I am currently employed at Burger King where I work 40 hours a week. My future plan is to work with young people and do what God calls me to do.
— Derek Harris
Marty Young, Jr.
My trip to Africa was very fun and educational. I had the chance to meet all types of people from around the world. I had a hard time adjusting to the people around me and to their culture. I gained a lot of knowledge from the trip. I would never have met Pete O’Neal or his wife Charlotte if it was not for DeLaSalle Education Center and my DeLaSalle school counselor, Marc Wilson. DeLaSalle Education Center gave me a chance when other schools gave up on me. They taught me that education is the key to life and that I had to believe in myself when nobody else did. I had a heck of an experience going to Africa. Pete and Charlotte will always be in my heart. They are true warriors.
Right now I’m trying to be a good husband and father figure to my children, working 60 hours a week.
In the near future, I plan on having my own business, and, one day, traveling back to the Mother Land and once again dance to the sounds of the African drums.
— Marty Young, Jr.