Ecuastory: giving voice to a vibrant Brooklyn community facing change and displacement, and empowering youth to help tell its story.

Group of people sitting outside a neighborhood shop.Overview

Bushwick is a historically Spanish-speaking neighborhood that has been in a state of rapid change in recent years due to a style of development typically termed gentrification. Cultural, economic, and language barriers keep newer residents and older residents in different worlds even though they live as neighbors. As expensive buildings go up and businesses that cater to new residents replace the old, existing communities face marginalization or expulsion, and the culture that defines a neighborhood can disappear. Bushwick is unique in that it has one of the highest concentrations of Ecuadorian Americans in the country. This can be seen in the food, businesses, and often on the streets in the Ecuadorian traje típico (traditional clothing). By highlighting the uniqueness of Bushwick's existing community and bringing it to the attention of newer residents, we hope to achieve two goals: Firstly, to contribute to fostering a sense of community that is inclusive, and to promote a style of cohabitation that is mindful and symbiotic. Secondly, to strengthen ties between the library and the Ecuadorian community. This initiative will involve inviting up to 50 Ecuadorian Americans into the library over the course of 10 months to share their experience in Bushwick for up to 30 minutes. We will hire and train teenagers who are fluent in both English and Spanish to conduct interviews and record overdubbed English translations. Funding will be made available for teens to attend workshops offered by Oral History Summer School. We will also reach out to the BPL staff involved with “Our Streets Our Stories,” “Brownsville Excerpts: Teen Podcasting,” and “KNRC Youth Radio Podcast” for collaboration and assistance with training for our teen interviewers / translators. When interviewing is complete, the teens will work together to create an hour-long compilation podcast tying together various themes from the interviews. The final product will be made available on the BPL website and promoted at the library and at local businesses catering to both Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking residents. By focusing specifically on the Ecuadorian community for our pilot project, our intention is to highlight a unique community that exists in Brooklyn that may escape the attention of the general public. Highlighting Ecuador is not meant to be exclusive and further iterations of the Hearing Brooklyn project could be focused on communities such as the Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, or Mexicans who all call Bushwick home. Given that the Ecuadorian community of Bushwick is equally present in neighboring Ridgewood, Ecuastory could be expanded to be an inter-library system project, working with the Ridgewood branch of Queens Public Library. This project is also designed for replication in other areas of Brooklyn that have their own unique communities to highlight.

Desired Outcomes

Success will be measured in the employable skills acquired by our teens- including translation and audio production, the degree of participation and enthusiasm from the community, the quality of the product, and the number of times that it is listened to online.

This proposal was prepared for the Washington Irving Library. Next ⇒

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