I am conducting some final interviews, arranging the photographs for my exhibit, and beginning to analyze interview transcripts. So far, I have learned from sitting with people that home for many participants means community. The people in their lives make them feel at home and grounded. The people in Bed Stuy make many participants feel seen and cared for. I interviewed more people of different diaspora backgrounds than I expected, from Nigerian to various places in the Caribbean. I think to continue this project beyond the summer, I would like to interview more people who are not as aware of their heritage and are making home in the wake of everything that has happened in the U.S. to erase their stories. That being said, I have learned that people find connection to and comfort in the trails of diaspora that one can find in Bed Stuy. There are a few participants that have been separated from their heritage for one reason or another and are trying to reconnect, and they find space to do that here.
Depending on the person, conducting interviews can turn into having conversations. I’ve learned a lot about myself from talking with the participants, from how I describe the project to someone, or the reflections I make to prompt them to think further, or because their comments spark thought on my own experiences. Research in this way has been challenging, because I often don’t know how someone will answer or how my questions will come across. Figuring out what questions I wanted to ask to get to my core question changed the whole process. I usually begin by asking them to describe home and from there ask about their journey to/in Bed Stuy and experience with making it home. This provides a fairly neat outline for someone to ramp up to their heavier musings instead of launching right into the multi-level question of what making home looks like for them as a Black person in Bed Stuy.
People have said really profound things, and I am so excited to put their words in print for this exhibition. Doing this project––being invited into people’s homes, sitting with them for extended periods, listening to the cadence of their voices and watching them think and remember––has been a practice in care and healing for me, and I hope for the participants as well. To call it research seems abrasive and limited, even though I am collecting data around a question. My goal is to be a channel for Black people’s stories and to do it with intention instead of clinically, so that has meant reconfiguring what research means in my mind. I create just one more space for the truth of Black stories and re-present all the magic and humanity and ordinariness and impossibility of Black existence. Instead of presenting findings from a research project, I am thinking of this as a step to memorializing lives as fully as possible.