African American Studies


Interviewee: Derrick Cooley

Interviewer: Dr. Mark Naison

Date of Interview August 27, 2003

Summarized by Christian Rivera

Derrick Cooley, a counselor, from the Butler houses ( E. 170th Webster, South Bronx) grew up during the crack epidemic of the 1980’s. He experienced the interaction of drug dealers and drug addicts within the Butler house community. Furthermore, he witnessed the tragic effects of the urban drug culture through violence, rising high school dropout rates, and the influence of local Number Wholes.

The crack culture changed the priorities of the neighborhood youth. The youngsters were more interested in earning a dollar than in earning a proper education. The rising crack epidemic shut down summer employment programs and night schools for youngsters. The drug epidemic infiltrated Derrick Cooley’s family by affecting his uncle. Derrick Cooley was placed in a group home in Nyack in order to avoid the crack epidemic. While in the group home he graduated from Nyack High School and attended the He-op program of Fordham University. Furthermore, Derrick Cooley was strongly influenced by his mother and Mr. Thebout. Despite his surroundings, Derrick Cooley was influenced by break dancing. Furthermore, he was influenced by the music of Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy.

Derrick Cooley comments on the lack of male supervision within the Butler Houses and the surrounding community. He was concerned about the lack of older males to check the actions of young people. Finally, Derrick Cooley comments on the realities within the hip-hop / rap music scene.

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Coolie, Derrick.mp3 (129366 kB)