Written By Laurie Simpson
The Eliot Oral History Project has concluded their spring interview series. The project, sponsored by the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods and the Eliot Neighborhood Association, brought elders together with students from Boise Eliot’s middle school class to record stories about the Eliot Neighborhood.
Students were asked to reflect on the experience. Here is what they said:
“I have learned a lot about people who have been here for a long time and places and so much more. The people I interviewed really helped me learn about the Eliot neighborhood and its history. It was nice talking to these people and learning about their lives and learning about Portland. Some conversations were happy, but some made me kind of sad and mad.” Michael Hinago about his interview with Kent Ford & Percy Hampton and Lafayette Keaton.
“I expected the oral history project to be boring because it was about history. But actually it was very exciting to listen and learn how my community was 30 years plus back. I learned a lot about Portland’s black history and how it changed. It was cool how many of our interviewee’s lives were all kind of connected to each other in many different ways. It was fascinating interviewing Joe Nunn because he had a lot of good stories. I remember that he said he was helping out at his school and the teacher told Joe not to pay attention to this one kid and how he was surprised that the teacher would do that. From there on he wanted to be a teacher even though he would have never thought to be a teacher.” Anthony Brown about his interview with Joe Nunn.
“I enjoyed my interview. This project teaches a lot about how much you can learn from the past. I remember my interview to be very revealing. I had never known so much about Portland. So many things happened that no one ever talks about. The person I interviewed had to deal with neighbors dancing on their porch and calling her the ‘N-word’. I couldn’t even fathom how that must have been. Sonja Brooks was very kind and had much to tell. I remember Sonja to be a sweet woman with a pretty voice. I thought the elders would be mean or crotchety. But Sonja was very smart and nice. She thought I was older and since I was Goth I was surprised that she didn’t scrutinize me.” Raven Elder about her interview with Sonja Brooks.
“This project has helped me understand more about the Eliot Neighborhood. I’m grateful for all the people who took their time to come and share their lives with us. It was a great opportunity! I know more about the history of African Americans in Portland. During the interviews, I was so surprised how many stories these people had and how much they care about this community. The best thing I did on this project is probably listen, also I learned to be grateful. During the interview with Leslie Unthank I thought she was very nice and I felt a little comfort talking to her. Her smile lit up the room! Her father was one of the first black doctors and her stories of being in his office were good.” Faith Lao about her interview with Leslie Unthank.
“This felt like watching a T.V. history special on OPB, but personal. Percy had very interesting stories, but Kent had more details. The good thing was they helped each other out and gave each other details to other things.” Serena Shattuck about her interview with Kent Ford and Percy Hampton.
The series concluded with an interview of O.B. Hill conducted in front of the entire class.
Eliot resident interviews will continue throughout the summer at Project Grow. If you would like to hear the interviews or learn more about the project and people that were interviewed, please look for the web site in a few weeks, it will be linked to the Eliot Neighborhood Association’s web site.
If you know someone who has stories to share about the Eliot neighborhood, and would like to be interviewed, contact Laurie Simpson at 503-367-8057 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for sharing your stories Eliot!