BY MARK GOODSON — It began when former resident Lonna Hayes followed people on Instagram, the popular photo sharing social media service, in D.C. through a unique hashtag identifier. She said she thought “Hyattsville’s really awesome; why don’t we do it for Hyattsville?”
On Feb. 27, 2015, Hayes posted on Instagram from the handle OurHyattsville for the first time. The picture documented Hayes’ delivery of a meal to the Fiteny family, to help them with their newborn baby, Malina. The meal was part of an organized effort on behalf of the Hyattsville Nurturing Moms listserv.
Hayes decided to pass the Instagram account around to residents who signed up on the OurHyattsville homepage. Residents can assume the handle for one week before passing it to the next person. Wait time to get a turn is typically two weeks. In it’s debut year, at press time, more than 50 residents have posted 819 pictures.
Hayes enjoyed watching the handle expand beyond her immediate circle of friends. “At first, it was all people I knew,” she said. “Now, it’s people I wouldn’t know other than seeing their photos because it’s a new perspective. … It ended up being people I had no contact with other than the instagram account.”
Krissi Humbard assumed the role of handle-manager in July, when Hayes and her husband, former City Councilmember Clay Williams (Ward 5), moved to North Carolina. When Humbard heard Hayes was moving, she offered to step in to ensure the handle continued to document life in Hyattsville.
“I love the idea of the project — building community and getting to know your neighbors and fellow Hyattsvillagers through photographs. I love discovering new things about the city, too,” Humbard said.
For example, Pat Padua posted a series of interesting facts about musical history. Red Allen and Frank Wakefield held an informal bluegrass jam in Wakefield’s Hyattsville home in 1963. Never intended for release, The Kitchen Tapes now serve as a bluegrass rarity and collectable. Hyattsville also played a role in the history of Rockabilly. Glasswing Studios, formerly on Ager Road, recorded Leslee “Bird” Anderson’s album Runnin’ Wild.
A few other handler highlights included an in-depth look at Hyattsville history posted by Rudy Hogg and Kip Friel, the inner-workings of local Hyattsville crafts space 43rd Place, posted by Jonaki Sanyal, and the postings of local professional photographer Juliette Fradin.
When asked about a favorite, Humbard said, “I don’t think I can pick a favorite, I appreciate every poster. It feels great that people are excited to share a bit about their lives and participate in the project.”
“Instagramming” has also helped Humbard get in touch with neighbors in person. “Chelsea [Lowes] recognized me from the photos I had posted on OurHyattsville and stopped to say hello one day while walking past my house,” she said. Humbard believes the handle demonstrates the city’s diversity, and that “no matter how different we are, we share some commonalities,” she said.
What better way to celebrate the city’s diversity than with a barrage of images from various residents all celebrating their own version of what makes Hyattsville great. Taken together, the images form a mosaic as diverse and brilliant as the residents who live here.
Founder Hayes still follows the handle from her new home in North Carolina. “I love it,” she said. “I love seeing what everyone is up to. I get to see their kids. It’s been fun to still have that connection after leaving.”
You can follow and sign up to operate the OurHyattsville handle on Instagram at www.instagram.com/ourhyattsville.