Mott Haven History Keepers

Taking care of the people who take care of our stories.

We all know them. People who love to tell stories. Who remember the family trees. Who keep photo albums or record collections or boxes of files. These are the people who hold onto our valuable histories and pass them on to the next generation.

With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, from November 2023 to March 2025 the Mott Haven Oral History Project, Incite at Columbia University and the Bronx County Historical Society are teaming up to identify and support ten of Mott Haven’s history keepers.

Each history keeper will be paid for their time and will be invited to deepen, share, or just continue doing what they do. They will be provided with training if they want it – in things like archiving, oral history, and grant writing – and will be connected with a mentor. In the fall of 2023 we searched for our team through flyers, newspaper ads, word of mouth, social media, and community networks, and we started our work with an initial meeting in December 2023. At our second meeting, in January 2024, we introduced the history keepers to the resources of the Bronx County Historical Society, and to DIY archiving.

Luz de las Nieves Ayress Moreno is a long-time Mott Haven activist, founder of La Peña del Bronx, and survivor of torture under the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. As a History Keeper, she will be preparing her extensive archive for preservation with the Bronx County Historical Society and sharing her knowledge via oral histories.

Walter Bosque was a member of the acupuncture collective at the Lincoln Hospital Detox program that developed the now widely practiced National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol. As a History Keeper, he will be working on his memoir and continuing to teach acupuncture and tai chi.

Willie Estrada was a leader of The Imperial Bachelors gang and  is one of the original pioneers of the Latin Hustle. As a History Keeper, Willie will continue to develop his film, “Rise of the Latin Hustle” and to tell the stories of St. Mary’s Park.

Olivia Glover is a life-long Mott Haven public housing resident, recent City College graduate, and alum of the National Public Housing Museum’s Beauty Turner Academy of Oral History. As a History Keeper, she wants to look into how the area looked before Mott Haven’s public housing went up, and how public housing itself changed over time. 

Charles ‘DJ Charlie Hustle’ Johnson is a Hip Hop DJ and beat-maker, part of the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (RDACBX) and The Bronx Boys Rocking Crew (TBBTBG Global), and founder of the South Bronx Swap Meet. As a History Keeper, he will continue sharing the histories of Mott Haven and Hip Hop through music, sidewalk conversations, and archival photographs.

Les-lie Lopez is a visual artist from the South Bronx. Lopez delves into the communities they were born into, The BX and MX culture. As a Bronx History Keeper, Lopez is determined to articulate methods of art making as a tool to make sense of oral histories from fellow poll workers, Prospect Avenue nightlife, and St. Mary’s Park’s unique past. 

Sonyi Elena Lopez is a Dominican-born Producer and Community Journalist from the South Bronx and a volunteer at We Stay/Nos Quedamos in Melrose  As a Mott Haven History Keeper, Sonyi will use her producing and video documentation skills, focusing on the borough’s artists, activists, movers and shakers while amplifying collective voices of the community.

Patti Morris aka “Patti Dooks” is a Hip Hop dancer since the 1980’s, writer, photographer, graphic artist, home chef and vintage clothing reseller. As a History Keeper, Patti is interested in tracking down the most talked about and also the more obscure home chefs and street food vendors in Mott Haven, past and present and documenting their legacy through audio, photography, video, tasting and preserving it in cookbook form. 

Onyekachi Okeke, is a 25-year Bronx native pursuing a degree in Nursing from CUNY’s Hunter College. She is also a graduate of the 2023  Youth Public History Institute. As a History Keeper, she aims to focus on how the pandemic affected the Mott Haven community and delve into racial justice advocacy in the neighborhood.

Oscar Rivera spent most of his childhood at Millbrook Houses. Here, at the age of 15, he decided to begin photographing everything. In 2020, he started sharing his 35 mm photos of Mott Haven and New York City on Facebook, and the enthusiastic response drove him to publish Off the Rim, a collection of his photos and the memories they sparked. As a Mott Haven History Keeper he plans to expand and continue his research on the South Bronx Football Conference, a community-run football league that played in St. Mary’s Park in the 1970s.

Want to work with a History Keeper? Have a story to share? Let us know!

Meet our partners: