Heart of the City: Changing the Bridgeport Narrative, One Story at a Time
Like The Grove in New Haven, B:Hive in Bridgeport is a magnet for entrepreneurial spirits looking to work, collaborate, and innovate in a new kind of space. Designed for solopreneurs looking to “step it up from the home office or the local coffee shop,” its open floor plan and colorful interior are designed to inspire, impress, and appease all – ideas, clients, and the left and right brains of its occupants.
The space did just that for Sam Orman ’16, a Human Services and Psychology major at the University of Bridgeport, who interned at the neighborhood B:Hive in Spring 2015. Awakened by a new sense of place and people, he was stirred to take a closer look at the city of Bridgeport. He decided to take a walk around town and have conversations with business owners, students, co-workers, and friends in order to understand the real experiences of those who live in the 16 square mile city in which he himself had been studying and working for the past 3 years.
- “What do you think of Bridgeport?”
- “What is it like living here?
- “What kind of community would you love to be a part of?”
In listening to the stories the people of Bridgeport shared with him, Sam noticed that they gravitated toward the negative rather than the positive. He wondered why they couldn’t see the beauty or potential that was right in front of them, like he was witnessing at the B:Hive and as a student at UB. He began to consider what kind of project would make a difference for the city. And then it hit him.
“Stories have power,” says Sam. “They provide the context in which we live our lives. In order to change the way the city is perceived, why not let go of the old stories and tell new ones? Imagine if Bridgeport was considered to be the most beautiful place on earth. What might be possible if we related to our city as something to be inspired by?”
With this thought, Heart of the City (HOTC) was born. HOTC is a monthly event in which a handful of storytellers each share their own 7-minute story all centered around one common theme. The sharers, stories, and themes change each month, but the mission is always the same:
“Changing the narrative of Bridgeport one story at a time.”
The Heart of the City storytelling series held its kickoff event on Monday, May 4, 2015, with the theme of “Love Letters to the City.” In sync with its mission, 7 storytellers each shared their own 7-minute story about their love for the City of Bridgeport. See highlights in the video below, and clips of some of the love letters read in the sidebar.
Subsequent themes have and will include:
- From Little Things, Big Things Grow (June 1, 2015)
- Fireworks, Stories of Celebration and Triumph (July 6, 2015)
- Mortified: Letters, Journal Entries, and Stories from the Awkward Years (Upcoming: Sept. 14, 2015)
- From Scratch: When Passion Leads to Business (Upcoming: Oct. 5, 2015)
So mark your calendar for the first Monday of every month, and enjoy local musicians, a pop-up market of food and snacks, unlimited drinks, and stories that will touch your heart.
(All for only a $5 suggested donation!)
Visit Heart of the City below for more stories of Bridgeport!
Dear Bridgeport: You’re beautiful, inside and out. From the very south end of Seaside Park, to the wilds of Beardsley Zoo, to the rolling north end hills, even those inside crumbling factories – all beautiful. All representative of the remarkable energy and the potential that comes from deep inside your soul. It’s palpable, like your spirit. Like the spirit of the fabulous people who live here, many of them for the very same reasons….I will continue to respect and admire the only place that has every truly felt like home for me. A place being made by a community of courage and compassion for mankind. A place that has events like this, and people like you. This is a city of heart – a big, beautiful, funky, multicultural, slightly rustic, tweaked out, crazy, loving heart … — Luke Scott
Dear Bridgeport: Here are some things I love about you … I love getting Timothy’s ice cream on warm sunny days … I love Black Rock Public Library – there are so many books to read it’s hard to choose … I love the warm, cozy houses, but not the monster huge taxes … I love that there are plenty of kids in my neighborhood … I love that I can walk to the train station and go to NYC … I love selling flowers at the Black Harbor Market … I love the beaches to cool off with friends … I love that I have two moms and no one ever teases me. Ever … And I love my family and my dog because they’re in Bridgeport, too. — Sophie Scott Pennock Collins
Dear Bridgeport: Finally, I have a chance to write my love letter to you. Thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to become the woman I am. I was raised by women, my mother and grandmother and they were a force of nature and just as good as they come. I came to you all grown up but not fully grown. You reminded me of what my mother and grandmother taught me — put one foot in front of the other, work hard, never tell a lie and don’t make promises you can’t keep — and you can go and be whatever you want. I am so profoundly grateful for all you have given me, Bridgeport. The people and places and things I know because of you, the experiences. All those opportunities I would not have had anywhere else. Now…I may not, in fact don’t want to be fully grown just yet or even ever, but I sure know a whole lot better who I am, what I want and what I can do. Thank you too for teaching me my limits. First, the transforming moments 25 years ago when I first volunteered to work on behalf of and with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I heard the struggles, the fear and terror and helped women and by the way, a couple of men, make their safety plans. When I heard those stories, I remembered the lessons my mother and grandmother taught me and I knew I could do better. Thank you, Bridgeport. So at 42, a single mother with two kids, I went to law school and I learned how to represent those women and children. I practiced law for them and wherever I could I volunteered to help them. I helped non-profits help them with housing, jobs and child care and one day, I woke up and realized I had fallen in love not just with the women and children at the Center for Family Justice but with the community that is this city. Thank you, Bridgeport. I’ve traveled many miles in this time, many miles in this 16 square mile city. I like to say that I love Bridgeport because it’s so small, you can wrap your arms around it and give it a hug. But really, Bridgeport wrapped its arms around me — our city wraps its arms around all of us. Thank you, Bridgeport. — Mary-Jane Foster, Vice President of University Relations, University of Bridgeport