What were you trying to study? Going into this project, I tried hard to find a correlation between Hollis Avenue and anthropology. For a couple of days I went to this avenue to see why so many people frequent there so much. It was interesting seeing the variety of people that went there on a daily basis. Going back home I finally realized why I wanted to study Hollis Avenue to begin with. I wanted to see, “Why this avenue was so popular?”, and most importantly,”What made this avenue so distinct?”.
MAIN QUESTIONS Before even setting foot in my destination, I was hoping to propose some questions, so I won’t feel caught off guard. At first I thought this process was going to be very easy, considering that I been to Hollis a couple of times, and because I thought I knew how the people on Hollis was. My questions were mostly general at first, and when practiced on my siblings, the results were very simple.
Main questions continued During my test trails, I noticed that my questions had little substance. It was leading me into dead ends. They helped a little with my research but it barely gave me useful information for my project. So I decided to add two more questions into the mix. I used these two questions as a deal breaker. Adjusting to these questions made me feel uneasy at first, because I didn’t know if it was too controversial to ask or not. But, I knew using these questions will eventually give me insight of people’s views of the neighborhood. The third question I asked added significance to my project: “What comes to mind when you think of Hollis Avenue?”. The fourth question I asked was a bit more controversial but lengthened the response from the people I was interviewing, “What is the biggest misconception of Hollis Avenue”?.
Methods The first day I went on Hollis Avenue, I decided to participate as much as possible, instead of observing. I went inside an infamous store called Hollis Deli. This store was known for it’s “great sandwiches”, and other varieties of food. It wasn’t as packed as usual, so the line moved swiftly and quickly. After a wait of five minutes, I was first in line and placed my order. While waiting I tried to think of the order I was going to ask my questions. When I received my order though, the confidence that I had when I came in, suddenly changed. Instead of introducing myself, I went straight into asking my first question. The owner answered me, but quickly dismissed me by calling the next person to the line. Walking defeated, I realized that I should’ve introduced myself first because it makes the process less awkward.
METHOD Part Two Introducing myself provided a gateway for conversation. I told the people whom I was interviewing about my anthropology project. Surprisingly, when I told them about how close I live near Hollis. I felt like it was easier to talk to them, and they seemed open to talk to me. We were able to talk more candidly about the neighborhood itself, how they felt about it personally, and how we encounter the neighborhood.
Method part three Going weekly to my field site really enabled me to get as much informal conversations as possible. I was able to observe repeatedly, and watch for particular patterns. For example I was able to notice the relationships between the people that went to the neighborhood regularly. These bonds were rare especially between two people who weren’t related by blood. I went to this neighborhood for about three hours, usually in the morning, and leave around noon. This gave me a chance to check various stores and street corners where people usually linger around.
RESULTS In 1884, East Jamaica was renamed by the “Supervisor of the town of Jamaica”, and in return Hollis was created. Hollis is considered the “geographical location to the city”. It is connected to the “Grand Central Parkway”, “LIRR”, “Jamaica Avenue”, and many other transportation sites. Learning this helped me one step closer as to why people benefit from going to Hollis Avenue.
RESULTS It is considered a “Predominately African American” neighborhood. Hollis is known for it’s number of hip hop artist , and other prominent people whom was raised, or born there. For example the group “Run DMC” was created on Hollis, Russell Simmons was raised on Hollis, Reverend Al Sharpton was raised there, and other notable people used to live there. Though these inspirational people grew up there, Hollis Avenue, still reminds people of violence and crime.
Results The first week, I started to go Hollis Avenue, I met an elderly man who stays on Hollis almost every other day, and he told me about how Hollis used to be in the 1980’s. He mentioned how there was a crack epidemic in South East Queens, which started the police activity throughout the neighborhood, and caused the 113th Precinct to keep a close eye on the neighborhood. When I asked him, “What does he do regularly on Hollis?”, he mentioned two reasons. One of the reasons he went to Hollis was to catch up with his friends that also grew up in the neighborhood. He also went there because of the convenience as well. He was able to do his grocery shopping without driving far, and he was also able to pick his prescriptions as well. When asked about the biggest misconception about Hollis Avenue , he explained how people will continue to believe that Hollis is down trotted because of the police activity and the activity of people hanging around stores.
Results I decided to interview someone who I saw shopping in a store on Hollis Avenue called “Compare Foods”. This store in this neighborhood is considered the “Costco” of Hollis. People go there all of the time for their weekly grocery shopping. I met a women there ,the second to last week of my observance. She was talking to the manager of the deli inside of “Compare Foods”. I knew him personally because I bought sandwiches from him weekly, so I said hello and observed around the store. I noticed that she was talking about a store down the block from “Compare Food” negatively, interested in what she was saying, I walked to the deli. By the time I got there though, she left and walked to the frozen food section. I followed her and introduced myself and ask politely about what she talking about what the manager. She began to tell me that the service at “Compare Foods was like no other. She was able to form bonds with the employees and she felt comfortable shopping there. The only reason though, she didn’t go as much as she could was because of the constant lingering around the store, which I found interesting.
Results My methods were very appropriate for the interviews I was conducting. I got personal insights from people that never voice their opinion about the avenue before. I learned that there are still callous misconceptions about Hollis. No matter how much businesses try to make the neighborhood diverse and versatile. The variety of shops can’t conceal the fact that Hollis’s bad reputation still exist in people’s mind. Once the police activity continues within the neighborhood, people would resist change within their mind frame, and that would only keep Hollis Avenue under this stereotype.
Anthropological concepts/THEORIES Previously, it was hard for me to find an connection between Hollis Avenue and anthropology. Once I started to do my research and observance, though, I was able to find similarities. In “Domesticating the French Fry”, the author Melissa L.Caldwell, talked about how much Russians love “local space”. It gave them a feeling that they were at home. This is relatable to the woman I interviewed in “Compare Food” because she had a sense of familiarity when she was in this supermarket. The idea of agency was brought to my attention at the end of my research process. People will remain to think of Hollis Avenue as a place where change cannot emerge and change will continue to be irrelevant to this neighborhood. Their fear of breaking out of the structure will only leave bad remarks of this avenue relevant to our society, and the road to modification will never be spoken of.
Anthropological concepts/theories Most of the people I talked to remain in disbelief when I bring up how much Hollis Avenue has changed for the better and their views remain the same. This reminded me of the article Sigmund Freud’s theory of the “conscious”. The conscious state of mind is the idea of a person being aware of their own state of mind. The people that I’ve talked to understand their state of mine, they are aware of their views, and are unwillingly to change it. The latent stage is when the mind exist in the unconscious but the person is capable to make form of expression. Unconsciously, the people that I was interviewing already formed their view on Hollis Avenue. I never realized before how much society creates repression. Hollis Avenue will remain a stereotype because people keep repressing the negative thoughts in their heads, instead of embracing change, and accepting improvement.
Problems/limitations In the beginning of my project, I had no incentive to go to Hollis. I thought that since I knew Hollis Avenue, that I could just base my information on my previous experiences. This limited my time to get to know the people I was interviewing on a more personal level. I was disappointed on how many rejections that I received from the store owners when I asked to interview them. I believe that if I made my appointments more appropriately, I would have more personal feedback from actual storeowners. I wish I could’ve observe the neighborhood more closely, especially the close relation between the younger generation love for Hollis, and the elderly’s fondness of the neighborhood. I went to Hollis in the morning before my younger sisters came home, so it could give me more time, to organize my thoughts. If I went back in the afternoon, though, I would’ve seen how the younger generation is affected by the neighborhood as well.
Success Throughout this journey, I didn’t think I could learn this much about this neighborhood. This project allowed me to go on Hollis more often, and see the activity in the neighborhood in a different light, I was able to think more positively about Hollis Avenue. I never really thought of the significance of the store fronts before, if anything I thought that they created more attention throughout the neighborhood. I thought this because more people started to linger around more often. I didn’t think about the close relationships these people start to form while being on this block.
Success I found it interesting that my viewpoints of this neighborhood have chanced since I’ve did this project. This project encouraged me to try to find out more information without the fear of being nervous while talking to people. Sharing my research with my sisters also opened up their minds as well. I didn’t realize the impact this neighborhood had on my life and my family’s lives until now. This project holds great significance in my life because now I know the background of this neighborhood, and I’m able to give people my educated viewpoints of this avenue. This journey enabled me to make new bonds with people I just passed by aimlessly on the street. I now can share my experience with other people who have been there as well.