Listen to some of the stories we've recorded...

7:00 - 8:30 pm on Wednesday, June 9th
LaunchPad - 721 Franklin Avenue
(Between Park Place and Sterling Place)

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Ansie and Monica

On Monday February 22 Ansie and I went out on Franklin Avenue to recruit people for interviews. Ansie is our newest member and a friend of our crew. We went to different businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, and laundromats. The business owners were really nice; they let us put up our signs inside their business and agreed to give our business cards to their customers. The two men from The Pulp and The Bean were exceptionally nice.

After we recruited people, we returned to our recording space. Michael Kunitzky is letting us use LaunchPad - an 800 square foot storefront on 721 Franklin Avenue to record our conversations.

Ansie, Monica and Laurel

Laurel Brown from the blog Nostrand Park came by to talk to us about her interest in Crown Heights. She has lived in Crown Heights for 3 years. She studies law, but she is doing a documentary on gentrification in the neighborhood. She is a really cool person. One can never be bored talking to her; she is full of life and a very good listener. 
 She gave us advice on how to reach out to people for our project and gave us names of people who can help us achieve our goals.

She makes me think about why I was interested in this project in the first place: To uncover new things about the history of our neighborhood that many people don't know about, and to give the "behind-the-scenes" heroes and historians of our neighborhood a chance to shine.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Making It Public

Monday, February 8th was a great night. We had pizza at A Slice of Brooklyn and then we made a presentation at the 77th Precinct Community Council meeting. There were a lot of people – probably over 50. I was a little nervous because I have never done a presentation outside of school before. But, come to find out it was great and me and the other students did well.

Floyya Richardson Speaks

In the presentation, we each said one reason why we are doing this project – our personal mission statements. Here is what we each said:

Treverlyn: “My main goal for this project is to learn more about the community, I would like to know what life was like back then, how people could live without cell phones or without internet.”

Me: “I have never done anything like this before, and although I haven’t, I am going to make this a great memory and learn a lot from it.”

Floyya: “I would like to do this project to teach others in our community and make it possible for other people our age to do something similar.”

Monica: “I want to get involved in my community, because I think our community affects us just as much as we affect it.”

Our Team Waiting For the 77th Precinct Community Council Meeting

The people we presented to were a great audience and I will soon learn how to be a good audience member myself but until then I'll try my best. Bottom line is: Our presentation got people to sign up and we are closer to our goal of 60 people. It’s time to work.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Space and A Plan

Eastern Parkway Brooklyn Public Library

Photo taken from Brooklyn Public Library website

On February 1st, 2010 we finally got our own place where we could meet to discuss plans for our oral history project. We are currently located at the Brooklyn Public Library on Eastern Parkway between Utica Avenue and Schenectady Avenue. The room is very spacious and it has everything we might possibly need: Chairs, table space, a chalkboard and silence.

We talked about the goals we would like to achieve in order to make this project a success. We worked backwards, writing down our end result (the community listening event) first. We made a flow chart and on this chart we wrote down all our up and coming events me might need to attend. We came to the conclusion that interviewing 60 people is going to take a lot of work, but we are ready for it. In order to do so we have to recruit people to tell us their stories.

Quanaisha and Treverlyn Planning in Our New Space

Our recruitment plan: We plan on making flyers to distribute to inform people in Crown Heights what we are doing and also invite them to come tell us their story. This coming Monday we will also be speaking at the Precinct 77 Community Council Meeting. It will be our first presentation as a group. I see this project being very successful and we are paving the way for other kids our age to do what we are doing.

Our group with Sandra Sutton of Eastern Parkway Brooklyn Public Library

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reading About The Riot

Monica reads interview transcripts about the August 1991 Crown Heights Riot

On Thursday, February 28th we went to the Brooklyn Historical Society to experience firsthand what an oral history collection was like. Sady Sullivan gave us a tour and shared some interesting information.

The Brooklyn Historical Society was founded in 1863. The museum has many exhibits. It has an exhibit just for veterans from the Vietnam War, an exhibit just for the work of high school students and many more exhibits.

The museum has a library that was built in 1881. The library is on the second floor and it is two floors itself. The library is a research library, which means nothing leaves the library. They have rules that are different then a public library: You cannot have a purse that is bigger than the size of half a piece of computer paper and you cannot use pens in the library, only pencils.

Brooklyn Historical Society Research Library

Their collection goes back to the 1600s. They used to draw instead of record their stories. In 1973, they started to record their stories on cassettes tapes. Some of the first recordings at the museum were interviews from people who moved from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn. People shared their stories. In 1993 they started to interview people from Crown Heights about the 1991 riot that took place there. We sat together to read transcripts about the riot. Each of us read the words of very different people who had a different perspective on what life was like after the riot took place.

From Left: Quanaisha, Floyya, Treverlyn, Monica

A Visit From Evangeline

On Thursday, January 21, we met Evangeline Porter, President and Founder of Crow Hill Community Association. Evangeline has lived in Crown Heights for over 40 years. Crow Hill Community Association was started as a block association 25 years ago. Only three of the 22 members are still alive.

Evangeline Porter talks to us about neighborhood history

Evangeline told us that over 25 years ago, on Franklin Avenue, the banks and small businesses were continuously being robbed so they were forced to close and relocate themselves to a safer environment. People were scared to leave their houses and restaurants started to close early because of drug dealers and violence. Over three short years, the Crow Hill neighborhood went from bad to worse. Out of 66 stores in the area, 35 were forced to close because of constant violence.

A map of the Crow Hill neighborhood
Photo from Crow Hill Community Association website

The residents knew it was time to create change. Evangeline and her group introduced a powerful community clean-up day. These were simple yet smart steps that were taken to help improve the neighborhood and make it a much better place.

Evangeline attended Howard University and graduated from the College of New Rochelle School of New Resources in Brooklyn, NY. She later moved on to work at the school that her children attended. Evangeline also worked as a toll collector at Hudson River Crossings and was among the first group of women toll collectors, because only men were in tolls until 1956. She was also a paraprofessional at Paul Robeson High School (which was called Alexander Hamilton at the time) for a little while. She even worked at the World Trade Center when the 1st building was being built, as a guide for builders. She is a woman of many trades! Her story about almost getting hit by a streetcar on Albany Avenue made us all realize how many changes the area we go to school in has been through!

From left: Quanaisha, Treverlyn, Evangeline, Floyya, Monica

She was very serious when she said that the safety of Crown Heights has improved, but there are still more problems to be solved by community members. She said, “the economy is low, yet the rents are getting very high.” Evangeline’s passion for changing her community for the better was inspiring to all of us.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Beginning of Our Story

Let me introduce you to four high school students on a mission. This is a mission to record, preserve and better understand their neighborhood’s history. I first met Floyya, Monica, Treverlyn and Quanaisha at Paul Robeson High School. They came to this project through Nixon Mercidieu, a school liaison for the Brooklyn College Community Partnership. He is working to place high school students in meaningful internships around Brooklyn.

“What do you know about Crown Heights history?” I asked the students at our first meeting. They looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. “Nothing,” Floyya said in summary.

From left: Treverlyn, Monica, Floyya, Alex, Quanaisha

The truth is, I don't know much about Crown Heights history either. As the students learn, I will learn too. In the upcoming months, Floyya, Monica, Treverlyn, Quanaisha and I will satisfy our collective curiosity. We will interview 60 people who have lived in Crown Heights for over 15 years. We will donate these interviews to Brooklyn Historical Society’s oral history collection and share parts of these interviews at a community listening event in May – a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Crow Hill Community Association.

We invite you to join us on our journey. Follow our blog as we explore the history of our neighborhood through the stories of people who have lived it. In February, we will be designing our project and recruiting people to tell their stories. Do you know someone with a story? Let us know.