WE LIVE HERE: Mapping OUR community and challenging perceptions of the West Side
In this community history project, We Live Here, an ethnically diverse group of youth researchers (ages 15-19 years old) mapped their community history through the use of new technology, oral history, creative writing and poetry, to reframe perceptions of Salt Lake City’s West Side and foreground the personal stories of west side residents. We Live Here is a multilayered, visual, interactive map and community history committed to documenting the rich textures and personal narratives of everyday life that create and sustain the community of the West Side of Salt Lake City. We Live Here aims to capture the stories of working people, of the young and old, the grandparents and unofficial “mayors” whose stories are too often forgotten.
We Live Here focuses upon documenting stories about places that represent the rich cultural diversity of the community and the everyday places that young people like to spend time in their community. The Mestizo Arts & Activism youth researchers engaged in a community-based research and oral histories to document the assets in their community and challenge deficit portrayals of their neighborhood. Our goals were two fold, on the one hand we wanted to engage and nurture ownership of the collective identity and pride in the community, this was reflected in both our process of community engagement and our product – our community history map and outreach plan. On other hand, we hoped that We Live Here could be used to re-orient assumptions about the west side while it directs and calls attention to the complexity of urban multi-ethnic/ cultural neighborhoods that too often go un-noticed and thus challenge the reductive/outside characterizations of the community.
We Live Here was conceived and planned by the Mestizo youth researchers who worked collaboratively with, and were mentored by, west side residents, interdisciplinary University of Utah faculty members, an urban planner from the department of City Planning, and university students from interdisciplinary backgrounds in Social Justice Education, Communications, Education Culture & Society.
The project began with the Mestizo youth researchers identifying significant places in their community that reflect diverse cultural histories, that are personally meaningful, or significant because of the memories they mark. As part of this process of identification the youth researchers surveyed other west side residents about the most important places in their neighborhood. Employing GIS(Geographic Information Systems), the youth researchers created their multilayered interactive
community history “map.”