African American Studies
Mercy Tullis was born October 16, 1975 to Honduran immigrant parents. She was born in Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan even though her parents lived in the Bronx because supposedly it was the only hospital that would not report them for being immigrants. Mercy’s birth allowed her parents to obtain their green cards. Until she was three years old their family lived in a black Honduran neighborhood of the South Bronx on Vyse Avenue. When she was three they moved to Davidson Avenue and then finally two years later to 172nd and Grand Concourse to Roosevelt Gardens.
Mercy goes into a lot of detail of the background of her family and how they came to be in the United States. Her father’s family is of Jamaican descent and his grandparents moved to Honduras for work. Her mother was considered ‘Mestiza’ because she was half black and half Indian. Her parents met in Tela, Honduras, which is a Garifuna community on the Honduran coast. The Garifuna people originated in the West Indies and landed along the coast, which is where they wound up settling. They speak Morena, which is a mix of Spanish, English, French and Arawak Indian. Her parents did not speak much English when they first came to the Bronx, but later they would not encourage their children to speak Spanish, or be very knowledgeable of their Garifuna background. Mercy was the youngest of 7 children, but the only one to be born an American. One sister moved to the Bronx with her parents and the others came later. Mercy was the only child of her mother and father, but her father had 5 others from a previous marriage, while her father had another child from another relationship as well.
The community they lived in when Mercy was born was a Garifuna neighborhood, and the community in Roosevelt Gardens was a mostly Puerto Rican community. Although there was a division between the blacks and the Puerto Ricans in Roosevelt Gardens, Mercy’s best friend Leda was a Puerto Rican. When growing up in this area there was a feeling of community in the neighborhood and parents watched out for each other’s children. Mercy noticed that when her niece Jamie was growing up there in the early 90’s, the girls were no longer playing double Dutch, but rather hanging out in little clothing and going after boys. Drugs also began to play a larger noticeable role in the community at that time and there were more families reliant on welfare moving in. There was a ‘Vitamin’ store around the corner that was just a front and everyone knew was not really a vitamin store. It was no longer the innocent neighborhood she knew while growing up.
After her mother died, she moved to Co-op City with her father and began high school at Spellman. This was her first experience with having classes with white students and she found it to be a distraction. She noticed that there was generally a racial division in the cafeteria between the black and Puerto Rican, white and Asian students.
Tullis, Mercy. 2 July 2004. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
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