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Interview with Carrie Graves

Interviewee: 
Graves, Carrie
Interviewer: 
Howard, Debbie
Date of Interview: 
2005-4-20
Identifier: 
BBGR0020
Subjects: 
Integration; Education System; Discipline; Community; Samaritan House; Cherry, Charlotte, North Carolina; Politics; Etiquette; Social Equality; American Society; Uniforms; Community Organizations
Abstract: 
Carrie Graves describes her experience growing up in Cherry and her education at the segregated Morgan Elementary School. She compares the school system, particularly the teachers, to the current Mecklenburg School system. She explains her views on disciplinary action within the schools and discusses the aftermath of integration on the community at large. She discusses the lack of social equality within American society as a whole.
Coverage: 
1934-2005 Charlotte, North Carolina
Interview Setting: 
Samaritan House
Collection: 
Before Brown Collection
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:
DH: Today is April the 20th I am Debbie Howard with the Before Brown Project that's part of the oral history interviews at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I'm interviewing Carrie Graves at Samaritan's House on the YWCA campus. Carrie just like it-maybe you could start by telling me a little bit about your family that you grew up in.
CG: Well I grew up in a family of 4 girls.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: And 1 boy and we-I was born and raised up in the Cherry community.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: Went to the elementary school there Morgan School now they call it Morgan Street School and now it's an alternative school for kids who are on the edge of being pushed out of the system.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I guess I was--raised up in a home that my mom and daddy was active in the PTA.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And also in the NAACP and especially in Board of Education Board of Registration. That's one of the things they really--I can remember it was really a part of you know like my home life. My daddy was a chauffeur.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: My mamma was basically what they call a stay home mom but she was a seamstress right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And she loved to garden and upholstery and all that kinds of stuff right. My dad on the other hand outside of chauffeuring loved to cook and to entertain you know family and friends. He loved to do that. They were avid Christians going to Pleasant Hill Baptist Church there in Cherry and also St. Paul Baptist Church. I was raised up Baptist but I'm Lutheran now.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Cherry was and still is a very unique place. Small basically African-American community.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: Small but still such a rich you know a rich community right. And it's still basically the same.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: There was not that much outside entertainment you know other than when we wanted to go to the movies although they were right down the street we had to go across the bridge over to Brooklyn over to Beatties Ford Road.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: The Brooklyn area is way-now sits metro center the ed center and all that, that was an African American community called Brooklyn.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Its one of the communities that was removed by urban renewal. [Laughter] So in Cherry there was lots of interaction towards entertainment, ball, baseball and-especially baseball.
DH: Uh-hmm
. CG: And those kinds of things right and the playground area. Church was a big part of activities doing things in the community the church was really you know like the focus of entertainment you know when you know you didn't necessarily you wanted to all the time but that was the place where you had to go right. And then the school also had field activities you know very active field activities. Racing, volleyball, kickball and all them kinds of stuff you know.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: Just like that so it was a good time then they opened up a playground over there on the Cherry and it still is and I think they still have activities there sometimes during the summer on the same you know playground. The one thing too that I was thinking about is like in going to school and then my mamma she always sewed for me and my sisters, right.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: And made-she made a lot not all but she made a lot and most of the clothes and things that we wore.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And like to school we were just a busy place. Our home was you know a busy place and my growing up was always--my mamma and my daddy and there were always very strict rules about school. Back then Morgan School in elementary school you know I mean they could walk right across the street.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know with PTA and knew all of the teachers, teachers knew--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --like all of the parents. I could remember also you got a spanking in school.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You got a spanking when you got home. [Laughter]
DH: Uh-hum so that was a good connection there between home and school.
CG: Very-exactly right. And it was no strange scene to see you know the teacher knocking on the door.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know or the teacher sitting in the room when you got home waiting for you to get in so they can repeat again what they just you know told my mamma. Because like I said my daddy was a chauffeur--.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: --so a lot of his work was traveling in and out of town because he worked for a senator.
DH: OK.
CG: You know of North Carolina so we were really exposed to and learned a lot about the political system even in growing up when we were real small. And that we had--.
DH: Yeah.
CG: To really be a part of you know like making things happen, you know
. DH: Uh-huh.
CG: As a relation you know to politics and to political things. So I was raised up with that background you know in my family. I had this aunt who was my favorite relative.
DH: Hmm.
CG: And my aunt's name was Sadie Graves.
DH: Sadie.
CG: And I thought she was the most exciting woman on the face of the earth because she was always dressed up-she was always going to a meeting. [pause] She was always doing things on the go.
DH: You really looked up to her.
CG: And I used to always say when I was growing up I wanted to be like my aunt. Because I wanted to go to a lot of meetings too. [Laughter]
DH: [Laughter]
CG: You know and I didn't realize that would really come to pass. But she was very much involved in a lot--.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: --you know of things outside of home and outside of school.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: But she was just one of those-I guess what I would call now a very ( bourgeois ) [no idea regarding this word-interviewee may have meant "bourgeoisie" therefore spelled as derivative of that] black woman.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But she was a very ( bourgeois ) black woman in a very loving people kind of way. You know not one that called to herself better than anybody else.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Because she really cared about you know a lot of folk and she was really excited about life.
DH: Yes.
CG: And about the things that she did and that's was what was exciting to me.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: My mamma was more of a country down home--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --kind of woman right. Loving the farm and all of that and that just wasn't me. I liked going to the grocery store.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: Not going through bushes and stuff to pick vegetables and things but that's what my mamma loved to do.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: Right and wallpapering and all of the stuff that I thought was so hard right. So that's what my mamma loved to do. And my daddy was more gourmet cooking and stuff so that's where I got my--.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: Cooking and stuff from and learning how to use different kinds of seasonings and all this kind of thing.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: So my-and my mamma and my daddy were like I said very devout Christians right.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: Me and my mamma was into living a little more than my dad because my daddy was really down to earth. [Laughter]
DH: Yeah.
CG: My mamma was very serious so to speak.
DH: Sure.
CG: When its comes--.
DH: Yeah
. CG: To the word, to the bible, to church she was very serious.
DH: Uh-hmm, yeah.
CG: My daddy he was serious but not that serious.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: So it was-my granddaddy also lived in Cherry.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: My mother's daddy and he was a barber. He was what they called a bootleg barber because he never went to barber's school he just--.
DH: Yeah.
CG: You know.
DH: He just was a barber.
CG: Yes and he grew-also grew a garden and stuff like that. Loved farming and you know country.
DH: Yeah.
CG: All that kind of stuff. But my aunt Sadie was really like the idol of my--.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: --of my eye as related to women. And she always, she always, made me feel and believe that I was somebody very special.
DH: Hmm.
CG: Very special because I was rouser when I was growing up.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: I was really a rebel rouser.
DH: She instilled that in you in an early age that you were special and--.
CG: She really always said that and she always said "Don't you let nobody give you no wooden nickels."
DH: Hmm.
CG: Now at that time I didn't know what that meant.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: But I do now right. "Don't let them give you no wooden nickels."
DH: Yeah.
CG: Because you can't spend them. DH: [Laughter]
CG: So I didn't know that but it was some very good and important folk in my, you know in my life right.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: And like I said I was a rebel rouser growing up and you know I checked for-I had no wings on my back I mean. A lot of things when I look back now I know that there was a lot of people praying for me. [Laughter] I'm serious, I am very serious. Then we went at the school.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Morgan School which basically went to the 7th grade.
DH: To the 7th grade.
CG: Uh-huh so when you left Morgan School you were going to Second Ward right.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: Second Ward High School when I got there I was going to Second Ward. Went to Second Ward High School, but I can also remember some of the teachers at Morgan School, I know my first grade teacher's name is Fraser. Ms. Fraser was there forever. Ms. Fraser, Ms.-Alexander she lived in the community.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And Ms.Alexander that family had one of the prestigious black businesses in the city called Alexander funeral home .
DH: OK, yeah.
CG: You know.
DH: Yeah, yeah.
CG: They would have-must be having reg="Fraser">Ms. Fraser, reg= "Joy" >Ms. Joy which was one of our teachers. Our teachers- reg="Guilbo"> Ms. Guilibo was one of the teachers,. Ms.-who else I said reg="Fraser">Ms. Fraser- reg= "George"> Ms. George, reg="Buckner">Ms. Buckner-trying to remember some of the others they'll come to me.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: But all of the teachers regardless of what grade you were in--.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: --knew who you were. You know they knew who you were. And so you had to always be on your P's and Q's because you couldn't hide you know because they all knew you.
DH: Yeah.
CG: You know regardless of whose classroom you were in.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know they knew you and if they would see you in the hallway or wherever and you weren't supposed to be there, they knew where you were supposed to be, right.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: And they made sure that you got where you were supposed to be. I need to remember the principal's name-I can't think right now.
DH: What do you remember about him?
CG: About the principal?
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: It was a woman.
DH: Oh about her?
CG: Uh-huh. She also knew-let me see I'll picture her face.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: She knew-also knew all the students, right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And where the students belonged the classrooms, you know and all that. And was always accessible to the parents right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: It was not necessary for you to call and make an appointment to tell someone you were coming to school you could come to the school anytime you wanted to.
DH: It was a good relationship between the--.
CG: Exactly right yup.
DH: --the teachers, the principal and the parents.
CG: Yeah you really didn't feel like and I believe that you really didn't feel like that you know like you were being set up because you could only you know like go and be seen you know like only if you made an appointment.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know that I mean I feel like today that it should be like if I wanted to go to the school and you know the class room--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --that I should be able to go anytime.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know like to sit on in the classroom or wait until the teacher's break or sit around and talk to the principal to see what's going on in school right.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: But you can't do that you know you've got to have an appointment and you've got to let them know when you're coming so they can get prepared for you.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But you can do that I can remember also that-it was a funny thing. Home ec, home economics was one of the classes and Mrs. Flag was the home economics teache. And I can remember-I don't know if you know what souse meat is?
DH: No tell me.
CG: I didn't either but its like-I guess its something like a congealed kind of meat that you're supposed to eat cold.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Right but anyway we were having this home economics class so we were going to have souse meat right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Which I didn't eat it but we you know were going to have it. And so what happened is she told these two young women who happened to be my aunts right because everybody went to the same school that they were in the classroom preparing the sandwiches right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: So you know like you looked up and they were crying, right. And so we find out what's wrong? They thought somebody had taken the souse meat, but what had happened is is that they had put the souse meat in a frying pan and so it melted.
DH: Oh.
CG: [Laughter] And so it was a pan full of liquid.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: So that's when we found out you know what you do with this stuff.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: You know of course you didn't eat it anyway it takes a special taste to eat souse meat.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But I remember that-I remember it was always in the home economics class it was always about talk of you know etiquette.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: How to sit and how to stand and you know like sitting at a table and these kinds of things you know. I didn't realize it then but that was social skills that every child needs.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know because when you get ready to go and apply for a job and stuff like that you never know when the person might say "Oh its lunch time come on let's go out to lunch" you know.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know how to pick up a fork or a spoon.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And how to use the napkin and things like that. But those are some of the simple but important things that happened, you know in the classroom. Also if a child came in the classroom and maybe that child had not you know like had a bath or had a bath and forgot to use deodorant and stuff right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: The teacher always had it in the classroom.
DH: Yeah.
CG: And just pull you right in and you go in the cloakroom. [Laughter]
DH: [Laughter]
CG: You go in the cloakroom you know and there was deodorant or whatever you know you need it back there. But you knew that you belonged right.
DH: Hum, yeah.
CG: You knew that it was somebody that really, really truly cared about your learning right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Because with the materials or the non-materials that we had right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: It had to be folk who really cared about your learning in order for it to take place.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Because you did not-we had books that was written in that had been in other classrooms and basically white classes.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And then they were sent over you know into our community just like grocery store's food that was in the Myers Park area whatever, was always sent to the Harris Teeter that was maybe closer to that community.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: The same thing in the classroom right.
DH: Yeah.
CG: That we had the used you know like the used books you know some of them were not so good of condition you know.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But it's all we had
. DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know and I don't remember maybe it was but I don't remember having classroom books that had African-American and other you know like ethnic kids in it.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: It was something in it about Native Americans that was always negative.
DH: Aww.
CG: You know always you know negative stuff and you know I asked something about Thanksgiving you know and pilgrims and all that kind of stuff. And I also remember that we grew vegetables. And we grew them and we ate the vegetables that we grew.
DH: In the classroom? You did this in the classroom.
CG: Yes and I know one of the specialties was the green lettuce leaves with black pepper and mayonnaise.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: Sounds kind of horrible but I can remember it was good and it was exciting because we had grown--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --you know like the lettuce and stuff so I don't know if those kind of things well I'm pretty sure that those kinds of things that happened they don't happen too much you know-in the classroom.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I know they do things like that for science projects and all but this was something that we really participated in.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know the baking and the home ec you know classes and those kinds of things going on. Trail hunts and out on the playground interacting with sports and stuff like this.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know boys and girls interacting together.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I can remember shooting marbles or volleyball or whatever
. DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know the physical activity was built in, you know, to the learning.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: To the learning experience you know. The teacher carried you to the restroom sit outside and waited.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know for the restroom. There were breaks when everybody went to the water fountain.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know like to get like water and everybody went back to the lunchroom like together but it was a lunch room.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know-what was the child's name, Kasey, was it Kasey and his wife-one of the janitors at Morgan School.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But I guess one of the most important things is that the teachers were in tuned with the child's family right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Be it a good experience or a bad experience they were in tuned with the child's family and experiences that was going on in that family, right. And just like today there were some families that had some very devastating things going on right. You know and I was thinking it really good to take a poll and see where some of those you know where some of those folk at today.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Especially the ones who were having serious family problems you know.
DH: Yes.
CG: Back then because it was not the resources and things like the school psychologist and all of the what they call them now, assistant principals and case managers and all that.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: That was not in the schools at that time.
DH: They didn't have that support.
CG: No it just wasn't there you know so it had to be like between the parents and the classroom and teachers and the principal. And everybody like who was a part of that school system.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: Then I can remember leaving-oh we had the music built in you know you had the science like the biology you had all of that built in you know like.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: Like within the classroom you know.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Because there were so many things, that as black students we could not you know like participate in, so the teachers had to be very creative.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: You know in their teaching you know like in the classroom and coming up with all kinds of creative things. I can remember my daughter saying to me who has got 20 something years in the childcare.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know and I can remember Donna saying to me that if there was a teacher who could not teach unless they had all of the fancy stuff that you find today that's not a teacher because a teacher can take the least little thing and make a learning experience out of it.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Regardless of what it is.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: A pencil, a piece of paper, whatever it is that teacher-a real teacher can make a learning experience.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know like to keep a child occupied and excited about "Hmm wonder where this pencil came from?" You know and I really didn't-haven't paid attention to that but that's so true.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know it's just like a cook in the kitchen right you know like if you've got to have a recipe book every time you cook then you need to think about it
. DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Because cooking is also a creative experience.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know and I guess that's why its so exciting to me I can do whatever I want to with it.
DH: Yeah it sounds like that was one thing that you really gained was that the teachers were really creative and they taught you--.
CG: Yeah.
DH: --all of the things that you needed to learn--.
CG: Yeah.
DH: --in different ways.
CG: Right, exactly right. So the things that you had was-the experiences that you had at school, outside of home, the experiences that you had at school and also the experiences that we had at church right.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: Being a part of church was not as complicated as it is today. You know it is very-I mean you know now you have to go through all these folks before you can you know really and truly enjoy church right. But at that point and time that was the place where the entertainment, the recreation and the community--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --was there at the church.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And the church was also a part of the education system you know it was a part of it. I can remember in starting and going to Second Ward High School that we had to walk and right where midtown square is you see there's that little creek what they're calling the green way thing right there right.
DH: Yes.
CG: But that was a creek at one time some of the kids. And understand they had like a swinging bridge across it and they dropped and they drowned right.
DH: Yes.
CG: But it was also the way that we had to walk--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --to get to Second Ward right. And I can remember the school buses filled with white kids who passed us and you know they'd call us all kinds of names you know "Niggers" and all this kinds of stuff and everything. You know like when we'd be walking.
DH: Yes.
CG: You know like to school
. DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I'd be wishing they'd get off the bus. You know [Laughter]. But the buses started just call us names and sometimes the walk-especially when it was getting warm you know it would be so hot--.
DH: Aww.
CG: --you know and they'd be calling you know us names and stuff. But going to Second Ward High School was also another experience and also the fact that the teachers still made contact-personal contact you know like with the parents.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Not always about something bad because now it seems that the only time that they have contact is when there's a problem or-oh is that an ant? I believe so. You know like if somebody has done something you know.
DH: Uh-hum, they don't have the positive contact it's mostly just negative.
CG: Exactly negative you know. At least that's the way it seems that you know.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You really hear about the negative stuff all the time. And not about, you know, like the good things. Sometimes but not all the time and I think-I think what happened is or what has happened is that teachers have had to buy into a system of teaching and the way that they have to teach right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Without being passionate about it right.
DH: Hum.
CG: But the fact that "OK its time for me to get up and go to work" you know.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Not excited at all about teaching.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Like and not excited about creative ways to present to children as learning the skills.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know-all parents--.
DH: But that's something-that you saw in the school system.
CG: Yeah exactly.
DH: Even at Morgan and at Second Ward
. CG: Yeah exactly right yeah.
DH: That passion.
CG: Yeah and I know there's a lot about you know, like well it starts at home too, and the parents have to do their part its true.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But also one of the things that I believe has been overlooked is that a lot of parents especially a lot of poor parents and a lot of black parents have not had that education experience.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: They've had to drop out of school to go to work, to stay home and take care of kids so that mommy and daddy could go to work and so a lot of them have not finished school so to speak.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Themselves therefore incapable of helping with the homework.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But it's embarrassing for people to know that
. DH: Hum.
CG: And there has not been any kind of effort, I believe, to find this out.
DH: Hum.
CG: Without it being an embarrassing situation.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: For the parents right because on the whole the average parent want their child to learn.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Want them to be in a very pleasant and positive learning--
. DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --environment. Want to know what that child is doing without the only time hearing from the teacher is when the child has done something wrong.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Right or something that you think that the child has done wrong because all the time the child is not guilty.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: It's what somebody has assumed that they have done right. So even in the discipline--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --right, in schools was much more caring about the child right, than about you know like the classroom being interrupted ormaybe things not going the way that you think the classroom is supposed to go, right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: So there were positive ways of discipline.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Like I told you getting in the home and that teacher is sitting in your living room--.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: [Laughter] --with your parents you know.
DH: Yes.
CG: And you know like what can you say you know you don't even have time to get your lies together.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: You know you're just stumped you know. [Laughter]
DH: [Laughter
] CG: So you wind up telling the truth you know.You know when-you know when-my daddy would say "Oh lady what's your side of the story?" you know.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You didn't listen but most of the time my side was kind of lopsided you know.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: In my favor.
DH: Yeah.
CG: But what's the discipline you knew that that teacher really cared about what was happening to you. Not being disciplined because it's something that the system right, has put in place to expel or suspend kids from school which most of them want you to do that right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And the parents are not at home then you know they're free to do whatever and to get into more you know trouble. I guess the system of suspension sending kids home and then low tolerance-no tolerance I would say--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --to me is crazy.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know I mean and a good example was it yesterday or the day before the young man in the ROTC carried his gun home to practice with.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know in ROTC and he had to bring it back on the school bus
. DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But somebody said that somebody was on the school bus with a gun so they locked down 4 schools. You know locked down 4 schools and instead of finding out the child and asking them you know so I know they looked pretty dumb when they found out he was in ROTC.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And he carried the gun home for practice
. DH: Yeah.
CG: But things like you know silly things like that. Silly things like every time two kids argue or something like that its suspension you know like sending them home.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And things like that instead of beginning to teach them in ways to deal with adversity.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Right now. Not that you know ok you go-see I believe ok you go home you get out of a classroom you be gone for 2 or 3 days number one they're losing out on their learning experience right.
DH: Uh-hum
. CG: But then they're there because most of the time the teachers don't send homework but they're suspended.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: So the child's getting, you know, like if they're already behind they're getting further behind right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know so I think that's a very negative, a very negative system.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know lessin' it has been life threatening or someone has physically abused and hurt someone you know.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But kids are going to argue, kids are going to-grown ups do it. You know grown ups to do but you have to really teach them how to you know get a hold to that because it is a part of growing up and everybody is not going to agree with me but there are ways that you could do it better than--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --you know fighting and things like that. So I think that discipline-the discipline methods also can show more caring.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: About it right and I know right after desegregation our kids really began to you know like be sent home. You begin to get all kinds of negative calls to come, to come and get them from school. You don't have a car, you don't drive, your kids are riding the school bus you know to school.But they want you to come and pick up the child you know from school but--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --the out of school suspension really began to become really bad after desegregation.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: You know and I believe in a lot of cases it was a lot of make-believe of the kids.
DH: Yes.
CG: You know like you know we lived in public housing and I know that there was so much-like it still is today lately of the kids.
DH: Uh-huh yeah
. CG: Because they live in public housing.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: Because they can't dress you know like other kids can. Now mind you that parents in public housing will get-will work two jobs in order for their kids to have--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --the kinds of clothes where they won't be--you know like pimp daddies things like that.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Which I think is silly but you know.
DH: Yeah.
CG: But that happens.
DH: Let me make sure I understand as far as what year-what year did you graduate from Second Ward?
CG: I didn't I dropped out of school.
DH: Ok.
CG: But I graduated from CPCC.
DH: OK. Uh-hum.
CG: I went back to school-its not that I have not had you know like learning experiences and I had not been back.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know to school I had even went and had some organizing classes at Notre Dame--.
DH: Oh.
CG: And UNCC.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And all of these things did work with Dr. Bertha Maxwell you know at UNCC and all that but actually going back and getting my diploma.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I did that from CPCC.
DH: Sur
e. CG: Because I felt like and talking-and I was-let me see I'm trying to remember when I went back--I was 52 when I graduated.
DH: And you went back yeah.
CG: And I just began to feel that although I had many learning experiences that excelled really--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --a high school diploma.
DH: Exactly.
CG: I felt like that I could not honestly talk with kids--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --about how important it is to get your education.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: To graduate from high school if I had not did it right
. DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I felt like I was a hypocrite.
DH: Yeah.
CG: You know so I knew that I needed to like go back and do that so when talking with kids you know or talking with grown ups that I can say--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --that it is never too late. You know.
DH: Yeah.
CG: That if it is something that's really-that you're very passionate about that it's never too late to go back--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --to school because although you may have life experiences that little piece of paper--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --you know, speaks loud and that is what you need and in most cases now jobs you need a high school diploma and you also need you know like to continue on.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know like to have higher education so I graduated from CPCC.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And I made the Dean's List. And I made the President's List. And I was part of the-what do you call it PKT [Phi Theta Kappa honors society] the school soriety team.
DH: Yeah.
CG: And I was on this team and I was on the student government team so I like you know--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --did quite a few things and then the culinary arts department.
DH: Yeah.
CG: And you know and so it-you know so by dropping out you know I told you I was a rebel.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: So by dropping out of school although I had in my lifetime I've had many, many, many learning education experiences right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Of all kinds of backgrounds including running for political office.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I still needed to be able to say to kids that I talked to right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: That I'm telling you that it is important for you to go back to school regardless of how hard [tape malfunction something other than interview to end of tape] what they think it is right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Because it is so important and in these days and times you know you need it to even get a job pushing a broom across the floor.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I mean it's just that simple.
DH: Now with like your children did they grow up during the desegregation/integration?
CG: Yeah part-and I wanted to get that paper so that-lawsuit I'm part of that I have it on--.
DH: Lawsuit?
CG: So yeah, against Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system.
DH: Yeah say more about that.
CG: During the same-yeah. Well it was one that was filed during the desegregating thing--.
DH: Ok.
CG: --you know about not being able you know to go to schools and the teaching and all that but I have to get that so I will be saying what's in this lawsuit.
DH: Oh ok.
CG: You know but that's halfway back in time
. DH: But that was something that you were a part of?
CG: Yes.
DH: OK because I know that you mentioned that you were involved in--.
CG: Yeah.
DH: --a lot of political--.
CG: Yeah well it was something that I was a part of and yet I remember also that I lived in Dalton Villagewe were saying about the kids are part of it.
DH: Uh-hum
. CG: I lived in Dalton Village and one of the schools that our kids was assigned to was Myers Park Elementary.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: School right. And so we felt that our kids needed a school bus right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: To get to Myers Park right and they wouldn't allow-at first they wouldn't give us a bus right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And so it was I don't know or heard of Phyllis Lynch-lives in Cherry.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But we had a bus-gave us that bus-but anyway we called the bus "The Blue Ghost" because it was a blue bus.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And so the parents took turns picking up the kids, taking them to school right.
DH: Aww.
CG: Until finally the school system gave us a school bus you know for the kids right. But it was-I guess one of the things what you really felt during the desegregating times number one you really found-you really learned beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is a difference in the mindset of people as it relates to race, right. And that you had to be a very strong person not to feel that God had did you an injustice and made you black, right. Because of all of the ugly things that happened just because the color of your skin right. And it did you know.
DH: Yeah.
CG: And it-well I can say speaking personally for me that I never felt patriotic towards this country just because I lived in America.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Because American's rules this way have kept my people at the bottom of the list right. And even though it makes a great deal out of education right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Gave us the leftovers--.
DH: Hum.
CG: --as it relates to education right.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: And that it has taken a lot of blood being shed right, bones being broken, jail and prison for doors and educational institutions to be opened up to my people, right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Unless it was a black institution.Right you know so those kinds of things still happen today, right. And I still feel the same way that America has not been fair, right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Regardless of what they may say they have not been fair and just.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: And they have not you know. Because I believe what it--if you have great expectations of persons then you will show them that you have great expectations on them and you would not put so many stumbling blocks.You know like before them. You know and someone would say to me "Oh but you know there are black millionaires and this and this." Yes but look at where most of them are.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Right. It's either entertainment, sports, you know whatever right. And if you look deeper, further behind that look and see who is in control of that right.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Look and see who is in control of that you know so I think-I really do think its time for a re-education.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Of America right a re-education I think that education should really be opened up and not be so costly.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know I mean you know kids got to go to school now you know like fashion minded and everything which is why I really loved the uniform.
DH: Yes.
CG: The uniform idea and I just hope and pray that every school's requirement is to where uniforms.
DH: Uh-hmm. CG: You know number one it's a financial blessing--. DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --to families who can't afford to dress their kids the way America thinks she's supposed to dress them. But also so that kids can be more focused on learning instead of "What you wearing tomorrow?"You know that kind of thing you know.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: So I really do hope that the whole system goes to-
-. DH: Yeah.
CG: --to uniforms right
. DH: Uh-hum.
CG: Even so much as the teacher having to wear the school uniform.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know.
DH: Well it really sounds like you've got a lot of ideas but what would really-because I hear you saying that even though we have integrated it's still--we still have that separation.
CG: Yeah.
DH: Its not-it's still not equal.
CG: No its not.
DH: And you've got a lot of ideas that you've shared that would kind of-that would help.
CG: Yeah.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But you know because I feel like you know I was talking to someone the other day and you know it always comes back to this and I don't know if-I think I've said this to you too is that you can talk about blackness you can write about it but you never really know it until you live it.And it is a really detrimental living and learning experience in America. And it is, it is. And a lot of kids are being faced with that today and they really are not aware of what it is they just know that it is something that they have to retaliate you know like against. That always gets them in trouble. You know if there could be a kind of big brother/big sister not the way the agency is structured.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: But wherein that kids within the classroom knew that there was somebody else when they're mind's up against the brick wall and the teachers says that or he that the time is limited that there could be somebody else that they could have a connection to when they get at that low point in the classroom that they know that there's somebody there that they can say "I need to talk" or somebody there that they can just grab their hand. And you know hold it or squeeze it or whatever to let you know that you know like I need a hug or I need something. But I need it right now. Might be just a blinking of an eye or whatever you know.
DH: Yeah.
CG: And say "You know I got your back" you know this kind of thing. You know what I mean? And because kids who can-I still say it-kids who can learn every word to every rap song that comes on--.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: --right can know basketball knows all the moves, football knows all the moves right, I mean street hockey you name it they know all the rules and everything and you mean to tell me that that child is brainless, I think not.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I think not. I think that we have to get more to learning experiences in that every child does not learn the same way.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I believe that's what has to happen right.
DH: Yeah.
CG: And I think that we had those experiences at Morgan School.
DH: Yes.
CG: Right and someone was really-in this classroom right and they knew how to draw then they didn't have to wait until all the classroom was drawing they could get over there and get a sheet of paper, get the crayons. Being that they're broken up or whatever and start drawing and painting right.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You know if this one wanted to work with some clay or mud or whatever it was they did that.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You know and the teacher knew how to bring all of that back together as you know a learning experience. But every child is different right. And its time for us to stop teaching kids how to pass a test.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Because that's what we do. That's what some lame-brained person who think that they know something about children putting it into place right.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: That they have to learn this way or no way.
DH: Um-hmm.
CG: And it just doesn't work.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You know and I believe this "No Child Left Behind" is leaving a lot of kids behind because it's such as political arena.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: It's more a political arena than it is to have children
. DH: Um-hum.
CG: That's my personal belief.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: And I'd be willing to put that on the line with anybody I believe that. I'm willing to I believe that you know.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You waited, you waited and you said well we have all this technology now we've got all the computers. But number one every child that's in the classroom does not have a computer.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You know and so you say like when you go to the library well every child does not even have access--.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: --like to the library I'm serious. So then the library at school when the kids get out they're closed down.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: The kids can't go back and you know "Can I come back" and browse in the library and then have a way home.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: But you can't do that. There's so much good stuff-and I love the public school system I really do.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: I think the public school system is like really a life system you know.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Because all and everybody within the public school system is you know a part of the real world right.
DH: Uh-huh
. CG: You're a part of the real world which with private education is fine but there's nothing like the struggle of public--.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: --going to public school.
DH: What do you really like? What do you see in it that you see of value in the public school? What is the most important to you that you see?
CG: Number one is community.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: It's community right.
DH: Yes.
CG: It's community right.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: That I think is the number one thing right.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: This community it is the place where the average parent can afford to send their child.Right you know and it is a part of the-it is a part of the system that parents pay into.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You know so I just believe that it really is just a life skills setting because everybody there does not think the same. You know understanding a lot of the private schools you know like you've got to think the same.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You just got to you know.
DH: Yeah.
CG: And you know I mean you've got to even sit at the table the same way when you sit down to eat lunch.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: I guess nobody ever puts their elbows on the table you know get comfortable you know in eating. But its just number one - community.
DH: Uh-hum.
CG: You know.
DH: So that's the value you see in it.
CG: Exactly.
DH: It's community and it does bring--.
CG: Yes.
DH: --a lot of different people-
CG: Exactly.
DH: --with differences together.
CG: Exactly, exactly right and plus real life experiences is what is in the public school system.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: The discipline, the whatever, the real world.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: Is within the public school system.
DH: Uh-huh.
CG: I think it's the-you know it's the best system regardless of what-you know like they're talking about in the paper now because I think that's just going back to a whole lot of racism you know. You know the one that split the school system instead of wanting to say "Hey look Charlotte is truly growing and we do need more schools than what we have" right.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: And we do need to offer the kind of salaries that is going to attract the people that we need to teach.
DH: Um-hum yeah.
CG: Right those kinds of things.
DH: Yeah.
CG: I think needs to be. You need to be a part of the system but again in growing up in before desegregation and because I really don't believe that we've truly really reached integration yet.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: We have not. But I think that it was-you know I'm not going to say that it was so much better to have that because really we were excluded.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: From so much that was rightfully ours.
DH: Yes.
CG: Right that seems right. And the teachers made well with whatever resources they had.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Right and I think that is one of the most important parts of that time is the creativity and the learning experiences that the teachers offered and gave to the children without all of the resources that was available then that was kept from them.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You know so, you know so one of my kids I'm thinking to think which one it was-my grandkids was saying "Grandmamma was oh it was the good old days" and I remember I hesitated.I said "What do you mean about the good old days?"
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Because in every time there are good days and there are bad days.There are people that you wish you didn't have to see.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: And there are still people that you wish you didn't have to see.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: Especially some family members you know. [Laughter]
DH: [Laughter]
CG: You know so all of it you know like you know what goes around comes around right. And you know everything that is today already has been may not in the same capacity.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Or in the same way but it has been you know and we'll just you know turnovers. And that is better the fact that the superintendent is retiring you know then you know folk want to blame the growth in Charlotte on him.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: But he had nothing to do with that
. DH: Um-hum.
CG: Because Charlotte always wanted to out beat Atlanta. You know that's politics you know
. DH: Um-hum.
CG: That's politics you know but I hope and pray that one of the reasons why he's retiring is that he refused to be a butt kisser. And I'm very serious about that.
DH: Uh-hmm.
CG: You know that he believed in certain things and he stuck to what he believed in. And I really like--.
DH: Hold on just a second let me just turn this over probably have about 5 minutes left this tape is-OK.
CG: But I really liked what I read that the reason he is going is like he's going to work with this, some kind of consultant firm that's working with minority and poor children. Right and see those are the children that have been excluded, just because of who they are.
DH: Yes.
CG: That the reaching out to them is not as it should be.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: And that it should be some way that children within a classroom setting that you would not be able to determine who has and who does not.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You know because that's a form of the worst kind of labeling
. DH: Um-hum.
CG: And when that happens it could defense within that child that they retaliate at the least little thing.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Because they know that they are different because you make them know that.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: And it happens in the classroom.
DH: Yes.
CG: All the time it happens in the classroom you know.
DH: Uh-huh yeah
. CG: And I do know that-that it has always been around you know it has always been around but I just hope and pray that the time is running out for that. See I think its time to embrace children for the sake of them being children.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Its time to embrace them and I know sometimes they make us want to pick them up and throw them into outer space.
DH: [Laughter]
CG: I know that I've got 17 you know like grandkids and great-grandkids you know. And I've had problems also with some of mine in the school system right.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: And you do you just want to throw them out to outer space and hope that they never come back. But you love them anyway.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You have to.
DH: Yes.
CG: You have to love them anyway they have to know that people care. That people have great expectations right, otherwise you get the leftovers and usually that's what you don't want right. So I just believe that-I truly believe that number one its building community not a boundary from one street to the next.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: But community with each other you know like the whole process of the caring really truly caring in that a person is reaching their highest potential.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: You know because I think about-you know I look at the folk who come here, to you know like Samaritan House and what if with some of them-what if they had just been somebody right.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Who really truly reached down and cared--.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Could it have made a difference? I think so.
DH: Yeah.
CG: I think so I've seen kids who have fallen through the cracks including a grandson of mine who committed suicide. And I wonder had some of the folk who I had really talked to about him had they come forth and reached out to him I wonder you know.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Would it have made a difference because he loved learning.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: But just couldn't find that setting right.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Where it was there that he truly knew that somebody really within that system really cared about him. There's a lot of hurting children.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: In the system and grown ups don't want to see that but it is so true. Some of them have so much when they walk about of home into that school
. DH: Um-hum.
CG: They are bringing so much baggage with them.
DH: Yeah.
CG: You know and it's hurting to see a lot of it you kno
w. DH: Um-hum.
CG: Because it's more to getting an education than just leaving home, getting on the school bus, and going to school and sitting at a desk. That's only the beginning of it you know.
DH: Yeah.
CG: The real part I know is knowing that you are a part of and included in a community of people.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: That really truly you know care.
DH: Yeah.
CG: Care for you and its very disturbing when you know that that doesn't take place.
DH: Yes.
CG: You know everybody is coming up with excuses and blaming the kids for everything.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: Instead of it's so many folks that's within education that is only there for a paycheck.
DH: Um-hum.
CG: And--
. DH: Well our time is almost up.
CG: Ok.
DH: And I really appreciate I hear a lot of what you said I think that you've said several times you've said how important caring and community is--.
CG: Yeah.
DH: And how we've come a couple steps in forming community--.
CG: Right.
DH: But we're not there.
CG: Right.
DH: In getting the integration.
CG: Right.
DH: And I really appreciate you for sharing that.
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