What is oral history? It is a opportunity for people—many of whom have never been interviewed before because they are not professional athletes or politicians or reality TV stars—to talk about their lives. Their stories, their perceptions about their own lives and the events they have experienced can give us a picture not only of them but about the times they have lived through. These are some of the reasons why a group of faculty at Brooklyn College started the Brooklyn College Listening Project in 2014. In addition, we also thought that our students were uniquely qualified to help their families, friends, neighbors and strangers to tell the stories of their lives.
Rayson’s Chen’s parents, immigrants from China, had big dreams for their first child. They expected Rayson to become a doctor, lawyer, CEO. Instead, he wanted to become a high school history teacher. That didn’t go over well.
Hassan Iqbal never intended to become a cab driver. When he was a teenager in Lahore, Pakistan, he dreamed about becoming a doctor or an engineer. “But then I put my dreams in the back and said, ‘I have to make money for my siblings, my family.’”
Rayan Itani grew up in a house bursting with different languages. Her mother is Lebanese and her father is Mexican. She grew up speaking Arabic, French, Spanish and English. It was a linguistic whirlwind.
Carlos, an undocumented immigrant, told a harrowing story to Israel Salas-Rodriguez about his life in Mexico, his trips across the border and his life in the shadows in New York City. But the voices you hear are not his…
Shanjida Choudhury is an American Muslim who, when she was young, had trouble accepting her religion and held a good deal of anger towards God. Now she works to build ties between Muslims and Jews.
Jeffrey Verna witnessed both the positive and negative sides to growing up in Brooklyn. “It was great, as far as my childhood, it was fun. I didn’t notice anything negative around me, but as you get older you notice all the negative things that were going on that we were so blinded by as kids.
Gentrification has almost become synonymous with Brooklyn. Neighborhood after neighborhood—Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Carroll Gardens—has been transformed as real estate developers have scooped up older buildings, putting pressure on tenants to move out, rehabbing apartments and charging three or four times the previous rents.