Group works to illuminate Rondo's history, one photo at a time

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The Hallie Q Brown Center is home to thousands of photos from the Rondo neighborhood. Now, they're trying to identify the people in the photos.

From daycare programs to senior citizens groups, the Hallie Q Brown Community Center has been a second home for Gloria Presley Massey for nearly all of her 84 years. Today, she is taking a step back in time to help illuminate the center's history.

"I love to go down memory lane and when I see some of the faces that some are gone now, it brings back wonderful memories because a lot of them were such good people," she said.

Massey is helping identify the people in thousands of pictures of the center and the surrounding Rondo neighborhood as part of the Hallie Q. Brown Archive Project. The pictures are on the walls and posted on social media

Volunteers are also hosting identification luncheons with senior members of the community before they pass away or suffer from dementia.

"You Google ‘unknown negro’ and hundreds of thousands of images come up, and we are going to do our part in St. Paul to identify them while we still have the people who know who the people in these photos are," said Dawn L. Selle the Director of Development and External Affairs for the Hallie Q. Brown Center.

Another part of the project is a map of the old Rondo neighborhood that was mostly wiped out when Interstate 94 was built in the 50s and 60s.

Community elders are putting pins where the former houses stood and naming the families who lived in them.

"What this is doing is helping restore some of the soul of the community. We're giving people back a piece of their lives, and we're helping to tell the story of what Rondo is and was and will continue to be into the future," said Jonathan Palmer the Executive Director of the Hallie Q. Brown Center. 

Massey hopes preserving the past will inspire future generations.

"My nieces and nephews, I want them to feel what I have felt and be proud of who they are."

Hallie Q is also collecting the stories of the people in those pictures.

They hope to eventually turn it all into interactive displays.