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Stories at the Heart of The Rochester Public Library

January 08, 2019 08:53 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- From fantasy to sci-fi, biographies to almanacs and now – with the help of the nonprofit StoryCorps – you can hear stories from locals.

On a fall day last year, Danny Solis told a story.

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“The story really is a family story and a community story and maybe that’s why it has an impact on people,” he said.

Like so many stories do, he began with a question.

“When did you feel like for the first time as near as you can get when is the first time you felt like –I’m Chicano,” he asked his 11-year-old son, Teagan.

Danny was one of 15 people in the Rochester community selected to tell their own oral history to be recorded and archived in the Library of Congress.

“We really wanted to get representative stories, stories that were also unique and that affirms that everybody has a story to tell,” said Kimberly Edson, head of readers’ services at RPL.

When the library won the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2018, collaborating with the nonprofit StoryCorps to capture the community’s stories was a perk.

Danny’s story was about identity.

When he and his family moved to Rochester from New Mexico, he didn’t want to leave his culture behind.

“I knew there would be at least two Mexican grocery stores and several Mexican restaurants of varying degrees of authenticities, but actual culture outside of those staples of communities what would there be –  and I had no idea,” he said.

The short answer – there wasn’t much.

So he chose to make space.

He organized a day of the dead poetry slam to fill the void.

“To kick that event off we had Aztec dancers and they started in the back of the grand lobby,” he said.

While everyone in the Mayo Civic Center craned to see the dancers, Danny’s eyes were on his son.

“He was just glowing with the realization that we had come to this place and in the absence of a lot of our culture we helped create a space,” he said.

“It really did feel me with –fill me with pride and joy,” Teagan said in their recording.

It was that moment Danny knew they’d be alright.

His story, Edson says, is representative of how diverse and unique people’s experiences are.

“Our hope was to capture the rich tapestry of our community,” she said.

For Danny, it’s about more than that.

“I feel really comfortable with the idea that my son understands who he is cultural as a Mexicano, as a ChicanX person and he will carry that with him and pass it on to other people his children or just the world in general,” he said.

You can find the stories on the Rochester Public Library’s website under ‘Oral History.’

Danny’s story was chosen to be produced by StoryCorps and the library anticipates it will be aired as part of NPR’s StoryCorps program.

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