Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Urban Developments

Corner Stories

On Sunday a group of young folk from Dorchester, the neighborhood I live in, presented their summer project – Corner Stories. Their presentation was the digital stories they had created, with the help of a collaboration of social service agencies. I was struck by the utility of the form, the combination of word, photos, water color paintings, web content and technological skill these stories utilized. I was saddened and disturbed by the stories.

I have been listening to the dialogue about the current wave of assault and homicide in our neighborhoods. The shootings, the stabbings, the machete attacks, and inevitably, the calling hours, the vigils, the marches the corner memorials, the funerals. I realized that among all the news articles, radio shows, commentary, interdenominational (but never any Vietnamese or Cambodian Buddhist monks) protest services I had not heard the voices of teens and young adults. Corner Stories filled in some of those voices.

Corner Stories spoke of alienation from parents, family violence, regret over gang-banging, and loss, inevitably the loss of some young person. Cousins, brothers, friends. It feels like few programs address the reality that the mostly young women storytellers are living. Yes, people are being shot with distressing regularity but hundreds (thousands?) of young people are dying small deaths everyday.

The Corner Stories tellers are African-American, Cape Verdean, Cambodian, Latina and Vietnamese. Some are immigrant, most, I think, were born here. Across language, color, and gender they presented a distressing picture of struggle, pain and, sometimes, despair. The fact of their efforts to present their stories demonstrates their nascent faith in the power of their own words to change the world.

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