People Of Jacksonville: Showing the talent and diversity of Jacksonville, Florida

Each person has their own story

“There’s no such thing as not having a story,” which may sound like a line from a corny self-actualization book, but coming from Aidee Chavez and Francesco Salomoni, creators of the People of Jacksonville Instagram, it’s easy to believe. The new project is looking to document and share stories heard every day in our city from people just like you. Yes, you, reading this right now.

Aidee Chavez and Francesco Salomoni, Creators of the People of Jacksonville Instagram
Aidee Chavez and Francesco Salomoni, Creators of People of Jacksonville

Aidee and Francesco met the same way they meet a lot of their People of Jacksonville subjects, through mutual friends and getting out in the community. When Francesco talks about the fact that he and Aidee ever even met, there’s a sense of disbelief attached to it: “I came from Italy, she’s from Mexico, and we met in Jacksonville – it doesn’t make any sense!” Now, the two, who are driven by the same curiosity and interest in hearing others share their stories, are lifelong friends and People of Jacksonville has become their chance to try to capture moments of everyday storytelling.

Why People of Jacksonville?

I asked Aidee and Francesco, why People of Jacksonville? Why here, and now? For Aidee, she said that the “range of backgrounds in Jacksonville is crazy, it’s insane.” She uses herself as an example. Having grown up in Mexico and traveled extensively she’s had people who think she’s from Miami, Italy, etc., and the thing is, she easily could be. It was refreshing to hear Aidee say that after four years here she thinks that “Jacksonville teaches you not to prejudge.” For her the fact that everyone is so different, not just by looks, but by background, is incredible. This melting pot atmosphere is just one of the reasons why they decided that now was the time to create a platform for people to share stories publicly. For Francesco, People of Jacksonville is driven by his travels. “My travels have helped fuel curiosity about people and their stories – otherwise why would I do this? Why else would I care?” he says. One of Francesco’s goals for this project is “to showcase the different aspects of the community. Each person has their own story.”

Fran. // “I live by a philosophy that I get to do one nice thing for a person each day that makes them feel appreciated or respected. It might just be waiting to hold the door for a stranger, or noticing the extra effort someone put into a project. A lot of people talk about wanting to make a difference in the world. While I do have plans for larger things I’d like to change, right now I’m focusing on the micro level. If I can make at least one person each day smile about themselves, it adds up. It’s my own type of pay it forward. Hopefully, those people feel better about their accomplishments or their general outlook on the day, and pass along that positivity. Even if it’s just a little bit, it makes a difference to me.” #peopleofjacksonville

A photo posted by People Of Jacksonville (@peopleofjacksonville) on

They are a month in and with 500 followers they are going strong. The two have made a commitment as well. “No matter what happens here, we are committed to 365 days,” says Aidee. After that they’ll revisit the project.

Jacksonville teaches you not to prejudge

Aidee is exactly the kind of person who you’d think would have started a community Instagram like People of Jacksonville. Bubbly and friendly, Aidee is no stranger to community-based projects; she teaches yoga at Yoga 4 Change and Unity Plaza, and works full time with Community Connections, an amazing and effective nonprofit here in downtown Jacksonville. Francesco has always been involved with the arts, first as a musician and now as photographer. His passion for visual elements played a large role in their decision to choose an Instagram-only platform. Francesco says they thought about having a Twitter, website or Facebook but those mediums, especially Facebook, are “too much and too distracting.”

  Allishia. // “I remember feeling the door shut on my back. I felt worthless standing there. At 16, was there nothing I could do to feel loved? There didn’t seem to be much of a future for me. I wasn’t even sure where I was going to sleep, let alone worry about who I was going to be. I remember mom saying, “I just can’t have you here anymore. You have to leave,” but luckily I would never have to hear another phrase like that again. There was this unexpected village that managed to bring me back to life. The single mom’s who took me in as their own, the friends, friends of friends, families of friends, community trustees, teachers, colleagues, bosses, adopted families and my selfless husband all took a vow. “I’m here for you, you’re greater than you think and we will get through this together, no matter the cost.” It’s helped me learn that my worth is not dependent upon those who chose to put me last rather it’s by the belief in myself and more importantly by those who put me first despite no obligation. It’s because of this village that I was pushed to believe in me, because they believed in me first and embodied the spirit of Ubuntu. I am because you are; my humanity is tied to yours. They are the very reason for my undying happiness, passion and gratitude for all that life has offered me. Through this, I have learned that there are those who are born with hope, and there are those whose life tried to stomp it out of them. But we somehow conjure up the belief that maybe one day we will overcome the odds stacked against us. We acknowledge and accept the crucibles in our lives that alter our paths and use it as this backwards motivation. Thank you People of Jacksonville, my village, for pushing me to fully connect with who I am. Thank you for taking me in and becoming my home when I thought I would never have one. For bringing me to a place where I am allowed to love myself as a wife, a bonus mom, a @CityYearJAX mom, a dedicated volunteer, a friend, a lover of exploration and of all things new and old, and of this city I get to call home. Oh! And don’t forget hummus and Riesling. Those are on the list of loves too!” #peopleofjacksonville   A photo posted by People Of Jacksonville (@peopleofjacksonville) on

Each of them has their part in getting posts out. Aidee handles the written storytelling aspect – where the subjects can choose to pen their own stories or have Aidee write it. Francesco then handles the visual component. Since the Instagram features such natural photos, I wondered if Francesco ever had trouble capturing the right feeling in his images. When asked he said that “Some people get nervous and start posing, and I say that’s the end. Then we start talking, and I ask ‘Tell me what you do?’ Then people start to relax, and I’m able to capture it.” Having had the chance to see Francesco photograph a People of Jacksonville subject it’s no wonder he gets such natural shots. He takes into account the subject and atmosphere they feel most comfortable in. On the other side, Aidee is the first to say, “I’m not a writer. I just love stories and I love sharing them.” For her this project has just been really, really fun. She laughingly says, “I’m basically just nosy.”

Khalid. // Born and raised here in the greater Jacksonville area. I grew up in the Orange Park area most of my life and attended my school here. What I want most for Jacksonville is for more compassion, connections, and collaboration for everyone. I believe we have a tremendous opportunity to have 2 million residents truly prosper together by working in alignment. I am excited about, the Unity Plaza project and what the intention is behind its role. I’ve been a member of a club called, Toastmasters and have been a member for the last 6 years. This organization prepared me for my role today with, OneVoice. I’ve been able to participate in public speaking competitions and have decided to take the skills learned to the community. My parents taught me about the importance of community life, and how important it is to establish it. In order to establish a successful playground, each person can bring value to it by sharing their gifts, talents and skills to it. I feel with One Voice and the contribution I intend on providing, is to create a successful template for any member of our community who would like to speak at one of our events. provide them with some basic but effective techniques on how to deliver their message. I’ve always wanted to do some form of coaching in my life and this has allowed for me to do just that. I believe everybody has something to share in some way, shape or form and speaking to the community about their story is such a powerful way to make an impact. One of my goals is to establish a non-profit which will be called: “DESH GROUP represents, Dedicated Entrepreneurs Serving Humanity. A name of an organization that I wanted to start ever since I could remember. A few business partners and I are venturing out to start it up and to serve in the best way possible. It’s still in the start up phase, but I feel is turning into something that I feel will be special. #PeopleOfJacksonville

A photo posted by People Of Jacksonville (@peopleofjacksonville) on

This is a collection of stories that matters

The tone for People of Jacksonville stories varies, just as much as their subjects do, and Aidee says they try not to make it too serious. That’s why “every story ends in silly questions.” Every subject is asked to pick 5 questions out of 30 provided. The questions came to Aidee after thinking about her childhood in Mexico, where she and her classmates would pass around a book with questions like “what’s your favorite color?” and “who do you like?” Now People of Jacksonville has a variety of questions such as, “If you had to be somebody else who would you be?” and “What’s your favorite flavor of ice-cream?” that are a good way to get the subjects writing and maintain a more relaxed tone. For this article, I turned the tables on them and had them answer a selection of their own questions which you can see below!

Jake.// “I just moved to #Jacksonville last year but it already feels like home. The #Jax community has been so welcoming & wonderful to my wife @danagordon & I. It’s a great city, and we are thrilled to raise our children here. As the new CEO of @dtjax, I am leading our non-profit to help make Downtown Jacksonville a better place to live, work, visit and invest. I love working with all #DTJax stakeholders — so many businesses, property owners, residents, anchor institutions, supporters and most of city government. I am excited for the future of #DTJax & I truly believe if we all work together to improve #Downtown, then #Jacksonville will be better overall for all of us.” #PeopleOfJacksonville

A photo posted by People Of Jacksonville (@peopleofjacksonville) on

“This is a collection of stories that matters,” says Aidee, and with a project of this magnitude I can’t help wonder where it will go. Francesco appreciates that the People of Jacksonville “brings a different perspective” right in front of you with ease. Too often we get stuck on our own lives, our own problems and others’ stories give you a chance to see outside yourself. At the end of the year both Aidee and Francesco would like it to come alive with a really amazing exhibit. An exhibit that will show that yes, everyone has a story, and here in Jacksonville we have a way to share those stories.

Aidee Chavez

What’s your favorite food?

Mexican food. Always.

If you open a business, what would you open?

Uh oh, I have so many ideas! So this is hard. One of my ideas is having a marketing firm with some of the smartest girls in town. I would also love to have an international match mentoring center. And truly the list keeps going. I am an immigrant, I am always ready to sell your shoes if I need to! I don’t over-think businesses. I am here to make things happen.

What do you hope to achieve by 50?

I want to live in other countries and have a kid.

Who has influenced you the most?

Every single person I meet, seriously. That’s why I love People of Jacksonville so much, everybody is so inspiring and awesome.

What do you love about yourself most? What don’t you like so much?

I love how I love. I’m the kind of person who would rather get my hopes up really high and watch them get dashed to pieces than keep my expectations at bay and passively hope they are exceeded.

   

Francesco Salomoni

Would you rather be stuck in traffic for two hours, or have Chipotle run out of guacamole forever?

Stuck in traffic for two hours

What’s your favorite color?

Blue

Favorite flavor of ice-cream?

Chocolate

If you had the option of adopting a baby fox or baby koala, which one would you choose?

Koala

If you could either be a duck or an owl, which would you be?

Owl

Thank you, IgersJax for the cover image.

♻️♻️♻️ 〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰 Ahhh yess. We took the whole weekend off for a change and it was rather glorious to say the least!! We’ll get back into the groove of things by talking a little bit about the @peopleofjacksonville!! Sharing this month’s @eujacksonville with us, is the popular new IG account that posts friendly photos of the people that seem to make Jacksonville tick. Each post comes with a photo and a handful of healthy info on or by the chosen individual. It’s a great concept and deserves attention! Chances are, you probably know a few of these peeps. If you see any tiny faces that you recognize, please feel free to shout them out!! Go follow @peopleofjacksonville today, and check out the article on them in this month’s @eujacksonville just after our article, “Most Instagrammed Places in Jax”!! 〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰 📷: @francescocarlosalomoni of @peopleofjacksonville ↗️↗️Thank you!!!↖️↖️↖️↗️↗️↗️↗️↗️ 〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰 Show us your Jacksonville face… ➡️#igersjax ⬅⬅⬅USE THIS! Affiliated Hashtags: #i❤️jax #jacksonville #eujax #8103 #onlyinduval #JAX2025 #904happyhour #voidlive #904skyporn #dtjax #onlyinjax #firstcoastliving #downtownisonfire #ilovejax #jaxbuzz #folioweekly #moreartculture #theelbowjax #roamflorida #instagram_florida #igersusa #igers_staugustine 〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰

A photo posted by Instagramers Jacksonville (@igersjax) on

About Brentley Stead