Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why Community History Matters

Something happened to me today which affirms why the Bronx African American History Project is the most important research initiative I have ever been associated with
At 1:30 PM I received a phone call from a person in the Fordham admissions office saying two people who said I interviewed them wanted to talk to me. I told her "send them right over to my office." The admissions counselor said: "really, that's the last thing I expected you to say"
Thirty minutes later, an African American couple in their early 80's showed up at my door holding a copy of a small book their daughter had created of the interview with them that I had done in 2005, which had recently been posted on line with the 300 other interviews the BAAHP had done. I was deeply moved that they had come to thank me in person. The little book they had created had become a precious family document. I could not think a better use of our research
But then I thought of the response of the admissions counselor who was shocked that I would be happy to see an elderly couple who came to meet me without an appointment. Her view of faculty, especially senior faculty, was that they would view such a request as an imposition or a waste of time
But the BAAHP is not your normal university based research project. It is a community/university collaboration where community members tell the professors what issues and institutions are important and help them find individuals whose stories best illuminate those subjects. So we NEVER view visits by community members as an imposition. Their insight and passion drives everything we do
Maybe universities need more projects like this one and less which encourage faculty members to insulate themselves from community input


David Greene said...

Amen. There is so much truth to social history that only projects like this can unearth.

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