Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Saturday Morning in the Hood 1960's style

Growing up in the projects was not all Urine and Junkies on the Hallway Stairs. We had our fun! Saturdays were like most typical Americans. Mom and Dad would be sleeping late from the drinking they did the night before. I being the oldest would quietly round up my two brothers and sister. I would fix cereal for them to eat. Quisp, Quake, Sugar Pops, Cheerios, Cocoa Crispy, Apple Jacks, my Favorite hot cereal Farina. Now of course we did not have these cereals all at once but these are the types we would have.

My brothers would fight over the toys inside of the boxes. I had already secretly taken the toys out of the boxes, then I would decide who'd get the prize determining by who won the quarrel and fight.

I would have them pour their cereal into their favorite colored plastic bowl, but I'd pour the milk into the bowls so they wouldn't waste on the table and onto the floor. That would be disaster! This was all done in an undertone so as not to disturb the parents. Then I would rinse every bowl with dish washing liquid and put them in the strainer after they finished eating.

Next it would be cartoon time! I would quietly turn on our HiFi with the TV console all in one. We would turn to our cartoon Mighty Mouse. My brothers would jump from couch to chair and swimming on the blue linoleum floor pretending to be mighty mouse saving the day. Next we were Rocky and Bullwinkle. My brother and I loved being Natasha and Boris. We could wrap our younger sister in ropes tied on the floor and jump over them until my sister started screaming loud enough to wake up my Dad and Mom.She got on my nerves.

My mother would wake up and start going off about us jumping on her couch and all of the toys in the living room and who told you to turn on our television, Then she'd check the dishes somehow I would always leave food some stuck in the bowls. We always forgot to sweep!

Next it was take baths and get dressed. I hated getting dressed because that meant getting my hair combed and I had long back thick hair it went beyond my shoulders and since my mom was a hairdresser she had to get it right. I had to look like a black Charmin Chatty Doll before I stepped out of the building.

So we would be dressed by 12:30 to leave and go food shopping. There was a movie theater down on Belmont Avenue named the National Theater. All of the kids went there on Saturdays. The manager or owner was named Tony and he knew all of the children. My parents would drop me and my two brothers off. I remember fondly those sticky floors and the dimmed amber diamond shaped lights that lit up the side aisles.

We would look for our friends form the building if they were not there we would look for school mates and we'd sit together. We watched Godzilla and loved those twins that wooed Marthara the giant Caterpillar. We sang the song with them oooh-oooooh.

We bought those huge peppermint sticks wide as our mouths we would suck them and then get cold water from the fountain. Once in a while Mr. Tony had to ban someone for a week because they walked across the top of the front row of chairs to get their heads projected on the screen.

My parents would pick us up at 4:00 p.m. after they finished shopping. Mr. Tony and the National theater were the best babysitters ever!

Friday, October 26, 2007

A day stuck in the Elevator

The Elevators in the peojects were esssential they were 13 stories high. There was no thirteenth floor to avoid bad luck. Well one day my mom sent me to the store to get a loaf of bread for dinner. I lived on the sixth floor. I usually walked up the flights to our apartment, but it was early evening. I did not like taking the steps around that time of day. There were bad people that hung out on the stairways around that time of day,people like junkies and these older teenagers that mugged people.

So I waited for the elevator there were two elevators in each building one that stopped on the even floors and the other on odd. Our elevator for the even floors was stuck and not working. I waited patiently for the odd elevator the people waiting with me decided to walk except for another girl. We got on the elevator pushed our floors and after it went past the third floor it got stuck in between floors. We pushed the alarm buttons we screamed soon we heard some people yelling at us they told us they would call and try to get a janitor.

They told our parents we were stuck. We made small talk to get our minds off of the stench of urine smell. We looked for a clean spot to sit as our legs began to tire. I heard my brothers voice calling my name he asked if I was alright and I answered yes. Then I heard my mother's voice. She said they had called the office and they were looking for the janitor that was on call. I started to cry it was hot and it stank.

Soon I got hungry and the girl and I ate the entire loaf of Betty Lou Bread. There is something about breaking bread with another person. Its bonding. We finished the last piece of bread and afterwards the lights came back on and the elevator moved to the next floor. When the door openned there stood our families.

Gangs in the Projects before gang bangers

I guess I was part of a gang and did not realize it at the time. There were these children brother and sister our friends they lived on the 10th floor . They smelled like pee or urine all the time. Their clothing were dirty and wrinkled just nasty. The girl's hair was never combed it was just full of hair grease that Dixie peach and full of lint held together with red rubber bands. Their mother was never home. Those kids lived alone for several days. They would let us the kids ; in the building their friends ,know that their mom was not at home. They took turns asking if they could eat lunch with us or dinner. My mom would let them eat at our house often. One day I asked my mother if the girl could have one of my dresses because I felt so badly for her. My mother obliged. My mom was also a hairdresser she also washed the girls hair and straightened it. My father took her brother and my brother to the barber shop. Wow what a difference those kids were so happy. So were we! When the other kids in the building saw the good results other families started doing the same thing.
The bad thing is their mother was a trip. She had the nerve to come banging on our door cursing our mother out about feeding and cleaning her children.
My mother was going to let her have it but our dad jumped in.

My mother was so angry it was the first time I ever heard her call someone an hoe.

After the incident the children did not speak to us for a while their mother was home for a period of time but then she up and vanished again. The kids had no food and they were back to stank. This time we, the children of the building decided to meet and figure out how to get them food since their Mom had burnt their support system with her mouth.

We elected certain ones to go to various stores in the area to steal food for them. We chose the ones that we knew were good enough to get away with out getting caught we put them in teams.

Then we had the kids such as myself that the store owners liked and we had to go and ask directly for extra lunch meat for our friends. This system worked the kids got food.

We never viewed this system as wrong or as a gang we just thought of it as a way to provide for those around our way that were in need.

Looking back I realize that we were a gang. We fought for one another and covered for each others needs. Although we were young children the oldest 12 years old we just thought we were doing good.

Before there was Def Jam there was Ghetto Jam

Rap is nothing new it's always been part of the African American experience. I can remember as a young girl in the mid 1960's sitting outside our building on those concrete toys a group of us making up raps. " My name is captain Sinbad "bodeep(choral)" I sail the seven seas! "Bodeep" and knows the secret "bodeep" opensesame! "bodeep bam bam bodeep" and then we would proceedwith our rhyme it would go around until everyone had a turn making up their rhymes until we got tired or some was called up stairs.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Show time at the Projects

Before there was hip hop rap there was the projects do-wop. I remember my uncle and all of the teenagers gathering outside the building as soon as it turned dark out side. They would harmonize and try to sing like the Four Tops, Little Anthony, The Tempts and other popular male groups of the day. Sometimes they would sing their own songs. In away it was show time at the Apollo. There were several singing groups and they would each have a try. This all took place at the entrance of the building mind you, during the spring summer and fall sometimes winter if they were drunk enough to withstand the cold.

If a group would sound good people would yell out the window for some more popular song request. If they were lousy they got booed people would yell out of the window to tell them to shut up. It was funny! Some of the groups would get angry and tell people to go to hell and continue singing until people would throw things out of the window at them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My Earliest Recollections of the Newark Projects

I can remember moving into the projects. I was about 3 1/2 years old. We lived on Belmont Avenue in Newark with my Grandparents prior to moving into the projects. My Grandmother we called her "Nana" was a superintindant for a large apartment building. She had an apartment in the basement. We lived in a back room that was part of the electrical utiltiy room in the rear of the basement near the garbage room. My father was not employed and my grandmother took us in until he found a job and a place to stay.

I remember my parents joyful state when they received a letter from the Newark housing authority stating that an apartment would be available for them. My mother was happy she said it was a new building with elevators and we, my brother and I would have our own room.

Our address was 65 17th Avenue apartment 4F.

Growing Up in the Projects

My parents were some of the first occupants of the Hayes Home Housing Projects located on 17th Avenue in Newark New Jersey. I witnessed first hand the 1967 Newark Riots from beginning to end.
I am nearly 50 years of age now and remember vividly those weeks of change for an entire community that would profoundly change its history.

It bothers me that there is very little mentioned about the riots. Many people died during that time of revolt. Was it all futile? What can future generations learn from Riots?

I would like to log what happend from my prospective only!
If you experienced the riots in any way feel free to comment!