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Guide to the Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History collection 2010.020

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Collection processed by Brett Dion

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 22, 2017
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Brooklyn College
Creator: Brooklyn Historical Society (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
Creator: Crow Hill Community Association (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
Creator: Kelly, Alexandra
Creator: Paul Robeson High School (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Title: Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History collection
Dates [inclusive]: 2010
Abstract: This collection of forty-three oral history interviews with Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood residents was donated to the Brooklyn Historical Society by project director Alexandra Kelly. The interviews were conducted in 2010 with the help of the Crow Hill Community Association and five students from Paul Robeson High School who came to the project through the Brooklyn College Community Partnership (BCCP). Included are perspectives from community activists, artists, business owners, retirees and young people. Many are native to the New York metropolitan area. Several others have come from other states, as well as Caribbean nations and Central American countries. Narrators discuss the history of Crown Heights, their childhood and schooling, the changing landscape and ethnic makeup of the community over decades, their parenting and careers, volunteerism and activism, and mentoring or advising young people.
Quantity: 15.9 Gigabytes in 187 files, total running time: 21 hours, 17 minutes, 51 seconds; .21 linear feet in 1 document box
Call Phrase: 2010.020
Sponsor: The oral histories were processed and described with funding from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and as part of the projects, 'Voices of Generations: Investigating Brooklyn's Cultural Identity,' funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and 'Voices of Crown Heights,' funded by New York Community Trust.

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Biographical / Historical

History of Crown Heights: From the late nineteenth century up to the World War I era, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights was known for being an upper and upper middle class residential enclave. Russian Jews, Irish, and Italians moved there as a part of the boom in immigration from 1880 to 1940. Smaller migrations to Crown Heights occurred as well, with Caribbean migrants among these. Seeing an opportunity for first-time home ownership, some of Harlem's African American residents moved to the neighborhood in the 1930s. A great wave of Caribbean immigration followed in the 1960s and 1970s. With many White residents removing to the suburbs, those immigrants along with Caribbean Americans and African Americans invested and lived in the majority of residences from the 1960s to the 1990s. The Lubavitcher Hasidim, a Judaic movement that established its headquarters in Crown Heights in 1940, accounted for about eight percent of the population, according to 1990s figures. In 1991, long simmering tensions between members of the Lubavitcher and Black communities, and two fatalities, propelled the neighborhood into three days of unrest and violence. Encapsulated by the news media as the "Crown Heights Riot," the community took years to heal. Another demographic shift began as the 1990s ended; and - by the time these interviews had been recorded in 2010 - a new confluence of amenities, development, and rising property values was affecting the diverse face of the roughly 130,000 residents.

Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History: In January 2010, StoryCorps alum and Crown Heights resident Alex Kelly met with five interns from Paul Robeson High School as placed by the Brooklyn College Community Partnership. Narrators were gathered primarily through contact with the Crow Hill Community Association and recorded in their homes or at LaunchPad, a community center on Franklin Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. New York City Grassroots Media Coalition sponsored the project. A blog tracking the progress of the oral histories was created by the interviewers: http://crownheightshistoryproject.blogspot.com/

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Scope and Contents

Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History includes interview audio and summaries created and collected within the context of a community project undertaken by project director Alex Kelly and Paul J. Robeson High School interns Treverlyn Dehaarte, Ansie Montilus, Monica Parfait, Quanaisha Phillips and Floyya Richardson. These interviewers recorded conversations with forty-three narrators. In addition to the educational experience for the student interns, the oral histories were conducted as life history and community anthropology interviews. Topics of discussion include family and parenting, migration, cultural and racial relations, occupations and business, education and religion, housing and gentrification, civil unrest and reconciliation, and community activism.

Arrangement

Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History was kept in the original order, arranged alphabetically by the narrator's last name.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Interviews (sound recordings)
  • Oral histories (document genres)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists
  • Community centers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Girls -x Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Intergenerational relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism
  • Multiculturalism
  • Race identity
  • Schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the interviews is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and, in some instances, online on the Oral History Portal. Original summaries and biographic materials are accessible at the Othmer Library.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. Please see the Oral History Note for guidelines on using Brooklyn Historical Society's oral history collections. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Preferred Citation

[Narrator Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer First name Last name], [Month day, YYYY], Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History collection, [Object ID]; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Related Materials

In addition to this collection, Brooklyn Historical Society has oral history collections and other records related to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

- The Crown Heights History Project collection includes thirty-three interviews conducted from 1993 to 1994. (1994.006)

- The West Indian Carnival Documentation Project Records includes thirty-four interviews dating from 1994 to 1995. (2010.019)  - Also narrator Constance Lesold, the community activist recorded for this collection, is documented in the Eastern Parkway Coalition records, 1952-2007. (2007.016)

- 959 Park Place Tenants Association records (1978.009)

For more information on these collections please visit our online finding aid portal.

 

Oral History note

Oral history interviews are intimate conversations between people, all of whom have generously agreed to share these recordings with the Brooklyn Historical Society archives and with researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. Researchers will understand that:

1. The Brooklyn Historical Society abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association (2009) and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.

2. Every oral history relies on the memories, views and opinions of the narrator. Because of the personal nature of oral history, listeners may find some viewpoints or language of the recorded participants to be objectionable. In keeping with its mission of preservation and unfettered access whenever possible, BHS presents these views as recorded.

3. The audio recording should be considered the primary source for each interview. It may contain natural false starts, verbal stumbles, misspeaks, repetitions that are common in conversation.

4. Unless these verbal patterns are germane to your scholarly work, when quoting from this material researchers are encouraged to correct the grammar and make other modifications maintaining the flavor of the narrator's speech while editing the material for the standards of print.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Alex Kelly donated copies of the oral history recordings and summaries to Brooklyn Historical Society in October 2010.

Processing Information

Collection processed to the item level. Due to privacy concerns, the specific dates of birth of all narrators or other named individuals were redacted from the audio recordings. Recordings were compressed for streaming, uploaded and indexed by BHS, 2015-2016.

Bibliography

Goldschmidt, Henry. Race and Religion Among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006.

Gregor, Alison. "Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Where Stoop Life Still Thrives." New York Times. (New York, NY), June 17, 2015.

Shapiro, Edward S. Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brooklyn Riot Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2006.

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Container List

Anonymous, 2010 May 26

Biographical / Historical

The narrator was born in Brooklyn to Orthodox Jewish parents. After youthful unruliness got her expelled from her Crown Heights Yeshiva in eighth grade, she attended a Jewish boarding school in Chicago where - under the mentorship of its principle - she responded well to the new surroundings and smaller class size. At the time of the interview the narrator had returned to Brooklyn, attended college and founded an outreach program for at-risk teens in her Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Scope and Contents

In the interview the narrator recounts youthful memories, including a 1995 snow storm, as well as her experiences at the Chicago boarding school she attended after being ejected from her Brooklyn Yeshiva in eighth grade. The narrator discusses Jewish traditions and religious rituals in detail, in addition to her college career and interests. She discusses her current work with at-risk teens in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Interview conducted by Ansie Montilus and Monica Parfait.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Organizations

  • Hunter College

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Boarding schools -- United States
  • Hasidim -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Judaism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Synagogues -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Theology
  • Youthfulness

Subject Places

  • Chicago (Ill.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Atkins, Desmond, 2010 March 10

Biographical / Historical

Desmond Michael Atkins was born and raised in the central Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights to parents of Barbadian and Panamanian descent. Atkins' childhood home, located at 122 Kingston Avenue near the corner of Bergen Street, was adjacent to historic Crown Heights' nightclub the Kingston Lounge. Having attended, but not completed college, the largely self-taught narrator worked for the United States Postal Service and as an information technologies professional in several businesses. At the time of the interview in 2010, Atkins - who expresses an avid interest in ethnic, regional and local history - continued to reside in Crown Heights.

Scope and Contents

In the interview Desmond Atkins takes listeners on a personalized journey into New York's past, describing the dramatic economic, cultural, and educational changes that have occurred during his lifetime - a period that overlaps with the postwar decades of American history. He explains the musical and architectural significance of the historic Kingston Lounge nightclub. Atkins' narration pays special attention to Brooklyn's economic relationship to the surrounding region via traditional shipping routes and modes of travel. He attempts to contextualize this past with more recent events - namely the 2008 financial crisis and its fallout - as well as with the Crown Heights riot of 1991. Interview conducted by Floyya Richardson and Treverlyn Dehaarte.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Atkins, Desmond

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Architecture -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x History -y 20th century
  • Education
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews
  • Minorities -- United States -x Economic conditions
  • Nightclubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Popular music -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Northeastern States |x Social life and customs
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Aubert, Maybell, 2010 April 14

Biographical / Historical

Maybell Aubert was born sometime before the end of World War II in Panama's Canal Zone, which at the time was a United States territory. She grew up speaking English and acquired Spanish as a second language while attending high school in Panama City. Along with her husband and children, Aubert moved to Brooklyn in the 1950s and has lived on St. Charles Street in Crown Heights since 1956. She graduated from Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant and subsequently attended business school to train as an operator for the keypunch machine - a data processing device popular in offices through the 1970s. Upon retirement, Aubert continued her education at the City University of New York's Medgar Evers College. She has served as secretary of the St. Louis Senior Center where, at the time of the interview in 2010, she remains active. Having raised a family of accomplished children, Aubert is a proud great grandmother.

Scope and Contents

Maybell Aubert recalls life in Panama's American-controlled Canal Zone - where the English language and American consumer products were the norm - as well as her move to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in the 1950s. Aubert relates descriptions of mom-and-pop businesses, Eisenhower-era prices and neighborhood institutions during the postwar period - including schools, hospitals, and Ebbets Field. She recounts her education and career as a key punch operator, as well as her post-retirement return to school. Aubert also discusses her involvement as a member of the St. Louis Senior Center, where she once served as secretary. She describes meeting her husband, raising a family and offers some advice on love and success. Interview conducted by Floyya Richardson, Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Aubert, Maybell

Subject Organizations

  • City University of New York. Medgar Evers College
  • Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Adult learning -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Girls -x Education (Secondary) -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education, Higher -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Office equipment and supplies
  • Panamanian Americans
  • Senior centers -- New York (State)

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Panama
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Beckford, Cynthia, 2010 March 31

Biographical / Historical

Cynthia Beckford was born in 1973 in Jamaica. Raised in the Jamaican countryside, at a young age Beckford had dreams of immigrating to urbane London, England. After a brief time spent in the care of an Indian woman who ran a hotel in Kingston, Jamaica she returned home for sewing school and a career as a dress maker. During a visit to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in the early 1980s, Beckford was awe-struck by its beauty, diversity and experienced a kind of déjà vu for her childhood fantasies of England. After a return to Jamaica, she applied for and was granted permanent resident status. With some help Beckford was able to obtain an apartment - as well as a new life for herself and her son - in Crown Heights.

Scope and Contents

Cynthia Beckford remembers her childhood in rural Jamaica, her first impressions of - and first apartment in - the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, and her career as a skilled dress maker. She glowingly describes Crown Heights as a diverse, peaceful and beautiful residential enclave of New York City. Beckford recounts her first visits to the neighborhood, as well as her subsequent quest for permanent United States residence and employment. Beckford also recalls how after some early setbacks, perseverance, faith, and help from friends - as well as her labor union - she was able to secure a job and apartment, making a new life for herself and her son in a place where she feels blessed to be. Interview conducted by Alex Kelly.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Beckford, Cynthia

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • American Dream
  • Clothing and dress -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jamaican Americans
  • Jamaicans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Behrman, Michael, 2010 May 26

Biographical / Historical

Michael Behrman was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1969. In 1976, after traveling and living in a number of different places, Behrman joined the Lubavitch sect of Orthodox Judaism. He made the conscious decision to trade his job in the film industry and home in Manhattan's Greenwich Village for a new life in Brooklyn's Crown Heights. Behrman was the director of a substance abuse prevention program for at-risk youth. At the time of the interview in 2010, he was married with four children and several grandchildren.

Scope and Contents

Michael Behrman briefly describes the circumstances surrounding his religiously-motivated move to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, documenting some basic details of his earlier, more secular life and career in the motion picture industry. He goes on to describe events such as the 1977 New York City blackout, contrasting it with an earlier power outage in 1965, as well as the 1991 Crown Heights riot. He gives opinions on neighborhood affairs, city politics, theology and morality. Interview conducted by Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Behrman, Michael
  • Dinkins, David N.
  • Giuliani, Rudolph W.
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Electric power failures -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Hasidim -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Mayors -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Theology

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History |y 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)

Bernadine, Melina, 2010 March 17

Biographical / Historical

Melina Bernadine was born in 1948 on the Caribbean island nation of Grenada. After marrying and having a son together, Melina and her husband immigrated to the United States in the late 1960s. They eventually settled in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and - against her spouse's advice - purchased a home as the 1970s progressed and New York City entered a period of decline. It was at that time that Bernadine took on an activist role in her neighborhood. Her two daughters both work full time helping to improve the lives of young people. At the time of the interview in 2010, Bernadine had resided in Crown Heights for thirty-two years.

Scope and Contents

Melina Bernadine shares her experiences immigrating to the United States in the late 1960s - including her observations of crime and corruption in 1970s New York. She recounts buying a home and raising a family in Crown Heights, Brooklyn during an uncertain period of the city's history. Bernadine also touches on historical phenomena such as political activism in the 1960s and early 1970s, crime in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the 1991 riot that seemed to serve as a turning point for both the neighborhood and the city. In 2010, Bernadine was still very much active in neighborhood affairs, attending precinct council meetings and offering advice to a younger generation. Interview conducted by Quanaisha Phillips, Floyya Richardson and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bernadine, Melina

Subject Organizations

  • Black Panther Party
  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic relations
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political corruption -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Politicians -- New York (State)
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Urban beautification -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History |y 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.) |x History
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Bogan, Ken, 2010 May 19

Biographical / Historical

Ken Bogan was born in Clarksville, Texas in 1958. On a trip to New York after completing graduate school at Duke University, he decided to stay and resided in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights for one year, before moving to Crown Heights, Brooklyn in 1991. Bogan's father, who ran for mayor of their tiny Texas town, and grandfather - who was a union organizer - both taught him the importance of political activism at a young age. As a pastor, youth outreach worker and former political fundraiser, Bogan followed in his family footsteps. This journey would eventually lead him to the neighborhood at the time of the 1991 riot. As minister of the Greater Restoration Baptist Church and board member of Project CARE - which aims to bring together members of the Black and Hasidic communities - Bogan continues to work with Crown Heights residents.

Scope and Contents

Pastor Ken Bogan shares details from his small town Texas childhood, as well as the highs and lows of his adult life and career. He recounts his first trip to New York after graduate school, his decision to stay and his early experiences as a seminary graduate-turned-community organizer. Pastor Bogan recalls moving to Crown Heights, Brooklyn during the apex of civil unrest in 1991 and his work trying to reconcile racial and cultural differences as well as foster new connections between the Black and Hasidic communities. He also reveals his past struggles with faith and predisposition for depression, in addition to offering advice on the importance of humility and communication. Interview conducted by Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bogan, Ken
  • Fulani, Lenora

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Christian life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Migration, Internal -- United States
  • Multiculturalism
  • Political participation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Theology

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Texas

Burnett, Collette, 2010 May 10

Biographical / Historical

Collette Burnett was born in 1973 on Trinidad - the larger of two major islands which make up the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago - and immigrated to the United States in 1996. After initially living in Woodside, Queens, Burnett relocated to Crown Heights, Brooklyn to attend business school at Medgar Evers College. After working in finance as a small-business banker, Burnett was inspired to open her own restaurant. Her Caribbean-influenced eatery Super Wings was featured on a Food Network television show. In 2010, at the time of the interview, Burnett had been living in Crown Heights for nine years.

Scope and Contents

Collette Burnett describes her first years in Crown Heights, Brooklyn as a business student at Medgar Evers College, as well as the reasoning behind her post-graduation plans to encourage a more proportionate share of Black-owned stores in the neighborhood. Burnett recounts how she first worked with small businesses as a banker, eventually opening her own Caribbean-inspired restaurant. She outlines her company philosophy regarding customer service and the reasoning behind her menu choices. The interview ends with Burnett offering some advice on hard work and perseverance, as well as an anecdote about her son. Interview conducted by Monica Parfait, Ansie Montilus, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Burnett, Collette

Subject Organizations

  • City University of New York. Medgar Evers College

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -x Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Restaurants -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Burns, Louis, 2010 March 22

Biographical / Historical

Louis Burns was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1949. He grew up in Crown Heights, which he considers to have always been a close knit neighborhood of working class families. When he was younger, many of his friends and neighbors were of Irish descent and - as the postwar period of White flight progressed - increasingly of Puerto Rican heritage. After fathering a child at age sixteen, Burns left school to work and care for his daughter - although he would return in later years and eventually reach the post graduate level. In 2010 he was a consultant social worker, an adjunct professor of sociology and a proud grandfather. With the exception of eight years spent in Oneonta, New York, Burns has lived in Crown Heights his entire life.

Scope and Contents

Louis Burns begins with his Brooklyn childhood in Crown Heights. He expounds on the day to day life of the neighborhood - including street games and other hijinks with his Irish and Puerto Rican friends - overseen by adult neighbors and teachers. Burns details his decision to drop out of high school as a teenage father, as well as his eventual return to school thanks to the help and encouragement of family and neighborhood elders. He describes the circumstances - namely the 1991 Crown Heights riot and 1995 Million Man March - surrounding his return after a move upstate to Oneonta, as well as his career as a social worker and college professor. Finally, Burns gives some pointers to the young interviewers regarding education, career, family and the company one keeps. Interview conducted by Monica Parfait, Quanaisha Phillips, Treverlyn Dehaarte, Floyya Richardson and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Burns, Louis

Subject Topics

  • Activists -- New York (State) -- New York
  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Irish Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Rican families -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)

Caldwell, James E., 2010 April 8

Biographical / Historical

James Caldwell was born in Newbury County, South Carolina in 1951, the son of teenage sharecroppers. During his early years Caldwell was raised by an aunt in a rural setting while his parents tried to carve out a new life for the family in New York. While attending high school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, he worked as a grocery bagger as well as a bike messenger. After spending three years in Germany while in the Army, Caldwell began working as a car salesman - first in Texas and then back in Brooklyn, on Bensonhurst's 86th Street. After developing a reputation for being active in his home neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, he was elected president of the 77th Precinct Community Council. A consistent presence in local politics, he also served as president of the non-profit Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), which played a pivotal role in the construction of the Barclay's Center by endorsing builder Bruce Ratner's controversial development of Atlantic Yards.

Scope and Contents

James Caldwell reminisces about an idyllic rural upbringing filled with tradition and superstition, as well as his first awed glimpse at the grand skyscrapers of New York. He recounts learning local geography and acquiring valuable social expertise during after-school jobs. Caldwell discusses his time in the Army, his youthful marriage to a member of the Women's Army Corps, as well as his triumphs and tribulations as a car salesman - including the different experiences of working as an outspoken young Black man in Texas and New York. He describes his career as a community activist - both as president of Crown Heights' 77th Precinct Council - as well as the president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD). He briefly touches on the controversy over BUILD's support for the construction of the Barclay's Center before offering some advice about focusing on one's goals. Interview conducted by Monica Parfait, Ansie Montilus and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Caldwell, James E.

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • United States. Army

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Barclays Center (New York, N.Y.)
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Farms
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Urban renewal -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bensonhurst (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Park Slope (New York, N.Y.)
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

Camara, Karim, 2010 May 19

Biographical / Historical

Karim Camara was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1971. He spent his early childhood living in Crown Heights South on a diverse Brooklyn block of African American and Jewish families. After graduating college, Camara - who comes from a family of Christian ministers - decided to become a pastor as well as enter politics as state assemblyman for the 43rd district, representing his lifelong neighborhood. In February 2015, he vacated his seat to become executive director of the Office of Faith-Based Community Development as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration. Camara holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana and a Masters of Divinity from the New York Theological Seminary.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Karim Camara offers interviewers biographical details - including the multifarious Crown Heights, Brooklyn of his childhood. He talks about what led him to the ministry, as well as the New York State Assembly. Camara discusses government funding, President Obama, his hectic dual work schedules and treating others with respect. He describes the homes and people who make up his district as well as his relations with constituents. Camara also goes over the difficulty of accurate census-taking and its importance in the allocation of tax dollars. Interview conducted by Monica Parfait, Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Camara, Karim
  • Obama, Barack

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Census
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State)
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Fundraising -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Municipal government -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • New York (State) |x Politics and government

Copeland, Londell, 2010 March 23

Biographical / Historical

Londell Copeland was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1978. He grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn - the child of a single mother. With little parental guidance, he spent much of his childhood socializing in the environment of the streets, where an outlaw morality prevailed. Often a discipline problem at school, Copeland lived in several group homes. He eventually ran into trouble with the law, squandering several years in prison. Upon release, Copeland opted to turn his anguished life around; marrying a childhood sweetheart, returning to school and participating in job training programs. At the time of the interview in 2010, he was a proud father living in Starrett City - an apartment complex in eastern Brooklyn - with his wife and son.

Scope and Contents

Londell Copeland opens up about his childhood in a broken, neglectful home, juvenile delinquency and later troubles with the law. Happier subjects, such as his current family, are touched on along with expressions of hope for the future. He elaborates on what life is like for a convicted felon; including education and job training. A proud husband and father, Copeland explains how his son exemplifies some of his own better qualities, as well as how his wife and son help to fortify him with the courage to carry on. Interview conducted by Alex Kelly.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Copeland, Londell

Subject Organizations

  • Starrett City (Housing complex)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ex-convicts -x Rehabilitation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family identity -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Juvenile delinquency -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)

Corney, Janel, 2010 April 19

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to this recording is restricted by the donor. Please contact library@brooklynhistory.org for further questions.

Subject Names

  • Corney, Janel

Edmund, Evelyn, 2010 April 28

Biographical / Historical

Evelyn Edmund was born in New York City in 1934, the child of Guyanese immigrants. Growing up in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, she excelled in school and was active in a number of academic and youth organizations. Edmund and her husband moved as newlyweds from East New York - which was quickly deteriorating due to crime - to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in June of 1961. Together, they raised three children and remained active in both their children's education, as well as neighborhood affairs. A health care administrator, she was employed for a time at Long Island College Hospital and subsequently worked as office manager in a private psychiatric practice.

Scope and Contents

Evelyn Edmund describes her experiences as both a bright, ambitious child and civic-minded adult. She recounts happy memories growing up in an upwardly mobile East New York, Brooklyn and the encroaching urban blight which prompted her and her husband to settle in the Crown Heights section in 1961. Edmund speaks about the ebb and flow of crime and poverty - as well as money and gentrification - over decades punctuated by significant historic events including wars, assassinations and riots. She also weighs the pros and cons of recent trends in parenting and adult-child relations against those of her own youth. The process of change in local politics - particularly regarding neighborhood schools - are also discussed at length. Interview conducted by Floyya Richardson and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Edmund, Evelyn

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.) |x Politics and government

Elliott, Zetta, 2010 March 24

Biographical / Historical

Zetta Elliott was born in 1972 and raised in Canada. She made her first visit to New York City and to her cousin Lil's home in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in 1979. Elliott moved to Brooklyn in 1994 and has been a permanent United States resident since the late 1990s. She received a doctoral degree in American Studies from New York University in 2003. She is a poet, playwright, essayist, author, blogger and publisher. Her award-winning books include the picture book, "Bird," and the novel "Ship of Souls." "The Deep" was published in 2013. In 2015, she was the writer-in-residence at the Weeksville Heritage Center. A self-described Black feminist writer committed to social justice, Elliott continues to live in Brooklyn.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Zetta Elliott recalls her first memories of New York City in 1979 and her cousin Lil's house on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood. She touches on her grandfather's history in Antigua and Canada and how her cousin made money from selling crocheted items at a hospital. Elliott discusses going to graduate school at New York University and becoming an author, listing her books that take place in Brooklyn. She notes the importance of "mapping community" and appreciating local landmarks and architecture. She discusses her father's immigration from the Caribbean to Canada and the United States as well as her own immigration to New York City. She describes her mother, mentioning a brief genealogy that included slavery. Elliott closes by advising on the importance of listening to peoples' stories. Interview conducted by Ansie Montilus, Monica Parfait, Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Elliott, Zetta

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Children's Museum
  • Brooklyn Public Library
  • New York University

Subject Topics

  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Libraries -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women authors, American -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History
  • Canada
  • Canarsie (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Weeksville (New York, N.Y.)

Empty, Dollmarie, 2010 March 22

Biographical / Historical

Born in Jamaica in 1971, Dollmarie Empty moved in with her mother in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood circa 1995. She worked as a nanny, housekeeper and home health aide before having to collect on Social Security for a disability in the years prior to this 2010 interview. She did not graduate high school but was preparing to get her certificate of General Educational Development (GED) at the time of the interview.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Dollmarie Empty contrasts the culture of her homeland of Jamaica with the cultural diversity of Brooklyn. She evaluates the restaurant options and new foods she has encountered in the neighborhood of Crown Heights. Empty envisions her future and contemplates getting a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. In closing, she makes observations about a few changes in the neighborhood. This interview was conducted by Alex Kelly and abbreviated due to technical difficulties.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Empty, Dollmarie

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Public Library

Subject Topics

  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jamaicans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Restaurants -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Esquilin, Frank, 2010 April 26

Biographical / Historical

Born in New York City in 1947, Frank Esquilin was raised in the Harlem section of Manhattan. A high school dropout, Esquilin was a technician for Verizon and its predecessor companies for thirty-two years. He is a father of four and shared the responsibilities of raising his family for some time in Brooklyn's Ozone Park neighborhood. With the last of his children becoming adults, he moved to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in the mid-1990s. He retired in 2004 with a pension and, due to his love of books and advice from his mother, took to creating craft book covers and wallets. He often sells his wares at the Franklin Avenue Flea Market in Crown Heights. In 2013, he helped to establish a sewing scholarship for select high school students to study under a master tailor. In 2014, Esquilin became the President of the Crow Hill Community Association, taking the reins from founder Eve Porter.

Scope and Contents

Frank Esquilin begins the interview by tracing his background from Harlem in Manhattan to the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Ozone Park and Crown Heights. Esquilin describes his entry into crafting, in particular his book protectors and wallets. Traveling has featured greatly in his retirement and he speaks about the special places he's visited and the perception of Americans in those countries. Esquilin recalls his work experience at the phone company after dropping out of high school. He talks at length about the changes in Crown Heights over the past fifteen years, including the increased presence of police officers, patterns of garbage and recycling pick-up, local businesses, rent changes for residents and other developments on Franklin Avenue. (Esquilin notes the appearance of Kevin Phillip, another narrator in this oral history collection.) He recounts his understanding of what led up to the 1991 riot in the neighborhood. In closing, he remarks on the evolution of terminology like "ghetto" and "inner city" and how renaming neighborhoods is a marketing tool in the real estate business. Interview conducted by Floyya Richardson, Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Esquilin, Frank
  • Rosenbaum, Yankel
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Organizations

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

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Police -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Real estate business -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Franklin Avenue (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ozone Park (New York, N.Y.)

Fawundu-Buford, Delphine, 2010 May 4

Biographical / Historical

Delphine Fawundu was born on Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway in 1971, and was primarily raised on Carroll Street and at Tivoli Towers, both in the Crown Heights neighborhood. She participated in a building-sponsored track team as a child and attended P.S. 241 and I.S. 320 in Brooklyn. She has a master's degree in Media Ecology from New York University, a master's degree from Mercy College and a bachelor's degree from the state school at Stony Brook. Fawundu grew up with two siblings in her mother's home. She has three sons with Howard Buford. Fawundu is a photographer, with professional experience dating back to the early 1990s, and an educator. In 2010, she produced a documentary short, "Tivoli: A Place We Call Home," and exhibited related photographs at Brooklyn Historical Society. Her work is also in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, among many others. She has received a number of fellowships, grants and residencies, and creates in locations all over the world.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Delphine Fawundu talks about her family's moves within Brooklyn and becoming part of the community of Tivoli Towers in the neighborhood of Crown Heights, noting that she lives there as an adult and raises her family there. She speaks at length about gentrification and its subtle and overt effects on Tivoli Towers and about the documentary she created concerning that subject. She observes the changes that have occurred in Crown Heights over decades and discusses her sense of personal safety in the neighborhood. She reminisces about West Indian Carnival in her childhood and favorite personal and community traditions. Fawundu recalls her enjoyment of elementary school and playing with other children at the towers. She describes married life and the moment she knew she was a photographer. Interview conducted by Ansie Montilus, Monica Parfait and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Fawundu, Delphine

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Tivoli Towers (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Carnival -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Intergenerational relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Photographers -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

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

Green, Pamela, 2010 May 26

Biographical / Historical

Pamela Green was born in Gulfport, Mississippi in 1948. Green has a bachelor's degree in mathematics and began her career in 1968. She has worked for International Business Machines (IBM) and First National Bank of Chicago. She was a commissioner with city government in New York until becoming an executive with the Children's Television Workshop, the production company of Sesame Street. After being laid off in 2001, she became Executive Director of what was then the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Green oversaw the restoration of historic homes on the site and a name change to the Weeksville Heritage Center in 2005. Three years later, plans for a new Education and Cultural Arts Building were implemented and building began. She retired from the center in summer of 2013. Green was a resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn for decades, and also has a master's degree in finance from the University of Chicago.

Scope and Contents

Pamela Green is interviewed in her professional role as Executive Director of the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood. Green covers the history of the site as well as the institution, describes the historic houses, the educational mission, the programs and events, the planned expansion, funding, other goals, and the approach to exhibitions. She discusses the beginning of her involvement and her contributions as executive. Green returns to the topic of Weeksville's founding and addresses the boundaries of the site in reference to the neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. She closes with advice on education for young people. Interview conducted by Ansie Montilus, Monica Parfait, Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Green, Pamela

Subject Organizations

  • Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -x Civil rights -- New York (State) -- New York
  • African Americans -- Colonization
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Historic buildings -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Historical museums -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Museums -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race identity
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Slavery -- United States -x History

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Weeksville (New York, N.Y.)

Green, Richard, 2010 June 17

Biographical / Historical

Richard Green was born in Tela, Honduras in 1948 and grew up in various locations in Brooklyn. He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School, served in the Marines, achieved an undergraduate degree at Marist College and attended a graduate program at the State University at New Paltz. Beginning in 1969, he was a permanent fixture of the Crown Heights neighborhood and raised his children there. In 1977, Green founded the Crown Heights Youth Collective and he still served as the Chief Executive Officer in 2016. He also co-founded the Street Outreach Program, has worked with five New York mayors as of 2016, and assisted with Project Cure, a community healing organization formed in the wake of the Crown Heights riot. Since 1993, he has taught as an adjunct professor at Medgar Evers College. He has served on boards, as a trustee or a member, of several high-profile government and public services departments for New York City. Green has been heard on radio as a commentator and producer. He is a husband, father and grandfather.

Scope and Contents

Richard Green speaks briefly about his upbringing in Brooklyn. He speaks at length about the informal beginnings of the Crown Heights Youth Collective and in general about the meaning of youth centers to a community. Park gatherings were an early form of the collective. Green reflects on when he met Cecil Simon, the co-interviewer as well as a narrator of another oral history in this collection. Simon asks for Green's observations on changes in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Green traces the recent history of the area, including the relationship between the Black and Hasidic communities, the riot in 1991, and the two decades that followed. Simon discusses his high school experience, the importance of literacy and kindness in street culture, and his incarceration. Richard Green speaks about the teens with whom he works, their assumptions and the collective's workspace. He relays the historical benchmarks of many areas in Brooklyn. Green opines on redevelopment and the fallout in communities. He comes back to the Crown Heights Youth Collective, where he instills values and goals in the members. Interview conducted by Cecil Simon and Alex Kelly.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Green, Richard
  • Robinson, Jackie
  • Simon, Cecil

Subject Organizations

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

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Barclays Center (New York, N.Y.)
  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community centers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.)
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Race identity
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Urban renewal -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

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

Gruber, Edward, 2010 March 25

Biographical / Historical

Edward Gruber was born at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital in 1937 and raised in the Crown Heights neighborhood until he was eighteen. He attended P.S. 241, near Ebbets Field, which afforded him frequent stops to Dodgers games on his way home. His family's home was a brownstone on the north side of Eastern Parkway. He attended Erasmus Hall High School, graduated in 1955, and went on to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Gruber had a career as a telecommunications engineer and manager for International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation (ITT). When he first married, he lived on Long Island. At the time of the interview in 2010, he lived with his wife in Northern New Jersey and their daughter and grandson were new residents in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.

Scope and Contents

Ed Gruber begins the interview by noting that he was born in the neighborhood's Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, lived on Eastern Parkway, and that he has been a repeat visitor to Brooklyn's Crown Heights since leaving for college in 1955. He observes the renewal on this 2010 visit, including new stores on Franklin Avenue, coffee shops, and a construction site. He reflects on a visit to a butcher shop in his youth and his father's reporting to air raid headquarters on Franklin Avenue for duty as a warden in 1940s wartime. He tells of his grandfather's time as a restaurateur and a bartender. Gruber would walk his dog past the Town Hill nightclub to see who was singing there. He recalls the trolley on Eastern Parkway, attending P.S. 241 and seeing Dodgers games, Franklin D. Roosevelt's motorcade and, from his stoop, the Memorial Day parade. Gruber talks about childhood games he played, going to Erasmus Hall High School and getting a driver's license. He remembers seeing stores that were looted or closing down in the early 1960s and he shares some of his grandmother's recollection of the neighborhood in the early 1900s. Gruber mentions he has come back for school reunions, and even got involved with a reunion committee for P.S. 241. He closes with some praise for Brooklyn and words of wisdom for schoolchildren of this era. Interview conducted by Alex Kelly.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Gruber, Edward

Subject Organizations

  • Erasmus Hall High School
  • Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn

Subject Topics

  • Brownstone buildings -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.)
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Nightclubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Public schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Restaurants -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Restaurateurs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Transportation -- 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 History |y 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Franklin Avenue (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Guthrie, Douglas, 2010 May 3

Biographical / Historical

Douglas Guthrie was born in 1950 in Jamaica and, along with a brother and sister, was raised there by his parents. In the early 1960s his mother immigrated to England and because of that split between his parents, Guthrie was shipped to a boarding school. One of a few musicians in the family, he studied music on a scholarship and co-founded the reggae group Inner Circle. He was on tour as an alto saxophone player with that band in the early 1970s when he first saw America. He joined the punk band The Nails in 1972. He moved to Crown Heights in 1975, sharing a home with his first wife, his mother-in-law and a brother. After twelve years, when the couple had their first child, they moved to Flatbush and later, Canarsie, to make more room at home. Divorced, Guthrie returned to Crown Heights in 1998. By this time he had moved on to composing and performing with reggae, ska and dub band the Motives, and continued with them until 2000. In 2010, Guthrie had adult children, a fiancé and a little girl. In 2011, he released a solo album, "Dougie Guthrie: Melody Maker."

Scope and Contents

Douglas Guthrie begins the interview by explaining the moves he's made while living in Brooklyn. He recalls his arrival from Jamaica as a touring musician and his first impressions of Brooklyn's diverse Crown Heights neighborhood. Guthrie notes that Eastern Parkway splits the community geographically, but culturally as well. He describes his somewhat tumultuous childhood, focusing on music, and life as a musician in Crown Heights. Guthrie feels a need to work through the tension that remained in the community after the uprising in 1991 and discusses community involvement and acting as a peacemaker in social conflicts. He reminisces about his breakthrough in the music business by showing off his album covers and about being a working musician in Crown Heights. Guthrie talks about the West Indian Carnival; first in relation to his daughter's participation, and then by examining the problems and potential improvements that could be applied. He closes by advising young people to establish foundations and structure to excel at life. Interview conducted by Treverlyn Dehaarte, Quanaisha Phillips and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Guthrie, Douglas

Subject Organizations

  • Inner Circle (Musical group)
  • Nails (Musical group)
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Carnival -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jamaican Americans
  • Jamaicans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Music education
  • Musicians -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Performing arts -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Kelly, Wilhelmena, 2010 April 12

Biographical / Historical

Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly was born in 1948 and raised in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant until age thirteen. She and her sister, Linda Rhodes Jones, represent the third generation of the family to have lived in Brooklyn (Her grandparents bought a Bed-Stuy home in 1932). The family moved to Union Street in Crown Heights and Kelly attended that Brooklyn neighborhood's schools; Lefferts Junior High School, Erasmus Hall High School and Brooklyn College (class of 1970). Seeing a decline in services for the community in the early 1980s, Kelly relocated to Queens. Since 2004, Kelly has written or co-written two books of genealogical studies and two books of archival photos of Brooklyn neighborhoods. Now living in Rosedale, Queens, she began a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (the first woman of color to do so) in 2012 and served as regent. Kelly has promoted genealogy in workshops and online.

Scope and Contents

Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly opens the interview by speaking about her family's transition from the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood to the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. She recalls the schools of the neighborhood in a time of new buildings to support the baby boom generation. Kelly discusses what inspired her to write. She chronicles her progress through school as well as the history of some place names and those who settled the area. Kelly compares Brooklyn of 2010 with her experience in Queens since the 1980s. She describes the history of her family in Crown Heights, referencing homes of her parents and grandparents. Kelly talks about her process of researching and writing a book on Crown Heights and shares some of the discoveries of her research. She reminisces about the fun she had as a Brooklyn youth, including riding horses and visiting Coney Island. Kelly closes with some advice for the Brooklyn youth of this era. Interview conducted by Treverlyn Dehaarte, Quanaisha Phillips, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Kelly, Wilhelmina

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn College
  • City University of New York. Medgar Evers College
  • Erasmus Hall High School

Subject Topics

  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Genealogy -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Local history
  • Public schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Coney Island (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)

La Fontaine, Rosella Johnson, 2010 April 19

Biographical / Historical

Rosella Johnson La Fontaine was born in Brooklyn in 1934 and raised in homes on Adelphi Street and on Grand Avenue in the Clinton Hill neighborhood. Her mother was a Virgin Islands national and her father came from Nice, France. In the early 1950s, her family settled in a large house on Park Place at New York Avenue in the Crown Heights neighborhood. La Fontaine campaigned to save the nearby Brooklyn Children's Museum in the late 1960s and '70s and has been a community activist and a champion of community activism. Her home was given landmark status in 2011. La Fontaine died in 2015.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, La Fontaine gives some brief background on her family's residences in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill. She shares her in-depth knowledge of the surrounding buildings and her own home. La Fontaine reflects on the efforts to save the Brooklyn Children's Museum from leaving or closing after challenges from fire and city government intervention. She discusses the area churches and important community leaders such as Reverend Clarence Norman, Sr., Dr. Adrian Edwards, former Assemblyman Karim Camara, Dianne Davis of Garden of Learning Day Care, Ora Abdur-Razzaq, founder and principal of the Cush Campus Schools, and an unheralded citizen, Annie Mae Hearston. La Fontaine returns to describing the architecture of her home and recalls her parents' search for the home. Interview conducted by Monica Parfait, Ansie Montilus and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Camara, Karim
  • Dinkins, David N.
  • La Fontaine, Rosella Johnson

Subject Organizations

  • Boys' High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Children's Museum
  • Girls' High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Greene Avenue Baptist Church (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Historic buildings -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Clinton Hill (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Lesold, Constance, 2010 April 7

Biographical / Historical

Constance "Connie" Lesold was born in North Carolina in 1938. She first visited the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in 1966 and had an apartment with her husband, Helmuth Lesold, by 1967. The couple had one son, Benjamin, who was born in 1970. She is a social worker, who was president of the Parkway Independent Democrats and an official of Community Board Eight. Along with her husband, several Brooklyn community boards, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and a public coalition, she opposed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's move to end service on the Franklin Avenue Shuttle in the mid-1990s. A widow since 1994, she volunteered with the Brooklyn Mental Hygiene Court Monitors Project and became a member of Disabled in Action. In 2004, she joined a group occupying a firehouse that shut down service in Williamsburg. Lesold joined lawmakers and citizens at the Capitol in Albany to protest rent control regulations in 2015 and she remains an active participant in MTA Board hearings.

Scope and Contents

Constance Lesold begins the interview by talking about her first memories of the Crown Heights neighborhood in 1966. She talks about her late husband, Helmuth Lesold, and the early years of their marriage in an apartment building on Eastern Parkway. Along with other residents, they petitioned their landlord to integrate their building. She remembers the dramatic change in the fall of 1967, when Whites became the minority in the diversifying community. Lesold refers to the multicultural school her son attended. She focuses on the battle to save the Franklin Avenue Shuttle from permanent closure and names the pivotal activists involved: her husband, Sybil Holmes, Community Boards Three, Eight and Nine, Borough Presidents Howard Golden and Marty Markowitz, Councilwoman Mary Pinkett, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Lesold makes the point that there is still work to do in subway accessibility, and discusses the garden above the Franklin Avenue Shuttle that was vandalized by Transit Police. The Atlantic Yards Project, the Daily News' departure, and past efforts to get federal funding for neighborhoods are the other concerns for Lesold. She concludes with advice for young activists. Interview conducted by Alex Kelly.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Golden, Howard
  • Lesold, Constance
  • Lesold, Helmuth

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Community Board No. 8 (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway Coalition
  • New York Daily News
  • New York (State). Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Subject Topics

  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community gardens -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Environmentalism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Social justice -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Subway stations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Subways -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Tenants' associations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Urban beautification -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Franklin Avenue (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Ocean Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Prospect Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Lipkind, Arna, 2010 May 17

Biographical / Historical

Arna Lipkind was born circa 1958 and raised in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from Seaholm High School and received a bachelor's degree in Special Education from Michigan State University. Lipkind moved to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn to teach, and also to attend a continuing education program provided by the Lubavitcher Rebbe that focused on religion. In 1990, she began volunteering for New York State Senator Marty Markowitz and supported him through his Borough Presidency until 2004. She was the Community Liaison for New York State Assemblymember Karim Camara from 2006 to 2009, Community Liaison for the New York City Council from 2009 to 2014 and District Manager of the same council from 2009 onward. She's an honoree of the Crown Heights Community Leadership Council, a wife to community activist Rabbi Reuven Lipkind and a mother of six.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Arna Lipkind describes the moment she heard the car crash that partly instigated the 1991 riot in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. She discusses her involvement in positive community dialogue as well as misperceptions between African American, Caribbean and Jewish communities, and Marty Markowitz's group forum "Can We Talk." Lipkind speaks about her lifestyle as a Hasidic Jewish woman in Crown Heights. She speaks at length on the differences in the Jewish sects of New York City. Lipkind emphasizes what her mentors have given her. Finally, she advises that learning happens every day and that is important to learn from people of "different backgrounds." Interview conducted by Ansie Montilus, Monica Parfait, Treverlyn Dehaarte, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Lipkind, Arna
  • Markowitz, Marty
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hasidim -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish religious education
  • Jews -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Multiculturalism
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women and religion -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Michigan

Louis, Marie, 2010 April 28

Biographical / Historical

The daughter to Haitian immigrants, Marie Louis was born at Kings County Hospital in 1972 and was raised on Carroll Street in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Louis attended P.S. 241 and Holy Spirit Catholic School, then known as St. Theresa's. She entered a medical professions program in high school and graduated from A. Philip Randolph High in Harlem. Louis was an event organizer and president of the Black Students Organization during her time at Columbia University. She grew up attending church at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church and then, as an adult, St. Gregory's. In 1995, she worked for the Youth Development Institute, and in 1998, the Community Counseling & Mediation program. She served on the board that attained a Community Benefits Agreement in relation to the Atlantic Yards Project and then joined Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD). Later, she became Chief Operating Officer of the organization. She married in 2007. After a six-month battle with cancer, she died in December, 2011. Among her survivors are her husband, five siblings and a son and daughter.

Scope and Contents

Marie Louis weaves her biographical details into her recollection of growing up in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood and her parents' emigrating from Haiti before her birth. She references her churches, schools, other local resources and a favorite bowling alley. Louis speaks of the sense of security and safety as a teenager and the diverse ethnicities and occasional tensions in the neighborhood. She describes her involvement in Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), related to the Atlantic Yards Project and Crown Heights. Louis talks about being a community advocate and advises high school students on the importance of being inquisitive. Interview conducted by Ansie Montilus, Floyya Richardson, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Louis, Marie

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Prospect Heights School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Saint Gregory's Roman Catholic Church (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Barclays Center (New York, N.Y.)
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Drug traffic -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Haitian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Mayors -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Multiculturalism
  • Schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Social justice -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Urban renewal -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Carroll Street (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Franklin Avenue (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Haiti
  • Prospect Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Lovell, Judith, 2010 March 4

Biographical / Historical

Judith M. Lovell was born in 1933 and raised in Brooklyn. Her early years were spent living on Putnam Avenue and Decatur Avenue in Brooklyn, and circa 1950, the family home became 1381 Union Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Lovell commuted to Franklin K. Lane High School, where she majored in bookkeeping. She took her first job as an assistant bookkeeper in Manhattan's garment district. She met her husband, another Crown Heights resident, in 1953. They married at St. Gregory's Church in 1958, and parented two children (Judith C. Lovell is her daughter), living on Lincoln Place. Lovell balanced motherhood with a job as a school crossing guard on Nostrand Avenue. She also went to night school at Brooklyn College to study teaching. Lovell taught at P.S. 138, in a special education setting. At the time of the interview in 2010, she was volunteering as a literacy tutor at Brooklyn Public Library. Lovell and her family are longtime members of the Lincoln Civic Block Association and she attended St. Mark's and St. Gregory's churches.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Judith Lovell talks about moving from downtown Brooklyn to the neighborhood of Crown Heights. She cites the addresses of family residences then and in 2010 and recalls growing up in Crown Heights and commuting to her high school outside of the neighborhood. She relates the details of her first job as a bookkeeper, how she met her husband and their wedding. Lovell remembers her time as a school crossing guard on Nostrand Avenue, teaching at P.S. 138 and going to night school at Brooklyn College. She describes her current volunteer work as a literacy tutor at the Eastern Parkway Learning Center of the Brooklyn Public Library. Lovell remarks on the shifting demographics of her neighborhood, recalls a blackout that led to violence, and lists the family's participation in block parties, the Lincoln Civic Block Association, St. Mark's Church and St. Gregory's Church. She notes the change in Franklin Avenue over the years. Interview conducted by Alex Kelly.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Lovell, Judith

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn College
  • Brooklyn Public Library
  • Church of St. Mark (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Lincoln Civic Block Association (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Saint Gregory's Roman Catholic Church (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Franklin Avenue (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Nostrand Avenue (New York, N.Y.)

Lumumba, Tonde, 2010 March 22

Biographical / Historical

Tonde Lumumba was born in St. Vincent in the West Indies in 1961. One of four children, he was raised by his father until he was asked to leave. He followed his mother's path and immigrated to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Heights at age sixteen. As an adult, Lumumba has lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, where he resided with his wife, three daughters and one son as of 2010. Lumumba owned and operated Imhotep's Health and Living Foods on Nostrand Avenue. Laying claim to being the oldest vegan restaurant in Brooklyn, the store was closed by 2013.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Tonde Lumumba observes the demographic change in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, noting the arrival of more people of European ancestry. He discusses African art displayed in his store. Lumumba recalls the drug problem in the community during the late 1970s. He discusses his adult life in Brooklyn; moving from Bedford-Stuyvesant to Crown Heights and schools his four children have attended. Lumumba focuses on the history of his health food store and his own emergence as a health conscious eater and vegan. He briefly acknowledges the cultures with traditions in Crown Heights, particularly the West Indian celebration on Labor Day. Lumumba reflects on his arrival to Prospect Heights as an immigrant and his upbringing by a stern father in St. Vincent. He cites famous role models he has emulated, particularly as an activist and protester, and brings that modeling into how he lives positively in his community, even criticizing the lack of messaging in the West Indian Carnival. Interview conducted by Monica Parfait, Treverlyn Dehaarte, Quanaisha Phillips, Floyya Richardson, Ansie Montilus, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Lumumba, Tonde

Subject Organizations

  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs
  • Carnival -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Rastafarians -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Vegetarianism
  • West Indian Americans

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.)
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Mark, Linda, 2010 March 17

Biographical / Historical

Linda Mark was born in 1945 in North Carolina. She was the second-oldest of seven children. She moved to New York City in 1965, was married from 1974 to 1978, and raised a son and daughter in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant before moving to the nearby Crown Heights neighborhood in 1990. After working for the Department of Motor Vehicles, and Department of Labor, Mark was a postal worker until retiring. At the time of the interview in 2010, she was learning about becoming a nurse. Mark was a regular congregant of The Greater Bibleway Temple Apostolic Church.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Linda Mark describes the value of her church, the Greater Bibleway Temple. She reflects on her early impression of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and recalls experiencing the Blackout of 1977. Mark touches on life in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in comparison to the more favorable environment of Crown Heights. She talks about her civil service jobs, culminating with the United States Postal Service, and how priorities in her retirement have mainly concerned improving her reading, traveling internationally, and considering another career in nursing. Mark relates some basic details about the family in which she grew up, when she married and the children she raised. She makes a couple comparisons concerning life in the South and life in New York City. A brief description of how she enjoys the West Indian Day Parade is followed by her views on Jews in Crown Heights and their values and holidays. Mark cites her neighbor and her church as sources of inspiration and community in her life. Interview conducted by Quanaisha Phillips, Treverlyn Dehaarte, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Mark, Linda

Subject Organizations

  • United States Postal Service
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Carnival -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Catholic Church -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Christian life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Segregation -- United States

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • North Carolina

Mills, Randolph, 2010 April 7

Biographical / Historical

Randy Mills was born in 1930 in rural North Carolina. A grandson of a tobacco farmer, his family raised and farmed all of their own food. In his teens, he and his brother joined his already-settled parents in New York City. He got work there at his first job; selling at a fruit stand. As an adult, Mills married in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. The couple's first home at 363 New York Avenue was robbed, so they moved to St. John's Place and Underhill Avenue, and later Rogers Avenue and Crown Street. Mills is a father to two daughters and a son, and worked six or seven days a week as a truck driver. At the time of the interview in 2010, he was residing at the Marcus Garvey Nursing Home.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Randy Mills covers basic information about his family and places he has lived in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights. He broadly describes the factors leading to the 1991 riot in Crown Heights and fondly remembers the excitement of the West Indian Carnival on past Labor Days. Mills recalls playing ball games as a younger man, which led to playing Dominoes in front of Brooklyn storefronts later in life. His recreation was disturbed by drug pushing and one shootout in the area. Mills' rural upbringing of growing food and playing with snakes is contrasted with coming to New York City and mistakenly stealing from a neighborhood fruit stand. He reflects on his marriage and offers relationship advice to young people. Interview conducted by Treverlyn Dehaarte, Floyya Richardson, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Mills, Randolph

Subject Organizations

  • Marcus Garvey Nursing Home (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Carnival -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Drug traffic -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Farms
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Nursing homes -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Street vendors -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • North Carolina

Oden, Eunice, 2010 April 21

Biographical / Historical

In 1942, Eunice Oden was born in North Carolina, where she grew up on a farm. At age eighteen, she arrived in New York City and shared an apartment with her sister. Her early years in Brooklyn were in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, but she has lived in Crown Heights since January, 1969. She raised her son in those neighborhoods until his high school graduation in 1978. Initially, she worked in clothing factories and then held several jobs at a hospital for thirty-three years. She later worked for nursing homes and retired in 2007. Oden was a community activist, first taking note of prejudice in Brooklyn real estate and then being a Coordinator for Safety and Security at the 77th Precinct Executive Board. At the time of the interview in 2010, she was the president of her apartment building's tenant association.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Eunice Oden makes many observations about the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights where she has lived for four decades; including changes to parking and street traffic, intolerant real estate practices, abandoned buildings and shuttered businesses, the public's use of the Brooklyn Children's Museum and the Brower Park Library, the police behavior and presence from the 1990s to 2010, and the demographic shift of the neighborhood. She relates her experience of raising a son, with discipline and safety lessons, and looks at the larger picture of parenting, drugs, money, and influences on children. Oden recalls her experience as a child in North Carolina and contrasts the prevalent, overt racism there with the subversive racism in Brooklyn. She shares stories of at-risk youth running from police and an encounter with a rude salesperson at a store. Her interviewers prompt her to address civility between different generations on the streets and how a young person dealing with a stranger has changed over the years. Interview conducted by Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Oden, Eunice

Subject Organizations

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

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Courtesy -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Discrimination in housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Drug traffic -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hospitals -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Nursing homes -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racism
  • Tenants' associations -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • North Carolina

Pelham, Lillian, 2010 May 10

Biographical / Historical

Lillian Pelham was born in Brooklyn in 1932. In 1963, her brother, mother and daughter moved to a house on Sterling Place in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Since 1978, she has lived alone and stays active in her neighborhood. In the mid-1970s, she received an associate's degree in nursing at a community college and a bachelor's degree in Community Health and Counseling from St. Francis College. Her occupations have included nurse, entrepreneur and in particular, she served as the Health Resource Coordinator at George Wingate High School and provided group counseling at Samuel J. Tilden High School. After retiring, she wrote a self-help book, "Wisdom in the Air, Wisdom Everywhere." Pelham has three grandchildren.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Lillian Pelham is joined by her friend and neighbor Rosella La Fontaine, who is also a narrator in another oral history interview within this collection. Pelham talks about the experience of living on her block for almost five decades and seeing the demographics of residents change in that time. She shares a few details about her family and other homes on the block. The interview is largely about how she learned to be an author and how a book is published. She relates how she was inspired to write because of her work with at-risk youth in high schools. She concludes by giving advice to motivate and instill life goals for young people. Interview conducted by Alex Kelly.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Pelham, Lillian L.

Subject Organizations

  • City University of New York. Medgar Evers College
  • George W. Wingate High School
  • Samuel J. Tilden High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Illustration of books
  • Mental health services -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Youth -- Conduct of life

Subject Places

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

Phillip, Kevin, 2010 May 10

Biographical / Historical

Born in Trinidad in 1971, Kevin Phillip was raised by his parents in Brooklyn's Canarsie neighborhood and by his grandmother at Tivoli Towers, an apartment complex in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. He played basketball in high school but was also engaging in criminal business outside of classes. He dropped out of the eleventh grade to work, achieving a certificate in General Education Development (GED) later. Workplaces included Burger King, Waldbaum's grocery store and a messenger service. After taking a course at the Fashion Institute of Technology at twenty-one, he began creating and selling designs on t-shirts. In his early twenties, Phillip moved in with a friend in Crown Heights. An ex-convict, he established his own clothing retail shop, About Time Boutique, in 2008. Since the interview in 2010, the clothing store has closed. He went into business with his wife to open Candy Rush, a candy and ice cream shop, in 2011. That store closed in 2013. Phillip is the father to three boys and one girl and has spoken at public forums to encourage teens to become entrepreneurs.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Kevin Phillip speaks generally about trouble he caused as child while staying with his grandmother in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. He discusses factors that led him to drop out of high school, including entry-level jobs, a business that was on the wrong side of the law and a basketball injury. Phillip acknowledges the gentrification of Crown Heights, particularly Franklin Avenue. It was there, between Sterling and Park Places, where he established his first retail clothing shop. Phillip talks vaguely about his time in prison, but emphasizes the lessons he's learned. He talks about his effort to mentor to the youth community of Brooklyn, including a forum at Long Island University to introduce teens to the idea of small business ownership. Finally, Phillip talks about the challenging balance between family and business obligations. Interview conducted by Ansie Montilus, Monica Parfait and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Phillip, Kevin

Subject Organizations

  • Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)
  • Tivoli Towers (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Businessmen -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ex-convicts -x Rehabilitation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Fashion design -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Mentoring in business -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work-life balance -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Youth -- Conduct of life

Subject Places

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

Pierre, Lisa, 2010 March 24

Biographical / Historical

Lisa Pierre was born in 1960 at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Born to parents who'd come up to New York City from Georgia and North Carolina, Pierre attended Public School 316, P.S. 42, I.S. 320 and Prospect Heights High School. She is dedicated to her church, Washington Temple Church of God in Christ, and has worked to provide day care and pre-school in the neighborhood. She is a community activist, with involvement in the Crow Hill Community Association and Parent Teacher Association. Pierre is mother to an adult son and two grown daughters.

Scope and Contents

Lisa Pierre introduces herself in the interview as a dedicated congregant of Washington Temple Church of God in Christ. She recalls the four public schools she attended and the disruption of gang activity during the 1970s in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. She speaks about the child care services she provides at a nursery school and considers another career opportunity. Pierre remembers the games she played in the neighborhood of her youth and describes the surroundings then and now. She talks about her Crow Hill Community Association involvement, her pastor, Robert L. Madison, and the tradition of feet washing at the church. She looks back on her behavior as a teenager and what is required of a parent of teens in the current era. She also compares the offerings in the public schools that she experienced with what's been cut out of city schools since. She shares basic details on her family background and her birthplace. In conclusion, Pierre reminisces; about landmark movie theaters, hospitals and a bank; and recalls the Reverend Al Sharpton as young man at church functions. Interview conducted by Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Pierre, Lisa
  • Sharpton, Al

Subject Organizations

  • Crow Hill Community Association (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Washington Temple Church of God in Christ (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gangs -- New York (State) -- Kings Country
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hospitals -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Motion picture theaters -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Nursery schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Pentecostal churches -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Public schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Porter, Evangeline, 2010 March 3

Biographical / Historical

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 the interview, Evangeline "Eve" Porter recalls moving to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. She makes some pointed comments about the growth of the West Indian Carnival on Labor Day weekends. Eve Porter remembers her personal challenges with neighborhood blight in the 1970s and '80s and the stands she had to take. She speaks generally about forming a block association and doesn't refer to the Crow Hill Community Association by name. Porter makes a prediction about the neighborhood changes in 2020 to 2025. She laments the steep hikes in rent for business owners and shares an anecdote about prompting Assemblyman Roger Green to raise $250,000 for the association to make improvements in the neighborhood. She says a few final words about community involvement in general and how activism can thrive with young people's involvement. Interview conducted by Treverlyn Dehaarte, Floyya Richardson, Monica Parfait, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

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

Subject Organizations

  • Crow Hill Community Association (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Carnival -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Drug traffic -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Rent -- 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

Siegel, Stefanie, 2010 April 19

Biographical / Historical

Stefanie Siegel was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1951. She attended high school in Maryland, and after a decade of working and searching for the right opportunities, she attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She also has degrees from the University of Chicago and the City University of New York. Siegel began teaching English in the New York City Public School System in 1987. After teaching at Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School for a time, she began teaching at Paul Robeson High School in 1991. In addition to teaching there, she was the Coordinator of Student Affairs/Senior Advisor and joined a student-led group organized to save the school from permanent closure. Siegel founded Bailey's Cafe in 2002. The organization, which she also heads as Executive Director, is built on a doctrine of intergenerational learning. After a fundraising campaign, the non-profit moved to a permanent home at 324 Malcolm X Boulevard in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in 2015.

Scope and Contents

Stefanie Siegel begins her interview by describing the work of Dr. Marcia Lyles, a principal at Paul Robeson High School in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Dr. Lyles is credited with transforming the school, and Siegel contrasts it with her prior experience as a teacher at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn's Flatbush neighborhood. Siegel looks at the larger picture of Robeson High's challenges to remain open to students during the Mayoral administration's attempts to phase out and consolidate some school districts. She talks about the changes she's seen over two decades in Crown Heights. Siegel describes the extracurricular efforts to engage students in intergenerational learning. This takes the form of a community organization named Bailey's Cafe. She advises students on how to prepare for senior year and how to be involved with their school and set standards for peers. She recalls her experience as a high school and college student; and how the latter prepared her to lead Bailey's Café. Interview conducted by Floyya Richardson, Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Rosenbaum, Yankel
  • Siegel, Stefanie

Subject Organizations

  • Erasmus Hall High School
  • New York (N.Y.). Department of Education
  • Paul Robeson High School (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

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
  • Community centers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education, Higher -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gangs -- New York (State) -- Kings Country
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Haitians -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Intergenerational relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

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

Simon, Cecil, 2010 March 24

Biographical / Historical

Cecil Simon was born in Guyana in 1961. He arrived in Brooklyn, with six siblings and his mother, in 1975 and lived on Carroll Street and Franklin Avenue in the Crown Heights neighborhood. Simon attended Paul Robeson High School when it was still named after Alexander Hamilton. After serving a twenty year jail sentence, he returned to Brooklyn. He was unemployed and living at Park Place and Nostrand Avenue as of 2010.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Cecil Simon speaks about moving to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights from Guyana. Later, he returns to the topic of immigration in relation to friction with other nationalities and challenges with job placement. Simon has some knowledge about the gangs operating in Brooklyn in the late 1970s and discusses how they affected his high school years. He reflects on his time at Alexander Hamilton High School and in general, appreciates the differences in teenagers then and now. He makes his observations of the changing demographics of Crown Heights. Simon speaks about his personal role model, his older brother. He also shares lessons that life has taught him, advises teenagers of this era and ends on a quote from Langston Hughes. Interview conducted by Monica Parfait, Ansie Montilus, Quanaisha Phillips, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Hughes, Langston
  • Simon, Cecil

Subject Organizations

  • Paul Robeson High School (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Courtesy -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gangs -- New York (State) -- Kings Country
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Guyana
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Staton, Meredith, 2010 April 7

Biographical / Historical

Meredith Staton was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1938. He moved to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights 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 is a proponent of securing landmark status for features of the neighborhood and was vocal in how the community reacted to the Atlantic Yards project and how Crown Heights was redistricted. Statton is a husband and father, as well.

Scope and Contents

Meredith Staton begins the interview with a brief, recent history of the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, starting in the late 1800s. He points out the shift in the local demographics into what he calls an "integrated neighborhood." He speaks at length on community involvement by way of his volunteer position as Auxiliary Captain for the 77th Precinct of the New York Police Department. Staton explains the redistricting of Crown Heights into North and South. He discusses his feelings on war in general when prompted to talk about his service time in Vietnam. Staton focuses on the importance of education and resourcefulness of this era's urban youth, and urges them to understand the history of subjugation and segregation for African Americans and immigrants of color. He briefly recalls the historic events of Nelson Mandela's visit to Crown Heights in 1990 and the factors of the 1991 riot and his role in terms of security. Interview conducted by Floyya Richardson, Treverlyn Dehaarte, and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Mandela, Nelson
  • Staton, Meredith

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Children's Museum
  • City University of New York. Medgar Evers College
  • Community Board No. 8 (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department
  • Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History

Subject Topics

  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Museums -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race identity
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

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

Sutton, Sandra, 2010 April 5

Biographical / Historical

Sandra Sutton was born and raised in a small town in North Carolina. She attended high school and college in the state, as well. One of several children, she came to Brooklyn with sisters in the mid-1980s while her brothers went into the armed services. While living with a sister in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, she married at age thirty and purchased a home nearby. Taking her husband's name, Gibbs, she taught at P.S. 41 in Brooklyn's Brownsville neighborhood. The couple didn't have children and divorced after ten years. After some library experience during her eighteen years of teaching, Sutton studied Library Science at Pratt Institute and received her master's degree. She was hired by Brooklyn Public Library and worked at the Eastern Parkway branch at the time of the interview in 2010. In 2015, she was a Neighborhood Library Supervisor at the Red Hook branch.

Scope and Contents

Sandra Sutton offers some basic information about her history in North Carolina, moving to Brooklyn, getting married and divorced, and settling in the Crown Heights neighborhood. She reflects on the changing demographic of homeowners around her home and how it has left her feeling less connected to her community. She talks about her teaching career, regrets in life, and offers advice to young people. She describes the process that she went through to become a librarian and champions libraries in general and her workplace in particular, the Eastern Parkway branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Sutton reflects on the contrasts between her youth in North Carolina and her adult life in Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Monica Parfait and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Sutton, Sandra

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Public Library
  • New York (N.Y.). Department of Education

Subject Topics

  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Librarians -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Libraries -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • North Carolina

Taylor, Robert, 2010 April 1

Biographical / Historical

Robert Taylor was born in a small town in Texas in 1939. He graduated high school in 1964 and by that time had already held odd jobs as a gardener and paperboy and worked at a shoe store, a nursing home, a drug store and a bowling alley. Taylor was drafted into the military, trained in Louisiana and learned radio/TV repair, fought and was captured for a time in Vietnam, and served on a base in California. After his service, he worked for several years as a station porter for the New York City Transit Authority, as a shipping/receiving clerk in a hospital, and for the United States Postal Service. When he moved to Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood in the 1970s, Taylor's first apartment was a shared studio. One of his roommates became his wife, and they moved to their own apartment in the Flatbush neighborhood. Taylor frequented the jazz nightclub Blue Coronet (1965 - 1985) in Bedford-Stuyvesant and other bars, and alcoholism took a toll and ended his marriage. At the time of the interview in 2010, Taylor was retired and had been a resident of Marcus Garvey Nursing Home for one year.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Robert Taylor goes over his many biographical details in a loose, vague timeline. He mentions military service and several jobs he had over his lifetime; the longest being with the New York City Transit Authority. It was during that time as a station porter, that he discovered a dead body on the platform. He reflects on the work his parents did and how they instilled a work ethic and values. Taylor talks about the difficulties of sharing his first cramped apartment, where he met the woman he went on to marry. He speaks of the move they made to Flatbush and how he witnessed the rising blight from drug traffic and shuttered businesses that changed Crown Heights. Taylor recalls learning about radio and television repair in the service, as well as how it felt to be drafted. He offers his sound advice to high school students and reflects on what he was like in his school days. Interview conducted by Alex Kelly.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Taylor, Robert

Subject Organizations

  • New York City Transit Authority
  • United States. Army

Subject Topics

  • Basic training (Military education) -- United States
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Drug traffic -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Nightclubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Nursing homes -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions |y 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Texas
  • United States |x Armed Forces

Taylor, Sarah, 2010 April 14

Biographical / Historical

Sarah Taylor was born in Estill, South Carolina in 1943. At age eight, she moved to Brooklyn with her family and initially lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Taylor has lived at a few Brooklyn addresses from childhood to adulthood, most prominently on Eastern Parkway, and in 1980, she moved to a home on St. Charles Place. She attended P.S. 44, 35 and 258, then Girls' High School, where she ran on the track team. Taylor's mother died while the young woman was still in high school, and taking a job became a greater priority than attending college. She first worked for the New York City Department of Social Services. After nine years, she left for a job with Shirley Chisholm's election campaign. She gave her time to The Muse museum in Brooklyn, and worked for many years at the Ford Foundation. She was retired as of 2010. She has been a leader of the Crow Hill Community Association for decades; taking the positions of Secretary, Vice President and a project manager.

Scope and Contents

Sarah Taylor begins the interview with her admiration for the Crown Heights neighborhood and remembers the homes she has lived in for her fifty years in Brooklyn. She gives an overview of Crow Hill Community Association (CHCA), the origin of the name, inspiration for organizing, and speaks at length on the important work accomplished by the organization. Taylor addresses the question of where Weeksville and Crow Hill were located and names the present and previous directors of the Weeksville Heritage Society. She talks about that group's efforts to renovate and her turn as the "Weeksville Lady." Taylor reflects on meeting Eve Porter and the roles they created within CHCA. She remembers her childhood schools, homes and transportation; contrasting her South Carolina youth with her Brooklyn youth. She talks about the civil service, non-profit and volunteer work she's done outside of CHCA and closes with an appreciation of Crown Heights. Interview conducted by Floyya Richardson, Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Green, Roger L. (Roger Leon)
  • Taylor, Sarah

Subject Organizations

  • Crow Hill Community Association (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Girls' High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History

Subject Topics

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

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • 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.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Franklin Avenue (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • South Carolina

Weitz, Herbert, 2010 April 12

Biographical / Historical

Herbert "Herbie" Weitz was born into an upper class family in Brooklyn in 1934. His first home, on Washington Avenue and Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, had a live-in maid and a visiting maid. By 1941, the family had moved to a home overlooking Ebbets Field and a short while later, to Union Street and Kingston Avenue. Weitz attended P.S. 167, Crown Heights Yeshiva, and Erasmus Hall High School. He delayed his graduation because of time spent at a notorious pool hall on Union and Kingston. After joining the army, Weitz managed an officers' club in Germany. He was a New York bartender until the early 1970s, when he took over his father's bookbinding and rare books shop, Weitz, Weitz and Coleman, on Lexington Avenue. By 2008, the binding business was renamed WMG Bookbinding and had moved to the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn, and Weitz was commuting from Manhattan. He grew up as an only child and has no children.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Herbert "Herbie" Weitz clearly recollects the twelve years of his youth spent in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. He talks about specific memories of the three houses in which he lived, including one that overlooked the Dodgers' ballpark, Ebbets Field. He reels off the schools he attended: P.S. 167, Crown Heights Yeshiva, and Erasmus Hall High School. Skipping classes in his junior year to shoot billiards at a neighborhood pool hall and interact with gangsters led to a short term period as a dropout. Weitz recalls the ethnic makeup of his block and when, in 1947, the first African American family moved in. He recalls the social life of Brooklynites; including nightclubs, gambling, movie theaters, stickball games and museums. Weitz revels in storytelling and reminisces about pool hustling, getting into physical fights with a friend and the many games he played at Lincoln Terrace Park. Interview conducted by Ansie Montilus, Monica Parfait, Quanaisha Phillips and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Weitz, Herbert

Subject Organizations

  • Erasmus Hall High School
  • Saint Gregory's Roman Catholic Church (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.)
  • Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish religious education
  • Motion picture theaters -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

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

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