By Danielle Purifoy
After months of planning, preparation, intense discussion, and a 9 hour flight delay, the Duke partners (including a little Maltese named Miles) finally landed in Dallas Monday night! We united with our Paul Quinn partners--most of us meeting in person for the first time--and got right to work.
Our first task was to meet with Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell, or "Prez." After a warm welcome, Prez chatted with us about our plans for our Photovoice project in the Highland Hills community, and gave us an update on community development plans in that neighborhood. We learned, among other things, that despite the fact that the nearest grocery store to Highland Hills is about a 15-minute drive from the community, there are no developers who are interested in building a grocery store closer to Highland Hills residents. This means that the community not only has scarce access to basic food necessities, particularly healthy foods, but also spends the majority of the money devoted to such necessities outside of the community.
Thus, Highland Hills is caught in a kind of Catch-22; without the capital necessary to build stores closer to home, residents can't spend their money within the community, which would generate capital for more development in Highland Hills, thus allowing residents to spend even more money in their community...and so on. It's a disheartening situation, but Prez and the community aren't giving up!
So, what does the challenge of community development have to do with Photovoice? Why are we here?
We're here because we believe that authentic community stories can be a powerful tool for social (and economic) change in a community. Photovoice creates an opportunity for people to use images to portray their communities (the good and the bad) through their own eyes, to visualize their hopes and fears about the present and future, and to tell the world what can be done to create change.
Our Photovoice project focuses specifically on the connections between the Highland Hills environment and the well-being of Highland Hills residents. For the next three weeks, we will work with participants from the community to photograph aspects of their community that contribute to community well-being. We will also conduct in-depth interviews with some community members about their own thoughts about the current well-being of the Highland Hills community and what can be done to improve it. Finally, we will produce a short documentary of this experience to capture the many images and statements collected, and what they all say about the present and future well-being of Highland Hills. We will share all of these projects with the community and the general public at an exhibit in early June.
Everything produced in these projects will belong to the Highland Hills community to use as they see fit, whether it be for grassroots advocacy or as one more piece of their rich history to keep for posterity. Whatever its future, we hope that it will generate meaningful community conversation (and maybe new ideas!) about how to keep Highland Hills well.
And we're getting to know Dallas too! Special thanks to Mrs. Gail Terrell for free passes to the Dallas Zoo and the Bahama Beach waterpark, and to Mr. Adam McGough for a great meeting about the Dallas GrowSouth Initiative and a peek into the Mayor's office!