Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

Brooklyn Historical Society logo

Guide to Voices of Crown Heights oral histories 2016.027

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201
718-222-4111
library@brooklynhistory.org


Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Brett Dion

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on December 19, 2017 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Voices of Crown Heights oral histories: Brooklyn Movement Center, 2017

Davis, Alonzo, 2017 March 24

Biographical note

Thirty-four years of age at the time of the 2017 interview, Alonzo Davis is a Black man and the founder of Just Been Tested (JBT), a mobile HIV testing and health screening unit and organization. The mission of JBT is to engage the community via innovative technology to become proactive participants in their preventive health. Davis was born and raised in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and went to boarding school during his secondary school years.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Alonzo Davis recalls life as a child growing up in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. He describes his block and immediate neighborhood, contrasting those with his later experience at a boarding school outside of the city. Davis discusses his memories of some events during the 1991 Crown Heights "riot," and this leads into general observations about people in conflict there. Contrasting 2017 with how policing and safety has changed since the early 1990s, he invokes his own experiences and the observations of his father, who worked in the New York Police Department before moving up the ranks in Corrections. Davis also considers how neighborliness plays into a sense of safety at home. After a pause in the interview, he concludes with a description of the Crown Heights landscape during the crack cocaine epidemic. Interview conducted by Mark Winston Griffith.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Davis, Alonzo

Subject Topics

  • Activism
  • African Americans -x Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Private schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions |y 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)

Finlay, Alisha, 2017 March 9

Biographical note

Thirty-seven years of age at the time of the 2017 interview, Alisha Finlay was born in Boston, Massachusetts to parents from Trinidad. Many of her relatives settled in New York City, and her immediate family followed by relocating to the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn when Finlay was still a child. Finlay's social life as a teenager was split between keeping in touch with Bushwick contacts while acclimating to her family's later residence in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Finlay attended Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights. A mother of two in her twenties, Finlay later needed to sever ties with the children's father; leading to altercations with him, arrests and advice from police officers, and encounters with the judicial system. In 2017, she was participating in local community affairs and held a position with the Union Street Block and Civic Association.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Alisha Finlay recalls her childhood, her teens, and feelings about living in the Bushwick and Crown Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn; noting their differences. She refers to her recollection and understanding of the August, 1991 uprising in Crown Heights, as well as the secondhand experiences of relatives. Much of the interview turns on Finlay's experiences and evolving opinions on policing; on the level of cultural understanding and on a level of her personal encounters with police. That subject leads into her discussion of gentrification and what she favors and dislikes about its effect on Crown Heights. In closing, Finlay also notes the influence of the Hasidic community on the area. Interview conducted by Walis Johnson.

Conditions Governing Access and Rights

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Finlay, Alisha

Subject Organizations

  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community organi-ing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gangs -- New York (State) -- Kings Country
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Trinidadian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Social life and customs

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Bushwick (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Porter, Evangeline, 2017 March 8

Biographical note

Born in North Carolina in 1932 and raised there by her grandmother, Evangeline "Eve" Porter came to Brooklyn in 1953. She married at that time and lived on Sterling Street. In 1973, she moved to her own apartment on St. Charles Place. Eve Porter attended Howard University and graduated from the College of New Rochelle's School of New Resources in Brooklyn. She volunteered at her children's school, and later worked as a paraprofessional at Paul Robeson High School. Porter was a toll collector and a Passenger Service Agent at John F. Kennedy Airport; both under the aegis of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. She also worked as a guide for builders at the construction site of the North Tower at the World Trade Center. She has been a leader of the Crow Hill Community Association for decades, oversaw an offshoot organization in 1999 called the Franklin Avenue Commercial Revitalization Project, and acted as the secretary of the 77th Precinct Community Council.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Evangeline "Eve" Porter vividly remembers her first trip to New York City and Brooklyn when she was nine years old; traveling to visit relatives by herself. In 1952, she recalls, she came back to Brooklyn, married, and had three children. They lived on a block of Sterling Street, with neighbors who she remembers as a cohesive unit. She speaks about what makes a good community and the values of her upbringing in North Carolina. She talks about street crime on Franklin Avenue and Crown Heights in general in the late twentieth century. Referring to Crown Heights as Crow Hill, Porter tells of her community work with the Three Saints Association. (This was the precursor to Crow Hill Community Association, which she founded.) She points out the need to include tenants in community organizing and the improvements to security via community policing and police presences as beat officers. In closing, Porter speaks to how Black people and the youth of the neighborhood interrelate, how social interactions there have improved, and the effects of having a local police captain of color. Evangeline Porter was also recorded for the Listen to this: Crown Heights Oral History collection in 2010 (2010.020). Interview conducted by Walis Johnson.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Green, Roger L. (Roger Leon)
  • Porter, Evangeline

Subject Organizations

  • Crow Hill Community Association (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Urban renewal -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions |y 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions |y 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Franklin Avenue (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • North Carolina

Price, Carlyle, 2017 May 23

Biographical note

Carlyle Price was born in 1980 in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. He grew up around Remsen and Clarkson Avenues, technically outside the borders of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, but spent most of his time in Crown Heights. His parents, Clifton Carlyle Price and Pearleta Price, (also a narrator in this series) were born in Barbados. He has two siblings, as well as many extended relatives. He went to many different schools, including PS 219 and PS 115 in Brooklyn, St. Bernard's School for Boys in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, and then— for higher education— Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, and Brooklyn College, where he completed a degree in Linguistics. He also spent a year studying linguistic anthropology in France. For a few years, he worked as a bookseller at Barnes and Noble, and also provided tutoring and other educational assistance for youth. In 2012, he acquired an internship at the State Assembly in Albany. Price currently works for the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board as the lead organizer for the Crown Heights Tenant Union.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Carlyle Price discusses his atypical childhood, largely through a lens of his schooling. He recalls the challenges he faced throughout his educational experiences as a Black man. Price reflects on being racially profiled and other interactions with police. He remembers the importance of learning Black history as a child, and considers themes of Black consciousness and aspiration. Talking about gentrification, Price identifies the social cost of disappearing storefronts and links to ideas of belonging, home, familiarity and community. He analyzes safety by gauging if there's a sense of freedom and the ability to play in a neighborhood. He also shares his feelings on racially-charged controversies in New York City's past, specifically Gavin Cato's death in Crown Heights and the Central Park Five. In closing, Price voices his frustration with unfair public transit, and details his fight for justice in a domestic violence charge in Albany. Interview conducted by Jenny Goldberg.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Price, Carlyle

Subject Organizations

  • Crown Heights Tenant Union (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department
  • St. Bernard's School (Manhattan, New York, N.Y.)
  • St. Paul's School (Concord, N.H.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Private schools
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Racism -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Urban renewal -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Albany (N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Canarsie (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)

Price, Pearleta, 2017 March 24

Biographical note

Pearleta Price was born in Christchurch, Barbados in 1952. She grew up on a farm and was one of ten siblings. When she was sixteen, her family moved to Brooklyn— 136 Rockaway Parkway— and she enrolled in George H. Wingate High School in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. She attended Hunter College and Medgar Evers College, where she earned two bachelor's degrees in education and Liberal Studies: Geography. For many years, she was an elementary and middle school teacher at various schools throughout Brooklyn, where she taught math and English Language Arts. She also worked as a paraprofessional for the Board of Education. She then worked as a make-up artist on Broadway; working on The Color Purple and  Dreamgirls, and in 2017, she worked primarily as a make-up artist for the musical,  Phantom of the Opera. She continues to work as a teacher on a freelance basis. She is the mother to three children; Carlyle, Bryan, and Grace. She currently lives on Clarkson Avenue between East 92nd and 93rd Streets.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Pearleta Price begins with reflections on growing up in Barbados. She talks about her work as a Broadway make-up artist. Price recalls early days in Brooklyn; in 1968, at sixteen, she moved with her family to the Crown Heights neighborhood, during a harsh winter. She describes being the only Black family on the block (136 Rockaway Parkway) and her predominantly Jewish neighbors. She compares her education in Barbados with that of George H. Wingate High School. Many changes in the neighborhood are described; with a focus on mom and pop stores being replaced by more anonymous larger stores. Price talks about her church attendance and how the family's churches intersected with community support of tenants' rights. She remembers several factors related to the August 1991 turmoil in Crown Heights. Price ends with a discussion of West Indian Carnival and her criticism of how it has evolved. Interview conducted by Jenny Goldberg.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Price, Carlyle
  • Price, Pearleta
  • Rosenbaum, Yankel

Subject Organizations

  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community organi-ing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gangs -- New York (State) -- Kings Country
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Theater -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Barbados
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Sidof, Yocheved, 2017 March 27

Biographical note

Thirty-eight years old at the time of the 2017 interview, Yocheved Sidof is a Hasidic woman who was born in Minnesota. She is the daughter of Iranian Jewish immigrants and was raised in a very insular Hasidic community. Sidof has a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is the Executive Director of the Lamplighters Yeshiva, a Montessori progressive school in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Married and a mother of three daughters and a son, she moved to New York City in 1997 when she was seventeen years old. While attending Yeshiva University, she resided in Crown Heights on a short-term basis. She returned there after graduation, and has been a part of the community on a nearly consistent basis since.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Yocheved Sidof begins with reflections on growing up in Minnesota, attending an out-of-state boarding school in her teens, and coming to New York City for Yeshiva University. She talks about the Hasidic community of her youth and within the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Sidof recalls her early experiences with that part of Brooklyn and evaluates the lifestyles, spiritual energy, and social mores that made it a dynamic locale for her. With an anecdote about her car being stolen, she links to general concerns and community efforts related to policing and safety. She relates her own progress in life— relationships and career choices— with how Crown Heights became less, then more important for her. Sidof talks about her filmmaking and photography efforts that she used to draw out profiles of people and the community of Crown Heights. She describes how she began a family and their efforts at finding a home. Sidof also relates the origin and progress of the Lamplighters school. In closing, she observes how gentrification has changed the area, and reflects on the ever-evolving sense of community and safety in Crown Heights. Interview conducted by Walis Johnson.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Sidof, Yocheved

Subject Organizations

  • Lamplighters Yeshivah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Stern College for Women

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews, American -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Private schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religious identity

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Saint Paul (Minn.)

Staton, Meredith and Staton, Lula, 2017 March 28

Biographical note

Meredith Staton was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1938. He moved to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in his twenties. Staton served his country in the Vietnam War and as a United States Postal Service employee at home. He has been the Captain of the Auxiliary Police Unit for the 77th Precinct and served on Community Board Eight. He retired from policing in 2010 due to a stroke. Vocal in the past on how the community reacted to the Atlantic Yards project and how Crown Heights was redistricted, more recently he was a proponent of securing landmark status for features of the neighborhood. With his wife, Lula Stanton, he raised three children; one of whom was recently deceased at the time of the 2017 interview.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Meredith Staton begins with an explanation of the redistricting of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn into North and South. In a few instances throughout, he uses the distribution of the city's homeless shelters as an example of social inequity. Staton and his wife, Lula, reflect on how they bought their house from the last White family on the block in 1963. That leads into a discussion of how people feel "pushed out" because housing prices are so high. The couple describes the turn from a quiet neighborhood to one struggling with crime issues emanating from nearby public housing. Staton describes his experience with the police department and leading a group of patrolling volunteers, and the associated social benefits with safety. The couple refers to the precipitating events and the unrest of Crown Heights in August of 1991. They emphasize community safety and policing again, and Staton weighs in on the stop-and-frisk method. Meredith Staton was also recorded for the Listen to this: Crown Heights Oral History collection in 2010 (2010.020). Interview conducted by Walis Johnson.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Staton, Lula
  • Staton, Meredith

Subject Organizations

  • Community Board No. 8 (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Community Board No. 9 (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • African Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Zimmerman, Rusty, 2017 March 9

Biographical note

Rusty Zimmerman, thirty-eight at the time of the interview, is a White male who was born in Englewood, New Jersey. He and his family moved often during his early years, but Zimmerman relocated to New York City in 2005 in order to establish his trade as a freelance illustrator and painter. In 2009, he moved to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, and in an attempt to further hone his craft and engage his community, he began the Free Portrait Project in 2015, in which he interviewed and painted portraits of over 200 residents in Crown Heights over the course of one year. The culmination of the project was a series of exhibitions and community events, and Zimmerman received grant funding to edit and distribute the 900 hours of audio interviews he recorded while conducting the four-hour portrait sessions with each of his subjects.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Randy Zimmerman discusses his personal background as well as the impetus for and timeline of his Free Portrait Project. He describes a typical portrait session, and some of the things he learned while doing this work. He shares anecdotes about several of the people he met throughout the process, and how he has become a liaison of sorts between disparate parts of the community. Through his network of community members he has found the goal of encouraging his neighbors to find commonalities where they assume there are only differences. Zimmerman speaks openly and candidly about the preconceived notions and prejudices that we all carry within us, and how his work on the Free Portrait Project has helped him accept and freely admit to those perceptions in a hope of openly and honestly grappling with them. Lastly, he talks about his personal experiences with the police and the 77th precinct, his run-ins with the police, and his realization of his "White privilege" during those moments, and his perceptions about what could be done to further improve community relations. Interview conducted by Candace Thompson.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Zimmerman, Rusty

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)
  • Free Portrait Project (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department

Subject Topics

  • Activism
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Art -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Artists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community organi-ing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racism -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Return to Top »