African American Studies
Her grandparents moved to the Bronx from Harlem in the 1950’s and were immigrants from Barbados. Many of their friends from the Caribbean were moving to the Bronx, and they moved along with them to Union Avenue. Andrea was born in Harlem and then moved to the Bronx when she was very young to Tinton Avenue with her parents. There were many other Caribbean families in her life and she does not recall people from certain islands segregating themselves from the rest of the community. She and her family attended St. Augustine Church, which was Presbyterian. She remembers the amount of activities for children there were at the church and how central it was in the community.
She attended PS 23 on East 165th and 166th between Union and Tinton Avenue. The students at the school were for the most part Black, but there were some Latino and White students. She received a good education in African American history and even sang the Negro National Anthem. There was tracking at her grade school, and her sister was in SP track. She remembers that education was really stressed in her house and she and her sister learned to read at an early age. She and her sister would go to the Woodstock Public Library and check out books from a very early age.
She remembers the street life as being very vibrant. Children would play in the street, while adults would watch from the windows. When the sun went down, people would socialize on the fire escapes, instead of in the streets. In addition to playing, Andrea and her family would often times go to the movies. Also, her family would go to Rockaway Beach, beach 77. In that area, there were a lot of Caribbean families renting rooms like her family was. She and her grandmother would stay there practically the entire summer and would do a lot of fun activities.
She went to Olinville Junior High School and then attended Evander Childs High School. When she was 11 or 12 she and her friends started a social club called the Black Polly Pigtails. When the group got to middle school, they changed their name to Lace Angelique’s. She remembers 10 girls being apart of this social club. They were very socially minded and would often have raffles and throw parties. One of her group mates was a good singer and she talks about the music scene in her neighborhood and at school. She also remembers a lot of dancing at PS 99, though it is not clear when/if she attended this school. She felt safe walking to and from school. She mentions a few gangs, but claims that they were not as predominant in the community as they would be later.
She graduated high school at 16 and was married at 18. She met her husband, a musician, when he was practicing in one of her friend’s basements. Her husband was in the Air force, so she and her children moved around a lot. However, they eventually came back to the Bronx and moved into the Tracy Towers. Before she and her husband left, the Bronx already had started to decline. She claims that when she was in junior high school in the 60’s, she saw friends from elementary school that were strung out. People did not have a way to explain how heroin came into their community and just began taking precautions to prevent being robbed or mugged.
She continues to talk about the shift in the community and the differences between her childhood and that of children living in Morrisania today. She claims that the apathy of the community is due to the increased selfishness. This leads to a decline in community activism and spirit, which has a negative impact on the community as a whole. She claims her childhood was not perfect, but she still enjoyed it.
Ramsey, Andrea. August 9, 2005. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
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