Local Teacher Uses A New Type of Story to Transform Redlined communities into Green Spaces
What if the answer to improving our community’s mental health and wellbeing was right in our backyards?
Nerissa Street, a multiple award-winning educator, thinks so. She and a team of creative professionals are gathering what she calls new, wiser stories about formerly redlined neighborhoods in Broward to amplify the beauty and value she sees there.
Historic Black communities were subject to "redlining", a FHA policy that devalued property and prevented mortgages in those communities from being insured. The lack of investment produced "food deserts" and prevented homeowners from benefiting from the equity in their homes, and that becomes blight.
“That blight that you see in your neighborhood becomes a story about your own possibilities,” Street says. “It becomes mental.”
So, Street wants to uncover what she calls the “hidden utopia” by gathering true stories about joy, play and well-being currently being experienced in these communities. Those stories will be shared at the 3rd Annual Juneteenth for Joy Festival, at the Von D. Mizell – Eula Johnson State Park Beach.
“A utopia is a term meaning ‘an imagined or intentional perfect community possessing the qualities most desirable to its residents.’ It’s a green, healing space. The goal of our project is to collect and broadcast the positive memories, present achievements and future hopes of the residents of Broward’s Black communities to expose the utopia that already exists here.” Street wants to create a digital archive of those stories to change the online footprint of the communities, which would help change the stories that are told about the neighborhoods by people who don’t live there.
The storytelling project is supported by the new Artist Innovation grant launched by the Broward County Cultural Division, and support has been provided by the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Helen and Frank Stoykov Charitable Endowment Fund, Louise and Rudi Dill Charitable Fund, and Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund.
The stories about the utopias will be presented during an interactive performance on the beach at the Mizell – Johnson state park in Dania Beach and will be enhanced by a creative experience for the in-person audience. “Joy is spontaneous, so the event is planned to delight and surprise. Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom – and in this case, I hope all people who don’t know about it feel welcome to join us and experience their own utopia.”
The event will be held on Sunday, June 19th 2022 from 10am to noon and is free to the public. The park charges $6 for admission. For more information and to register, visit http://www.juneteenthforjoy.com
Juneteenth for Joy is a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Social Change, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization
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