Storytelling is, has been, and always will be the heart of the Chester Made project. Since its earliest days, Chester Made has used storytelling as a way to bring people together, address challenges, create solutions, and celebrate victories.
The emergence of the Chester Digital Storytelling project builds on the strong history of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s mission to put “the humanity in humanities.” Introduced to PHC and Chester Made by University at Buffalo sociology professor, Christopher Mele, the digital story process is a new way to honor the hopes, dreams, and memories of the extraordinary, everyday people in Chester.
“These are artifacts that can be shared,” said Mele. “There’s a high probability that they are going to be meaningful later. Collectively as a community archive, they are telling the stories of Chester that have been pushed aside. I’ve said this is kind of a counter-narrative to the official history. It’s going to be a powerful project.”
Digital story film maker, Lisa Nelson-Haynes, joined the collaborative effort early in the development phase and has crafted eight, short stories that highlight the memories of Chester natives, residents, and visitors. Executive Director of the Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Nelson-Haynes has found a deep appreciation for “the Chester Story” and the storytellers who embrace the little city with the big heart.
“The beautiful thing for me - not being from Chester - but developing relationships with folks that are in this project, is that every time we talk I hear another perspective of why they feel so wedded to their Chester roots,” said Nelson-Haynes. “It’s lovely.”
The first series of stories focuses on why storytellers stay in Chester. Local journalists and teachers contributed to the first five stories which have an average length of three minutes. Upcoming stories will focus on a variety of topics including social life, travel, food and education.
According to PHC Special Projects Director, Ulysses Slaughter, the introduction of digital stories is an innovative way to expand the project mission in the current social environment.
“We’ve been working on this project for nearly a year,” said Slaughter. “Twelve months ago we had no idea we’d be at a moment in history when online visibility would be crucial. But here we are and PHC is ready with some great digital stories about Chester by Chester for Chester. We look forward to collecting more and more stories each month.”
What is your Chester story?
What I Love About Chester...
Since May 2021, the CDS Advisors have been meeting and working with the Chester Made Mentors and community champions to perfect their digital stories. The results are amazing: personal, heart-warming stories that continue to show how special Chester is and how proud its residents are to call it home.
"One Click Away" by Ricky Taylor
Ricky L. Taylor is a poet, author, and motivational speaker from Chester, PA. "Uncle Ricky,” as he is called by his students and mentees, dedicates his life wholeheartedly to helping more youth in his hometown overcome the obstacles he faced: helplessness, hopelessness, insecurity, and confusion, and replace them with hope, help, security, and direction. Through the work of the Making A Change Group and other non-profit organizations, this budding entrepreneur has become one of the new faces for change in Delaware County.
"C-City Investment" by Bigga Dre
Bigga Dre is a songwriter, recording artist, and producer for a variety of key players in the music industry from Grammy(r) recipients to new and upcoming artists. It is no surprise that his Chester Digital Story reflects his passion. His story, much like his music, is embedded with brilliant lyrics, hidden symbolism and rhythmic catchy lines that capture all Hip-Hop lovers and resonates with those who know they’re home when they’re in Chester.
"I Had A Dream" By Sybil C. McNear West
Sybil C. McNear West lived her dream of owning a family restaurant in the city of Chester, PA. For three years she owned and operated the family restaurant, Mac’s Bunch, previously located at 518 Edgemont Ave. Known for serving her homestyle cooking to people from all walks of life, Sybil shares her story of inspiration, dedication, and resilience in the food service industry. Today she keeps her dream alive with her small business, Teaspoon Catering.
"Chester is Home" by Deborah Montgomery
Deborah Montgomery is a Chester Made Champion who advocates for the arts and humanities in Chester, PA every day. She shows her love for her city through good memories of the historic waterfront, her love of gardening, and sharing stories with and about the people who make Chester home to her. Check out how Debbie remains creative and creates beauty everyday in her community.
"Jamar's Incredible Life" by Rev. Hilda M. Campbell
The Rev. Hilda M. Campbell is an advocate, poet, professor, clergy member, and most importantly G-Mom to Jamar, whose story she shares with an urgent plea for uniting against violence and uplifting the people of Chester City. Rev. Campbell, a full time minister, is the new pastor at Siloam United Methodist Church and Trinity United Methodist Church, both located in the city. She currently serves as director of human relations and leadership ministries with the conference. Read more about the incredible work of Rev. Hilda M. Campbell in the Delco Times here.
You Know You're In Chester When...
This group of storytellers was recruited by the Chester Digital Story (CDS) Advisors to tell us how they know they're in Chester. What was that moment where they felt completely at home here. What are the things that remind them that they're in C-City. These are their Chester stories.
"Born and Bread: the Chester City Experience" by Isiah Jones Jr.
In his Chester Story, Isiah Jones Jr. reflects on his family's heritage, The Youth in Action Agency, and growing up during the Civil Rights era in Chester, PA. He was afforded opportunities that inspired his entrepreneurial mindset, and it is that home-grown passion that reminds him that he is home in Chester.
"'Tall Grass' Roots in Chester's Soil" by Sistah Mafalda
First generation Chester Made Artist Resident Sistah Mafalda has spread her empowering message of strength and resiliency through programs like the Walk Tall stilt-building workshop and Stand Tall stilt-walking series. She continues to inspire a generation of moko jumbie (stilt-walkers) through connecting storytelling and performance. Hear her story and get ready to walk tall through Chester City.
"Exit 6" by Greg Irvin
Chester Made resident photographer, Greg Irvin, has played an imperative role in capturing moments from each and every Chester Made event and program. Now he tells his Chester Story about what Chester means to him and why he loves to call this city home.
After months of working together, a group of Chester Made advisors are ready to premiere their digitally archived stories about "What makes Chester home." These are their Chester stories.
"Chester Grows Me" by Misty Sol
Misty Sol is a long time Chester Made advisor who most recently was part of the first cohort of Chester Made Artist and Storyteller Residents. Misty hones in on her connection to nature in her Chester story and has invited others to do the same.
Stefan's Chester Story
In his Chester Matters Blog, local journalist Stefan Roots brings us the latest and greatest in Chester news, including coverage of many Chester Made events. In his Chester story you'll hear why it's no surprise he always knows what's going down in Overtown.
Jean-Pierre's Chester Story
Jean-Pierre founded CMPRadio.net with the intent of being a strong and positive voice of his city. Joining the Chester Made Digital Storyboard advisory group is just one more way of spreading this and other uplifting stories in Chester.
Amanda's Chester Story
Amanda Johnson of Visions Video Pro has helped document numerous Chester Made discussions and programs, including the well-attested Illuminate Chester Series. Now she tells her sentimental Chester story as a dedicated advisor to the Chester Digital Story project.
Twyla's Chester Story
Twyla "Ms. T" Simpkins is the founder and director of The Yes We Can Achievement & Cultural Center, and has led numerous Chester Made history programs, including the 2018 humanities summer Camp LegaCy: Making My Museum. In this story, Ms. T reminisces about what has always made Chester home to her.
Public Access to Chester Digital Stories
Chester Digital Stories are a community resource – an opportunity for all of us to share experiences and promote continued conversation around a wide range of topics and issues relevant to the city of Chester, Pennsylvania. We encourage everyone to listen to and view our digital stories and share them with family and friends.
Use of Chester Digital Stories by individuals, organizations and institutions is restricted to non-commercial use. Educators, writers, filmmakers, scholars, and other interested individuals, organizations and institutions seeking to copy and/or use excerpts from or the entirety of any Chester Digital Story must request permission from the Chester Digital Story Advisory Board. Please contact Taylor Tolton-Kain at firstname.lastname@example.org for complete information.