The McElderry Park Star started as a 20-page Word document neighborhood newsletter printed every other month and distributed across the 3000 homes by one community organizer. Over the course of the project’s life, it morphed from a basic resource guide of McElderry Park to a fully-fledged newspaper highlighting real narratives of resident’s lives. The paper published family recipes, letters of forgiveness and promise, and featured an active “Meet Your Neighbor” section where old and new residents alike could share their story adjacent to a full-page portrait. The McElderry Park Star celebrated the soul of the community.
Initially, as a designer and relative outsider to the community, my role was purely visual: laying out the newspaper and facilitating professional printing. As the project grew, I helped manage back-end systems and finances, building an enterprise that eventually sustained itself independent of grant cycles and donations. We hired and trained residents in graphic design, publication logistics and hired English/Spanish translators so the newspaper could be fully owned by and inclusive of the neighborhood’s residents.
At the peak, a community engagement team of residents delivered the newspaper to their neighbors every two months, walking the streets of McElderry Park and knocking on doors the Friday afternoon of publishing. Ultimately, my role was never about content editing, as the skill sets that I could offer the community were not about telling their stories for them but helping them build the platform to celebrate their own voices and perspectives. During its two and half year publishing run, the newspaper provided a platform to build a social connection with each other and empowered residents to change the negative perception of their neighborhood.