Lived Between Two Physical Barriers

“If it’s the culture… that’s what you do.”

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Transcript for Lived Between Two Physical Barriers

Well, you know what?  During that period of time in the 60s, blacks lived between the expressway and the railroad tracks there at Ninth and Broadway, and that’s pretty much where we traveled in those—between those areas.  We would go to Glen Park occasionally when we wanted to go to the Y&W, which is our outdoor theater.  We would go maybe to go to Burger King or some places like that, but we couldn’t live in those neighborhoods.  Because even, you know, as I think about it now, in retrospect, the downtown area was very segregated to a degree.  Blacks shopped down there, but we ate at certain places.  And it was just established—it was almost like in the South, you know what you was supposed to—where you go and so forth.  And so, there was a place called Copper Kettle—we knew that we couldn’t sit down to eat there.  It was very—really upscale place on the corner of Eighth and Broadway.  You could go in there and order, and take it out, but you couldn’t sit down.  So, we knew that.  I think I was too young to appreciate it.  I mean, if it’s the culture, if it’s the modus operandi, that’s what you do, you know?  And I was proud of Gary, and I didn’t know how racist it was.

My first experience with, really dealing with, really racism was when I was twelve years of age—maybe eleven or twelve—and my family doctor sent me to a specialist, and the specialist was in the Brunswick area.  And my mom told me how to catch the bus on Broadway and to transfer to get to this area.  And I didn’t have any difficulty getting there, but when I came out—because those streets intersect—and so when I came out, I was turned around.  You know, I’m young.  And so, I’m trying to walk back to the bus stop.  And I end up walking through what’s now—what was called Waverly Drive or Waverly Garden, over in that area.  It was like a project area, a white project area.  And I’m going down these streets, and I’m totally confused—I don’t know where I’m going.  And that was probably the first time I had been called that n-word.  I had heard it on television—I knew about it—but that was my first experience of doing it.  So, these white boys came out, and they called me the n-word multiple times.  And they started throwing rocks at me.  I had to run.  I ended up way past my area, and somebody found me, because I was totally lost.  Because we didn’t frequent those areas.  We pretty much lived between two physical barriers.