Tell your story

Published 9:54 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Suffolk’s continued growth — it’s expected to be the only city in Hampton Roads to grow by more than 10 percent during each decade from 2000 to 2040 — brings its share of benefits and challenges, most of them obvious and somewhat expected.

But at least one challenge is not something most folks would think about when they’re considering what it means to the city to take in tens of thousands of new residents during the course of a 40-year period: loss of historical perspective.

As new residents flood into the city, they come here without the family stories, without the class field trips and visits to historical sites that would help them understand what Suffolk has meant to longtime residents and how various events like the civil rights marches of the 20th century have shaped the place that it is now.

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The Suffolk Public Library system is working on a project that could help provide that perspective, along with a valuable set of first-person narratives that historians can use in the future to tell Suffolk’s story.

Suffolk Speaks seeks to gather oral histories from as many people as will participate. For a few months, library staff have been recording conversations with local people in hopes of gathering a wide variety of stories to add to the collection.

But the staff has run into a problem: So far, not that many people have chosen to sit down with them and tell their stories.

It’s easy to do. Library staff have set up a variety of events specifically geared toward the program, where they come equipped with an iPad and a microphone. They have a list of questions designed to get the conversations started and a few about what participants love about their city and what they would change. And they hope that once the conversation starts, folks will open up and tell them interesting things about the city’s history.

The thing about history is that it isn’t just the big events that are important, especially when it comes to local history. The year the football team won the championship might be just as interesting to some folks as the year of the big fire. And the painful memories are as important as the positive stories.

Open recording events are set for 6 to 7:45 p.m. at the following dates and locations. No registration is required.

  • July 6, Morgan Memorial Library
  • July 12, North Suffolk Library
  • Aug. 3, Morgan Memorial Library
  • Aug. 9, North Suffolk Library

Those who can’t make one of the open recording sessions can set up an appointment through the “Contact Us” form on the library’s website,

Tell your story. Don’t let it be lost to history.