During the spring semester, Trevecca students got a chance to delve into the stories of the communities that surround the University. But the project was about more than just listening; it was about making sure those stories were preserved for the future.
The project, dubbed “Grassroot Voices,” was a long-term oral and digital history research project aimed at gaining better understanding of the neighborhoods that surround Trevecca, including the Napier community as well as the Promise Zone.
Dr. Erica Hayden, assistant professor of history, led the project which included 16 students from across a wide variety of disciplines.
“The goal was to preserve history because individual people who go to work and come home have great stories to tell, too,” Hayden said. “A lot of history is written by politicians and famous people, but I think some of the coolest stories are everyday citizens and their experiences.”
Listening to the voices and stories of the residents of the Napier community and beyond can only benefit the University by providing greater insight into the community, Hayden said.
“People think, ‘I don’t really have anything important to say. Why do you want to listen to my story? I just go to work and come home and do whatever,’” Hayden said. “But the reality is a lot of people may have had specific things to say about the 2010 Nashville flood or comment on changes in Nashville or the older generations have probably seen things through Civil Rights movement. There are really awesome stories there.”
But documenting those stories wasn’t always easy, the students involved in the project say.
“Dr. Hayden’s initial goal was for all of us to get one interview,” said Marina Yousef, a Trevecca sophomore who took part in the FLARE project. “I thought that was a really low goal. I thought everyone would be able to get two, three interviews. I didn’t recognize how hard the process is.”
Hayden hopes that the project will continue beyond the semester and provide a way to develop stronger bonds between Trevecca and the neighborhoods that surround campus.
“What we realized with this entire project was that there was a lot of hesitancy from people in the Napier community toward outside institutions and groups,” Hayden said. “The goal for this project shifted into laying that ground work for and building those relationships, trying to explain what we really wanted to do and setting the project up in a way that we can continue to do this past this semester.”
For Yousef, taking the time to really build those relationships with the community led to powerful interviews.
“My interview was a little hesitant,” she said. “He is a 16-year-old boy, and he is new to the community. He was brutally honest and clear cut about anything that I would ask him. I would ask him about how it was day-to-day, and he … was completely honest about how it is.”
While the FLARE project originated in the history department, Hayden reached out to other departments that might have students who would be interested in the project. Three different programs were represented by the students involved: social justice, business and history.
Hayden hopes more departments will be represented in the incoming years
“I think that my FLARE students this semester have done an awesome job of laying this groundwork, and they are certainly setting [the project] up in a way that this can continue,” she said. “As we move forward, I think there will be opportunities for other students in different departments to be involved. I’m hoping that this project will be set up in such a way that students can volunteer and that it will be a line on their CV or resume.”
Students are working on a website for the interviews they’ve already completed. They’re also allowing residents of the Napier community to upload content to the website and tell their personal stories.
Hayden hopes that the relationship-building that began with the FLARE project will continue for years to come.
“I would love to see this continue not only with this project, but anything we are trying to do with our neighbors at Napier,” she said. “This project can be part of that process, and I’m really hopeful that we can build that relationship and friendship.”