Hearing the Hidden Stories: Walking as a Signature and Interpretation

Garnette Cadogan

Harlem Walking

Our public spaces are repositories of stories, many of which reveal both the nature of public life and the particularities of the lives that move through them. But in our attempt to understand public life, we tend to immerse ourselves in data, too often sidelining the rich variety of stories that helps us understand what animates people and gives them a sense of place. In effect, we’ve provided abstraction where a finely-textured portrait is called for. Our failure to understand public life, then, is a failure to hear the stories before us rather than a failure to measure the activity around us. It’s more than a failure in data–it’s a failure of story.

We will explore how walking functions as both barometer, revealing the cultural and social character of our surroundings, and mediator, creating a bridge between data and stories, and how an activity–and tradition–as simple and mundane as walking leads to a richer understanding of people, place, and possibilities. Above all else, we will ask how, in a world bristling with stories, we can wander our way to a deeper understanding of the stories beckoning us.


This event is co-sponsored by BCRW and The Harlem Semester, a join initiative of BCRW and the Department of Africana Studies at Barnard College.

Harlem Walking Tour