Fordham University launches initiative to capture voices of Bronx residents impacted by COVID-19

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Students participating in the project.
Courtesy of Fordham

Students at Fordham University are seeking to tell their stories of living through a global pandemic, as the Bronx, especially impoverished communities of color, was ravaged by COVID-19.

In April, Fordham University’s Bronx African American History Project launched The Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project, which captures audio and visual stories of Bronx residents sharing how their families, communities and workplaces have been affected by the pandemic.

A group of students and recent graduates came up with the idea and so far have interviewed 18 people on Zoom. The project is slowly garnering attention, said Mark Naison, a history and African and African American studies professor at Fordham University, who is overseeing the initiative.

“What we’re doing is very helpful for the Bronx,” Naison said. “The Bronx has been hit harder than any other borough in New York but its people have been incredibly resilient.”

Students participating in the project.Courtesy of Fordham

Funding from the community made this project possible. Fordham launched a campaign with fundraising platform GiveCampus to provide stipends to student and alumni researchers working to amplify the voices of Bronx residents. Fordham is also using the GiveCampus platform for several COVID-19 campaigns for their students and communities, which have already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct relief for those struggling during the pandemic.

The students participating in the initiative are Bethany Fernandez, Carlos Rico, Nyasa Hendrix, Peter Simpson, Alison Rini and Veronica Quiroga. Quiroga, a Bronx resident who came up with the idea for the project, said this initiative has been emotional but also worth it.

They have interviewed essential workers, restaurant owners and Derek Lewis, who launched the Bronx Community Relief Effort. Some people have been brought to tears during the process.

PetAlis Mark Naison, a history and African and African American studies professor at Fordham University who is in charge of the Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project. Courtesy of Fordham University

“In terms of community outreach, we wanted to make sure we included a little bit of everyone’s perspective,” Quiroga explained. “We want to make sure that beyond just telling their stories, it is providing a platform for these individuals.”

Naison, who has done hundreds of interviews for the Bronx African History Project, was blown away with the students’ ambition.

“When you treat people with respect and let their voices be heard, people want to tell their stories,” he noted. “I’ve listened to the interviews and at times, tears come to my eyes. I’m very proud of the students for giving people an opportunity to express themselves.”

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