Who tells your story? If you contribute to an oral history project, you do. North Brooklyn Narratives (@nbknarratives), the new volunteer-led oral history initiative from North Brooklyn Mutual Aid, hopes that you will.
The project will be holding its first socially distanced meet-up in McGolrick Park today (8/22) at 2pm, and seeks volunteers to share, collect and preserve accounts of life in Greenpoint & Williamsburg in 2020, covering topics including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter Uprising, and other experiences of this extraordinary historical moment. If you would like to tell your story, or help your neighbors tell their stories, sign up here to get involved.
Organizers contend that oral history is not only a meaningful way to help neighbors connect and share stories in this isolated time, but also a medium that allows neighbors to leave a record of their experiences, and help shape how generations to come will understand the events of 2020.
At a time when the nation itself is grappling with its historical narrative, and who it has left out, or failed to recognize, North Brooklyn Narratives sees oral history as an outlet for equity. The project’s mission statement notes that “oral history is one of the oldest forms of historical-record-making, because every person has a story. Every story preserved enriches the historical record, and helps create a more complete, nuanced, and honest picture of our collective past. If we are present in our community today, we can create a record for the future.”
Contributing helps broaden the historical record, which helps bring our understanding closer to the nature of history itself:
The study of history is the study of change and continuity of human experience through time. That means that all human experience, and everything humans create, is history. In its purest form, history is the most egalitarian thing there is, because there is a history of everything, and everything is history.
Unfortunately, we rarely experience history that way. Often, we receive narrow historical narratives that do not reflect all of our experiences, or all that we create. So many of us don’t get to see ourselves reflected in history, when in fact every single one of us is part of it. That’s where oral history comes in. Any of us can tell our stories, and project volunteers can help preserve those stories for future public use.
Many North Brooklyn residents have shared oral testimony in the past. For example, the Greenpoint Environmental History Project, begun in 2018, and led by Acacia Thompson, Greenpoint Outreach Archivist for the Brooklyn Public Library’s Our Streets, Our Stories Collection, documents the neighborhood’s environmental history. North Brooklyn Narratives hopes to stand as another community collection alongside that project.
North Brooklyn Narratives invites you to once again use your voice, leave a record, and make history.
Sign up here to get involved with the North Brooklyn Narratives, and join the group today at 2pm in McGolrick Park for their first oral history meetup!