Bronx through the eyes of a Jamaican artist

What does the borough really have to offer beside the Yankee stadium and a ridiculously long commute? For residents of the borough, these are common misconceptions tossed by members from the surrounding boroughs creating a negative stigma that the “Boogie Down Bronx” simply has nothing to offer.

Jamaican descendant and Bronx native Dondre Green is taking on the task to change the world’s perception of his beloved borough through BronxNarratives.com — a new online publication showcasing the borough through art.

“Bronx Narratives is an online publication that provides a fresh view on our community. The Bronx is a place that is often associated with negative stereotypes, so we’ve created a platform for our readers to help understand the lifestyle of the Bronx. Created and run by Bronx native photographer, Dondre Green and fellow Bronxites. We invite you to experience our borough through our eyes,” the new website reads.

Green’s love for the Bronx was not always constant. Steadily hearing that it is not a destination for the arts or that it lacks attractions like museums and other amenities found in other boroughs like Brooklyn or Manhattan, Green — a photographer — also ventured out in search of things to do. “Hearing the stigma and I think any Bronx person after hearing all these bad things about your borough it can influence how you see your own borough,” he said. “You start thinking ‘well, maybe there isn’t much to do here.’ I feel like a lot of people gravitate towards the popular opinion and for me when I was a lot younger I would think the same, ‘there isn’t much to do here. Brooklyn has all these nice collectives and the musuem is very nice.’”

Unwilling to settle with the stereotypes, Green decided to explore the perceptions of the Bronx through the eyes of residents and non-residents in creation of a short film. Compiling answers ranging in celebration of all the Bronx has to offer to a minority group stating how “there really isn’t much to do here,” the 11-minute short film was debuted in December 2014. With this project, Green met Decota Letman who now operates as the lead editor on the site. Through their chance meeting outside of their borough, this provided even more of a reason for Green to undertake this project as he felt there is a lack of community in the borough.

Pooling their resources, Letman — who serves as the site’s lead editor — embarked on a journey to capture the responses of Bronx natives and transplants proving that while there are some improvements they’d like to see there is something about being and living in the Bronx that is unique and should be celebrated much like any other borough.

“There was a lack of Bronx pride coming from me and the borough in general,” he said. “I just wanted to highlight that conversation. I decided my first project as a photography project to just really highlight this conversation.”

Following the short film’s exhibit, the two realized the conversation could not end there. The exhibit attracted other artists and designers to participate in the project leading to the creation of the website. Artists such as Kayla Smith, a poet and founder of Bronx Collective is also aiming to dismantle the negative stigma about the Bronx through art, created a poem which currently leads as the site’s first editorial shot by Green.

“I went to the exhibit because I was really interested in his work and in turn he contacted me to see if I was interested in joining the work he was doing with BronxNarratives. Through any socio-political movement, art is always attached. That’s the way we have always communicated struggle, it just made sense that art is one of the mediums that I see as effective because it always been throughout history,” Smith said.

Through BronxNarratives.com, Green and his dedicated team of writers and artists are generating meaningul content that exposes another layer of the Bronx not shown on popular news networks. The website focuses on more human interest stories such as a profile of Mrs. Sarah Turner who celebrated her 99th birthday, creation of businesses, art exhibitions and more.

Still ironing out the details, Green is focusing on simply getting it right through generating original stories and photos.

“We’re creating content based on interesting stories we feel aren’t necessarily shown in the bigger media sources. We’re not copy and pasting, we’re going out there and having meetings and talking about stuff. It’s a group conversation of what should be covered and we also want to have a variety of the arts, food, lifestyle, events each week,” he said.

Hop on the train and see the Bronx for all it has to offer beyond the Yankee Stadium. Get familiar with the borough’s little Jamaica, sink your feet into the sand of the beaches and talk to some of the residents, you might find the Bronx to be your new home away from home.

Join the conversation with BronxNarratives.com through submitting photos to the website or your own audio story with your thoughts on the Bronx.

Reach reporter Alley Olivier at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at aoliv[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow Alley on Twitter @All3Y_B.

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