African American Studies
This is a very personal account of Mr. Everich's youth and his involvement in collectives and as a community activist. His parents are Ukraninan and he grew up in the Bronx, in a mixed neighborhood. His father was a violent man, beating his wife and children. He was also a racist man and it was this attitude, juxtaposed with the kindness of the very neighbors that he criticized, that convinced the young William of the injustices of prejudice. Everich discusses his school days and the games they played in the neighborhood, from wiffle ball to building scooters from milk crates. He feels children today do not use their imagination as much as his generation had to. He discusses his home life and how violent that was. By the 1960s, the area had become rough and gangs, the Spanish Devils and the Suicides, were active there. He did not really get involved but tried to know someone in every gang who could vouch for him. The only time he felt threatened in the area was when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated and his friend told him to go home as “your friendship ain’t gonna help you in this situation ... people are really, really angry and I’m worried about you.”
He discusses the organised crime aspect of his neighborhood and the distribution of drugs. Heroin had been in the area since the 1950s but it was “hush-hush”. He remembers the “bundles” of heroin. Music was becoming part of his life too – doo-wop and Motown. He loved Puerto Rican music from an early age too and played the congas.
Political events were “thrust” on him because he was actually “strung out” and attended a demonstration with the Young Lords who had been denied access to a Puerto Rican Day parade. He was selling heroin at this stage and carried “a pistol.” He was caught selling drugs at 16 years old and sent to the Brooklyn House of Detention but discusses the organisation of the neighborhood and the involvement of the Dominican immigrants who would do anything to stay in America. His mother had died and his father was drinking so much that they were evicted and his two younger brothers were sent to live in Hawthorne Cedar Knolls. His father became homeless for a time but then “maintained his sobriety.” William too had to enter rehab at Logos due to problems with drugs and was exposed to philosophy and activism, especially following the death of Carmen Rodriguez. Muhammad Ali's comment about Vietnam also really impressed him and he began to believe that the poor of all colours should unite against the elite class, but that society (especially white society) “identify on skin color and not on economics.” He discusses the tension between Italians and their neighbors and says that A Bronx Tale, the movie, is quite accurate. He also describes the problems he faced with his first wife (who was Puerto Rican) both in the Bronx and Puerto Rica.
He talks about life after rehab – he got his GED fifteen years later and went to college aged 40. He talks about efforts made to unite the community along economic lines but that the prejudice was too ingrained and they failed. He became a drug counsellor then to help others in rehab but feels it is difficult to break the hold of drugs. He believes even methodone is just a substitute drug. He considered himself a Marxist-Leninist but was disappointed with the Cambodian situation and the violence in the Asian countries which he had “pointed to as alternatives.” He had to leave the collective too. Then he became interested in music and drumming.
Everich, William. May 8, 2008. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Everich, William Part 2.mp3 (37718 kB)
Everich, William Part 1.mp3 (85080 kB)