The Walk

In collaboration with several of the people who have been interviewed for this project so far, in 2018 Amy Starecheski created a neighborhood soundwalk so that Mott Haven residents can listen to the life stories of their neighbors in the places they lived them. Walks happen in pairs. Each walk is guided by a participant in this project. Together, the guide and the other walker listen on headphones to an edited selection of oral histories as they walk through Mott Haven. They hear stories from the 1930s to the present, about kittens and wars and fashion and home and food and migration and parenting and more.

In 2019 Amy and Danny Chervoni created a spinoff project – a 30 minute tandem bike ride, starting and ending at Brook Park, featuring stories of running away from home, playing on mountains of coal, flying kites, eels, and the early days of DJ culture in Mott Haven. And there’s music!

After each walk or ride, the pair share a meal and discuss what they heard. And they take a picture (see below for some of our soundwalk selfies)!

1. What is an oral history soundwalk?
       In the first walk we have created in Mott Haven, two people listen on headphones to edited oral histories about the neighborhood, while walking through and sitting in the places they are hearing about. 
2. How long does it take? What should I expect?
      The audio for this walk is a bit over an hour long, and the walk is guided by a local resident who will bring an MP3 player and headphones. Depending on the weather, how you feel, etc, you can walk the whole time or sit on park benches for significant parts of it. The walk begins at 136th St and 3rd Avenue, and ends at Brook Park. During the walk you probably won’t talk much, but at the end of the walk your guide will take you out for a meal in the neighborhood (our treat!), where you can talk about what you heard. You should plan for the whole experience to take 2-3 hours.
3. How can I take the walk?
      Anyone who lives in Mott Haven can take the walk – just send a note via our website and we will set you up with a guide! The walks are scheduled at your convenience, since they are one-on-one.
4. What if I can’t walk, or don’t want to?
    You can definitely do the walk in a wheelchair or scooter. You can also check out our School Stories map and our first round of history banners, which include some of the soundwalk material, and a tandem bike ride for those who prefer biking to walking. We also want to find more ways to bring these stories out into public space that don’t require walking – send us your ideas!
5. What about Covid?
    Each walking pair should discuss what they feel comfortable with – you could choose to wear masks, or to not eat together, or to eat outdoors, for example.
6. How can I get more involved?
    Anyone who has been taken on the walk can sign up to guide others, so once you take the walk you can become a guide. We are also excited about creating more and different walks and rides, so if you have ideas, please reach out. You can also suggest someone we should interview, host a listening party, or suggest a good place to have an event or story circle. We welcome any ideas for collaboration!

Thank you to INCITE at Columbia University for supporting this work and Luis Sotelo Castro for inspiring the paired format of the walk.

This project is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the Bronx Council on the Arts.