POUGHKEEPSIE – The first eight in-depth oral histories recently collected from current City of Poughkeepsie residents as part of the new Poughkeepsie Q&A program, have just been published by the Dutchess County Historical Society on its website.
The purpose of the program, also known as PQ&A, is to provide city residents a platform to introduce themselves and to describe the spectrum of life in their city from a personal perspective.
The text of each history is published in English or Spanish to help make the material widely accessible to the public.
“These are rare documents of everyday people living today in the city,” says Jeffrey Kosmacher, editor of Poughkeepsie Q&A. “What these generous people share in their oral histories provides a special opportunity for residents of Dutchess County to connect with fellow community members. There is also much for all of us to learn from these individuals, and about the ups and downs of life in the City of Poughkeepsie, as our society seeks insights and solutions for all sorts of matters.”
Participants in Poughkeepsie Q&A include longtime residents of the city from varied walks of life, ranging from people born and raised in Poughkeepsie to those who have transplanted from elsewhere. They are single people and parents, and of various ages and livelihoods, including a
maintenance director, educators, small business owners, a youth outreach worker, and a retired police officer. Their comments range across a wide variety of experiences, perspectives, and topics, such as:
— “I’ve always worked, and I like working with my hands,” explains Frank Johnson, the maintenance director for a property management company. “When I was in my 20’s I started my own used car dealership as a side business. I kept that going on the side for about 25 years.”
— “I can say to people I’m a product of the City of Poughkeepsie,” points out Isis Benitez, a community outreach worker for YWCA Ulster County. “Sure, a lot has to do with my upbringing. But I went to school here and now I’m successful. I’m happy at a full-time job.”
— “I was encouraged to do the right things and I had mentors within my church, within the community. Men who would show and explain to me the right way,” recounts Dwayne Douglas, from the Marist College Liberty Partnerships program. “For me, those guys were like heroes, and were great examples. They lived in Poughkeepsie, they owned homes. If they didn’t have
college degrees they were at their jobs for 15, 20, 25 years. Some would come to church from an overnight, exhausted but still showed up.”
PQ&A also celebrates the city’s young talent; the program’s website features commissioned photos of the program’s oral history tellers taken by various city youth. All oral histories collected for the program become part of the Dutchess County Historical Society’s permanent archive.
We believe local history is important because it can help us learn in a personal, tangible, relatable way,” states Bill Jeffway, executive director of the Dutchess County Historical Society.
“We’re proud that the Poughkeepsie Q&A interviews are now part of the DCHS archive, that holds oral histories from the past and where oral histories will be added in the future. We know that history made today will be of interest to future generations.”
Poughkeepsie Q&A is supported by the Dutchess County Community Grants Fund of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, and a partnership with The Art Effect educational nonprofit.
The Dutchess County Historical Society was founded in 1914 and preserves, interprets and shares the history of Dutchess County.