Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History Project is an audio archive that attempts to supplement the official history of this dynamic community in central Brooklyn, bringing together the personal histories and memories of longtime residents of a storied neighborhood. Program director Alex Kelly brought together five students from Paul Robeson High School to invite Crown Heights residents to share their stories—in their own voices. The result is a group of over 40 conversations, each with its own particular perspective on a complex community that is composed of a variety of ethnicities, languages, histories, and cultures.
The act of recording and giving voice to hidden narratives opens up questions not only about the nature of identity in a hybrid neighborhood, but more importantly about whose stories rise above the din and whose get swallowed up in a textbook’s lessons.
We spoke with Monica Parfait, one of the students involved with the project, about creating a new history for this corner of New York City.
Listen to some of the stories recorded by Listen to This.
|Eunice Oden Eunice Oden: A Southerner at heart, Eunice speaks about her first experience in New York City after growing up in North Carolina.|
|Michoel BerhmanMichoel Berhman: A resident of the neighborhood for 34 years, Michoel explains the patchwork of cultural enclaves (including the one he calls home, the Lubavitch) that make up Crown Heights.|
|Stefanie Siegel Stefanie Siegel: At a time when Paul Robeson High School is in danger of closing, Stefanie describes the challenges facing the school and how students and teachers can take control back.|
|Melina BernadineMelina Bernadine: In a community that has at times been overrun by riots, crime, and drug use, Melina recalls how “somehow things started to change.”|
|Meredith Staton Meredith Staton: After 50 years in the community, Meredith speaks to the impact of the riots in 1991, but also about the importance of moving on.|
Black-and-white photographs by Cheney Orr.