African American Studies
Dennis Coleman moved into the Castle Hill Projects from Morrissania with his wife and children. He was very active in the community and was quickly elected as Vice President of the Tennant Association of Castle Hill. One of the first issues he dealt with was racial discrimination. He attended a few churches while living at Castle hill, like St. Andrew’s in Castle Hill. He goes in to detail about the racial tension that existed in the community prior to the construction of the Castle Hill Projects and after their completion. There were also issues facing where to send the children who lived in Castle Hill to school. However, no matter how much discrimination was occurring, people still wanted to live there. In fact Coleman left not because he wanted to, but, because of a political reason, was almost forced to.
Natasha Lightfoot describes the reputation of the Castle Hill Projects in the 1980’s and mentions “the Boot Building” which was notorious for drugs and crime. Coleman claims that the decline of Castle Hill has a lot to do with the poor design of the buildings and racial tension.
When he moved out of the Castle Hill Projects, he moved across the street, where still lives there today. He has experienced much of the violence that Natasha discussed and did feel endangered at many points. However, he thinks his children were not affected because of their enrollment in private schools. This knowledge of the private school system is what he claims inspired him to push so hard for reforms in the public schools.
The ethnic makeup of the Castle Hill Projects and the area today is predominantly African-Americans and Latinos. As far as recent immigrants, he discusses a number of other groups that have settled in the Castle Hill Area, including immigrants who stay past the expiration of their visa.
Coleman believes that the New York City Public Schools are actually getting worse. He says that one of the main reasons behind this has to do with the involvement of the Board of Regents. He also sites the involvement of the media in this.
Coleman then begins to discuss more recent developments in public housing, like the Woodstock Terraces. Even today there are still racial struggles regarding letting “people of color” as he says into certain housing projects, like Parkchester. These particular projects have always been a source of contention, in one aspect or another.
He does see some rising political stars for African-Americans in the Bronx, but sites current political problems that will make their job harder. For example, he sites how the African-Americans in Harlem have a tendency to “forget” about the African American community in the Bronx and blames this on a deal struck between the Black political leaders in Harlem and the Latino leaders in the Bronx. In the early 1960’s the two communities needed each other, but starting in the 70’s the two groups became immersed in a power struggle. The catalyst of this may have been a falling out between the Latino community and Herman Badeo, a leader in the community. This divide can be currently observed in the gangs of the Bronx that are ethnically divided.
Coleman also talks about the new developments in housing and new constructions. He thinks that the recent developments in public housing in the Bronx will drastically change the community and the voting population. He also talks about why certain groups will not register to vote. He also thinks that the future of the Bronx is heading down a bad path and that young people in the community need to mobilize to create positive change.
Coleman, Dennis and Harriet McFeaters. Interview 3. February 23, 2006. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Coleman, Dennis Interview 3 Part 2.mp3 (14691 kB)
Coleman, Dennis Interview 3 Part 1.mp3 (130693 kB)