The Chasm Is Not Closed

photo of plaque on Martha's Vineyard
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When I started researching for my Your Choice piece, I knew I wanted to focus on people of color on the Cape. Specifically Black people. If there’s anywhere in the area that’s known for dripping with melanin, it’s Oak Bluffs. I dove headfirst into researching everything I could about Oak Bluffs. Its history, its people, the Inkwell, all the things that make Oak Bluffs especially unique. The first few days of my story were honestly riddled with luck; the story basically fell in my lap. The morning I decided to go to Oak Bluffs I had coffee with reporter Sarah Mizes-Tan from WCAI. She’s the one who told me that there had been a “kerfluffle” on the island about a statue. When I went out to Oak Bluffs, I already had a lead to follow. The statue in question happens to sit right in front of the bus stop — I didn’t even have to look for it. I spent a day hanging around the statue, talking to locals.

From there I just had to get my mind and the story together. There were so many people, and organizations, and locals that had become a part of the conversation. I literally took an entire day and made a list of all the names I had heard, and read in the papers, and google stalked. I spoke to everyone who would answer my calls and slated as many interviews as I could in one day so I could limit the number of trips I would have to make to the island. I came back with 8 hours of tape to log and a bunch of agendas to sift through.

Reporting on an event involving so much information left me feeling overwhelmed. Everyone I spoke to had an angle they wanted to get across, and wanted to make sure I understood all the nitty gritty of their opinions. Because my piece came with a racial element, there were also a lot of feelings involved. My story was a news piece, so in order to maintain base level journalistic integrity there were basic details I had to include, and sides of the story that needed to have a voice. But as a black woman, living in a predominantly white area, I had my own experiences and feelings that I wanted to make very clear. I didn’t want to produce a “boring” news piece; I wanted to make people feel something, and cause discomfort if necessary. I ended up wrestling with all this information in my head while I figured out what was necessary for the piece and what was extra.

I learned about so many historical elements while reporting this piece that didn’t make it into the final edit. During my group edits, I said that I probably knew more about the history of Oak Bluffs than most of the locals. If not for a time limit, I would’ve produced a 25-minute podcast episode.

If there’s one thing I took away from this process, it’s that it’s okay to put yourself into the piece. At least in this case, it was my personal experiences that gave me a particular outlook on the issues that I was reporting on. Adding that element and those raw feelings to my script gave it more life and passion. It turned my story from a “boring” news piece into a piece that spoke to what I was feeling at the time and what the information in the story actually meant to me.

About Kamilah’s Sonic ID

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I met Vikki while I was walking through Oak Bluffs doing research for my story. I commented on the architecture around us and she launched into a story. I actually had to rush and press record on my gear because I wasn’t expecting it. We only spoke for about 10 minutes but I knew I had to pull something from our conversation for a sonic. She seemed like someone’s quirky grandmother. Just so sweet, bright-eyed and optimistic, with such a fun laugh. I wanted that all to come across in this 60-second portrayal.

Listen to more pieces from this Story Workshop class here.

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  • Berenise

    6.13.19

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    Awesome insight Kamilah

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