During the summer of 2018, I collaborated with artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. and the Ethiopian Community in Seattle summer youth program to co-create Between Two Shores. Each week during the summer school program, we worked with the youth to develop interview skills and questions so that they could gather oral histories from community elders. At the end of the summer, we staged a daylong reenactment at Pritchard Island Beach of elders’ childhood stories. Other youth-led activities based on interviews included rock games, team handball, jump rope, an Ethiopian version of duck-duck-goose, swimming, barefoot soccer, and dancing. Members of the Ethiopian Community in Seattle cooked some of the elders’ favorite snacks, like dabo kolo, and we provided other snacks mentioned in the interviews, like organic fruits, candies, and mango juice. Youth illustrated the different snacks and activities uncovered during the oral histories, and Michael and I composed these drawings into large images that we installed in the park to commemorate the stories and re-enactments.
During past interviews with elders on projects address age-segregation in our communities, I learned that intergenerational exchanges are some of the experiences seniors value and miss the most. Between Two Shores responded to this need by using re-enactment as an way to value stories passed between generations, and a way to celebrate the wealth of elders’ lived experiences.