A five-part audio documentary composed of voices in concert and discord, “Chorus of Voices” is a complex portrait of Gary and, by extension, Northwest Indiana. Listeners trace memories of migration, neighborhood life, the rise of black political power and opportunity in the 1960s, the “flight” of white residents and businesses to the suburbs, the automation and underemployment of the steel mills, and the consequent impact on the city and region. “Chorus of Voices” draws from oral history interviews collected for Flight Paths, an initiative of the Welcome Project. Flight Paths is an ongoing initiative.
Each of the five choruses in the playlist below introduces a topic and time period in Gary’s history. Voices in each do not always agree; no single chorus is completely comprehensive. We hope to suggest the way in which our experiences, in all their variety, present a complex portrait of the city and, by extension, the region.
To provide depth, we have highlighted a few of our individual storytellers below the playlist. These stories help us think more deeply about each topic and how an experience, like migration, manifests itself in any given life. At the same time, these stories far exceed each topic and demonstrate how our lives constantly engage the past and the present and cannot be reduced to any single experience.
There are always more stories to hear, more neighborhoods to reach. If you have a story that you think is missing and a person willing to be interviewed, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and include the topic, the person, and their contact info. We look forward to continuing this work.
Chorus of Voices: Full Playlist
Chorus of Voices: In Depth Stories
You can find all of our stories in the Flight Paths initiative here.
Part 1: Migration Stories
Didn’t Want Us To Grow Up Thinking the World Was Terrible
“The type of things my parents experienced, the type of racism was very interesting… it’s something my mother’s never really wanted to talk about.”
It Was a Pretty Heady Time
“As far as the mood in the neighborhood, I don’t remember talking or hearing about a lot of people that were steadfast saying, ‘Hey, I’m gonna stay here and stick it out.'”
Down the Block
“Grade school was good; y’know, everybody got along, and then they started to have fights in Tolleston park.”
Part 2: Neighborhood Life Stories
“We were proud.”
Here in Gary
“I wouldn’t want to grow up in any other place.”
One Big Family Back in the Day
“You were proud you were part of the organization that was part of your city.”
“We worked very hard to really maintain our relationships with our neighbors.”
Part 3: Flight Paths Stories
No Intention of Leaving
“I’m not from Miller. I’m not from Chicago. I’m from Gary.”
They Left So Quick
“All these white folk were leaving these homes. The homes to me were beautiful.”
Strong Block Club
“Even though we’ve had change in homeownership, the neighborhood is still viable in 2016.”
A Turbulent Time
“Fear is a very poor motivator.”
What Kind of Legacy
“The ceiling had opened up a little bit more. Black people were able then to move.”
Stick and Stay
“You know, they kept saying to you, ‘Why are you doing it? Why are you doing it?’ But the two of you said, ‘It’s the right thing.'”
Part 4: Impact Stories
Very Deliberate Where I Lived
“If all of us who received inspiration move, who’s going to inspire the next generation?”
“There’s no reason for me to go downtown.”
I Couldn’t Waste Her Potential
“I fled Gary also, but it wasn’t entirely because of fear, it had nothing to do with anyone’s skin color…”
Part 5: Thinking Regionally Stories
To Be a Good Neighbor
“There has to be an element of trust there, and that doesn’t exist right now.”
Gary Is Part of Us
“When Gary flourishes, so does Lake County and so does Porter County and so does Indiana. We’re all connected.”
More Alike Than Different
“We worry about the same things.”
Several of the audio stories used in this documentary were produced and recorded in partnership with StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.
This audio documentary was made possible by the support of the Indiana Arts Commission, the South Shore Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.