Mark Naison | Tony Guida's NY

>>> HELLO I’M TONY GUIDA THIS IS MY NEW YORK IN HIS HILARIOUS DICTIONARY, AMBROSE BIERCE DEFINES HISTORY AS AN ACCOUNT MOSTLY FALSE OF EVENTS MOSTLY UNIMPORTANT THE EVENTS WE COVER TODAY ARE ANYTHING BUT UNIMPORTANT BECAUSE OF ERRORS OF OMISSION, THEY ARE IN LARGE PART FELACIOUS I’M TALKING ABOUT THE HISTORY OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN THIS CITY YOU FACT YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW THE IMPORTANCE OF MORRISANIA IN THE BRONX TO THAT HISTORY FORTUNATELY, THIS BOOK CONTAINS THE REMEDY BEFORE THE FIRES, AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF THE HARLEM OF THE BRONX BY THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE IT’S CO-AUTHOR IS MARK NAISON PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES AT FORDHAM UNIVERSITY HE HAS MUCH TO TELL YOU NEXT ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪ >>> MARK NAISON, GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE >> GREAT TO BE HERE >> TALK ABOUT THIS REMARKABLE BOOK I’M WONDERING IF I — I’M EMBARRASSED I’M FROM THE BRONX I DIDN’T KNOW ANY OF THIS HISTORY I’M SOMEWHAT EMBARRASSED BY THAT I’M TEMPTED TO ASK YOU WHY IS THAT GOING TO TAKE UP THE WHOLE HALF HOUR? >> FOR WHATEVER REASON, THE DOMINANT IMAGE OF BRONX HISTORY WAS THIS PORTRAIT OF JEWISH, IRISH AND ITALIAN IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES THAT MADE GOOD AND THEN WHEN OTHER GROUPS CAME IN, IT ALL FELL APART THAT WAS THE DOMINANT NARRATIVE >> AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND LATINOS — >> ALSO IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, THE FOCUS WAS ON HARLEM AND BROOKLYN THE BRONX GOT LEFT OUT OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY AND AFRICAN-AMERICANS GOT LEFT OUT OF BRONX HISTORY SO I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE TAPPED IN THE SHOULDER AND SAID, CAN YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES REMEDY BOTH OF THOSE DEFICITS? >> THE BOOK GROWS OUT THE BRONX AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY PROJECT GIVE US A THUMBNAIL DISCRIPTION OF THAT >> THIS ALL BEGAN WHEN PETER DEREK, WHO IS THE CHIEF ARCHIVIST FOR THE BRONX COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY, TAPPED ME ON THE SHOULDER AT A BOOK PARTY IN 2002 AND SAID, MARK, WE HAVE MANY INQUARRIES FROM CHURCHES AND SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS ABOUT AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY IN THE BRONX WE DON’T HAVE ANY INFORMATION COULD YOU TRY TO CREATE A DATABASE FOR US? AND WHEN I STARTED LOOKING THERE WERE NO BOOKS, THERE WERE NO DISSERTATIONS I SAID TO MYSELF, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT 500,000 PEOPLE WHO ARE LARGELY INVISIBLE FROM HISTORY WHAT DO YOU DO TO REMEDY THAT? YOU START DOING ORAL HISTORIES SO I CONTACTED A WOMAN NAMED VICTORIA ARCHBALD GOOD IT’S TINY ARCHBALD’S SISTER MY FIRST STUDENTS AT FORDHAM IN 1970 GREW UP IN THE PATTERSON HOUSES I ASKED HER TO DO AN INTERVIEW SHE TOLD AN AMAZING STORY OF WHEN PUBLIC HOUSING WAS THIS WONDERFUL PLACE TO GROW UP IN THE ’50s, MULTI-RACIAL, GREAT SERVICES, KEPT CLEAN WE ENDED UP PUBLISHING THE INTERVIEW THEN HER FRIENDS STARTED SAYING, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO TELL OUR STORIES? WE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TELL PEOPLE THE BRONX WAS NOT A HELL HOLE FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS WE HAD YEARS WE WERE PART OF THESE POSITIVE COMMUNITIES I STARTED INTERVIEWING OTHER PEOPLE FROM THE PATTERSON HOUSES THEN A “NEW YORK TIMES” REPORTER WROTE AN ARTICLE ABOUT MY RESEARCH WITH THE PATTERSON HOUSES I STARTED GETTING INDIGNANT PHONE CALLS AND E-MAILS FROM PEOPLE IN MORRISANIA, HOW DARE YOU DO AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY PROJECT WITHOUT FOCUSING ON MORRISANIA THAT WAS THE HARLEM OF THE BRONX >> LET’S LOCATE FOR OUR VIEWERS MORRISANIA, WHERE IT IS >> OKAY. NORTHERN BORDER CROTONA PARK, EASTERN BORDER SOUTHERN BOULEVARD, SOUTHERN BORDER WESTCHESTER AVENUE, WESTERN BORDER WEBSTER AVENUE IT’S UP ON A HILL OVERLOOKING THE AREA WHERE THIRD AVENUE, WEBSTER AVENUE, WHERE THE RAILROAD LINES RUN IT WAS A LARGELY JEWISH WORKING CLASS AND MIDDLE CLASS NEIGHBORHOOD IN THE ’20s AND ’30s

>> THE BOOK COVERS THIS HISTORY OF THIS NEIGHBORHOOD LARGELY FROM 1930 TO 1960 WE ARE TALKING ABOUT 30 YEARS WHAT WAS IT ABOUT MORRISANIA THAT ENABLED IT TO BECOME THE HARLEM OF THE BRONX? >> IT WAS THE FIRST NEIGHBORHOOD IN NEW YORK CITY WHICH ACCEPTED BLACK MIGRANTS WITHOUT VIOLENCE OR IMMEDIATE FLIGHT IT WAS A FASCINATING STORY. IN THE DEPRESSION, 1930, ’31, THERE WERE A LOT OF LANDLORDS WHOSE BUILDINGS HAD EMPTY APARTMENTS SOME LANDLORDS IN MORRISANIA, KNOWING THE PEOPLE — THESE WERE JEWISH TRADE UNIONISTS AND SOCIALISTS WHO HAD A LITTLE BIT OF AN ANTI-RACE — IF I COULD FIND DEPRESSION-PROOF BLACK FAMILIES AND MOVE THEM IN, I CAN PAY MY MORTGAGES AND THE PEOPLE WON’T GO CRAZY AND LEAVE THEY PUT UP SIGNS THAT SAID WE RENT TO SELECT COLORED FAMILIES THAT MEANT PULLMAN PORTERS AND POSTAL WORKERS, MOSTLY LIGHT SKINNED IN THE MID ’30s, THESE FAMILIES MOVED FROM HARLEM TO MORRISANIA WITHOUT A MAJOR OUT MIGRATION YOU STARTED HAVING THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SINGLE MOST INTEGRATED NEIGHBORHOOD IN NEW YORK CITY MORRIS HIGH SCHOOL, THE JEWEL OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD READ COLIN POWELL’S MEMOIR HE GRADUATED FROM MORRIS IN 1954 >> MORRIS HIGH SCHOOL? >> THE SINGLE MOST INTEGRATED HIGH SCHOOL IN THE EARLY ’50s I WENT BACK TO MORRIS 100th ANNIVERSARY REUNION YOU COULD SEE IT BLACKS, WHITES, LATINOS, ALL TOGETHER VINCENT HARDING WAS THE VALEDICTORIAN OF MORRIS IN 1948 HE IS A RENOWNED CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND HISTORIAN A CONFIDANT OF DR. KING HE SAID THE PRINCIPAL OF THE SCHOOL CALLED IT A LITTLE UNITED NATIONS IN 1948 >> HIS STORY IS AMONG THE STORIES IN THE BOOK YOU TOUCHED ON IT MAYBE YOU HAVE EXPLAINED IT WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF THESE PEOPLE OR THIS NEIGHBORHOOD WAS SO DIFFERENT FROM OTHER URBAN AREAS THE WAY THEY TREATED THE IN FLOW OF — >> OKAY IT’S AN INCREDIBLE STORY AND HOW DIFFERENT IT WAS ON THE GRAND CONCOURSE, ALSO JEWISH, BLACK FAMILIES COULDN’T MOVE IN UNTIL THE ’60s IF YOUNG BLACK MEN WALKED ON THE GRAND CONCOURSE, THE POLICE WOULD ESCORT THEM OFF IN THE ’30s AND ’40s THE ARTHUR AVENUE NEIGHBORHOOD NEAR FORDHAM WASN’T SAFE FOR BLACK YOUNG MEN TO GO INTO WELL INTO THE ’70s IN THE ’50s, THERE WAS A GANG CALLED THE FORDHAM BALDIES >> I REMEMBER THAT >> POLICED THE NEIGHBORHOOD THERE WERE OWNED A HANDFUL OF BLACK FAMILIES WHO COULD MOVE IN THERE YOU COULDN’T MOVE INTO THE IRISH NEIGHBORHOODS YOU COULDN’T MOVE TO THE ITALIAN NEIGHBORHOODS YOU COULD MOVE INTO THIS ONE JEWISH WORKING CLASS NEIGHBORHOOD BECAUSE IT WAS THE MOST LEFT WING NEIGHBORHOOD IN NEW YORK CITY AND SO FOR 20 YEARS, BLACK PEOPLE LIVED IN RACIALLY MIXED COMMUNITIES ATTENDING RACIALLY MIXED SCHOOLS AND IT WASN’T JUST BLACK PEOPLE FROM THE SOUTH IT WAS FROM THE CARIBBEAN AND THEN ALSO PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DISSENT FROM PUERTO RICO AND OTHER LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES SO YOU HAD THIS INCREDIBLE MIX OF CULTURES WHICH ENDED UP GENERATING MORE VARIETIES OF POPULAR MUSIC THAN ANY PLACE IN THE COUNTRY, IF NOT THE WORLD THIS WAS SOMETHING WE UNCOVERED BECAUSE PEOPLE TOLD STORIES >> THEY TOLD WONDERFUL STORIES 17 OR 18 OF THEM ARE IN THE BOOK IT DEVELOPED AS YOU — STRONG CHURCHES, COMMUNITY-BASED — COMMUNITY ACTIVE CHURCHES, GOOD PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR A GENERATION OR MAYBE A LITTLE MORE, THIS WAS A FLOWING AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY >> IT ABSOLUTELY WAS YOU LOOK AT THE — WE HAVE 17 PEOPLE IN THE BOOK OF ONLY ONE OF THEM HAD COLLEGE EDUCATED PARENTS. THEY BECOME PROFESSORS, TEACHERS, EXECUTIVES, MUSICIANS, SOCIAL WORKERS IT’S PARTLY BECAUSE THE COMMUNITY FOR AT LEAST SOME PEOPLE WAS AN ENGINE PROMOTING SUCCESS YOU HAD TEACHER MENTORS IN THE

SCHOOLS YOU HAD STRONG CHURCHES YOU HAD AFTER-SCHOOL CENTERS IN THE SCHOOLS, NIGHT CENTERS WHERE YOU HAD TEACHERS WHO PROTECTED STUDENTS FROM SOME OF THE GANG ACTIVITY AND AS A RESULT, A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THIS COMMUNITY WHO WERE BLACK WERE ABLE TO ACHIEVE UPWARD MOBILITY THROUGH SCHOOL, THROUGH THE ARTS AND THROUGH SPORTS THERE’S ONE POINT I WANT TO MAKE ABOUT THE GOOD SCHOOLS THERE WERE THINGS OUR SCHOOLS DO BETTER TODAY THAN THOSE SCHOOLS DO NOW KIDS WHO HAD LEARNING DISABILITIES WERE NOT TREATED VERY WELL IN THE NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS THEY WERE PUT IN SPECIAL CLASSES THEY WERE MARGINALIZED TO A LARGE DEGREE WE DO BETTER WITH THAT NOW THE ONE THING THOSE SCHOOLS DID BETTER IS SPORTS AND THE ARTS THEY HAD VIBRANT MUSIC PROGRAMS >> I GUESS THEY WERE ELIMINATED IN THE ’70s I THINK, PROFESSOR, IT’S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO UNDERESTIMATE THE VALUE AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THOSE MUSIC PROGRAMS, ESPECIALLY IN THE BRONX SCHOOLS WHEN YOU THINK OF ALL THE MUSIC THAT HAS COME OUT OF THERE >> ABSOLUTELY TWO JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOLS, JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL 52 ON KELLY STREET AND JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL 40, WHICH WAS JUST OFF PROSPECT AVENUE, THEY EACH HAD 300 MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS IF YOU MADE THE BAND AND/OR CAN A ORCHESTRA, YOU COULD TAKE THEM HOME YOU HAD GREAT MUSICIAN TEACHERS ALL THESE GREAT JAZZ MUSICIANS LIKE JIMMY OWENS COME OUT OF 40 IMAGINE EVERY DAY AFTER SCHOOL YOU SEE KIDS TAKING THEIR MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, WALKING HOME, PUTTING THEM ON THE SUBWAY, PUTTING THEM ON THE BUS DO WE SEE THAT IN NEW YORK CITY NOW? THAT TO ME IS REALLY SAD THE MUSIC PROGRAMS WERE LARGELY ELIMINATED IN THE FISCAL CRISIS OF THE ’70s >> I THINK YOUR BOOK POINTED OUT THAT THE NEW YEAR’S EVE PROGRAM OF ONE CLUB BACK IN 1951, ONE CLUB IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD — THERE WERE MANY, MANY CLUBS WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THE THREE — THREE DUCES? NO THAT’S A JAZZ CLUB ON 52nd >> THE GREAT JAZZ CLUBS WERE CLUB 854 AND THE BLUE MORACCO THE HUNTS POINT PALACE WAS THE APOLLO OF THE BRONX ON SOUTHERN BOULEVARD AND 163rd STREET YOU HAD TITO RODRIGUEZ, SONNY TILL AND THE MIGHTY SPARROW ON NEW YEAR’S EVE 1953 >> THE GREAT CALYPSO, THE FRANK SINATRA OF THE CARIBBEAN THE MIGHTY SPARROW, TITO — I WISH I HAD BEEN AROUND >> IMAGINE — NOBODY HAD AIR CONDITIONING YOU CAN IMAGINE THE MUSIC YOU ARE HEARING COMING OUT OF APARTMENTS, COMING OUT OF BARS >> OF COURSE >> IT WAS — I CALL IT A SONIC UNIVERSE YOU HAD THIS UNIQUE SONIC UNIVERSE SO PEOPLE BORROWED EDDIE PALMIERI, THE STAR TROMBONE PLAYER, IS A JEWISH KID FROM THE BRONX BARRY RODGERS, ONE OF THE GREAT TROMBONISTS IN LATIN MUSIC JOE ORANGE, ALSO IN THE TROMBONE SECTION, HE IS AFRICAN-AMERICAN, OF EDDIE PALMIERI’S SIGNATURE SALSA BAND THAT’S THE KIND OF MIXTURE YOU HAD IT MADE FOR GREAT MUSIC >> THE QUESTION COMES — YOUR BOOK OF COURSE IS CALLED BEFORE THE FIRES TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE IT FIXED IN THEIR MIND THAT’S THE ONLY PICTURE OF THE BRONX THAT THEY HAVE FIXED IN THEIR MIND, THE BURNING OF THE BRONX IN THE LATE ’60s, ’70s SO MANY POSITIVE COMMUNITY EXPERIENCES BASICALLY, ONE GENERATION AND THEN IT’S GONE WHY WAS MORRISANIA SO HARD HIT BY THE CRIME AND THE DRUGS? >> IT WAS ACTUALLY LESS HARD HIT THAN HUNTSPOINT MORRISANIA LOST 50% OF ITS POPULATION BETWEEN 1970 AND 1980 HUNTSPOINT, 60% MOTT HAVEN THE SAME WHAT YOU HAD HAPPENING IN THE BRONX — PEOPLE THOUGHT THIS WAS UNIQUE WHEN IT HAPPENED BUT IT HAPPENED IN 30 OTHER CITIES TEN YEARS LATER A LOT OF THIS IS DE-INDUSTRIALIZATION, WHEN FACTORIES CLOSE IN NEW YORK, IT WASN’T STEEL AND

AUTO IT WAS GARMENT AND FOOD PROCESSING A LOT OF THOSE FACTORIES MOVED TO THE SOUTH IN THE ’40s AND ’50s THE OTHER THING WAS THE RED LINING OF NEIGHBORHOODS BY BANKS AND INSURANCE COMPANIES AND THEN THE THIRD URBAN RENEWAL PUSHING VERY POOR PEOPLE INTO THE BRONX ALL THREE THINGS HAPPENING AT THE SAME TIME DE-INDUSTRIALIZATION, RED LINING AND DISINVESTMENT AND URBAN RENEWAL AS A RESULT, PEOPLE PANICKED BECAUSE THE PROPERTY OWNERS COULDN’T COLLECT RENT PEOPLE PANICKED THAT THEIR NEIGHBORS WHO HAD MONEY WERE MOVING OUT DRUGS CAME IN THEN IN THE ’70s, CUTS IN FIREHOUSES, CUTS IN POLICE, CUTS IN SCHOOLS THE BRONX WAS GIVEN UP FOR DEAD HERE IS THE IRONY THE BRONX IS THE ONLY PLACE HIT BY DE-INDUSTRIALIZATION IN THE UNITED STATES THAT IS COMPLETELY REBUILT >> YOU GO TO THE SOUTH BRONX TODAY AND YOU WOULD BE AMAZING — >> I’M THERE EVERY DAY THE BRONX IS A GREAT AMERICAN SUCCESS STORY BECAUSE LOOK, HAVE YOU BEEN TO YOUNGSTOWN? BUFFALO, DETROIT I’VE BEEN TO — I’VE DONE THE DE-INDUSTRIALIZATION TOUR OF THE UNITED STATES EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED IN THE BRONX IN THE ’60s AND ’70s, HAPPENED TO THOSE PLACES IN THE ’80s THE DIFFERENCE? THE BRONX IS ENTIRELY REBUILT EVERY VACANT LOT HAS TOWNHOUSES, APARTMENTS, SHOPPING CENTERS I THINK — >> IT’S LIKE — I WAS AMAZED YEARS AGO WHEN I WENT UP CHARLOTTE STREET AND YOU WILL SEE PRIVATE HOMES LITTLE FENCES >> THOSE WERE THE FIRST BUT NOW YOU HAVE THESE GREAT APARTMENT COMPLEXES I EVEN AM NOW AM WORKING WITH THIS AMAZING ORGANIZATION CALLED WEBCO WHICH HAS A NEW HOUSING COMPLEX CALLED BRONX COMMONS WHICH WILL HAVE A 300 SEAT MUSIC VENUE WHERE THEY ARE RECREATING THE MUSIC TRADITIONS OF THE BRONX >> THAT’S A REMARKABLE ORGANIZATION WOMEN’S HOUSING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION THEY HAVE BUILT MANY HIGH-RISE TOWERS AND TRYING AT LEAST TO RESERVE SOME OF THE APARTMENTS AS LEGAL DIFFICULTIES, BUT RESERVES ON THE APARTMENTS FOR MUSICIANS IN NEED >> NANCY BEAVERMAN IS A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE IN 2006 AND 2007, WHEN WE STARTED UNCOVERING THIS AMAZING MUSIC HISTORY OF MORRISANIA, SHE HAD ME MAKE PRESENTATIONS TO HER STAFF ABOUT IT THEY DECIDED, WHY DON’T WE TRY TO BRING THIS BACK BECAUSE AGAIN, THERE ARE NO MORE PRIVATE CLUBS IN THE BRONX WHERE MUSIC IS BEING PERFORMED IT’S ONLY BEING PERFORMED AT UNIVERSITIES SO WHY NOT HAVE A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION CREATE A MUSIC VENUE THAT CAN ENCOURAGE ALL THE DIFFERENT CULTURAL TRADITIONS WHICH ARE HERE NOW WHICH ARE ALSO BRINGING DIFFERENT POPULAR MUSIC THE POINT IS, THIS HISTORY IS ALIVE WHEN YOU FIND OUT THAT PEOPLE CAN BE THIS ENERGIZED BY MUSIC IN THE SCHOOLS AND IN THE COMMUNITY, WHY NOT BRING IT BACK? >> WHERE DID THE PEOPLE GO? >> OKAY A LOT OF PEOPLE WENT TO THE MITCHELL LAMA HOUSING THAT WAS BUILT IN THE ’60s AND ’70s CO-OP CITY IS ONE EXAMPLE THESE ARE SUBSIDIZED MIDDLE INCOME DEVELOPMENTS. FORDHAM HILL IS ANOTHER ONE ON FORDHAM ROAD JUST OFF THE MAJOR DEAGAN ALL ALONG THE BRUCKNER THERE ARE MIDDLE INCOME HIGH-RISES ALSO TO PLACES LIKE MOUNT VERNON AND NEW ROCHELLE, TO QUEENS ESSENTIALLY, NORTH AND WEST, IN THE BRONX OR IN THE NEARBY SUBURBS IS WHERE PEOPLE MOVED IF YOU GO — RIGHT NOW, THE LOCUST OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN POPULATION IS THE NORTH BRONX CO–OP CITY IS PREDOMINANTLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN IT WAS ONCE PREDOMINANTLY JEWISH YOU GO ALONG GUN HILL ROAD, IT’S WEST INDIAN, SAME WITH WHITE PLAINS ROAD THE SAME IS TRUE IN MOUNT VERNON >> WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THESE NEIGHBORHOODS NOW THAT ARE LARGELY AFRICAN-AMERICAN, I DON’T GET THE SENSE IT’S THE SAME CULTURAL OASIS THAT

MORRISANIA WAS BACK IN THOSE DAYS >> I DON’T THINK ANY NEIGHBORHOOD IN NEW YORK CITY IS A CULTURAL OASIS UNFORTUNATELY, I THINK THERE’S ALL KINDS OF — WHAT’S HAPPENED IN THE SCHOOLS THAT THERE ARE VERY FEW MUSIC VENUES WHERE YOU CAN HEAR LIVE MUSIC WITHOUT PAYING LARGE SUMS OF MONEY BUT I THINK IF THE SCHOOLS BROUGHT THE MUSIC BACK, WE WOULD SEE A FLOWERING OF A LOT OF CREATIVITY IN THOSE NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE NORTH BRONX PEOPLE LOVE MUSIC THEY’RE STILL TRYING TO PERFORM IT, SING IT, DJ IT THEY’RE STILL — BY THE WAY, THE MOST — THE HOTTEST FORM OF POPULAR MUSIC COMING OUT OF THE BRONX TODAY IS BACHADA BROUGHT BY DOMINICAN IMMIGRANTS FIRST WITH THIS GROUP AVENTURA AND THEN OUR OF AVENTURA ROMEO SANTOS WHO FILLED YANKEE STADIUM TWICE THERE STILL IS MUSICAL CREATIVITY IT JUST — THE CLUBS AREN’T THERE THE SCHOOLS AREN’T THERE IN THE SAME WAY >> WE’RE TALKING ABOUT PROFESSOR MARK NAISON’S BOOK BEFORE THE FIRES, ORAL HISTORY OF THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIFE IN THE BRONX FROM 1930s TO THE 1960s MOSTLY IN MORRISANIA AN ORAL HISTORY, REMARKABLE STORY LET’S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THESE PEOPLE AVIS HANSON. SHE WAS AN ENGLISH TEACHER AT MORRIS AND TAFT HIGH SCHOOL HER CARIBBEAN PARENTS, A PRECOCIOUS CHILD, YOU KNOW, A READER- >> WHEN I MET HER SHE WAS 85 YEARS OLD. ONE OF MY BRILLIANT COLLEAGUES AT FORDHAM IS DR. CLARA RODRIGUEZ ONE OF THE PIONEERING SCHOLARS OF PUERTO RICAN HISTORY AND THE ISLANDS OF NEW YORK SHE WAS MENTORED BY AVIS HANSON AT MORRIS I GO INTERVIEW HER SHE TELLS THIS INCREDIBLE STORY OF HER PARENTS WORRYING ABOUT HER BECAUSE THEY KNEW SHE WAS INTELLECTUALLY GIFTED IN A TIME WHEN WOMEN WERE NOT NECESSARILY RESPECTED SHE WAS IN A SCHOOL IN HARLEM THEY COME VISIT THE TEACHER IS HAVING COFFEE WITH THE PRINCIPAL WHILE AVIS IS READING FLASH CARDS IN FRONT OF THE CLASS THEY COME BACK AGAIN, THE SAME THING IS HAPPENING >> SHE’S 6 YEAR OLD SHE CAN READ FLUENTLY SAY, WE CAN’T DO THIS TO OUR DAUGHTER WHERE DO YOU FIND GOOD SCHOOLS? WHERE THE JEWISH PEOPLE LIVE THEY WENT AND WALKED UP AND DOWN THE STREETS IN MORRISANIA SAW A SIGN THAT SAID WE RENT TO SELECT COLORED FAMILIES AND MOVED IN AVIS BECAME FIRST BLACK STUDENT AT PS 23 SHE WAS ALWAYS THE BRIGHTEST STUDENT IN THE CLASS THERE’S THIS ONE INCREDIBLE STORY WHICH TELLS ME ABOUT THE SPIRIT OF MORRISANIA SHE’S IN FIFTH GRADE THE TEACHER RESENTS A BLACK STUDENT IS THE SMARTEST KID IN THE CLASS SHE WINS THE AREA SPELLING BEE BUT SHE DOESN’T HAVE THE CAR FARE TO GO THE TEACHER SAYS — ANNOUNCES, AVIS WON THE SPELLING BEE BUT CAN’T GO BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T HAVE THE CAR FARE >> THE TEACHER ANNOUNCED THIS? >> THE TEACHER ANNOUNCED IT TO THE CLASS A JEWISH BOY PUT HIS ARM AROUND HER AND SAID, IT AIN’T NO CRIME TO BE POOR THAT’S MORRISANIA IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED ANYWHERE ELSE >> PAUL HIMMELSTEIN, THE LEAD SINGER OF THE HEART BREAKERS >> YOU CAN SEE THEM ON YOUTUBE PUT APOLLO, PAUL HIMMELSTEIN AND THE HEART BREAKERS BEAUTIFUL SONGS ♪♪ >> SO HE WAS ONE OF 14 CHILDREN IN A JEWISH FAMILY THE LAST FAMILY ON THE STREET TOTALLY ACCEPTED BY THE COMMUNITY THE PROBLEM WAS, HE HAD A LEARNING DISABILITY HE COULDN’T READ SCHOOL WAS HUMILIATING FOR HIM SO HE TELLS THIS STORY HOW HE KNEW HE WAS NOT GOING TO BE — SCHOOL WASN’T WORK HE WOULD HAVE TO MAKE HIS LIVING IN THE STREET HE WASN’T A TOUGH GUY

SO HE BECAME A STREET HUSTLER WHAT HE HAD WAS A GIFT OF RHYMING HE WOULD DEAL CARDS WHILE RHYMING. IT WAS LIKE EMINEM BEFORE EMINEM HE WAS TOTALLY ACCEPTED A LOT OF THE PEOPLE I INTERVIEWED REMEMBERED HIM YOUR BLOCK TOOK CARE OF YOU GOD FORBID SOMEBODY FROM ANOTHER BLOCK COME CHASE ON TO YOUR BLOCK, DIDN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR ETHNICITY WAS, PEOPLE WOULD COME OUT AND CHASE THEM AWAY >> YOU HAVE JIMMY OWENS, YOU REFERRED TO HIM EARLIER, FAMOUS JAZZ TRUMPETER HE WAS BORN ON EAST 168th STREET A COUPLE OF WHITE FAMILIES >> THAT WAS A BROWNSTONE BLOCK >> MAYBE WE SHOULD SAY IT AGAIN THE HARLEM OF THE BRONX, MORRISANIA IN THESE YEARS, WASN’T — IT WASN’T 100% AFRICAN-AMERICAN THERE WAS LATINOS, THERE WERE WHITES, NOT MUCH BUT THEY WERE THERE AND THEY DIDN’T FLEE >> THEY DIDN’T FLEE 166th STREET AND BOSTON ROW, SO PEOPLE HAD INTERACTED AT SCHOOL AND IN THEIR COMMUNITY ACROSS RACIAL LINES IN A WAY THAT WAS NORMALIZED NOW, THEY KNEW IF YOU WENT TO OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS, IT WASN’T THE SAME WAY THEY ALL KNEW YOU COULDN’T GO INTO ARTHUR AVENUE AND YOU CON WALK UP ON THE GRAND CONCOURSE MORRISANIA WAS A SAFE ZONE FOR EVERYBODY IT ALSO GRABBED THIS INTELLECTUAL EXCITEMENT PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD LIVING THERE THAT THEY WERE LIVING SOMEWHERE SPECIAL THEY HAD RELATIVES IN OTHER PLACES THEY KNEW — THEY HAD BEEN CHASED OUT OF CROTONA PARK BY ITALIANS HERE IS THE IRONY IS THAT ITALIAN AMERICANS TOOK AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE AND ENHANCED IT AND EMBRACED IT THAT’S ANOTHER STORY OF THE ITALIAN — IF YOU LOOK AT ALL THE GREAT WHITE DOO-WOP GROUPS AND ROCK-N-ROLL GROUPS COMING OUT OF NEW YORK, OVERWHELMINGLY ITALIAN AMERICAN, LARGE NUMBERS FROM THE BRONX >> AND 116 STREET ON THE EAST SIDE I TAKE YOUR POINT I WORKED WITH SOME OF THESE GUYS THERE WERE OTHER — THERE WAS A GREAT FILM EDITOR AT NBC WHEN I WAS THERE WHO WAS ALSO THE LEAD SINGER OF HIS OWN DOO-WOP GROUP I WENT TO SEE HIM ONCE I WAS BLOWN AWAY >> ITALIAN THE TALENT LEVEL OF THESE STREET — THE HEARTBREAKERS, THE CHORDS YOU HAVE TWO GROUPS OUT OF MORRISANIA WHO REVOLUTIONIZED URBAN HARMONIC MUSIC 1954, THE CHORDS OUT OF MORRIS HIGH SCHOOL PRODUCED SHABOOM, FIRST URBAN HARMONIC SONG TO SELL A MILLION RECORDS >> I HAD A 45 OF THEM >> 1957, THE SHANTELLS, EIGHTH GRADERS AT ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA ELEMENTARY ON 166th STREET AND PROSPECT, PRODUCED THE SONG MAYBE THE MOST URBAN HARMONIC SONG BY A FEMALE GROUP TO SELL A MILLION RECORDS IT HAS BEEN COVERED BY JANICE JOPLIN THAT’S MORRISANIA WITHIN TEN BLOCKS YOU HAVE ELMO HOPE, EDDIE PALMERI >> AND SO MUCH MORE >> A LOT OF IT — MOST OF IT IS IN THIS BOOK BEFORE THE FIRES BY PROFESSOR MARK NAISON STIMULAING CONVERSATION >> IT’S GREAT TO — I FOLLOWED YOU ALL THESE YEARS DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE FROM THE BRONX >> DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE FOLLOWING ME >> I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST CUNY TV WHEN I REALIZED IT WAS TONY GUIDA IT WAS AN HONOR >> THANK YOU SO MUCH THANK YOU FOR WATCHING WE WILL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪