History has a way of centering us in our truth. It opens windows and doors into a deeper part of us and others. We begin to understand how things came to be, why your now citizen father grits his teeth every time he crosses a border, why there was a golf course in your neighborhood gated by a 20 foot fence that you never questioned, and even why you are determined to remain grateful no matter what life hands you.
It is one thing to visit a community, shop at their local grocery store, question what others have told you of this place and admire the warmth this community radiates. However, it is an entirely different experience to spend weeks gathering historical information about a community and then make eye contact. The closest comparison I can think of is accidentally opening East Palo Alto’s (EPA) diary, where they stored hopes, where they drew their future, and all the tear stained pages where they wrote about their trauma. There I sat flipping pages that looked like news articles, academic papers, and magazine spotlights that detailed the most intimate and violent experiences that this community had endured.
Through my research I learned about the redlining of EPA, and how this practice which backs mortgage lending to certain White neighborhoods and excludes others that house minorities, shaped what EPA would become. What this practice meant for residents was that they could not secure access to mortgages or capital so their property values were capped, and their access to gaining generational wealth was stifled. It also hardened racial divides, and left African American folk with limited options for where they could live.
The research revealed many personal stories of the first African Americans moving to the county and their neighbors protesting their arrival outside their homes and creating an environment of hostility so toxic that there was no choice but to move.
Additionally, there were also stories of folks moving to EPA and finding community, raising their children among family and developing strong social and community bonds.