Buford Highway group launches project to collect resident stories

When Marian Liou moved to Buford Highway, she said she knew it was a special place.

In 2015, she started an Instagram account documenting photos and stories along the corridor. That account blossomed into an organization, We Love BuHi, that—according to its website— “strengthens the unique multicultural fabric of Atlanta’s famed Buford Highway Corridor.”

Now, the organization is taking its mission a step further by collecting an academic archive of the stories of people who live and work in the corridor.

“When I moved to Buford Highway, I just felt like it’s an amazing community in Atlanta that kind of has narrow focuses, where people interact with Buford Highway in really different ways,” Liou said. “I started just talking to people along the corridor and asking them questions and I felt like it was so important that these stories and an understanding of people’s experiences be shared.”

The project’s mission statement is to collect the stories of “immigrants and refugees and their descendants who arrived in or were raised in and around the Buford Highway corridor from the mid-20th century through the present,” Liou said.

Stories will be collected by a team of volunteers. According to Liou, the volunteers will record stories and try to keep them directed around Buford Highway, but keep the narrative as free-flowing as possible, letting the storytellers—referred to by project organizers as “heroes of Buford Highway”—tell whatever story they want.

“The intent is to hear from a lot of different perspectives and gain an appreciation for how the corridor connects them,” Seam Park, a member of We Love BuHi’s board of directors said.

Volunteers who collect stories will be trained to collect participants stories by Willoughby Mariano, an investigative reporter with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the president of Atlanta’s Asian American Journalists Association.

The project is already underway and is intended to last several years. We Love BuHi is still seeking volunteers, and Liou said the ideal story collector will have strong reading and writing skills and a fluency in a language other than English. Story collectors must be able to make at least a year-long commitment to the project.

According to Liou, the desired product of the project is a collection of 125 to 150 oral history interviews, that may include audio recordings, text transcriptions, and related photos and documents. With the help of Katherine Fisher, Digital Preservation and Social Change Collection Archivist at Georgia State University (GSU), the collection will be permanently kept in GSU’s library archives.

“I think having an amazing partner like Georgia State is really crucial to this,” Liou said.

Fisher told The Champion that while details are yet to be finalized, GSU intends for the project to be available to the public through the library’s website.

For the project to be successful, it must rely heavily on volunteers such as story collectors and coordinators such as Park, Fisher and Mariano, Liou said.

“No one person can capture or tell the story of a place like Buford Highway,” she said. “I think it’s important not just for academia, but for all of Atlanta to have a better understanding of Buford Highway and the stories that aren’t always front and center.”

For more information on the project, or to volunteer as a storyteller or collector, visit welovebuhi.com/oralhistory.

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