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Ten women from Alameda County were given cameras to document their lives in low-income communities. Their photographs went on display this Monday at the California Endowment as part of a project called, “How We See It.”
The project focuses on how poverty affects one’s health. And the method for exploring this issue is a research method called Photovoice, where participants take photographs of their community and develop narratives to accompany the photos. They discuss them as a group, and then craft outreach or action plans.
Aaliyah Grimes, 20, is one of the photographers. She was specifically concerned with the cleanliness of her environment. “Yes, the street sweepers come once a month… but you have to understand, the people are hurt, disappointed and don’t have self-love,” she told Youth Radio.
Grimes lives in the Seminary area of Oakland, and frequently sees drug dealers selling weed, coke, and guns. She says that once, she even saw a dead body on the side of the street, and no one had bothered to call the police. There is one park in her neighborhood, but it’s known for being the site of murders, rapes and drug deals.
“Me and my cousin walked ten miles to Hercules. The park there — it’s clean, there are kids and families, you can run around. I said to myself, ‘Why do I have to go so far to receive the luxury of a clean environment? I shouldn’t have to catch a bus for an hour and 40 minutes just to get to a park,” she said.
Grimes said having a camera in hand was a relief, and is excited to share scenes of her everyday life with policymakers. “If I can show you a picture, you can connect with me, or disconnect — either way we’ll have something in common to reflect and to make a solution to whatever the issue may be. Here I am, one person out of my whole society… and people are going to hear my voice,” she said.
Many of her photos focus on nature, because it’s something that inspires her to succeed in life. “This flower is growing in an environment that looks dry, and yet it’s still blooming. This tree is in the middle of nowhere, but it’s tall and strong. By taking pictures of these things, I was able to calm down and relax and find my peace,” she
“Make that change”
By Aaliyah Grimes (Caption below)
This is a picture of the park that my cousin and I walked through. Many families gather there to enjoy the beautiful day. The sitting area is clean. You don’t see any cigarettes, any drugs, any condom wrappers – you don’t see any of that.
Instead, you see a very clean environment that children can play around; they don’t have to run into something that could hurt them. This park helps communities by bringing families and everyone together. Families don’t want to go into nasty, disgusting areas and send their child to play in it.
If we take responsibility by cleaning up after ourselves, and making sure things go into the trash can, our families can similarly come together and be more united. Right now, our families are divided, but if we have a clean area to go to then maybe that can bring us together.
Location: Hercules Park (Hercules)