The hardest part of writing anything is simply starting. Finding the right words to convey the life experiences of others in a meaningful and honest way is difficult task, with no shortage of pressure to tell it well and accurately. Everyone has a story to tell which adds to the much larger community chronicle. We were entrusted to tell the perspectives of local residents and leaders as a way to begin to understand the Northwest Reading community (which includes all of District 5 and part of District 6, within River Road, W. Buttonwood, N. Front, and Washington Street). Our work follows the Community Toolbox to understand the vital importance of understanding a community prior to engaging in community engagement efforts.
We were tasked to uncover the real Northwest Reading, from the oldest of history books to the most informal accounts. To speak with community leaders and everyday residents was a true pleasure and informative. It was insightful, heartwarming, and truly a gift to connect with so many individuals that are invested in the growth of their community. We wanted to present our research as fairly and as objectively as possible, but because we gathered information from several different perspectives, it was difficult for us to create a cohesive narrative that encompassed all of them. With that, we present our narrative to the community that made this project possible.
It’s important to note that neither one of us was born in the city of Reading; however one of us, Miguel, moved to Reading at the age of seven and has lived in the city ever since. The other author, Keanny, was raised in New Jersey in a small suburban neighborhood. We are also both of Latino descent, and are both very proud of our heritage. We approach the writing of this narrative with different perspectives and experiences. It would be naive to believe that our personal opinions don’t play a role in the formation of this narrative; however, we have sincerely tried to remain objective. We refrain from telling our perspectives and only report what we have been told in the interviews and what we could find and assess in historical records. In other words, we offer narrative more than analysis.
All in all, it has been a privilege for us to write this community narrative. Limited by time and resources, this narrative is surely incomplete. Yet it is a start, and we hope this project helps further the growth of this community that possess so much potential.