This week has been extremely productive and fruitful for our group! After weeks of speaking purely conceptually about our project, training and preparing for oral history interviews, selecting interviewees, and contacting our interviewees to coordinate interviews, we have finally reached the stage of directly interacting with evicted people. After searching for a diverse group of people that we thought would have compelling stories, we selected fourteen people to contact. We were able to successfully reach ten of them through e-mail or phone call, and received six responses thus far. Each person has agreed to interview with us, and have lined up interviews with the following people:
- Nancy: Wednesday, Feb 12th, 11:00 AM--completed!
- Stewart: Saturday Feb 15th, 1:00 PM
- Dick: Saturday Feb 15th
- Rick: Saturday Feb 22nd, 1 PM
- Sarah from Ghost Stories evening: Saturday Feb 22nd 10:30 AM
- Bernadette: Time TBD
We conducted our first interview which was a very moving and enlightening experience. It served as a wonderful introduction to the work we’ll be continuing to do, and we are very excited to keep meeting new people and hearing new stories. It was also a great opportunity to test out equipment. We realized that the recorders provided at Meyer were littered with white noise and were generally lower quality than the IPhone recorder. The iPhone voicememo app actually works incredibly well for recording high quality sound. Melanie Young from KALW has offered to give our first recording a listen and give us feedback on it, and if she approves of the sound quality, we will continue to use this technology as it is quite convenient to operate and to upload to our computers.
This week specifically has been extremely learning-focused; we have let our interviewees and those affected by eviction teach us more than we could have simply read. Through the initial contact with our interviewees via phone and email, we already began the learning process. Even more, in our first interview we earned more in depth about the emotional stories of evictions. Our first interviewee, Nancy, took us on a journey through her story. She was very educated about Ellis Act evictions and San Francisco’s politics, and was able to share a very unique perspective on housing issues in San Francisco.
Through our work with those that were evicted, we have truly learned the justices that need to be done. We are doing a service by doing the mapping project becuase it will be an effective tool to education other people in the Bay Area on these issues. Service learning means more than just volunteering a few days at a non-profit. Service learning requires immersing ourselves in the problems that arise and using the knowledge we gained to help to facilitate a solution. The mapping project is our small step to a solution for no-fault evictions.
This week marked a major milestone for our group, as we conducted our very first interview! The process of scheduling this interview in particular was an exercise in perseverance and open-mindedness, as the interviewee was quite terse and incommunicative over email, sometimes responding with one word responses. After requesting to interview over skype or gchat (to which we responded that we are conducting in-person interviews, preferably in the interviewee’s home), she requested that we come to her workplace, in Emeryville. At this point, we had some significant doubts about carrying the interview through. We wondered, “Do we really want to travel all the way to Emeryville to interview a person who won’t be enthusiastic about speaking with us?” Luckily, on her google plus profile, we noticed that she worked at a place called the Estria Foundation, which works with graffiti artists and muralists to create public art in order to raise awareness about social and environmental issues. Though admittedly some assumption-making took place on our part, we decided to drive to Emeryville to conduct the interview, as her line of work led us to believe that Nancy would potentially be passionate about issues of social justice.
We arrived at the Estria office and received a tour of the facility and cups of coffee from Nancy’s partner, Jonathan. The studio was filled with spraypainted canvases and other pieces of artwork, as well as photographs of all of the projects the organization has worked on. Nancy arrived, and we introduced ourselves and small-talked for a while while she settled in. It became apparent to us that allowing someone to be interviewed in their own space, a place in which they know how to navigate far better than we do, is really instrumental in their comfort in the interview. She chose a small conference room and she and I (Natasha) talked through the release form, the project, and what her role was within it while Jordan tested out the microphone on his iPhone. We then began the interview. I had created a list of questions to use including:
- Can you tell us your name, where and when you were born, and a bit about your childhood?
- Tell us all the places you have lived.
- Can you describe your relationship to the first place you lived?
- How did you come to live in SF?
- Do you identify with SF? If so, in what ways?
- Can you describe your living situation before the eviction? Physical and social.
- What did this home mean to you?
- Where were you when you learned you were being evicted?
- Who do you feel was responsible for your eviction?
- Where did you move?
- What was left behind?
- How has your sense of community changed?
- How has your daily life changed?
- Have your feelings towards the city changed since the eviction?
Afterwards, Jordan took several photographs of Nancy standing in front of murals and canvases, holding her dog, etc. She mentioned that she would be open to having us photograph her in her home next time we are in the city. We were sure to tell her that we would share the audio recording with her, and that she was invited to our final presentation at the end of the quarter. She was very eager to see where the project was going and what the outcome would be, so we were glad to be able to invite her to a showcase of our work.