CEE | Center for Experimental Ethnography
A blog of the Center for Experimental Ethnography
Contact Us // 438 PENN MUSEUm // firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2018 The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Krystal Strong is an assistant professor in the Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division. Her research and teaching focus on student and community activism, the cultural and political power of youth, new media and popular culture, and the role of education as a site of political struggle with a geographic focus on Africa and the African Diaspora. She teaches courses in the Education, Culture, and Society and International Educational Development programs that focus on global youth cultures, ethnography and qualitative research methods, decolonizing education, and grassroots community activism. As a scholar and active organizer in the city of Philadelphia, Dr. Strong brings a commitment to supporting local communities, and to bringing the lessons of activism to bear on her scholarship and pedagogy. We recently spoke to Krystal about some of her current projects.
Krystal Strong is a native Philadelphian who grew up in the Francisville section of Fairmount, studied in the West coast and lived in various part of the world. When we spoke, she described the beauty of coming home as an academic, and about how being at Penn has opened up and required that she create space for all the work that she does in her community. Having returned to Philadelphia, she was disoriented by the intense gentrification she encountered, and she felt it was critical to do the memory work that was needed to remember what was being erased by these processes, both for herself and her famiy, and for Black Philadelphians more generally.
One of the catalysts that brought her to develop the Remember Black Philadelphia Project was the trip she took with her father to the location of his alma mater, which has now been transformed into luxury apartments. Her father played in the West Philadelphia high school band, and her grandmother owned a beauty salon around the corner from West Philadelphia High. She recalled how the community had pressed for the school to be renovated, but despite strong and organized alumni opposition, the old building (which had opened in 1912 as West Philadelphia’s first secondary school) was repurposed by a Brooklyn-based development company. Students were relocated to a new building at 49th and Chestnut in 2011, and the community lost a landmark.
These family memories were further activated in 2016, when Strong attended a MOVE event. She remembered walking up to a table that displayed 35-year old newspapers documenting the struggles of MOVE and Mumia Abu-Jamal. She was struck by the love and care that went into maintaining these newspapers, which had been saved by a community elder in a repurposed bedding set. This act of archiving demonstrated to her that important memory work was being taken on by the community, and the seeds of a new project were born. Krystal began collaborating with Jennifer Garcon, a digital librarian at the Price Lab to assist Philadelphia community members in digitizing and preserving their artifacts, and in recording their oral histories. The resources of the Remember Black Philadelphia Project have also been extended to the MOVE community to create a counter-archive, for which she recently received a two-year grant from the Mellon Foundation that will fund the collection of MOVE histories, their political work and their fight against state targeting. The counter-archive will culminate in a pop up multimodal exhibit that will assemble the oral histories and artifacts through immersive technologies to create a layered understanding of the role of MOVE in the Black freedom struggle. Keep an eye out for the Remember Black Philadelphia Project website coming soon.
We are very excited about Krystal’s projects!