Strong Women: The Galvanizing Force


Strong Women: The Galvanizing Force in the Community. Our initial online research, our 1st visit to Hazelwood, and the Hazelwood tour allowed us to get a better understanding of the community and its people. Some of the key insights were:

  • Everyone is connected to each other somehow – by blood or marriage
  • It’s important for companies that profit from this community to also invest in it by hiring local people
  • Kids don’t learn how to nurture relationships yet before they start getting involved in violence, because they don’t go to the same school
  • There’s nothing in the community for kids to do (or shops for adults, etc)
  • Media defines Hazelwood by its drug dealings & violence, but the community is very friendly
  • Rehab for Resale flips houses & tries to give homes to locals (affordable housing is so important, because when new businesses come in, the higher property taxes might displace locals)
  • If people who grew up here aren’t able to stay here, it’s no longer Hazelwood

While we knew we couldn’t bring more schools into the neighborhood, or help build businesses, we moved forward with the project feeling inspired by the stories we heard and the knowledge we gained.

img_20170129_164349[Digitized version coming soon]


To make the group stakeholder map, we talked about and categorized the stakeholders we found from the readings and Hazelwood visits. Red postits are for things inside Hazelwood, Turquoise for groups outside of Hazelwood, Yellow for media, Pink for local businesses, and Blue for things we additional stakeholders we learned about during the tour. We sorted the post-its in columns, with the top-most post-its having the “strongest ties” with Hazelwood, and the lower post-its with weaker ties. (ie. Uber is not as strong of a tie as Tim is to Hazelwood)
We then rearranged the post-its to cluster the related “pie slices” next to each other, and with the center of the circle being the “strongest ties” to Hazelwood. It’s evident from this chart that there are plenty of local groups in the community that can have a positive impact on Hazelwood. However, they need money from the surrounding slices: businesses (which there are very few of), individuals (who in the area don’t have a lot of wealth), and the government. Thus, a lot of the dependency falls on the government aid, which falls short because the other slices are unable to contribute a lot of wealth. The media seems like something that can maybe help bring in more businesses, and people, but the infrastructure/draw-points must already be there to attract the media in the first place! Without the resources, it’s difficult to build better schools, which then makes it difficult for the people out of the local schools to get higher paying jobs or get into college. Or they might get sent out to other schools, preventing people from building community bonds.


In our memory mapping activity, we hoped to see what used to be, and what parts of Hazelwood helped shape their memory of the place. What memories help define Hazelwood? In the activity itself, we only managed to talk to Carol and Barbara, but the map helped us identify what people considered to be “Hazelwood”, and learn about different landmarks and our interviewees. Before the activity day, Dylan printed out a large map of Hazelwood for us, we mounted it on foamcore so that people could pin the different places as they came up with memories. As we came up with the tools and rules for using the map, we recognized it was getting complicated, so at Kristin’s suggestion, we tested it out with some design freshman, and simplified the activity.


Some things we heard from Carol were:

  • Hung out at the YMCA, partied at St. Stevens in their halls, got ice cream from Isaly’s after Easter, watched shows at Theaters on 2nd Ave, did arts & crafts after school, there was a bowling alley, and loved going to school at Gladstone. She watched a lot of her boyfriend’s basketball games, and went with him all over Hazelwood for those games.
  • Shooters / victims often take the fight to their families as revenge
  • Carol is friends with (& went to school with) the father of the man that allegedly shot her son. They still talk, but don’t talk about the death
  • Pointed at Elizabeth street, referred to as“Across the Tracks”, where she said they were told as children to not cross that bridge (Italians lived on the other side) no matter what.


Some things we heard from Ms. Barbara were:

  • Religion is a big part of Ms. Barbara’s life, and she has learned to let go of deaths through God.
  • Mrs. Barbara goes to senior centers (on 2nd ave in Glenwood, & in Glenhazel) everyday to get out of the house. She plays games, has bingo night, on Wednesdays goes out to lunch with other seniors, etc
  • She fears the kids today with guns
  • Back then there was no access to guns. These days, a car drives around with guns in the back, & if you have enough money you can buy. “Beware of people in high places” – The government / police know about the drugs & guns but they don’t do anything because they get bribed. Back then, the police knew everybody’s families, & walked around. But now they just drive around in their cars & assume you have a weapon

Through the map, we realized how people like Carol really did grow up here and got to hear what the neighborhood was like decades ago. We heard about the community, the way families related to each other, the community gardens, etc. Barbara is a fantastic storyteller, she didn’t need much encouragement to share with us what she thought was important. We gave her one IDEO conversation card, and she took it from there. She told us stories about her children, about the community, about how the cops shifted away from members of the community to outsiders remaining in their vehicles.

In our exhibit we can make it easier for women in the community to talk about issues (anonymously, or in a safe way) and foster an openness. (ie. Sheila didn’t open up about needing someone, Carol doesn’t like talking about the murders. We think pointing the finger might make the women feel unsafe.) We also wanted to get the perspective of younger women and teenagers, to see what they want for the future of Hazelwood. The old Hazelwood had a lot of great landmarks, but bringing light to future possibilities might give people something to work towards together.


After the activity, we used sticky notes to dissect the stories, and After individually thinking of possible “exhibit” ideas, we each shared and discussed possible themes. 

  1. Celebrating Life – too often the community or the family comes together to celebrate someone when they’re gone, but to do it while they’re alive is positive, and can build relationships. Have an exhibit where we display community champions, and allow viewers to show their appreciation by adding notes / stickers about how that champion has helped them or impacted their life.
  2. Moving Forward – Commemorating the kids who’ve passed by showing their activities & interests, and connecting them to the activities & interests of current kids. We can also provide resources to help sustain or actualize these current interests. This way, we hope to empower moms to move forward, and that even though their child has passed, there are parts of them that still live in other kids. As a “strong mom” you can still help these other kids fulfill their dreams with the resources about how to do it.
  3. Visualizing Community – showing the network of Hazelwood around the lost young men. ie. Jay’s teacher was so&so, who also was the father of so&so. This makes the community connection seem strong, while showing that these lost kids still live on through the memories of others.

We originally focused a bit too much on “design solutions” and less about the exhibit itself, but through talking with other groups, we directed our original ideas more towards “telling a narrative”. 



We wanted the kids to shape the vision of Hazelwood because they’ll be the ones living in that future. I visited the library and tried to understand how/where friendships form between kids, how/where they build relationships with trusted adults, what they are interested in, and what they wish was in Hazelwood. Keelan mentioned his sister likes to paint, but that nowhere nearby had painting supplies, and that he’d rather ride his bike than play video games, but he doesn’t have anywhere to go to fix his bike. The kids seemed to be content, and found friendships among the kids who go to the library after school. They didn’t seem worried or annoyed about having to wait for tax returns to do things, or that there aren’t stores within Hazelwood.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: