Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Bronx African American History Project and Narratives of Globalization

. There are many different globalization narratives. Mine is shaped by migration experiences which have transformed societies throughout the world in ways that have made my Bronx research interesting to people thousands of miles away. Prior to the formation of the Bronx African American History Project 15 years ago, I had little experience or interest travelling abroad, and few research contacts in other nations. However, when the oral history project I was involved with discovered that multiracial, multi-culural communities in the Bronx forged by migrations from Harlem and East Harlem produced more varieties of popular music than any place in the world in the 1940's 50' and 60's, something extraordinary happened. When this research was publicized through articles in the New York Times and academic journals, scholars from Germany, Spain and Italy started contacting me to ask if they could participate in our oral history interviews. Why? Because cities in their countries were being transformed by migration the way the Bronx had been 50 years ago and had become multiracial and multicultural. They thought the Bronx experience could help explain what was happening in their countries and in particular inform an examination of the transformation of popular music in their societies. By 2008, I was hosting scholars and artists in residence from all over the world and was being invited to lecture in Berlin and Barcelona on my research. And out of this research emerged a social worker/artist collaboration called the Bronx Berlin Youth Exchange. None of this experience was a result of corporate sponsorship or funding (The BAAHP is supported by hundreds of small and medium size donations by people who live in or once lived in the Bronx).. It was driven by bottom up recognition of commonalities in culture and music forged by global migration patterns which had transformed the world's urban centers.

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