Unnamed Oral History Interview
Interviewee: Unnamed (A)
Interviewers: Unnamed (B)
B: You can either say your name or you don’t have to say your name. You don’t have to say your name if you don’t want to, but if you could just go on record saying you don’t mind us recording you, that’d be great.
A: I’ve seen the police change in my day. But they’ve been kinda rowdy. But that’s the [time?] you know. How can you control people unless you have some authority? So they have to take some kind of authoritative position besides just their uniforms. So, that’s what they do. And they favor the ones who put them in control, which is the city.
A: And what else? I’ve seen them do everything from beat people to kill people to help people to save people. But is that what police supposed to do? Your answer?
B: Well, they’re supposed to protect.
A: And protecting sometimes getting rid of the bad?
B: No, I don’t think so, no, they’ll never get rid of the bad.
A: You don’t think so?
B: I think they should fix the systemic issues in our communities.
A: Ok, uh huh.
B: Instead of putting so much money in these police forces.
A: In police forces.
B: Have you had any experiences with the police? Either bad or good?
A: I think they do what they do. I’m not one to put fault on somebody because people have to do what you have to do. Now if you didn’t have police, where would the police be? And if you didn’t have criminals, what would the police be doing? So how do you determine what’s bad and what’s good?
B: Have you had experiences or do you know other people who’ve had experiences with the police?
B: And what have their experiences been like?
A: Some of them hasn’t been nice and some have. Some would rather have been let go than arrested. They just arrested a man right there did you see that?
B: *negative sound* No we didn’t.
A: Five white people standing there with one black guy. Police came up and arrested the black guy. Put him in the car, stood around here about half an hour. With the one back guy. Put him in the car, take him out, stand him up, put him back in the car, stand him up, put him back in the car, took off, all the white people left. Now, is that right or wrong? You know anything about this neighborhood?
B: No, I’ve learned a lot just walking through here.
A: This is Rockefeller’s palace, king all this stuff, he donated all this stuff for the museums and hospitals and stuff like that when he died, he let ‘em use it. The beach down there, this whole area all over here is just part of his house, running all the way down St. Clair, almost downtown. Yeah. So this is the neighborhood, all the mansions over there on the other streets if you haven’t looked and seen? So this is his neighborhood and he left money to take care of it, you think they should protect it? Or you think they should not? Answer?
B: I don’t have an answer.
A: I mean if you gave up all this land to the city…
A: And said, I want you to keep it, I want you putting museums and things in here…
B: They’re going to protect what he left.
A: They’re going to protect what he left in order to hold it.
B: Yes, sir.
A: That’s what they’re doing. Now how you protect those stuff whether you’re Black, White, Indian, whatever, what you try to do? That’s what they try to do. You don’t believe that?
B: I do.
A: But you’re saying you don’t think police should be here to police neighborhoods and keep ‘em safe? Who determines what safe is?
B: You’ve got a point, you’re right. What is safe in your opinion?
A: Well I’m thinking just, in the communities, if you’re forced into a community where it’s drugs, alcohol and every 5 feet there’s a bar or a liquor store, then there’s protecting that right? Then if the people in that neighborhood want to sell drugs or need to sell drugs to help their community, should they be able to? Should the police come there and try to stop them?
When they brought in drugs. When they brought in coke and gave it to the brothers? And trying to stop the movement of the 60s, that’s how they did it. They let ‘em sell, they let ‘em get up and do this stuff in order to make inroads in the neighborhood. If you go back to the ‘20s, it was the same thing. The gangs decide to come in, the gangsters that fought against them. Judges, police they worked on both sides.
So I’m not saying that either side is right or wrong, I’m saying that they do what they do. And unless more people change to one side and provide more of that one side, whichever side that may be, that’s it. They legalizing drugs, they legalizing abortion, they selling stims, y’know, but they’re not supposed to be. Are they right? Are you for Planned Parenthood?
B: Yeah. I want to hear your thoughts?
A: And I want to hear who I’m talking to.
A: Make me [?] better to speak who I’m talking to.
B: I gotcha, I understand. I believe that women should be able to do whatever they want to with their bodies, y’know.
B: Because who are we…?
A: Can men do whatever they want to with their bodies? If they want to take the woman, can they take the woman if they want to? But woman can take the man.
B: With their children?
A: With their bodies. The way it is now, when a woman give you some and she change her mind 15 minutes later you raped her, you think that’s right?
A: But that’s what you just said? You said women should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies….
B: No but…
A: If they want to change they mind…
B: No, but it doesn’t directly relate to, when it comes to having a child if a woman decides that she doesn’t want to have that baby then she should be able to decide. I’m saying that a state or an institution.
A: If a man decides to have that child with that woman? Then who wins?
B: That’s a good point.
A: The woman.
A: I didn’t say the woman should win, if that’s my child you don’t win…
B: Right, but I’m saying with the current system they would win.
A: Not any more, now more men are getting their kids from their women, than it used to be but women used to get them all the time even if they didn’t want ‘em. Now men fighting for their kids, they’re taken them away from them, they’re standing up for their rights and what they believe in and they’re raising them the way they think they should.
B: I was raised by my father.
A: Ok. Then you just said the woman could raise it because he’s wrong [??]
B: No, it’s not necessarily a matter of him being wrong. What I’m saying is how could we tell a woman that she can’t do whatever she wants to with her baby, you’re not gonna tell that father that he can’t do whatever he wants to with his son?
A: They have been, for many years. They used to tell white men that. Ok, so where’s that right?
B: No, it’s not right, no institution should be able to tell them what to do with their bodies.
A: Then what is the good of a society?
B: What’s what?
A: What is the good of a society to say what we really won’t tolerate in this society, in this society?
B: I agree.
A: How’re you saying you agree when you say they shouldn’t?
B: Because I don’t think women should be told what to do with their bodies. That’s what I’m saying. Do you think they should?
A: I think everybody should.
B: You think everybody should be controlled and told what to do?
A: In certain degrees yes.
B: And that’s what I’m saying with a woman, and whether she wants that. Say she was raped by her father, ok, do you think she should be made to have that child?
A: I believe in God and I believe that if a baby’s made in here it should be kept in here.
B: Ok, I get ya.
A: And can she just kill it because she had it or didn’t want to or it’s her daddy’s baby or a strangers or whose ever baby it was should they be able to say “well I just want to kill this one because I don’t like the way it came.”
B: I gotcha sir, I hear where you’re coming from.
A: I think we’ve got to live with where we’re at. They’re trying to kill eight and a half billion people now, seven and a half billion people now so they can control the world with a half a billion people. Everybody can have everything they want, you think that’s right?
B: To have everything they want?
A: If it was only a half a billion people on Earth, and they killed seven and a half billion people, which is what they’re talking about doing—have you heard of that?
B: I haven’t heard of that.
A: Have you heard of the Georgia stones?
B: Georgia stones?
B: No I haven’t.
A: The Georgia stones are in Georgia, like in the highest place there is, and it’s in every language in the world that they can do better if they get rid of, they take it down to half a billion people, they wanna kill seven-and-a-half billion people.
A: Look it up on your phone.
B: I’ll look it up. Georgia stones?
A: They got built back when Ted Turner was big. They don’t know if he did it.
B: I’m gonna have to see…
A: That one looks right…
A: Why do you think, though, that people should control people?
B: Why do I think they SHOULD control people?
A: Have control over people.
B: No, I feel like there should be less control.
A: And let women make decisions they want, men make decisions they want, and then we don’t like ‘em too bad?
B: Yeah. That’s what I think.
A: How’s that not anarchy?
B: It is, it could be.
A: And what happens y’know, with any place to live in an anarchy society?
B: I think there’s different forms of what we’d consider as Americans as anarchy.
A: I didn’t mention Americans but what would you think anarchy is in some other countries?
B: An example of it or what we see in America?
A: An example of anarchy. No, not American-influenced, just anarchy.
B: Ok, I w…
A: Everybody do whatever they want to do. In those African nations where they say people are wild and crazy and just killing people.
B: No but I think they’re still under control by Europeans who have colonized those African countries. But we don’t see that on…here in America.
A: But we don’t see those countries because they’re not existing like you’re saying?
B: No, we see one form of it, we only see one aspect of it.
A: Which is what?
B: Which is what they want us to see, which is starvation…
A: Well ain’t that what America does?
B: Yeah, exactly, and it goes back to your system, what you said, of protecting and enforcing and making sure some communities have and some don’t, and I’m saying they…
A: But when they [obscured by music] them [obscured] minorities, they put ‘em near the power plants, they put ‘em near the sewage plants, they put ‘em near…and that was their community…
A: And you’re saying “hey that’s a good idea, let’s keep that going?”
B: *negative sound* No, I’m trying to say get rid of that.
A: Ok, and where do we put new buildings and what do we put in those neighborhoods?
B: But do we have to? Do we have to have these sewage plants? Or can we come up with alternative ways of dealing with things like sewage?
A: You might find people who would back it, especially where the sewage is in Cleveland, where it goes, right out in the lake near every beached areas. That’s where the sewage’s dumped. Then every time you wanna go swimming, you gotta see if it’s too contaminated or not. On days it’s not you can swim, on days you can…you can swim.
B: Wow. Hmm. So what do you think is an alternative to police violence, brutalization?
A: I think we band together by what they did, or what your group wants there to be [noise] you don’t want drugs in your neighborhood, you try to keep drugs out of your neighborhood. If someone [noise] they want to put drugs in your neighborhood, then you have to address that and they have to address that, and who’s gonna win? You don’t know who wins wars?
B: I know that. *laugh*
A: Well then that’s who’s gonna win.
B: So do you think it’s possible that a community, a black community could come together to keep…
A: Well, I know, I know that we were. Y’know, when [???] we were equaler than white people. We had cities, towns, banks, stores, everything, we funded ourselves. They stopped that. Took it away from us. Why? Cause they seen that we could survive without them. You see that?
B: Yes, sir.
A: Now keeping people dumb, and dumb enough Americans, which I think I see happening, y’know?
A: People go to school to learn but what do they know? They know just what they were told and what they say it’s supposed to mean. And then you have to get a grade on what they say is right. And if you put down their answer, then you get a passing grade. And that’s their own type of people. They’re brainwashing people. And you’re raising your kids. You brainwashing your children to what you think is right? Or you leave it open to what they think? Like Will Smith’s kids. I mean…who’s to say he’s wrong, who’s to say he’s right? What’s the right way? I’ve answered I want an opinion.
B: You want an opinion.
A: An opinion. I don’t think we’re gonna come up with an answer.
B: No, but I, my belief is that as a parent you have to supplement what they’re learning in school. Because if you don’t put down the answer, like you said, then you won’t make it through the educational system. But I feel like as a parent you can introduce them to certain texts, you can let them read Malcom X’s autobiography or show them Richard Wright’s Native Son, y’know, give them something extra that they’re not getting in school.
A: Ok, to do what with?
B: To hopefully make a difference in society, to realize what’s going on around them. Because they won’t learn it in school. Or to be really frustrated.
A: Well, why not say to work toward what you want?
B: That’s true.
A: I mean, did Martin Luther King get frustrated because he couldn’t achieve what he was dreaming of? Did he achieve his dream? You don’t know?
B: No, I don’t. I think people are still talking about that today. Would he be satisfied, or would he be…how would he feel?
A: Well, people can judge, we have a black president now.
B: Do you think that makes any difference?
A: That we have one?
A: Definitely it makes a difference.
B: How so?
A: It makes people feel, black people, feel that they can do more than they ever thought was possible. Y’know. A bunch of people thought this day would never happen and now that it’s happened people believe that other things can happen. So, it really opens up the floodgates of what people can do or at least gets them energized that they can work with. And they open up other cases and other things and other… [noise]
Yeah, I think why it’s got to be about the end instead of now? You got [?] twenty years now, they’ll be different than anybody else’s twenty years at any other time then the time you’ll have. The people back in the Twenties, between ’20 and ’40, whole different life, whole different concept of what was going on. Back in the South you didn’t look up at Mr. [Taller?] you didn’t do that. Now they look at them and cuss ‘em out.
B: That’s true.
A: [indistinct] Now what you want to contribute to the future, is what you as a person want to have life like, what you want to do. What you call it? Documenting all these things?
B: Oh, an archivist.
A: Ok so what do you hope to achieve being an archivist?
B: I hope to document more of the African-American experience, to get what isn’t in the archives. To get what we’ve left out for centuries.
A: [background noise] They had wars, Vietnam and things, they made people take salt pills. Do Black people need salt pills? What does that do to them? The diet that they gave to white people, is that the diet black people ate? So what happens to them, they get diabetes, they get all kinds of different things and they was told to do that. But you try to get some kind of reparations, you try to get some help for it, they’re all “that ain’t us, that’s y’all.” So sometimes you think what you’re doing’s right, you may not be right, but you can take responsibility. Because what I think and what I want are going to be different than what you think and what you think. Someone may prove you wrong and if they don’t prove you wrong and you achieve what you want, then that’s what you got. And that’s a life.
They invented the bomb, you know? They thought they were what? Saving them, fighting them, racing to the moon? What? You know? The United States they set up talk about, well around the world, about aliens. Do they exist? Are they our fathers? Are we their children? What do you think?
B: I don’t know.
A: You have no idea or you just haven’t given it thought?
B: I don’t know. I believe aliens could exist.
A: You think they do exist?
B: I think that some other life forms exist that we don’t know about that we haven’t explored?
A: And religion?
B: I do, yeah.
A: Do you believe in religion?
B: I do.
A: What kind of religion?
B: Well, I grew up Baptist.
A: That’s what you grew up?
A: That’s what you believe?
B: That’s true.
A: What’s it mean to you to grow up Baptist?
B: To grow up? That’s the church that I attended growing up. But as I think I’ve gotten older I’ve developed my own beliefs and I’m not necessarily
A: A Baptist now.
B: Right. Not a Baptist now. But I’m…
A: You believe it but you’re not it. Tell me how that works
B: Well to me there are different elements of it. Different things that I do accept and I don’t accept, you know?
A: No, explain to me in your Baptist terms.
B: *laughing* in my Baptist terms.
A: Yeah, I mean because you say you were Baptist.
B: Yeah, but I guess my issues are things that humans have done in the sense of church, of these huge churches coming up, in poor neighborhoods where the pastor’s making a lot of money, and that’s not necessarily Baptists, that’s just organized religion period. Where they’re in poor communities, pastors making millions of dollars, and that’s not in all churches but it is rampant. But there’s a lot of money being made and it’s not going back into the communities.
A: Where’s it going?
B: In the pocket of the pastor. And I’ve seen that happen time and time again. There’s no community going on. Where the church was an institution in the Black community where the church established colleges, provided Sunday School, taught African-Americans how to read and write, but it doesn’t happen in like a lot of churches.
A: Those aren’t those big churches either. Those big churches aren’t doing it and if you want to go back to Reverend Ike or go back to [unsure] big colleges and stuff in New York. You got the Word Church here that’s getting big. You know, there they have colleges and schools and degrees that you can get, community [words?] so it comes and goes, it’s just that what you may be calling rich may not be rich. There’s wealthy and rich, two different things. What do you think is missing?
B: What do I think is missing?
A: In the Baptist churches, the big Baptist churches, name me one if you know one of them.
B: Not here in Cleveland.
B: But back home, Mt. Zion, Baptist. Oh there’s one here too? So back home I’ve noticed there’s just no interaction with the community. There’s no connection. So that’s what I believe is missing. There’s just the financial implications.
A: How do they get the money with no connections?
B: How do they get the money?
A: They have to be doing something? And that’s the connection.
B: That is a connection.
A: And you getting something you give, or believe in tithe, or believe…
B: What do you think they get out of it?
A: I believe that it encourages part of… [recording cuts off]