Posted June 14th 2010 at 5:16 pm by
in Media Mindfulness

Our Journey Between Two Boston Corners

Khadijah.jpgThis spring, I rode Boston’s #66 bus with a camera, an audio recorder and a gaggle of ten to sixteen-year-olds.  Why?  To jump on a unique chance to use photography as a reflective tool for investigating what makes neighborhoods tick.

A group of staff and volunteers encouraged these youth to use their new critical photographic eyes, honed during a fifteen-week training institute, to document and compare two neighborhood centers in Boston.  Each youth, in his own way, formed a new definition for photojournalist and activist.  These students are part of the Boston based international non-profit Peace in Focus.  Founded in 2007, the organization aims to create social change by engaging youth in a dialogue about peace in their own lives and their communities and giving them the critical photojournalism skills to become local, place-based voices for change.

Virtual Street Corners posterAfter four four to six-hour outings, the youth decided to produce a collaborative essay of photographic pairs, highlighting both visual and attitudinal similarities and differences in the two corners.  These photos will become part of the citizen media displaying on the storefront screens of the Knight Foundation funded public art project called Virtual Street Corners, which seeks to break down the divide and distance between two very diverse communities with significant historical connections: Coolidge Corner in Brookline, and Dudley Square in Roxbury.

John Ewing, the Virtual Street Corner’s creator, noted in a PBS IDEAS Lab blog post:

“The Greater Boston neighborhoods of Brookline and Roxbury are 2.4 miles apart, yet there is little interaction between them because of divisions of race and class…It is my goal…to inspire or provoke people into having more involved conversations and exchanges. I’d even like to see people travel from one location to the other. Despite it being a 15-minute bus ride between these two neighborhoods, it is amazing how rarely this happens.”

Here’s a video version of the youths’ collective photo essay, entitled “Our Journey to the Corners,” also featured in an exhibit at the USES Harriett Tubman House in Roxbury, where they held their Saturday training sessions.  All the photographs that appear in this short movie were captured by Peace in Focus youth participants, showing a mix of shots from Coolidge Corner on the left and Dudley Square on the right.  The audio you hear is pulled from interviews the youth did with storeowners and randomly recorded during the bus rides.

Voices heard include:

  • Danielle Martin, PiF Instructor
  • Dounia, youth participant
  • Jumaada, owner of Nubian Notion, Dudley Sq
  • Ethel Weis, owner of Irvings Toy & Card Shop, Coolidge Corner
  • Khadijah, youth participant
  • Willy, the 66 Bus Blues Man

Post by Danielle Martin.

One response to “Our Journey Between Two Boston Corners”

  1. Ramya says:

    I think this is a pretty neat project. I noticed this difference riding a lot of the MBTA buses that crossed Boston neighborhoods and in fact I was just thinking this a couple of days back when I was riding the capitol metro in Austin in two trips. One going from southwest to downtown and then downtown to east austin. There was a stark difference between each leg of the trip. Just driving to the school takes me from one bubble (out in the hills) to another (the school in east austin) without much interaction with the people in either neighborhood. I love buses because you can interact with people and see the differences and similarities. It’s even cooler when you ride the bus from one end to the other and witness the people entering and existing. You notice more how little interaction there is. I think this is a cool project capturing that!

    How DO you get people in different neighborhoods interacting with each other? I know from my experience with folks in Boston, the unique neighborhoods make for strong pride in one’s community. There is little need to cross the invisible borders. I think this is both a positive and negative of the neighborhood-centric city.