New Jersey Council for the Humanities Awards Grant for Oral Histories of Immigrant Business Owners Hackensack Through Documentary Storytelling

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originally published: 05/10/2021

(HACKENSACK, NJ) – The ArtsBergen Initiative of the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) announces that the New Jersey Council for the Humanities has awarded a COVID-19 response grant of $ 11,625 for the project ‘Stories on Main Street: Hackensack’s Immigrant Business Owners as Place-makers. The NNJCF, a tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) nonprofit based in Hackensack, New Jersey, is one of 36 organizations in the state to receive the grant.

“We are still trying to deal with the ongoing health crisis and at the same time figure out how to recover from COVID and move forward,” said Carin Berkowitz, executive director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. “New Jersey nonprofits that serve their communities through work in the public humanities continue to be negatively affected. We are delighted to provide this vital funding to our state’s historic and cultural infrastructure. “

Celebrated immigrant-owned businesses – The project celebrates immigrant-owned small businesses by capturing their unique and varied oral histories through documentary storytelling. The created documentaries will then be shared on an interactive digital storytelling map on the Small Business Administration website. The project aims to help preserve existing businesses, their owners and patrons. A goal is also to showcase these businesses, as community spaces helping to form and maintain culture in the city center and adjacent neighborhoods, and connect them with new incoming residents. Using ArcGis technology, an online story map of “Main Street Stories” will be designed. Additionally, the map allows the community to identify sites and upload their own stories to Main Street, creating a vibrant public identity repository in the city.

New Jersey Council for the Humanities Awards Grant for Immigrant Business Owners Hackensack

The project is undertaken in partnership with the NNJCF; the Alliance of Bag Companies; Kathryn Rizzi, deputy director of the Oral History Archives at Rutgers State University; and Dana Glazer of Dane-Gramp Productions. “Stories on the Main Street” will launch in October, starting with the determination of a selection process for participating immigrant business owners. An announcement of selected traders follows by the end of the year. Interviews and filming with business owners take place from January to March 2022. The project concludes with four five-minute documentary films created and shown at free events across Hackensack, such as the Hackensack Citywide Block Party.

‘Stories on Main Street’ captures the influence of immigrant businesses on the people and culture of Main Street, Hackensack. “The project showcases various ways in which small business owners build community and support their own cultures. Our ultimate goal is to publicize their contributions as cultural carriers in the Hackensack community. The city is changing and it is. now is the right time to highlight, document and preserve the stories of their owners, ”explained Danielle De Laurentis, Associate Director, Northern New Jersey Community Foundation.

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Creation of creative places in Hackensack – For more than six years, the NNJCF has partnered with the Sack Business Alliance and the Town of Hackensack to implement the creation of creative places in the Main Street neighborhood. “Stories on Main” was born out of the NNJCF’s community engagement work by interviewing residents and transit users at the bus transfer station on Demarest Square in the neighborhood. Interviewees provided information on what they liked about their neighborhood and wanted to see in its redevelopment. Many responded that the ethnic diversity of restaurants and businesses in the area makes the city unique in Bergen County.

The project is supported by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act. The opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

New Jersey Council for the Humanities Awards Grant for Immigrant Business Owners Hackensack

ArtsBergen Initiative – The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation ArtsBergen initiative, a regional artistic alliance, works with various stakeholders. These stakeholders include artists, arts organizations, businesses and municipal leaders, who use the arts to shape the social, physical, cultural and economic identity of communities. The creation of creative places, a community-based and arts-based approach, is used to increase dynamism, stimulate economic development and strengthen the capacity of residents to take ownership of their community.

ArtsBergen is the only initiative in Bergen County, New Jersey to offer a range of creative venue services. The initiative has partnered with several municipalities to facilitate creative teams, develop public art and place creation plans, and lead and manage public art projects to preserve and express community culture.

Founded in 1998, the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit based in Hackensack, New Jersey, focuses primarily on civic engagement, education, public health, the environment, philanthropy, and the arts. The NNJCF works with local governments, school districts, businesses, nonprofits, and citizens’ groups in northern New Jersey to improve community life. Foundation partners identify and resolve regional issues and opportunities by discussing and learning from each other and sharing ideas, best practices, services and resources.


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