Voices from the Heart of Gotham

Voices from the Heart of Gotham

The Undergraduate Scholars Oral History Collection at Guttman Community College

As producers of knowledge with a particular focus on social (in)justice, racial, gendered and transnational journeys, Guttman Community College scholar-activists have constructed a new digital canon that offers New Yorkers the opportunity to contribute testimonies of tumultuous times. Curated by Dr. Samuel Finesurrey, Guttman undergraduates Elsy Rosario, Tigida Fadiga, Luz Hidalgo, Phisarys Sidemion, and Sadaf Majeed and digitized by Guttman staff members Joanna Wisniewski, Ivan Mora, and Kristina Jiana Quiles, this collection democratizes the production of knowledge by empowering community college students, largely deriving from immigrant households, to shape the narratives told about their communities and their generation. Organized into five themes, with testimonies gathered in six languages, this archive documents a diverse set of New York experiences. Funded by the American Council of Learned Societies and the Mellon Foundation, this exhibition helps us rethink struggles and movements of the past and present, to unearth the human networks that carry all New Yorkers in difficult times.

Watch Guttman Community College students and Professor Sam Finesurrey present Voices from the Heart of Gotham: Immigration and Migration to NYC at the Oral Histories in the Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR) Conference in May 2021.

Protest and Pandemic

group of people marching in a protest

Student interviews with peers about the Protests and Pandemic of 2020 offer a vulnerable, but powerful frame to review a year that has deeply impacted the material lives and political consciousness of young people throughout New York City.

Migration and Immigration to NYC

Stature of Liberty

Undergraduate interviews of elders, often within their own families, have excavated testimonies that humanize stories of Migration and Immigration to New York City

U.S. Politics in New York City

New York City Hall

Undergraduate interviews with peers and elders on U.S. Politics in New York City in the lead up to the 2020 election lay bare the wide range of political attitudes in the city at a highly polarized political moment.

History of New York City

Historical image of Battery Park

Interviews on the History of New York City with the elders of Guttman undergraduates offer a window in the settling and unsettling of neighborhoods and cultural enclaves within NYC.

Food Cultures of New York City

Bag of groceries

Student interviews of peers and elders concerning Food Cultures of New York City provide insight into the variety, significance and background of the multi-ethnic culinary delights that feed the city. 

histories

Eugene Lareau

“My father couldn’t understand my enthusiasm for civil rights, but I was shaped by my experiences.”

Subject: History of New York City
Place of Origin: New York
Neighborhood: Inwood, Manhattan
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 10/08/2018

History of New York CityNew YorkManhattanEnglish

Celia Perez

“Racism here in New York is blatant and dangerous. I saw a lot of my dreams burned to dust.”

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Panama
Neighborhood: Red Hook, Brooklyn
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 10/17/2018

Migration and Immigration to New York CityPanamaBrooklynEnglish

Nieves Jiménez

“Cuando yo me vine [de México] para Los Estados Unidos no sabía yo leer ni escribir…..Una señora que es dominicana que trabaja conmigo me dijo ‘tu puedes aprender leer en un periódico yo te voy a enseñar’ … allí en el periódico aprendí a leer.”

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Mexico
Neighborhood: Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 10/11/2018

Migration and Immigration to New York City MexicoBrooklynSpanish

Elisha Wilson

When I first got to Harlem, my little heart smiled being a Westchester girl because I [never before had] found myself…being surrounded by all black people

Subject: History of New York City
Place of Origin: New York
Neighborhood: Harlem, Manhattan
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 10/30/2018

History of New York CityNew YorkManhattanEnglish

Rafael Rosario

En algún momento, todos los que vivimos fuera de nuestra patria sentimos una inmensa nostalgia... por lo que hemos dejado atrás

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Dominican Republic
Neighborhood: The Bronx, NYC
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 03/14/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York City Dominican Republic The BronxSpanish

Pamella Walker

We immigrants work very hard...if we want to be prosperous we have to work hard.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Jamaica
Neighborhood: East New York, Brooklyn
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 03/16/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityJamaicaBrooklynEnglish

Ramona Ramírez

Society as a whole should take action and come together.... We need to see how we can help undocumented immigrants

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Dominican Republic
Neighborhood: Washington Heights, Manhattan
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 03/21/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityDominican RepublicManhattanEnglish

René Duran

Yo cambiaría para mucha gente en este país de hacer una ley de inmigracion, darle la oportunidad a mucha gente que en verdad es trabajadora.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Mexico
Neighborhood: The Bronx, NYC
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 03/20/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityMexicoThe BronxSpanish

Nicolas Martínez

la parte más difícil… creo que haber dejado mi casa allá, mi casa de toda la vida... Mis amigos, mi trabajo, y todo, todo lo que era una vida.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Dominican Republic
Neighborhood: The Bronx, NYC
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 03/22/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityDominican RepublicThe BronxSpanish

Juan Gutiérrez

If I could pick anyone [to eat a meal with], it would be my uncle.... My uncle is dead, but I still would pick him...and we would eat grill cheese because it was his favorite things to eat.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Dominican Republic
Neighborhood: The Bronx, NYC
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 05/15/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityDominican RepublicThe BronxEnglish

Aura Peña

The US was not everything that I expected. I arrived with the thought that it was easy to earn a lot of money. People back home would tell me that you could find money in the streets in the United States

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Dominican Republic
Neighborhood: Washington Heights, Manhattan
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 07/08/2019

Migration and Immigration to New York CityDominican RepublicManhattanSpanish

Elizabeth Sosa

I am protesting as much as I can even though I am scared, even though I am not a protester at heart. I am a scientist. I do it because I believe that's a powerful way of getting action

Subject: Protest and Pandemic
Place of Origin: New York
Neighborhood: Brooklyn, NYC
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 07/30/2020

Protest and PandemicNew YorkBrooklynEnglish

Marisol Lucero

I think that we’re just tired and it’s time to really create change and not just say--say it and it to be a trending topic, but for real change to happen in all different types of systems, health systems, police systems, political...

Subject: Protest and Pandemic
Place of Origin: New York
Neighborhood: Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 07/29/2020

Protest and PandemicNew YorkBrooklynEnglish

Juan Lucero

“En este país se puede triunfar, se puede hacer cosas que en mi país no lo hay.”

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Mexico
Neighborhood: Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 03/21/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityMexicoBrooklynSpanish

Nadine Matthews

Not having legal status, there were not many opportunities for me.... They told me made me just stay under radar, you know? So I didn’t see any opportunities.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Trinidad and Tobago
Neighborhood: East Flatbush, Brooklyn
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 03/20/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityTrinidad and TobagoBrooklynEnglish

Luz Hidalgo

I thought in this country it was very easy to get money and everything was easy. Until I started living here, I noticed everything was hard for an immigrant coming to a new country like this.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Dominican Republic
Neighborhood: The Bronx, NYC
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 03/17/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityDominican RepublicThe BronxEnglish

Amjad Alsaidi

You can’t judge at people by the way they look. You got to talk to people like you know, you find other things that you’re missing.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Yemen
Neighborhood: Woodside, Queens
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 03/19/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityYemenQueensEnglish

Yenis Heredia

Al principio no es fácil, pero si tú quieres lograr muchas cosas buenas, tienes que adaptarte al idioma...Si, es un poco difícil pero hay que hacerlo.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Dominican Republic
Neighborhood: The Bronx, NYC
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 03/21/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityDominican RepublicThe BronxSpanish

David Barrera Flores

All my minority people. I ride for you, you ride for me.

Subject: Protest and Pandemic
Place of Origin: New York
Neighborhood: Ridgewood, Queens
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 06/29/2020

Protest and PandemicNew YorkQueensEnglish

Chris Bertolotti

Unfortunately the president does nothing but inflames racial tension.

Subject: Protest and Pandemic
Place of Origin: New Jersey
Neighborhood: Scarsdale, NY
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 07/26/2020

Protest and PandemicNew JerseyEnglish

Heladio Martínez

Solo tendría un pedazo de plástico de bolsa de basura para descansar... Pero aun así me sentía con ánimo porque estaba a Nueva York y salí adelante.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Mexico
Neighborhood: Brooklyn, NYC
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 04/12/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityMexicoBrooklynSpanish

Jairo Angamarca

Creo que es un sueño más grande al tener su casa, su familia, y eso sinceramente nos da los Estados Unidos, oportunidades que en nuestro país sinceramente no podemos llegar a tener.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Ecuador
Neighborhood: Corona, Queens
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 03/22/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityEcuadorQueensSpanish

Sara Abdoaziz

I love New York! It’s a fast pace, you know like, just everyone’s alive...

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Brazil
Neighborhood: Staten Island, NYC
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 03/16/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityBrazilStaten IslandEnglish

Leticia Camejo

Le agradezco mucho a este país, hoy mis hijos están en la universidad, son dos adolescentes ejemplares.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Dominican Republic
Neighborhood: The Bronx, NYC
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 03/10/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityDominican RepublicThe BronxSpanish

Ana Souffront

Nosotros lo dominicano hacemos de todo. Arroz, habichuelas, carne, mangú, sancocho, asopao.... Somo expertos en todo, pero la tradición es arroz, habichuelas, y carne... y el aguacate que no se queda!

Subject: Food Cultures of New York City
Place of Origin: Dominican Republic
Neighborhood: Upper East Side, Manhattan
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 10/20/2019

Food Cultures of New York CityDominican RepublicManhattanSpanish

David Rodriguez

Poco a poco se fueron dando las cosas en que iba conociendo en esta ciudad… Iba conociendo las oportunidades, lo que uno tiene para salir adelante y pues hasta el día de hoy, me encanta esta ciudad.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Ecuador
Neighborhood: Washington Heights, Manhattan
Language of Interview: Spanish
Date of Interview: 03/22/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityEcuadorManhattanSpanish

Teodora Martínez

Police need to change how they handle us minorities, us Hispanics, us Black people, us Mexicans... we need to be treated the same, equally. That's what needs to be changed

Subject: Protest and Pandemic
Place of Origin: New York
Neighborhood: Harlem, Manhattan
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 07/30/2020

Protest and PandemicNew York ManhattanEnglish

Jin

I kinda have stay here. I'm under the green card so if I leave the territory for more than six months during a year I lose my green card and I cannot come back here I cannot come back.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: France
Neighborhood: Manhattan, NYC
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 03/13/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityFranceManhattanEnglish

Charlie Brown

Its conversation between two people that are humans, it is just that one has a badge...

Subject: Protest and Pandemic
Place of Origin: New York
Neighborhood: Brooklyn, NYC
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 07/31/2020

Protest and Pandemic New York BrooklynEnglish

Ana Flores

You couldn't go to a certain place, because it was a white neighborhood.

Subject: Migration and Immigration to New York City
Place of Origin: Puerto Rico
Neighborhood: Brooklyn, NYC
Language of Interview: English
Date of Interview: 07/10/2020

Migration and Immigration to New York CityPuerto Rico BrooklynEnglish