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Where We’re From is an inter-generational, cross-cultural oral history, poetry, and photography project for youth and their elders. All photographs were taken by Ruth Morgan.

Personal stories enliven our sense of time and place – and make them our own. We come from somewhere. We belong to someone. Even when our past is lost or abandoned, it follows us. What value do our own personal stories hold for others? Can “where we’re from” illuminate “where we’re going?”

Blanca Miranda and Stephanie Hernandez
Project participants: Blanca Luz Miranda and Stephanie Lizzeth Hernandez, San Pablo, CA

The Where We’re From project set out to find answers to these questions with a group of high-school students in Richmond, California. Over a semester, Summer Brenner met with students to: discuss migration and genealogy; practice interview techniques; design an interview questionnaire, and conduct interviews with community leaders and family members that formed the foundation for student poems.

Jahahara and Niko Brice
Project participants: Jahahara Amen-RA Alkebulam-Máat and Niko Brice, Richmond, CA

After each interview, photographer, Ruth Morgan (Executive Director of Community Works) made portraits of students with their family and community leaders. Portraits and poems were mounted on 4' x 2' panels and first exhibited at the Richmond Museum of History.

Betty Suskin and Jorge Argueta
Project participants: Betty Reid Soskin and Jorge Argueta, Richmond, CA

Not only did the young interviewers gain insight about their family history and the local community, but interviewees were grateful for the opportunity to express themselves. As Ruby Jean Fox told her great-granddaughter:

Nobody ever asks you to sit down
and tell them about your life,
and by the time they think of it, it’s too late.

Ruby Fox and Bianca Charles
Project participants: Ruby Jean Fox and Bianca Charles, Richmond, CA


In 2007, the Where We’re From project was funded with a grant from The Christensen Fund and conducted at Richmond High School in Byrne Sherwood’s ninth grade.

In 2009, the Where We’re From project was funded by the Lesher Foundation for students in Elizabeth Hirshfeld’s class at Kappa High School in Richmond.

In 2011, the Where We're From project was funded by the Lesher Foundation for students in Jessica Price's classes at Richmond High School in Richmond.

Download the study guide in pdf format:
PDF icon WhereWeAreFromStudyGuide.pdf

Where We’re From exhibit sites:

East Bay Center for Performing Arts, Richmond, CA, spring 2012

Berkeley Public Library, Berkeley, CA, fall 2010

Richmond MAIN STREET Site-Seeing project, 1000 Macdonald Avenue, Richmond, summer 2010

Hilltop Mall, Richmond, CA, December 2009 - March 2010

Addison Street Window Gallery, supported by City of Berkeley, spring 2009

The Community Arts Convening & Research Project, Monterey, CA, April 2009

Richmond Museum of History, Richmond, CA, spring 2008


An article on this project was published in Teachers & Writers magazine, Fall / 2008, Volume 40, Number 1. For information on how to order, visit www.twc.org or call 1-888-BOOKS-TW.
View the article in pdf format:
PDF icon wherewerefrom_summerbrenner.pdf

For more information about Community Works, visit www.communityworkswest.org