“Whatever you need, we are here for you,” Maria Evans said.
I don’t even think I processed her words because of all the butterflies in my stomach. Thanks to Maria and the rest of the Arts Council of Princeton, I, a 17-year-old high school senior, am joining the Witherspoon–Jackson Neighborhood Stories Project. It feels so surreal to be given the honor to be a part of this project. Prior to this invitation, I had no knowledge of the Witherspoon–Jackson Neighborhood, a fact that surprised me not only because of its rich history but also because I have been a longtime resident of Princeton. This made me even more dedicated to my role in this project because I want to make sure that the legacy of this neighborhood is preserved for the next generation. As a member of the project team, I serve as a documentarian. Not only am I documenting the process of collecting the stories from the community, but I will also be working with community members with any knowledge, connections, or history from the neighborhood. It feels amazing that someone my age can be included in a project like this one.
You’re probably wondering: How did Tatianna become part of the Witherspoon–Jackson Neighborhood Stories Project?
Well… let me tell you a little bit about myself.I am a writer and videographer for PrincetonCHOOSE.org, an organization whose aim is to advocate racial awareness, understanding and harmony, and to provide an accepting outlet for all members of the community to share their stories. For my contribution to the website, I filmed myself reciting an original poem entitled, “Reflections Of Race.” It was received with rave reviews. Since I can remember, I have always written and recited poetry. I am the Princeton High School Poetry Out Loud School Champion for two years in a row and a top ten finalist at the Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition, 2015. I also joined the “Unrelenting Voices” event at the Princeton Public Library, organized by McCarter Theatre of Princeton in January, 2015 to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela.
The Arts Council learned of my poetry (during the process of my trying to rent space at their facility for a Girls Leadership program with AnnPower and Her Campus) and invited me in to talk about reciting my poem at an upcoming event for National Women’s Month and National Poetry Month (come check it out March 28th!). During my conversation with Maria Evans, ACP Artistic Director, about my poem, I shared with her how I am an aspiring filmmaker and that I had made a mini-documentary entitled “The Quest: Equalizing Achievement.” Through our conversation, I found out more about the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Stories Project and was invited to be a part of the team.I love how the project is dedicated to preserving the memories and family stories of its residents because this is so much more than black history…this is OUR HISTORY and just like every important fact and story from my history textbook, this project deserves all our efforts to carry on the legacy that this neighborhood has, to inspire and motivate the next generation.
I am so excited to hear amazing stories and the memories I will gain from this project. I am incredibly grateful to the Arts Council of Princeton for including me in something as important, inspiring and monumental as the Witherspoon-Jackson Stories Project.