African American Studies
Daphne Stokes is a parent coordinator at a Bronx high school. Her mother was from Alabama and came to the Bronx when she was a teenager and lived with her sisters. One of her sisters did domestic work and one other did not work. Her father was originally from Harlem. Her parents met in their teen years and once they were married moved to Quonset Huts on Lafayette Avenue. After that they moved to Bronx River Houses, where she was born in 1953. When the family moved to the Bronx River Houses, her father was working for the Veteran’s Hospital in the Bronx and her mother stayed at home. When she was 9 her father left the family.
Her earliest recollections of the Bronx River Houses are good. She and her friends played games in the building and in the field adjacent to the building, which consisted of building igloos in the winter and playing knock hockey. She also remembers the buildings as being very diverse and everyone getting along really well. She attended P.S 77 for grade school, which was in walking distance to her home. The teachers at this school really cared about her and trusted her. Another memory she has about the Bronx River Houses is the music scene. Often times, people would be singing on the corner. In addition to this, music was a part of her family. Latin music was especially popular, as well as doo-wop and Motown. Her father also listened to jazz.
When she was growing up she was part of a social group known as the Supreme Ladies. She formed the group when she was about 12. She says there were many of these things. This was one way kids mingled together and had fun together. The social groups consisted of children from the building. She stresses that these groups should not be misunderstood as gangs, for they were quite distinct. In fact, she does not even remember gangs in her building. She remembers gangs in other buildings, but not in her own.
She talks about the fires and how she could see some of them from her window. She remembers that her old neighborhood in Faile Street was ravaged by the fires as well as the Boston Road Ballroom, on of the places she went to as a teenager to listen to live music. She also talks about the presence of drugs in the Bronx River Houses, specifically heroin. She believes that this really hurt the community and undermined a lot of the values that made the Bronx River Houses a great place to grow up. She goes as far as saying that the image of the projects was positive when she was younger, and today that image has changed. A lot of this negative change has to do with drugs. The drugs were more intense in the 1970’s and she had many experiences with drugs at the Clason point houses. She credits the way in which she was raised and her mother for her ability to stay above drugs.
She initially went to James Monroe High School. However, when she was in the 10th grade, she got pregnant and dropped out of school. At that point she moved into her children’s fathers apartment at the Clason Point Houses. After she had her daughter, she began working at a supermarket. She went to College of New Rochelle to get her GED stargin in 1983 and continued there receiving a college degree. At this point, she was living in Bronxdale Houses and her neighbors helped to care for her children while she was attending school. During this time, the crack epidemic was in full swing and she moved out of the houses in 1992.
Stokes, Daphne. 20 March 2007. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
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