06-16-2024  9:23 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
Renée Watson
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 28 May 2024

Established by award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson, the Baldwin-Emerson Elders Project captures and celebrates the untold stories of activists, storytellers, and community builders who have witnessed and shaped monumental change in American public life.

In 2020, Watson was among ten award-winning writers selected by Jacqueline Woodson as a Baldwin-Emerson Fellow and began conducting interviews to capture the oral histories of extraordinary elders from all walks of life. Watson was assigned to Portland, Oregon and by the end of 2023 interviewed thirty Black Portlanders about their experience living and working in the Pacific Northwest. Oral storytellers include Michelle Lewis, co-founder of Third Eye Books, retired educator and fitness instructor Mary Hamilton, former Oregon State Senator Margaret Carter, Justice Adrienne Nelson, Jerry Foster, cofounder and publisher of The Skanner, Richard Pettiford, a retired Jefferson High School educator, and Kent Ford, co-founder of Portland’s Black Panther chapter.

In partnership with World Stage Theatre, Emerson Collective, and Baldwin for the Arts and under the leadership of acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson, Watson will celebrate the elders she interviewed on Sunday, June 23, 2024 at World Stage Theatre, founded by Portland’s own Shalanda Sims, a playwright and actress who also participated in the project. The event will feature listening stations with excerpts from the digital collection of oral testimonies Watson collected and short remarks from local leaders.

This ambitious oral history project seeks to preserve the stories of elders who have shaped America before they’re lost to history. Though the project’s collection of narrators is diverse in geography and lived experience, each story is united by common themes of identity creation and migration. For more information about the project visit: eldersproject.incite.columbia.edu/collections/renee-watson.

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