The Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow wrapped up its’ final city-wide tour funded by the Rockefeller Foundation NYC Cultural Innovation Fund when visiting a New York borough most personal to creator and filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris – the Bronx!
We invited the community to bring their personal photographs to the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and share their stories of growing up in the Bronx, illuminating a personal history of the borough.
Many came with photographs of their childhood as well as from their own family history, all based in the Bronx community. Lea Wolinetz’ family were holocaust survivors from Poland and had moved directly to the Bronx after the war, where her mother, Paula Siegel, went on to become the President of the Parents Association of PS 75. Lea had presented a photograph of her parents during a meet at the Concourse Plaza Hotel in the late 50s, as well as of herself at the age of 4 during a play at the MacLevy Dance Studios.
Pamela Sporn‘s family was originally from Brownsville before moving to the Bronx after receiving a recommendation to move to “higher ground”. She presented photographs of her father, Paul Sporn, both as an infant as well as in his WWII uniform – through him, she learned many stories of growing up in the Bronx during the 1930s, playing “Train-o” with the neighborhood kids (a game her husband later remembered as “Beat the Man”).
These stories and more created unexpected surprises, reestablishing old friendships and family connections among those that had attended this Roadshow event. Participant Trudy Erwin reestablished two long lost connections, having reconnected with Andrea Ramsey who was a childhood family friend, as well as Lea Wolinetz, a close friend through high school.
Along with the interaction of participants, there was a presentation given by Sam Goodman, Urban Planner at Bronx Borough President’s office who is a third-generation resident of the Grand Concourse. Goodman showcased a video clip of the history of the area around the Grand Concourse, bringing with it the idea of the Bronx as a borough of “constant reinvention”.
Producer Steve Zeitlin was also at the Bronx Roadshow presenting an excerpt from his 2006 documentary, “From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A South Bronx Tale” directed by Henry Chalfant. Their work brought to light a view of the development of music in the Latino community of the South Bronx, from the cultural Mambo scene in the 1940s up to the emergence of Hip-Hop in the 1970s. Steve Zeitlin is also founder and executive director of City Lore, and briefly introduced their project’s online user-generated community map called “City of Memory” – a map of personal stories and memories that are viewed on a physical geographical map of New York City.
To watch the news segment of the event covered by Bronx News 12, visit “‘Digital Family Reunion’ held at Bronx Museum of Art”.
To see more photos from the roadshow, visit our Flickr album.