Through photos and oral histories, the young people of Gage Park reclaim the story of the community | Chicago News

Marcos Hernandez grew up in the Gage Park neighborhood in southwest Chicago. He says media coverage of his community often focuses on violence – without offering context on the challenges the neighborhood faces, like divestment.

Following: “Chicago tonight” in your neighborhood: Gage Park

“The only story that is told about our neighborhood focuses on this trauma,” Hernandez said. “We wanted to reclaim our story. We wanted the people of this neighborhood to tell their stories on their own terms. “

Hernandez is one of 10 young people at Gage Park who strive to change the narrative of his community.

They are part of Documentography, a new paid internship program managed by the Gage Park Latinx Council in collaboration with the Chicago History Museum which teaches young people how to become oral historians of their community.

(Photo courtesy of Eduardo Cornejo / Gage Park Latinx Council)

“Many of our stories as Latinx are oral, and if they are not documented, they are lost when we lose generations of people,” said Antonio Santos, executive director of the Gage Park Latinx Council. “We want to make a commitment to conserve and protect these stories. “

During the first part of the program, participants learned from museum curators. Then they got to work collecting the stories of the residents of the community through photography and oral histories.

“The program really allowed us to learn things that we probably won’t learn in school and certainly wouldn’t see in the media,” said participant Adamari Victoria Corro. “It was very informative and liberating.

Hernandez says more authentic stories are told when residents document the history of their community.

“We get stories about the joy, the community coming together to overcome obstacles,” Hernandez said. “We receive stories that inspire people to take action, but we also receive stories that are not necessarily related to mobilizing for action. We only have stories of people living their lives, their everyday lives.

The program concluded with an outdoor display of participants’ work in a garden run by the Gage Park Latinx Council at the intersection of Homan Avenue and 53rd Place.

Before setting up the exhibition, the group made a prototype of the area to plan its layout. Corro says they wanted to make sure it was accessible to residents of Gage Park.

The group produced a prototype of the exhibition before its installation.  WTTW News)The group produced a prototype of the exhibition before its installation. WTTW News)

“Some people work at night. Some people work very early in the morning, ”Corro said. “The exhibition is therefore open at all times and it is in the community. It is in a garden space. So it’s not locked or anything.

Descriptions of the exhibit are written in English and Spanish, in “a language people could digest and understand” – rather than academic language – Santos said.

Issues such as housing, entrepreneurship, the flight of whites and the civil rights movement connect the history of Gage Park with the present.

Corro says the story of Gage Park High School inspired her.

“Black students were resilient,” Corro said. “There was a lot of white violence directed at them because the whites did not want to be integrated into Gage Park High School. “

The Gage Park Latinx Council plans to continue the program throughout the year, with the ultimate vision of making the Gage Park Cultural Center a hub for Gage Park stories, the idea being that “stories can live on. in our own communities and we don’t depend on museums and institutions to do the job of showing our stories some dignity, ”Santos said.

Contact Marissa Nelson: @ByMarissaNelson | 773-508-5368 | [email protected]

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