Landscape architect and local historian Everett Fly (center) is a featured speaker in the Community History & Preservation Speaker Series.
Landscape architect and local historian Everett Fly (center) is a featured speaker in the Community History & Preservation speaker series. With him is (right) Philis Barragan Goetz, Assistant Professor of History at Texas A&M San Antonio and history student Moriah Torres. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Two local organizations have joined forces to start a speaker series focused on preserving community and local history.

The Esperanza Peace & Justice Center and Westside Preservation Alliance (WPA) will launch the Community History & Preservation Speaker Series on Tuesday night with a presentation from Everett Fly, a landscape architect dedicated to preserving the history of black communities in San Antonio.

Sarah Zenaida Gould, director of Esperanza’s new Museo del Westside and former member of WPA, said she and other WPA members wanted to connect their efforts to preserve local history in San Antonio to other community historians’ work.

“We wanted to have conversations with people who have had successes and see how we can emulate it here, but also people who have had challenges and think, ‘How can we avoid things like that here?’” she said. “It’s an opportunity to learn from other people.”

Gould said the best sources of local history comes from residents, either from firsthand experience or hearing stories about their neighborhoods from parents and grandparents. WPA is especially interested in the histories of the working class and communities of color, Gould added.

“These are the sorts of stories that are generally not what you are going to find in textbooks,” she said. “We are trying to reveal and elevate lesser known people and events.”

Fly said much of his work relies on oral histories taken from San Antonians. As part of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, Fly said he uses his training as an architect to find and preserve local history. One of his recent finds, the historically African American Winters-Jackson Cemetery, came from talking to local resident Dan Winters, who has family buried there.

“He gave me a route, how they parked the car, how they walked to the cemetery, the site the cemetery, and what it looked like,” Fly said. “From that description I was able to work backwards and find maps, and eventually found a written deed description of the cemetery. If he had not given me those clues from his experience, I wouldn’t have known where to start.”

Community history tells people about why things are the way they are and how they navigate the world, Gould said.

“I’m a historian, so I strongly believe that everybody needs to know their own history,” she said. “It’s important that we recognize that we all have history and all of our histories have value.”

Fly will speak Tuesday at Esperanza Peace & Justice Center at 922 San Pedro Ave. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m., and the presentation is scheduled for 7 p.m.

There will be three additional presentations in the series:

  • Oct. 23: Resisting Barrio Displacement in El Paso: A Conversation with Dr. Yolanda Chávez Leyva
  • Nov. 8: Preserving African-American Sites in Austin: A Conversation with Dr. Fred McGhee
  • Dec. 6: Escuelitas and the Emergence of a Mexican American Identity in South Texas: A Conversation with Dr. Philis Barragán Goetz
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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.