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Interview with Geraldine Powe

Interviewee: 
Powe, Geraldine
Interviewer: 
Murphy, Hope
Date of Interview: 
2005-5-20
Identifier: 
BBPO0018
Subjects: 
segregation; integration; paddling; pre-kindergarten
Coverage: 
Charlotte, NC
Collection: 
Before Brown Collection
Transcript:
LR (Lynn Reed): Today is March 20, 2005 and I am with Geraldine T. Powe with the Before Brown project that is part of the oral history interview at UNC-Charlotte. I am interviewing Ms. Powe at 3-2-0-7 Dawnshire Avenue which is her home. Good afternoon Ms. Powe.
GP (Geraldine Powe): Good afternoon.
LR: Let's start with some biological information. If you could just tell me a little bit about where and when you were born and maybe some information about your family.
GP: OK. I was born in Charlotte, NC, Mecklenburg County, at South intersection that they now call Cherry. The house is brick form in where I was born which is on Lucas Street in Cherry. My mother died when I was four years old and we started to live at my grandparents--we were reared by my grandparents. When I say we, there were four of us; there were two boys and two girls. So we started to live with my grandparents because my father was not in the position to take care of us. In fact my father was an alcoholic and had to be taken to court to get support for us. So we grew up in the Cherry community--a very religious background. My grandmother taught (decoratory) in the church that we attended and had a love for children. And (preaching often would wear her) eyes out for love for children, patterned after her. And she often says that I was the only child that was like her, that had some of the same ways and had some of the same goals and that kind of thing. So that made her happy. Now I am the only (Powe) sibling living. My sister and my two brothers are deceased. But I--rather the youngest brother was deceased in October, 2004. Let me finish every--my background. Education wise, I went to elementary school; I went to Morgan School in Cherry, which is now, I think, used to be the home for teenage mothers--
LR: OK.
GP: pregnant mothers. Graduated from Morgan School. Went to Second Ward one year, which was the first and the only black school at that time--high school, in Charlotte. After going there a year, I went to New York because we were shifted out of--shifted back and forth between some aunts and my grandparents as I was coming up. I went to junior high school two years in New York and returned home to--and then move to Johnson C. Smith, went to Johnson C. Smith. But before, of course, I got to Johnson C. Smith, I had to finish high school. So after I returned home, West Charlotte High School was built in . ">1938/39. The first graduating class was in 1941; I finished in 1944.
LR: OK. If you could just take it back, just a little bit, I know you did mention your education. And you mentioned Morgan school and Second Ward. Can you describe what your schools looked like, starting with Morgan School? Can you, do you have any pictures as to what the school physically looked like?
GP: It, it was, it was a well-kept school. I think that there was a lot of pride then. And of course we, we had a female principal when I was there. Most of my teachers--I don't remember having a male teacher at all on the elementary level. (But) I got ready to go to college, the--my teacher who taught me in the seventh grade, I guess saw some potential in me and agreed to sign my note every semester so that I could go to Johnson C. Smith to finish college. And so she lived next door to where we lived with my grandparents and of course that was a close connection also. I think, when you think about schools segregated at that time, teachers were quite different than what they are now. They had expectations for you; they--if you had potential, they really pushed you to live up to your potential. And of course at that time, the discipline was not a problem because if you got--was disciplined at school, you also disciplined at home. Because the word got home before you did and you got the second whipping. I often think that it's too bad, you know, not necessarily have the whipping, but that we don't have that kind of ties between parents and the people in the education field now. Because it takes more than, than--it takes a lot, other than the, what they call it, ( ) it takes another straight child. And I really believe in that, because we really was disciplined by the community and nothing was said by the members of the community.
LR: So there was strong parental involvement during that time.
GP: Right, right. And parents of the school and ( ). They didn't have to go that much; they expected the discipline ( ). My grandmother was more active of course than my grandfather in terms of our education and I think you find that a lot even now that mothers take the role of (following) the children under education levels than the males.
LR: OK. Do you recall the quality of books, or what your books and supplies, that you used looked like?
GP: They had--I remember we, we received all the books from the white schools. And course some were torn, and some where in pretty good shape. But they were hand-me-downs. For years, for years, that was all that we got, was hand-me-down material from the elementary--white elementary schools and the white high schools.
LR: How did--you mentioned that parental involvement was huge back then. How do you, how did the teachers and parents stay in touch with each other?
GP: Well, all the teacher had to do was to send a note home; I used to make a telephone call. And of course in Cherry, the school was just across--diagonal across the street from where we lived and all they had to do was to walk over there and talk to the parents. So it was really easy and you--all the teachers had the support of parents. You didn't have that kind of irate parent, so to speak, that would come to the school (prior to) child did something. I think the parents would listen to the child, because they not necessarily (side) with the child as some parents do now. They set up and yet the children once they leave their surroundings, they might do anything. And sometimes because of peer pressure and various reasons. So I think the parent and teacher relationship was excellent during that time.
LR: You mentioned a few teachers just briefly. What do you remember exactly about your teachers and how they maybe impacted you and your future decisions?
GP: Well at the time I was coming along, you could either do one or two things, as African-Americans: either preach or teach. At first I had thought I wanted to be a social worker; once I thought about a nurse. But then all that was changed. Well I had such excellent role models, on the elementary level especially, as teachers. I mentioned the, the seventh grade teacher who signed my note every semester to help me go to college. Because she--at time, course you know it was years and years ago, college was only like five-hundred dollars a semester. So you know that was quite some time ago. And she would sign the note and then I would work at a ( ) elevator downtown in one of the tallest buildings that we had on the square. And I made like $9.48 a week. And that was how I (made?)--I would take that little money and pay the loan back that she was charging me each semester. And that's how I got through college. Now I was living at home with my father and he had married again and I was living with my stepmother and my father. So I did have a place to live, although he did--he gave me one $20 dollar to go to school--to help with the schooling. But other than that, I didn't get any money, you know, from him. And I never really knew why he didn't. He put a lot of money into my brother; I think he felt that the male should have the capabilities of making money as opposed to the girls. So therefore he didn't really offer that much money--pay with all the money--pay it. But although I did have place to live and I had food to eat, so he did help in that way.
LR: You mentioned your seventh grade teacher--the impact that she had on you. Can you recall her name?
GP: Yeah, Mildred Alridge--what's her name? Her name was Mildred Phillips Alridge who died about two years ago.
LR: OK. And that's Mildred M-I-L-D-R-E-D Phillips P-H-I-L-L-I-P-S--
GP: Phillips Alridge A-L-R-I-D-G-E and who died in April about two years ago. But also I have a teacher now who's still living, who taught me in fourth grade--
LR: Fourth grade?
GP: She's at the Blind Center Nursing home on (Redmon) Road. And when I had my birthday, 80th birthday, I had her in the video, (?to take turns) which was really good. And she still has it. She's about 90--I went to her birthday party--I think she's 98; no probably 99 now. But her mind is still pretty good. And she--she said she saw my brother's picture in the paper when he died, she sent me clip and then a sympathy card and that kind of thing. So they were really, they were really role models; they were really role models.
LR: Do you recall that fourth grade teacher's name? That you--
GP: Uh-huh, Florretta Gun.
LR: Florretta Gun.
GP: Now she was a Douglass was her maiden name.
LR: OK.
GP: And her husband was the librarian at Johnson C. Smith during the time that I was going to Johnson C. Smith.
LR: OK. You've talk a lot about your years up to the seventh grade and you've mentioned Johnson C. Smith. Can you tell me a little bit about your education between the seventh grade and attending college?
GP: OK. Well as, as I mentioned, I went to New York and went to junior high school for two years; I went to Edward W. (Step) on Edge Cone Avenue for two years. As I mentioned, we were kind of out of--kind of shifted between some aunts I had in New York and my grandparents, because my grandparents were getting older and that kind of thing. So next was Second Ward. Now Second Ward was more or less same kind, but I never really got that close to anyone at Second Ward, because I only went there one year. But the teachers had the same kind of expectations; they were the same kind of role models, for all of us who went to--then when I started going to West Charlotte, then there were still African-American teachers--all African--but there we had some male teachers too, that were--still had expectations and we had the first African--first principal at West Charlotte High School, who was an African-American person, male. He was very loving, but very strict. And we knew that we, we couldn't have--we didn't dare have the kind of discipline problems that we have today, because he didn't take that. But he was loving and he cared about us, and we knew that. But he was a very, very good disciplinarian. The schools--when I had them teachers, it was all segregated, of course. And then you had the teacher--one for math, you had one for English, and you know, they just still had those separate areas that they were--they concentrated on. And of course we didn't know any better; we knew what we had to do and knew what was expected of us.
LR: Can you tell me some of the school activities you participated in? You know, or--
GP: I did very little. I did very little oddly enough as much as I became involved in the community and as a person, as I got older. But I did very little as a child. I've often said to people "I have been old all my life because I never learned to skate; I never learned to ride a bicycle; I didn't do any of the things that children did, during that time. Either I was in the house reading a book or just, just in the house. You know, just didn't, didn't really mean nothing. I used to be an extremely shy person; I could be around you all day and if you didn't say anything to me, I wouldn't say anything to you. But going to New York was a fight for survival and if you can live in New York and survive, you can live anywhere. Because there, people had no qualms about stepping on your toes, to get where they wanted to--course that's here too but it might be a little more subtle than it is there.
LR: When you were in school did you have a sense of hurdles, of requirements that had to be met?
GP: Oh yes. If you, you had a, say a project or assignment to do that, that was definitely an expectation and they expected you to do that. And you sort of, you know, reaped the punishment, you know, if you didn't do it. And they, they did do some paddling during those days. But I don't ever remember getting paddled by a teacher except one time in my life and I think I was in the sixth grade. But otherwise, people--the teachers could mostly could talk to you. Because you, you had such discipline during that time--what a lot of our children do not have now. And you know, feared almost to, to talk back; you, you didn't do that, because if you did your tongue would even--would be [laughter] down your throat.
LR: So tell me a little bit more about the paddling. I think that, that you were saying that it, it could be why the children at that time--they feared (of backing up) or talking back because they knew that this was not what they were supposed to do.
GP: Right, right.
LR: Just tell me a little bit more about the whole paddling process [laughter].
GP: [laughter] Well, you probably never realized that African-Americans have a different approach to rearing children, than the Caucasian. They believe in talking to children--to their children. Our parents have--I think all them believed in paddling. And I don't think that there's any harm in that, long as you just don't, don't, you know, really abuse the child that much. But our children, nowadays don't seem to understand unless you really (raise your voice or something). Of course we can't, can not paddle 'em. And I also feel that this child abuse thing that came about from the government was the worse thing that they could've done, because now the children use that. And before then--because we didn't know what child abuse was before. If you got a spanking we just accepted that because that was part of the, the culture. That if you did not obey then you got a little spanking. And (?killed you), it just made you shape up [laughter] and know not to do that anymore.
LR: So you would say that the paddling was an effective measure?
GP: It was. It was.
LR: OK.
GP: As long as it wasn't to the extreme. I feel except--I don't, I don't think there's anything wrong with paddling.
LR: OK. Do you recall any of your friends at the time that maybe got paddled a little bit more than others, or?
GP: Off hand I really don't know. In elementary school, I don't really remember that many of us getting paddled because we were young then and all--it had to do with, just you know, just say "I'm going to call your parents" and that kind of thing. Or they would put you in the principal's office. And I don't remember that much. And that was the only--one time in the elementary school that I remember the sixth grade teacher paddle. But I got a paddle and I can't remember really why. But that was the only time because she was really kind of mean [laughter].
LR: [laughter] But--changing gears a little bit and going into integration. The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision occurred in 1954. What do you recall or remember, whether you were talking about this at home or with friends, just what are you memories about that specific decision?
GP: I don't really remember that much 'cause I wasn't in Charlotte; at that time I was in New York and of course the schools there were integrated. But I did find in New York that race--racism was there but it was more on a subtle level as opposed to people being opened in the South with it. So I really was not here during the time that that started and I wasn't here when the schools were integrated.
LR: OK. Well then give me your take on, when you were here, anything comparing to your experiences in New York. You mentioned that life was a bit subtle up North.
GP: Uh-huh.
LR: What kind of experiences did you see here in the South besides racism?
GP: Well, that of course ( ) we did not have the benefit of the good material, resources, in the school; we did not have that. And of course the materials were hand-me-downs; we could not have the best kinds of materials. And we did not have the opportunity, you know--children now have all the grants and resources that they can tap to get money to go to school. And we didn't have that, you know, in the South. Now in New York, I only stayed there two years for the high schools and then I went back to work on my Masters, you know, later on. But I found an ( ) and that was so long ago. But children had a tendency--the African-Americans have a tendency to still stick together, and the Caucasians stuck together, or whatever nationality it was. Which I think, to the humanistic characteristics at best--it's like if you go someplace and you know somebody, you tendency to gravitate to that person, if it's someone that you know. And I think that's kind of like a humanistic element that sort of comes about. But ultimately I don't--but otherwise, at Edward W. Stick I didn't--and I'd been really involved with anything there either; I had friends from--a couple friends from all, all (over), cause I was easy person to make friends with, besides the fact that I didn't talk very much. But that worked out pretty good.
LR: Other than besides the racism, other than, you know, as far as school issues--your books and things like that, can you recall any experiences while you were in Charlotte where there--it wasn't a subtle racism, maybe a quick little experience away from school that you can recall as a child?
GP: No not the ( ) when I was telling you about our ( ). And years and years ago, its called America Trust. And my father worked there. And I worked there on the elevator, you know with him. Now I could see the racism there, although my father was not a high school graduate but he was a very intelligent man and he was able to work in the printer; that was kind of like something above ( ) kind of thing. And so I was getting a better opportunity. And I think people really at that time did not show that much segregation for ( ) at that time. But that's an isolate place, you know.
LR: First--and I know that you said you were up North when integration was going on. But based on your experiences, how did you imagine schools would change as a result of integration, in the South?
GP: I guess I'd hope that they would change and be equal but they weren't; they were not equal. And still today although they're integrated we're back now to segregated schools; they are not equal. Cause the (purpose) of the schools do not have the resources of the some of white schools have. And this is a long ( ). I think Charlotte is still fighting that issue--still fighting that issue. Because ultimately ( ) with the alumni, we had a parent at West Charlotte and she wrote the principle, wrote the principal a letter to say that she did not want her daughter in the class with African-Americans. And she was going to West Charlotte and her husband was on the board of the school. But you, you still have it here; you still have that here. And there a lot of things that, that blacks are not exposed to resources that the whites are. I think ( ) of us as a race, we do not work together. And (our whites) can be angry with each other, but when it comes to fighting an issue, they come to the forefront together, together. We have not learned that yet. And I don't think we're going ever learn that. One ( ) in terms of helping us as a race, we don't have a leader here in Charlotte, not one African-American leader; not one. And that is sad. You have all these politicians who eventually I think get (bored) out. They once had political status; so then they get (bored) out. And they don't fight for the best for people. And that bothers me; it really does because I don't think they going have any ( ); I really don't. And I might be pessimistic, but because of some--now you take the housing development, for example. They put all those people together; they have no goals, no aspirations, limited income off the system and you don't have not one to bring up the other to help them move along. So I think that--one last thing I've always said--I think that they need, need to get rid of all housing developments and spread the people out. But they haven't--I think that they should reward them ( ) on ( ) Street.
LR: No not another housing--
GP: No not another housing project, housing project. One of the early ones--for after they took her down and started building back the clubs and townhouses, and whatever they were planned to but they had a five year program if people were willing to purchase. But they set it so high, that most of African-Americans did not have income. So what they would do now would ( ) or push them to African-Americans ( ). They know the downtown area should be white or mostly is white. Now ( ), the one that I was working with the children, our doctors wanted to take housing development. And they did the same thing today. So only about 150 dwellers that will be (really concerned.) So--and then they just the other zone all over the city. But still there's no ( ) for example, in the program I used to have people come in on Thursdays to talk to the children just because ( ) -and I had this young man to come to talk about--and he talked about back then, how people are (around the town). And this little girl said to me "I don't need to know that because (I'm going to be) on welfare. So if a hand-me-down from generation to generation, and how did I ever get--plus I also feel the government perpetuates dependency; they really do. (My thing) is that after a lady has had two children she shouldn't get any help; she should not get any help. If this lady drop these babies like a cat dropping kittens and already thinking that they going to get another fifty dollars. So, it, it's really sad.
LR: Taking [sigh]--going back to the integration in schools--this should be my last question on this topic, but it's--I'm just wondering what your take is. Looking back when you were coming up in the education system, even from now, what is your take on segregation as long as--segregated but equal? What is your take on segregated schools as long as they're equal in their kitchen staff, in their materials and books, their curriculums--what is your take on that?
GP: I don't have any problems with it. I don't feel integration has helped our children; by and large, it has not helped our children. Number one, the classes are too large; there's too much bureaucracy in education; too much politics with politics. Teachers can not discipline, and I don't know whether they can not discipline or really set some goals for the children--expectations for the children, and see that they follow through on expectations. But right around the time--parental cooperation--denying a parental participation. Particularly in low income families, who just don't go to the school. They do not--but they can fuss and make all kinds of (fuss) about what they don't get. They weren't ever clear on anything unless you told. The (?.in the summer), the ( ), that's the only way they going to--that it will hit their pockets. They just don't go do it. And some of the things that they did, you might be responsible for that ( ); they are not made to be comfortable. Some people have looked down on people because they're from low income families and they don't understand. Some of the educated who "think they have made it" and that they might never come from some of the backgrounds that our children come from now and they don't seem to remember from whence they came. And then some of the low income families, they said earlier, they just don't have any goals or aspirations. They just happy to live from day--from month to month to get through the checks, the food stamp or whatever they get from the government. So I, I would have no problem if the schools would become segregated again. This--everything at every school would have the same thing. Because--and I think that the more black teachers they have, who can organized our children--a lot of Caucasians can not understand our children and therefore--and of course the bureaucracy built like it is here, ( ) to do but so much 'cause they're always called (Uncle Toms, Uncle Toms)--that kind of thing. But we really sort of--there's nothing, I think, better than a good black teacher. Now I don't want to put Caucasians down 'cause I think there are some good ones. But I think that African American teachers kind of know how to handle our children better.
LR: Just a little bit ago you mentioned when, for example, African Americans go on and graduate and become a professional. You mentioned--well basically what I'm trying to find out is what is your take on--what do they owe the community, once they have so called "made it"? Do you think that they owe the community anything in return?
GP: I certainly do. I think they owe the community a lot of the--the children a lot. Because--they didn't always have what they have now. And some of them propose to be Christians. But they can not be Christians if they not doing mission work; if they not (assertive enough) to help children. Because whether they operate the program that I'm in ( ) I've asked some of child educators to come to the center to volunteer, just one day a week. But be consistent with the same day so the child will have some continuity.
LR: Can you just name that program for me?
GP: It's the Anita Stroud Youth Development Center under the offices of the Anita Stroud Foundation, Inc.
LR: OK.
GP: Which was started in Fairview Homes in one of the housing projects by a lady who only had ( ) person, but loved children. And she started the program by teaching Bible in her apartment. And at that time there was a lady who worked with her who had the formal education to boot to the level that it is now, Ms. Ethel Dutch. But she--(what happen was a mistrial is defeat); she died in 1984. But the lady just had a lot of love for children and she brought them in the bed, and cookies and something and talking "Bible". Because she had ( ) know the Bible was the base--she couldn't read very much but she was able to teach things from Bible stories or whatever and then plus the program was eventually brought to the level that it is now. If--I can't get--African American people do not volunteer on a large scale. They do not volunteer. The first thing is "Oh I don't have to (buy) those children; I did it for 30 years. Well somebody had to be bothered with you. I don't care who you are, somebody along the way had to help you. But they forget that very, very soon. And I think they owe it; if you are going to consider yourself a Christian number one and if you're going to be your brother's keeper, you need to, to extend yourself, your talents, and your time. But--it's time for us to do that.
LR: OK. Just going back to your education again. You mentioned that you attended Johnson C. Smith ( ) in Charlotte. Please tell me when that--when you started college and your experiences there, specifically your major--just your experiences at college.
GP: (Pretty much), I had some good teachers at, at Smith--I started at Smith, I was all--I went to Smith one year; then I quit. And then I went back in '48 I believe. And the teachers that I had--those were a big tool of expectations. I sort of, sort of kept on target, so to speak. So I really think that expanded that foundation, at Smith.
LR: Tell us about that--
GP: The foundation that I experienced and it was a good experience; it was a good one. Because it taught us responsibility, ( ) and (enough) kind of things. So I really think that the, what am I trying to say, and Smith-the automatic just discouraging thing about finishing college was when I got ready for a job. At that time the African American ( ) were doing a house in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. And if you--if your family was not in the realm of education or some big name politician and if you know the right person, you didn't need a job. Most of the principles hired students from out of town for some (corporate) or whatever reason. And of course I also thought that during that time there was a lot, what can I say, going with, with teachers. With--lot of black principles during that time. So that was my reason for leaving Charlotte, because I could not get a job.
LR: So at Smith, what was your major?
GP: Elementary Education.
LR: OK, OK.
GP: And I continued then. And I went to New York and I went to Bank Street College which was focused on early childhood specifically. I received a certificate from there. Then later I went to Hofstra University in ( ) New York; that's where I was getting my masters in elementary education. And of course in New York, the schools were ( ) school district on Long Island. But the school for the most part, ( ) in the first grade were not, on a large scale, have difficult--because of the housing--mostly, you know, are African American, but there were some Caucasians and other races there.
LR: Now this is in New York?
GP: In New York.
LR: OK.
GP: We taught on Long Island. And then we taught integrated style too, just like that.
LR: OK. Looking back through your education here in Charlotte coming through Morgan, attending Second Ward, and then on to West Charlotte, can you relate to--have you had experiences that might have led you on to want to become a teacher?
GP: ( ) that I would become one of two things: either a preacher or a teacher. And I was not going to be a preacher.
LR: [laughter]
GP: Because I think I cared a lot for children and I think like I told you earlier, I think I received that from my grandmother who did not have a college education but she had a real feel for children 'cause she taught the little ( ) department in our Sunday school for years and years and all of us didn't see that. And I think that was one of the things that sort of led me to do that. Plus it's--children open to us, like they, like they are now too, African Americans professionals.
LR: So in all of your teaching experience, how long did you actually teach? Or how long were you in education and if you can break it if it was administration, teaching?
GP: Hmmm. I taught [pause]--when I first went to New York I taught at a daycare. And in daycare you have to have a college degree; it's not like it is here in Charlotte. If you're 18 and you know, finished high school then you could--but in New York you had to have a degree. And I guess I was there for about 10 years maybe. And then I went--moved to Long Island and worked in (Huntsville) School district. I stayed there until I retired, and gave it up.
LR: what, what did you take away from your experience as a teacher, administrator, working with children?
GP: While I was admitted to administration, I ( ) for that I was in the classroom ( ). Then I went into administration and I was the coordinator and director of the pre-kindergarten program, district-wide. And I had a district responsibility coordinator curriculum from pre-K through third grade. So I did that for a number of years--bout 18 years. And then I of course came home in 1979, because of health reasons; I had nowhere planned to come back to Charlotte.
LR: So you came back to Charlotte in 1979?
GP: Right.
LR: All right.
GP: And that was because of health reasons.
LR: OK.
GP: But this is--I had never planned to come back to Charlotte.
LR: But from all your teaching, what experiences did you take away?
GP: That you can not give too much to children and that has been my focus all my life as being an advocate for children. That you got--if you have been blessed and if you have struggled, you owe it to, to through the community; you have--you owe it to somebody to make a difference in somebody's life. That's what gives you the satisfaction. And if you're going to live up to your Christian principles, you, you have to do something. You, you have to; you just have to give back something. And it's so rewarding; it's so rewarding. I look at some of my children that I've had through the years as a ( ) came to me in the second or third grade. I had a little boy to call me the other night. Said he was thinking about me and he just called to see how I was doing; and he's at middle school now. So that kind of thing really comes back to you as a reward--but not money. But this lifts you up to know that something you may have said or done, it had some impact on a child.
LR: In closing, as we bring this interview to an end, I just wanted to make sure that I'm not missing anything and I would like to know if there was anything else you'd like to say that we have not covered?
GP: I can't think of anything other than at 82 people feel bad for me--when am I going to stop working [laughter]. I don't feel--I said I'm going to go as long as God lets me go, unless my health gets real bad that I really can't go. But those children have done as much for me or more than I hope that I have done for them. Because they keep me going. ( ) nephew Isaiah, but the worse I get older, I forget it. And when you get a little face that looks up to you and says "I love you" that makes it all worthwhile. And I think that will stay with me forever. I will do for the children as long as I can. (?job) [laughter]. Try to make a difference, 'cause when I went down there in October and we established a new president--an alumni established in the back of the club. And since that, Charlotte has a negative image right now.
LR: And this is the alumni of previous students that graduated from West Charlotte?
GP: West Charlotte. Right.
LR: OK.
GP: The West Charlotte High School National Alumni. We decided that we would try to volunteer as much as we could; see if we could make a difference. So I agreed to volunteer, and of course I didn't know whether they were going to put me on a list but Mrs. (Gladhorn)--she's one of us that gave it the name, was the chairperson of the group. And she--I told her that I would volunteer and then she put me with the guidance counselors. She knew because of my circulation problem I needed to sit for the most part ( ). Those were the rudest kids I've ever seen in my life. They were so rude, but they (came) too much freedom. No consistency, no rules that they had to follow. So they had to fit around that--the heart of that. But they are much better and the (message) I've taught them. And I had said to them, I said that if "If I don't feel that I made a difference in a month, ( ); but if I don't feel I'm making a difference and don't have the guidance counselors support, you aren't going to have it. 'Cause I take things as a challenge and I took that as a challenge, I said "Now if I can turn some of these kids around, that will be--I will feel much happier about their attitudes and what-I don't know, you-I remember one little girl the first week I was there. When they come in they suppose to tell me where they are going or whatnot, that kind of thing, and if they're on their lunch hour. But they can ( ) yes so they know where they were going. So I said "Who's the ( ) and she said "Ms. Anderson said that" and she walked to the track. So she said "Ms. Anderson can you see me now?" so all I said to her "May I help you?" Every time I would say that, she'd say "Ms. Anderson can you see me?" So finally I said to her, "You are not going to see Ms. Anderson today. I suggest you walk out of that door, because you have completely ignored me and I refuse to think that. So you just go out the door." "Well I'll come back another day when you're not here," that's what she said. So, I said "OK. That's fine." I got her momma's telephone number, and I called her mom. And she said "Don't worry; she will apologize to you on Wednesday." This was on a Monday. So she ( ). But I didn't know she did at that time because I left. I called the Minister of ( ) charge abuse and she left. Because I know ( ). So today she would come down here and I want to ask the counselor and this young lady, for us to sit down and talk. And talk about the value of respect. So she came, and all of us met with this young lady and I said to her "You're surprised I called your momma, aren't you?" She said, "Yes." I said, "Well I don't play. Respect will open doors for you honey. You don't know who's (sitting) down who can help you. You don't know that." And then by--"I, I, I'm not rich; I don't have money." "Well if there is anything that you would have needed, I probably would have gotten it for you. But if you are going to ( ) I'm not going to do it for you." She said "Well I'm sorry." Now she comes up and sees me about every other day.
LR: That's wonderful.
GP: You told me--and I've had many kids and I had one little boy that comes up to sing me songs every, everyday. He was a mean ( ) little boy I've ever seen. [laughter] I told him that I didn't know it was his, his ( ) but I knew his grandmother; I knew his grandmother died. And I went to the funeral, I saw him in--with the family. Oh, I said unto myself "I have known you for, for ( ). I'd a (held) you a long time ago [laughter]. But, if it mattered, I tried to show that I care for them.
LR: Right.
GP: But I feel second--when they pass by me and go to the counselor and don't-I can't stand mis-talking to me and keep walking. But I follow them right back to the counselor's office and the first time that I did that, Dr. McCloud, I know you know who I'm talking about--
LR: Uh-huh.
GP: I went in there; I said to him "Excuse me." I said, cause this really set a problem, to (get any good) respect and after conversation, this young man, "if you're respectful, there are many doors and opportunities will open for you. And I'm out there for a reason. And I expect you to respect that." " Well, I'm, I'm sorry." But this is need some consistency. ( ) consistency. But they are better; some of them say "Bye Ms. Powe. Have a good day." [laughter]
LR: [laughter]
GP: But it--but if--I like going down there. And as I said, I feel good as long as I feel that I'm making a difference, in the children's lives. So, that's about it with me.
LR: Well I thank you very much, Geraldine Powe, for your time and sharing your experiences with me. And I have really enjoyed listening to you.
GP: You know, thank you Lynn. My pleasure to do it and I hope the other--the other ( ) can do--have a little better memory in terms of really what happened to them, you know, since I was growing up in the Queen; I was not here, when integration was--and of course most of the names that I stated were people younger than I am.
LR: OK.
GP: ( ) [laughter]
LR: [laughter]
GP: But anyway-but it was so exciting to see the ( ) thing. I was ( ) that (team) over there. I was supported ( ) breast cancer. And I said to her, (do you know) "Early detection is the key to survival" first thing I said. Because if I had my removed in 1972. I said "So you see I'm still living because I'm 82." She said "[gasp]" She was so shocked; she couldn't believe it. She said "I don't believe it." I said "I am." I said "But God has been good." So mine was detected early. Taking care of yourself and early detection. (Other side) is one of the best things. Educate women to accept it. It's a cosmetic kind of surgery. And blood is connected with sex.
LR: Right.
GP: And if you have a mate, or friend, or whatever; if they don't except your breast being removed in lu of your living, they're not worth having. So you remember that as long as you live.
LR: I agree.
GP: They are not worth having. And you can live without them. (Learn) or something, women have got to learn that they can be happy without a man. END OF TAPE 1 SIDE A START OF TAPE 1 SIDE B
GP: And I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I've been married twice. But I ain't marrying no more. I'll tell you that.
LR: [laughter]
GP: That's an education within itself.
LR: Right.
GP: So women have got to learn to accept the, the cancer--you don't get anything because you want to.
LR: Right.
GP: It happens to your body. We just got to learn to accept that. My motto is "Take time for others and think positive." And I had to think positively--used to have it on my check; and used to be on my voicemail.
LR: Uh-huh.
GP: But, and I believe in that. I'm a pretty positive person by-and-large. And I get depressed. I--that really is unusual for me. So 'cause people live unhealthy and ( ) I say, long as I can get up and move, slow, but move--
LR: Uh-huh.
GP: then I'm blessed. I am blessed. So how can I not do something for children, you know. And I think children, 'cause that's my focus.
LR: Right.
GP: Now I'll do for other people too, but children is really my focus, really my focus.
LR: Well once again, I really appreciate you taking the time with me, sharing your experience and I've really enjoyed listening to you.
GP: Well thank you--yeah, (hoped it) would have helped some.
LR: I'm sure it will.
GP: You probably haven't gotten to the, the really nitty-gritty of the segregation versus the integration--
LR: Right.
GP: Which means, because I was not here--
LR: Right.
GP: then--I was here during the segregation part. But during the time that it was integrated, I was not here.
LR: Well I do appreciate your experiences; they, they were wonderful to hear.
GP: Well thank you, thank you.
LR: I thank you very much.
GP: You are welcome.
LR: [laughter]
GP: You're welcome and it's good to know you too.
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