March 31, 2023
A Toast to the Northside: Northside Memory Project Celebration at the Holiday Theater
On Saturday, April 1, 2023, the History of Colorado, Northside Arts Collective and Denver Arts and Venues will present A Toast to the Northside at the Holiday Theater. Over the past ten months, History Colorado and Northside Arts Collaborative have worked together to create collective memory opportunities for North Denver residents to share, preserve and celebrate North Denver community members. This celebration will offer participants a chance to view a collective memory film documentary while connecting and celebrating with each other what makes the Northside one of Denver’s treasured neighborhoods.
I emailed with organizers, Dr. Marissa Volpe of the History of Colorado and Flo Hernandez - Ramos of the Northside Arts Collective (and MCA Denver’s Holiday Advisory Cabinet) to learn more about the project.
How did the Northside Memory Project come about?
History Colorado acknowledged that Denver’s Northside was a rapidly changing community. There has been a great diaspora of the original residents of the Northside taking with them a wealth of memories and experiences. To preserve the history of this legacy community, to ensure its inclusion in the history of Denver, and to give those who lived these experiences a voice, it was imperative that History Colorado design a program and methodology for documenting the history of Denver’s Northside.
How did you go about collecting memories from the Northside community?
History Colorado employed a number of methods which had proved effective in its other memory preservation projects. It created partnerships with organizations and individuals with connections to residents and former residents and worked with people with skills in preservation, videography, photography and archiving. History Colorado invited people to two large sharing sessions. Through prompts like “draw your house” and “draw your block” memories came flooding back. These memories were shared in an open mic and collectively painted a picture of a community of mutual respect, safety, fun and at the same time political differences and social movements.
Listening to the collection of memories, did that affect how you see the preservation of a neighborhood by its community and city?
In light of the rapidly changing demographics of various neighborhoods in the state, the Memory Projects have reinforced the importance of preservation work.
Any stories that stand out to you and shine importance and awareness of how the neighborhood functions as a safe space for the community?
The pain and grief of gentrification was really central to most of the oral histories. Some of the most gripping moments were related to this. Another theme in the interviews was the silencing of Chicano voices and loss of power, presence and community facilitated through gentrification. In this community-centered memory project, it is important that the thoughts of the "old-timers" about gentrification be amplified so the lack of awareness of the history and effects of gentrification is heard.
Do you plan to expand the Memory Project to other Denver neighborhoods?
The Northside Memory Project is one of many such projects throughout the state of Colorado. Prior to this project, History Colorado is conducting memory-gathering projects in Pueblo, Five Points, Sun Valley and Auraria.