Combating Half-Truths: The Power of Recording Our Stories

By Gabriela Godinez


Right now it seems as though there is almost nothing we can control. We engage in with the news and we are hit with new viruses, broken political systems, some half-truths, some lies. It can make us want to disconnect or ignore what’s happening around us all together. However, we still exist as members of our society, and can’t escape that we are surrounded by history in the making all the time. The mainstream media doesn’t always care to record the point of view of the people, and would rather report statistics. While having facts and figures is vital to our understanding of what is occurring around us, our personal stories are still important as well. Are the stories reported in the news the stories that are worthy? Do they become worthy of our attention just because they are being recorded and reported? Recently, I was reminded of Seneca Village in New York City. Seneca Village was a wealthy neighborhood that was demolished to make way for what is now Central Park. It was a predominantly black neighborhood that was, in it’s later years, home to some Irish and German immigrants who integrated into the community. This was all in the late 1800s, not an era known for interracial marriages and integrated baptisms. Yet, there it stood. A wealthy neighborhood founded by Black Americans that was set to be progressive examples of wealth and integration. But then rich white people wanted a park. Newspapers started reporting that this neighborhood was run down, poor, filled with feral dogs. It would still be cruel if rich white people were trying to kick out people in poverty from their homes, but this wasn’t even the case. Newspapers were telling lies, painting a picture that was incorrect and providing the permission rich white people needed to rid themselves of any guilt they might have. The media of the time was reporting that it was ok to disregard the lives of this community because in their eyes they were inferior, or non-existent. The media had the opportunity to lie by omission or lie blatantly. This should be a story that doesn’t sound familiar, but it still echoes into today’s culture. With the increasing gentrification of different neighborhoods in Cincinnati, there is a severe under-reporting of first-hand accounts of the people experiencing displacement. The director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, Josh Spring, tries to do what he can to get community stories out into the public consciousness through press conferences and public speaking in protests. However, the mainstream media still seems to conveniently forget these stories when reporting about a fancy new bar or restaurant popping up or when discussing new luxury apartments. We can’t control all the media, but we can add to the narrative. Recording and writing our own stories, from our own account, from what we saw, is incredibly important. We wouldn’t know today what happened in Seneca Village, New York if it weren’t for archives like church records. That was then, the people of Seneca Village were robbed of their story until over a century later, but today we have the power to control our own narratives. We have the power to record and remember our communities as we know them to be true. I urge everyone to submit their writing to us, Streetvibes, at streetvibes@cincihomeless.org. We are looking for any creative writing, essay, or journalistic article about social justice- both local or broader commentary. We all have a voice that we can use to change the narrative and to keep the story of Cincinnati well rounded. There are far more than two sides of a story, what’s yours?

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