An Oral history with Wanda McAllister Transcript

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An Oral history with Wanda McAllister Transcript

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Interviewer

Anna Marx

Interviewee

Wanda McAllister

Transcription

Anna:
This is Anna Marx recording an Oral History from Wanda McAllister on *Displaced Urban Histories with Becky Amato Spring 2017. I’m gonna start by asking Wanda “where is home?”, and she’s gonna get- cool!


Wanda:
Hi, Alright, well home for me is Bronx, actually I was born in Brooklyn, I transfered over here to the Bronx when I was 2 years old. So, from two years old to now hehe, I’ve been a resident of Bronx. Um, South Bronx actually. When my family came here, we moved into the projects, the Morrisania projects in the Bronx, and ever since that, that’s been home for me. That’s where I went for pre-k, middle school, highschool. From there I did some traveling, not out of the country, but I did a lot of traveling. Not that much because I am a Bronx girl. I got normal experience, you know, some of my experience was great, some not so great, but um, I would not, eventually I wouldn’t wanna relocate but always new york. New york is my home to me. I graduated High school at Walton high school. I became a mom at the early age, at the age of 16 I became a mom. Still ya know, living with my mom, my mom ya know helped me along when I became a mom. I had another sister that became pregnant at the same time so we were young. And um with the help of my mom, God bless her because she’s gone right now, but um, she helped me along and I was able to continue school because I got pregnant when I was still in Highschool. So my mom said “ok I’ll keep the baby” she would keep the child while she allowed me to continue to go to school. It was, I had some rough times but with the help of my Mom and certainly some experiences that I gained on my own and I turned, I think I turned out pretty well.


Anna:
2:33 Um so can you talk a little bit about, like your experiences with this neighborhood? Like if there’s anything specific or particular that sorta, you feel really ties you here other than being here for so long, and sorta what that is like?


Wanda:
Sure, so like I said I grew up in the projects in the Murray senior area. Um, and the projects where we grew up at, it was family oriented, ya know, so each parent looked doubtful of each parents child. And it was not, in terms of crying, there were no crying. Like I said, each parent chipped in and raised each other’s child. It was free, we hung out in the front of the building where there was jumping rope, hopscotch, and all that other stuff. And it’s totally different now. Back then, like I said, everybody was together, we knew what time to come home, and you know, at our friends house if we were hungry, parents fed each other’s parents, and there was no fighting. I see its huge, in terms of crime. I didn’t know about crime at a young age, until I became a teen or my late twenties. Drugs was not a thing in our area, nobody that I grew up with. And that building that I grew up in, it was a 16 story building. So could you imagine the children, the neighborhood was different, we would sit on the bench. Now these days when I go back to the neighborhood, basically everyone’s gone, there’s a whole new set of people there. Every now and then I go back because that’s my roots, I drive by and I reminisce about “ok this is where I used to play at the park, this is where I did this and that”. I wasn’t afraid, nobodies afraid. Everybody always looked out for each other. I drive back cautiously now. But even though I drive back cautiously, if I had to go back there, because I was raised in the area where there was a lot of projects and stuff like that, I’m not afraid. if I had to go in there, I would go in there. If I had to go in any projects inside the bronx, I don’t know about outside the bronx *laughs, but in the bronx I could walk through, I won’t have fear because i’m used to it. The only thing i’ll probably have a little fear is the elevators because I lived on the first floor my whole life and I never had to experience the elevators. Other than that- my sister still lives in the area so I go back and I visit her and a little bit of people that’s still there, I see them “oh how you doing” I stop we talk and I reminisce and a lot of people that moved away are still close. So we’re talking once a year when there’s a something in clairmont village. So once a year during the summer time we all meet up where the people move out of the state, we all come back and we back in the neighborhood. And we do a cookout and fellowship and we just reminisce and it’s great.


Anna:
6:29 So can you tell me a little bit about some of the people that you’re still in touch with?


Wanda:
Ok, when we grew up at some point, people ran stores, you know. And before people ran stores, there were people who were still there that unfortunately got into the drug situation. Some people came into crime, and some people even died. The people that- I ran into some people that I’m still close with, are still on drugs. I don’t discriminate. I remember them from when we grew up as kids and i’m talking about literally 4 or 5 years old. I grew up with these people and so um I run into them sometimes and I do a lot of counseling since I was close to a lot of them and as you can see i’m very talkative. I’m a helper I’m the one to think that I could fix anything and I love counseling, I love talking, and I love sharing. So um yeah some of the people that I’m still in touch with some of them are even sick, some of them are so sick that they, like, have, you know, some of them have HIV. Some of them have drugs, some of them are clean and are doing very well. Because I had that bond and grew up with them, there’s no discrimination I don’t feel like “ohh I’m better” because at one point I fell into that drug situation. There was a point where I was like 22, 22 to 25, I experienced drugs. That was kind of a rough time for me at that moment. And thank God for my mom because she never cast me away and even though I experienced drugs, I was still a working, functional mom, a great mom to my daughter, and as a matter of fact I helped raise my niece as well. And so when I decided enough was a enough for me, you know in terms of drugs, I didn’t have to go- you know how some people go to those AA meetings? For me I didn’t go that route, I didn’t have to go that route which is not a BAD route, it’s just a route that I didn’t go. So from 22 to 25 I became free of drugs and I never looked back. I mean one saturday I had enough, I was invited to my church, and after that pastor had prayed for me, I walked out of that area without looking back, not even the taste of drugs was in me. I had no desire for it ever again. And now i’m pursuing another thing I wanted to be, drug counseling. I think I have a lot to say you know pertaining to drugs and the streets and getting lost to the streets and doing things that I was not proud of. But now today I’m not ashamed of any- all my experiences I had in my life, with that 3 year period with me and drugs, and becoming a young mom, I have no regrets. I’m not ashamed, if I could tell my story to help anyone else, I’m going to. I’m a people person and I love people and I love to dialogue. The way I became clean, others can do the same. So that’s pretty much my story I mean


Anna:
10:42 Ok let’s get into some uhh I don’t know this might be more personal actually but can you tell me about your best friend as a kid?


Wanda:
Ok yes. I had a best friend, her name is Rhonda. Rhonda and I, like I said, were all from the neighborhood, we grew up together, as we got older she went into the service, she came home and she, unfortunately, was hit with drugs really really hard. I lost contact with her after a while. We’ve ran stores you know and once I became clean, you know she was still doing her things and I think at that point the crack epidemic was really really hard so you know a lot of my friends fell into that. Ok so we ran stores when I became clean, then some of my friends that I grew up with no longer wanted to be apart of me because you know I was clean. It hurt me because those were my friends before I did drugs so when they no longer wanted to hang out with me or associate with me, I stayed in the neighborhood when I became clean I stayed in the neighborhood. At one point I didn’t think I could stay in the neighborhood because of the drugs that were still there or my friends that were still there and I thought that if I stayed there I’m not sure that I could stay clean there. But I stayed there I didn’t want to run because if I was gonna be clean, I was gonna be clean wherever I go. So I stayed in the neighborhood and watched my friends, back to Rhonda. The drugs, she had gotten something gross in the drugs that she became sick and I would visit her in the hospital. I never gave up, never gave up on her. She eventually died, she died from her sickness and she never became clean and that hurt my heart so bad. We were friends til the end and there was no judging. When I **review (indiscernible) I forgive you and no matter what you were involved in, because that could’ve been me; If I didn’t become clean, that could’ve been me. So many of my friends that I went to see in the hospital, so many of my friends died from their *blindness, some of them are incarcerated, but some of them are *north from their bindings*(indiscernible). During their sickness they call on me, I would go to visit them and I would pray for them, and I would encourage them. Some of them are clean today and some of them are- It could’ve been me. So I think that I’m one of the- I’m grateful. Cuz I got the same life, started the same life they did, you know, and um like I said, I have a big support system, you know. I have the church, I have my family which is a very big support to me, and I have my child, you know I have my child. And because I had her at a young age, the day I had her, I no longer wanted to hit the streets and run in the streets. I knew I needed to recover I knew I needed to be a mom and thank God my mom was there and she, there were times where she said “oh you could go out” but I didn’t wanna go out so I had a real great support system.


Anna:
14:44 ok Okay tell me about your church a little bit


Wanda:
Okay so at the age of 25 I became a born-again Christian. And remember I told you earlier that I went to a church meeting? and from that church meeting in 1987 when I walked out of that church meeting I walked out a new person. I walked out delivered, free from drugs, free from my past and everything. I became active in the church I was an usher I became Church secretary,I was part of the young adults there were a lot of young adults there And I was part of counseling them. I spoke my testimony And I became this person I don't think it had anything to do with the church Because I was always this compassionate person with thinking that I could save the world. But yeah I am very active in my church.


Anna:
15:56 Did you grow up in the church?


Wanda:
No here’s the thing, my mom had 8 children I was the 7th I'm next to the youngest. So I didn't grow up in the church but my mom back in her days She said her mom took her to church. But growing up we didn't grow up in the church. But there was a family that lived in the building that we lived in And they moved in there heavily involved in church. So we were influenced by that family. And so out of my mom's eight children , me being the 8th, we all started going to church Because I was not the only one in my family that had an issue with drugs. I followed three sisters and a brother into church. So I watched them one by one give their life to the Lord and I found God. From 1987 up until now I've been a born-again believer.


Anna:
17:20 Um so can you just tell me, I don’t know, some stories Growing up in your neighborhood and what your neighborhood was like, like take me there?


Wanda:
Sure so as I said I came to the bronx when I was 2. We grew up on washington ave like i said it was 16 stories high. Ok so my school was the same block where I lived. So to tell you, how, how close knit the neighborhood was. Um, so we moved, when my mom moved from Brooklyn to the Bronx, I was the baby. My mom was pregnant with her last child and in 1964, so I was the baby. So um, to tell you how great the neighborhood and how, how we were close knitted. My mom met people, you know, everybody, it was always, it was friendly. My mom met neighbors and people would come to the house, did not going to do or how you introduced to them so that, you know, I'm your neighbor, I whatever. But my mom, when my mom moved in the projects over the year, they were still building the projects. So I'm not all those practice. So in the, in the neighborhood it's like maybe nine buildings and some of them weren't even built, completed yet. So here my mom moved into the building neighbors, we're not introducing themselves and I don't know if his that was like that anymore, but they will introduce themselves. And, and my mom was, so there was a neighbor in particular that the lady was having babies. She, you know, she was pregnancy with being pregnant. So as she became pregnant, going into the hospital to have her, her children, my mom would, would, um, in the mornings, you know, go to her home and feed and Cook for her children because she had a whole lot of children back, kids back there. And my mom would make sure her children were fed. She would, she would go in there and make them breakfast and help them and send them off for school while she sending my other siblings off for school also. So, um, and then my mom, I remember being like, maybe if I can remember being like eight, we were so close to my school that my mom would walk me to the corner and then she would, cross me across the street and then I would go to go into my class. But, um, we all, there was so many people in, like if I was in the first grade, there was like, maybe I would say about 14 kids that was in first grade in my building alone, you know, so we all grew up together. I have class pictures when I was in first grade, second grade. And if I don't have it, my friends would, when we get together every year, remember I told you in the summer time we get together, we cut back to the neighborhood, we come back with pictures, we'd come back with pictures of each other. When we was in the second grade. I'm like, "oh my God. How did that fits you? I mean, that's me? It's so I would look at the picture and we would look at the class picture and I could pick out everybody and just about everybody we picked out our at that gathering. So just remember the ice cream truck coming in and just remember, um, one of the parents would say, okay, all right, so y'all come on y'all. Y'all gather round. And in that, in that mother, whether it was the mother or the father would buy ice cream for the, for the league, you know, and my mom used to, and we were a family that my mom used to make her ice cream from scratch. So people, the kids that were coming to my mom's house, because we were on the first floor, you could just come into to the grass and come right to my mom's window. So my mom was the type that would feed on people, you know, they were like, miss McAlister can, can I have some chicken or if Mama goes fried chicken the farmer was making potato salad or something like that, they would come to the window. And my mom was like, "get away from here". My mom would always give a, she, she would give. So, um, we were the neighborhoods, I mean, like I said, we fed each other, you know, we revise certain things and we would have parties and parties for when we, as we got older and neighborhood people would come in and, and please, if we did something wrong, oh my God, if, if, if we, we were out there fighting and then we did something wrong. And, but back when I say there's something wrong, it's not like a, uh, a disrespectful, because we all, we all grew up with respect to, you know, we, we respect elderly people, you know, but just something wrong. Like if it's, if it was a fight, um, another person's mother would come in there and chastise us. And then when they chastise us and they take us to our home, forget about it. Then we got it again. You know? So back then it was even the teachers weren't allowed to like hit us with a ruler or a smack us on the, on the hand or something like that. And we, and we dare not go home and tell my mother because my mother would find out what you did and we would get it again. So the school system is different now. Now I, I hear that if you raise your voice at a child, I mean the teacher could come under fire, you know, but back then we didn't play. We didn't play because we have our parents to go home to and the parents that found us in that situation. So we, everybody was friendly. I remember down the block because like I said, when we moved to the, um, to the bronx, we move into one apartment building, uh, projects. And then my mom had eight children, seven and was pregnant with the other one. So we didn't have so many bedrooms. So my mom put in for a transfer, which was on the other side of the school, you know, so, which was like maybe three minutes away in another projects. So we back then, so we, it was great for us and you know, it was like two to a room. So, um, I don't know when we did that, the families that moved and so, and when we moved into that building, then that building wasn't even complete. I mean, it was like my mother was like maybe the sixth person that lived in a 16 story building, you know, so we, we were able to get the first floor and, and we knew people because there were people that was going to school with us there. So we knew, uh, um, children there. So we can, I mean, our neighborhood was a family, you know, it's like each one raised one each one teached one, you know, um, we didn't go without, you know, there was, and being that we were, it was, it was eight of us. My father was in the house, but at some point, and my mom and my dad divorced while I was, I believe I would like to say seven. Yeah, seven. It was Kinda hard on us, but we never went to bed hungry. We never let, you know, we, we had, you know, what, what we needed and not only what we needed, we have, we have some ones too. I mean, even though my mom had the feed, it was eight, eight mouths to feed, um, we didn't go to bed hungry. We, and we had dessert every night, you know, so it was like a treat, you know. And, and even though my mom and my dad divorced, my dad was still in our lives. So when, when they divorced and they separated, he was still getting paid. So there was no friction between me and my mom. They just divorced from whatever their reason. But us, he always, um, he did his thing with us in terms of taking care of us, raising us. We had a, um, we always had a relationship, right? Yeah.


Anna:
25:57 Can you tell me a little bit like, did you know that you were in like the projects, was that something that you were aware of or, and did you always call it the projects or did it have a different name? Like what was the-


Wanda:
Well, the name of the, the, the, the projects that we were living in, it was, it was in the Morrisania area of the Bronx, so it was the Morris houses in the Bronx. So I didn't see as a kid, we didn't see where, "Oh, okay. So y'all live in the projects" and some people growing up and some people probably in my neighborhood, That was the school. Well, no, but you know, as opposed to people growing up in a house or a tenement building, we didn't know. We, we, we were, um, out in the projects and then when I, when we get together like once a year when people come back to the neighborhood and it's called Clairmont day. So that's a day where we all come back into the neighborhood. And like I said, people come from afar, we didn't, some people will say that they were poor. I don't consider us, I've never known if we was poor, I never knew nothing about it because we, we ate well. We were clothed. We were in, you know, just shuffled or anything like that. But um, some people would look about when they look back, they will probably say that. But to me, you know, now I have older sisters. I was second to the youngest, so I didn't, I didn't experience some of the things that other people especially. And then like I said, if we were hungry, my mother always taught us not to go, when you go, when we go to visit our friends, you know, when it's time for dinner, you come home, you know, don't, don't eat in people's home because after all they have a lot of, their parents have a lot of mouths to feed. You know, so you always say no thank you. You know, or when you know it's, it's, it's time for dinner. You come home, you know, but we could have, because everybody was eating, people our families were feeding kids. Cause cause it was a kid, it was a lot of kids there. It was in the building where, you know, like a senior citizen or something like that. Like I said, we, it was, it was 16 stories and there was like, there was about 12, um, 12 apartments on this floor and we grew up, in a lot of those families had, they were big families. So, um, no we didn't. Um, in terms of us knowing that it was a projects, no, we didn't. We didn't think, no way about it as a matter of fact we were more happier. We were a happy family. It was a happy neighborhood. It was a happy and healthy neighborhood.


Anna:
[28:55] You mentioned a little bit before that it's not the same now. Can you talk a little bit about that? Like how it's physically changed, like in the way it looks and then how the vibe is changed?


Wanda:
Okay. So, um, as we started now, like I would even say now this, this, the change started taking place I would say about maybe 17, 18 years ago. Okay. Um, and his wife. Okay. So we had, um, um, there was, there was a, uh, there was a worker from the housing projects in, in, in, in the building that kept the, um, he was hired, he was a, what do you call it? The maintenance man. He, he, he was there to keep the building clean. He mopped the floors, he kept the building clean along with us. You know, we weren't raised like throwing stuff out the window. And now I'm going to get to that because that's what's going on now. So each, each janitor or how for whatever you may call it, kept the place to clean, that janitor as well as our family. You know, we know that on, on, on each floor there was something that they called him Senioreta. We would take our bag, would take our garbage and throw it down in there, so the buildings were clean, you know, we could walk through the building, we could sit on the bench without, without any drama. You know, like I said, we would play in, in the front of the building no drama. So now, and as we got older, we started, people started moving out of the building new people started coming in the building and you know how they say "there goes the building"? They weren't keeping up. Like, you know, like we, we were trained to keep up and we, and, and we always, like I said that and then when the maintenance man, we had one maintenance man that was there for such a long time. But when he retired, but then again he lived in the building, but when he retired, the next worker, they didn't do as much as in terms of people clean. And then as people started to move off the building than other visitors start coming into the building and they were throwing their trash anywhere and stuff like that. So in terms of the building going down, that's the way it, where it started going down, you know, there was a designated area where for incentive we want, and my mother was giving away from it or throwing furniture away. There was a designated area around the building where we set our furniture aside for the trash people to cart. People started throwing pampers out the window, food out the window. Instead of going, instead of going to throw in their trash and incinerator, they were throwing it out the window. And then like again, when, when, when the original, we call them the original, I was one of the original. So when when the originals started to move, we get new people come in and they wasn't following suit the way we, we, we did. So, and then there was some people that, some of my friends didn't want to go in the building anymore, but I still, you know, I went because, you know, I, I'm, I'm used to that. But what, when, and then my mom and dad and my mom after work, um, there was, there was a, um, there was benches on in front of the building. They, they start the housing that they started to remove the benches. So there was no more places for us to sit on and moms and dads and stuff like that. So, um, it started to become really, really, really bad, you know, and in terms of when I used to, and my mom just recently died two years ago. From there, like I said, from 1965 to 2015. So my mom was there for 50 years, 50 plus years, you know, so, and when I would go back and forth to visit, you know, I'm seeing all these new people, the faces, I met my husband, we grew up together in the same building. So we grew up as young kids there. So when I would go back and forth to visit my mom, um, there was some people that were still there and they would look out for my mom, you know, so cause my mom was at, like I said, the original, but as the originals start to move, it's not the same anymore in terms of you don't know who walking in the building, who's going to be there or may attack you or something right there. But we didn't have that problem. It's becoming a problem.


Anna:
[34:02] What does it feel like to go back now? Like what is that experience like? I mean, when you're going back to visit your mom, I would think that there's still that tie there. But when you go back to the neighborhood now, like how does it feel?


Wanda:
Oh, back. Like I said, um, I go back and, since I drive through, that was home for me. That's where my life, my youth, you know, I was, you know, from, from my little girl youth and young adult was there. So I reminisce. I have a lot of memories. Fun. Well, I have many fond memories of my childhood, you know, and, um, when I go back, I'm always reminiscing, you know, I looked in the window over there where my mom, where were we, where we lived, and I should I scroll by when I'm driving, I, I slowly drive by. And sometimes I look, I used to look to see if I see people that I know, you know, that stopped because every now and then and when I do go by, I don't see nobody, you know, and, and, and I used to because a lot of since, I said, it's change people is there's new faces, new families and stuff like that. But I look in the park where I used to play and then, um, when my, my friends that, that, that was not, um, that did not grow up here. When we come in town, I take them over there and I slowly, I'm driving, sometimes I used to get out the car and I said, you see that? That's where I used to play and I was showing him a scar on my leg. You see this scar? Because I did, I was playing bear right here, there, the monkey bar. It's like a tour. I would take my friends on the tour there. So now when I go there, it's just not the same thing. All of us, the family, the originals are gone, you know. So I just look and I, and I stopped. I slowly stopped going. Like I said, my mom died in 2015 so I don't go over there a couple of times I've went back, and this is funny because my brother, my brother feels a bit, we feel, I have seven, I feel the same way. So my brother went over after my mom died, so he knocked on the door and down. Mind you when we moved there in 64 we were the first people there, up until 19 up until 2015 so now my brother knocked on the door to introduce himself. We lived here, we used to live here. But you know, there's a lot of reminiscing, but it's not the same thing. I wouldn’t want to live no other place right there.


Anna:
[36:44] But do you know who's there now, like in your old apartment?


Wanda:
Well, my brother knocked on the door. I did. There's a Hispanic family that's there, you know, um, and, and you know what an even before my mom passed away and moved from because my mom had to move out of there because it has five bedrooms and it was just my mom and my youth and my niece. So there was no way that they can justify staying in and the five bedrooms and I understood, even though it was hard on my mom and it was hard on us because that's what she was there for 15 years, but she had to move because there's other families that needed the bigger apartment. So, and my mom realized it too, but, but 50 years it was hard for her too. So she moved and she moved in the same area, same Morrisania projects, but just a smaller apartment. So it was still, we were still in the area. So the building where my mom moved in, I went to school with people there too. So we was, we was still in the community, you know, it's just that my mom had to move into a smaller place, so I would go, this is my mom and I remember people, I mean, you know, that was there that I was still there, so our community was, the crime, there was no forget about it. What is crime, you know? we didn't know nothing about crime, you know, we didn't know nothing about shooting. We didn't know anything about rape or drugs and stuff like that, you know, until we got older and even when we got older, the crime started. But um, not as much. And then to be, to be honest with you, the building that my mom moved in, that was one of the, um, they have more children, you know, and so there was my oldest sisters and them. Like I said, they watched other buildings being built. So we, we, I, I liked the fact that I could say we were originals from the Morrisania projects. And I don't have, I wouldn't want to live nowhere that, that was where my teaching got. I got, I got taught, I mean, I knew that it was okay for, for like I said, if I did something bad, another family would look out and bring us home and, and, and you know, and talk to the, and talk to the parents for us. So my mom, my mom had eight kids, but she birthed eight kids, but everybody in the neighborhood was, was, was, was her kid, you know, and that's how it works.


Anna:
[39:44] Can you speak a little bit to what you think started the neighborhood, like changing? Like why did it change? Like what was the crux of that?


Wanda:
You talking about changing for the worst when it, okay. Um, yes, because I was there, I lived there. I didn't move out of the neighborhood. And so I didn't move out of the neighborhood until 1991. That's when I got married and moved out. But like I said, um, the family member, my family, and there was a lot of the families, so they have, um, I remember when the crack epidemic came and because, um, my memory of it was, um, okay, I got saved in 1987. My memory of it was probably 1983, 84 because remember I told you that I experienced some drugs but it wasn't crack. So I saw, I saw, I was smoking weed, but the friends that I would hang with, the friends that I was hanging out with that smoke weed, now they begin going to crack. Okay. So when they began going to crack, um, they left, they, I saw them leaving, you know, so that they would granted, I would see him throughout the day, but then at some point they started experiencing crack. when crack came into the neighborhood crack came hard. And the neighborhood and it hit, um, people that, um, you would have never ever have thought would be on any type of drugs. probably wasn't even smoking a cigarette, doing anything. But once they, once they indulge in it and tried it, if you will, then they became hooked. I've, I mean, there were times where people that I grew up with and people that knew my mom, they would knock on my mom's door to sell. I got this to sell, Ms McAllister, can you want to buy this? And Mom was like, get out of here. Y'All know you're not supposed to be on that stuff. Why you selling? You know, my mom was like, no, you know the type that, no, don't, don't, don't bring that here and don't try to sell that and you need to get this stuff together. You know, she was taking that, tried to steer you in the right direction, but crack didn't have no respect to a person. When, when people started smoking crack, like I said, I was shocked. It hurts my heart when my friends would leave me and, and, and I'm like, Y'all smoking this? Just what the white, and they was like, yeah, but I, I tried it. I tried it once cause I wanted to see what was it about. I said, never again. Never again. And I see people, what, what were losing jobs. Then you had people that I grew up with. Then they started selling, they started using selling crack. I lost so many people to crack. I watched people do things and, and, and become, become a whole nother person because of the crack. And um, it was horrible. It was really horrible. And I have friends now. And I have, I mean when I say good friends, I have friends who dropped out of school, dropped out of college, um, had their children taken away from them, you know, um, got killed, you know, um, the, the doing life and doing a lot of time in prison because of crack. So the crack epidemic is really, it really is. It was really bad than the neighborhood and not, and not only down the block, you know, all around the bronx and different names and different names of projects, that was really.


Anna:
[43:29] Um, were you, this might have been before your time because honestly I can't remember the dates, the fires in the Bronx. Was that something that you experienced or was that before your family sort of moved to the area?


Wanda:
Well. Um, no, I don't I didn't experience fire, I've heard of fires. Um, yeah, as a matter of fact, there was, like I said, there was something, there was a fire, some that's holding the webster, the Butler houses. There was a huge fire there where children got burnt and died in the fire, but fire, see and fire. I'm really, no, not in my neighborhood. No, no.


Anna:
[44:21] You just, you mentioned your daughter at the beginning and sort of how her like being present in your life really sort of kept you grounded. Can you talk a bit about her and like raising her as a young woman and what that was like?


Sure. Okay. So, um, okay. And I had her at 16, um, still, you know, I hadn't finished high school. My mom was a blessing to me because she allowed me to finish high school where as some moms would have said, okay, you have a baby, you got to take care of your baby. So my mom and I remember there was another child, my daughter and my niece are eight days apart. So they were still babies. So my mom allows us to go, me to go, well both of us to finish high school. So, um, at that point, um, okay. So as she got older she was my pride and joy. I, you know, I did everything I could for her as a child. And um, later on I be, when I went, when I begin to remember, I told you early on that for three years I was on drugs and um, I had many close calls with her because my mind was so, you know, out of touch with drugs. One in particular that scared me, something terrible. And um, I was at, I had a friend that lived in another right across the street from me in the project. So I was getting high. I was in my getting high stage. So, um, my friend lived on a 19th floor, because it was one building that she'll go into the area where they went up to 20, you know, um, so my friend was in the 19th floor, so my friend and I went to go buy some drugs. And so now we come back, we, we approach walking back to the building because I left my daughter with my friend's daughter and my daughter had to have been about maybe seven or something like that. Seven


Anna:
[46:22] my phone rang and our recording stops so Wanda is going to start back from where we just were and we'll continue.


Wanda:
Okay. So, um, like I was saying that my girlfriend lives in the um, on the 19th floor across the street. So her and I were going to buy some drugs and I left, my daughter was about maybe seven, I like to say seven at the time. And her daughter was about 14, so we left them, we went to go buy some drugs. When on our way coming back, I happen to look up at the window. I look, you know, and here is my daughter. I'm looking up to my daughter hanging out the window. Okay. And my daughter was, like I said, about seven, she all of it from her waist. I'm watching her hanging out of the window, so I'm in a panic. I'm like, oh my goodness, my daughter is hanging out the window. So I run to the building and my friends and I run to the building that we have to wait for the elevator. Cause I told you the 19th floor. So people in the building, there was two elevators with for that, for that particular reason. So many people were waiting to get on the elevator. So I'm, I'm in a frantic panic because my daughter is hanging out the window. So by the time I get up there, um, her daughter opens the door and I'm watching my daughter hanging out, the window. And the only thing that saved her was because the window window was halfway, um, um, open. So that part of the windows was able to save her. So, um, I get in the apartment and I grab her. I didn't, I didn't want to frantic her, so I was able to grab her out the window. So there was so, and because my, because my mind was so at that point moment on drugs. So there was a couple of close calls that I had with her and the span that I was doing drugs. Other than that in terms of raising her, nurturing her, taking her to her appointments, you know, to screen her to teaching her, she had all of that. So the drug didn't alter my mind when it comes to that, I would, I would, I consider myself to be a great mom and my mom would have said it's also. So she came out very well, you know, she did well. But um, like I said, for that three years of my life, there was a couple of close calls with drugs and I was eating when I was on drugs, I went by drugs in the neighborhood. You know, sometimes I didn't have to go out of the neighborhood. And some of the friends that I knew, one in particular, he was an older guy and what and what he, and he was an older guy, but he was in drugs. He used to sell drugs. So when I, when I went to him to try to find drugs, he would look at me and he said, get out of here. You're too young, y'all know you're not supposed to be on that. So he, you know, there was a time where even though they were, the drug dealers had respect for who they sold drugs to. So I was like a little sister to him, so he would never sell me drugs and stuff like that. And then the, and then there was a time where my sister's friend, my oldest sister's friend, um, she saw me, she was like, well, you did, you got caught up in the drugs? And she was like, I'm gonna tell, I'm gonna tell your Momma, tell your sister. So it was a thing that we, you know, people didn't sell drugs that there was still a level of respect of who you sold drugs, you know, um, I know, you know, get out of here. You can't, you know, I'm not going to sell you drugs. So it was like that. But then, um, then it came out, some point came to a point where they didn't care drug had no, no, no it was no, they would've sold to your, your mother if she wanted to buy and then they were mothers, it got to the point that they were all mothers. They were mothers that were respectable parents was reduced to drugs. You know, people who, like I said, they sold anything that they could think you know, for just to get the drugs. So now and so and later on, fast forward into later on the people, some of the originals, um, grandkids, you know, cause cause we started having kids and their kids started coming up selling drugs and that's where the disrespecting came. there was a level of disrespect because now, now my mom used to say for instance, my mom would change your pampers, would change your mothers pampers and how and you and you disrespected me like that? So it came to the point that the generations where the generation has changed, you know. My generation, we wouldn't dare do anything like that. But my daughter's generation, it was another, it was a whole different thing. And those were the ones that were, that they didn't have no fear. They would sell drugs, they would, they would disrespect a mother or disrespect the grandmother. And it was no respect that, at that point. So when I get back to the back, that as far as going back into the neighborhood, I see people now and I, and I, I'm not as, I'm not as comfortable. If I had to go from the guilty, I would go when I'm not as comfortable, like, like, you know, it raises the eyebrow who's coming in because I don't know, anybody anymore. You know, this is a whole new generation.


Anna:
[51:55] Can you tell me about your neighborhood, where you live now and sort of what the energy is like there?


Wanda:
Yes. Now I'm in the neighborhood. Um, I'm on a whole different side of the Bronx and I'm on, it's called the soundview area. Now the soundview area is, you know, I, I'm kind of blessed to live in a Condo, you know, my husband and I run for profit. So we're in a condo but down like, like two, three blocks down there are the projects again, you know, and I think I like to think that they call it the south, I know it's a southy area. I'm not sure of the name of the projects but it's bad as well. It's bad as well. But in my neighborhood I have no problem. I have a, I mean, and my side of the, my block, it's, it's really great. You know, I'm retired. Police officers retired people, you know, they're there. But if I go, like I said a couple of blocks down, you may hear some shootings.


Anna:
[53:00] Do you have the like same community kind of feel that you had when you were growing up?


Wanda:
No, no, no I don't. Um, no. My, I would go by where I'm living now as opposed to where I grew up at, even though, um, even though that there's different, uh, um, the neighborhood has changed and it's different tenants living, I still will be comfortable in my neighborhood, my own neighborhood as opposed to my new, neighborhood.




Anna:
[53:31] Um, why do you, I don't know. I feel like this is like a common theme that like happens when I talk to anyone about who is older than me and lived like longer ago where like the community feeling, what's something that permeated like a lot of different neighborhoods and now it's not so much that. Do you have any thoughts as to why that might be or what the deal is with that?


Wanda:
I think it's because, um, you know, when I think, I really think several reasons. Here's one, um, back in my era and my days there was respect. You know, we respect, you know, each other and we respect our elders. We, we, we respect seniors and the whole bit, I think this new generation now there's, there's a lack of respect, you know, and I, and I think that, and I have to look at the parents, um, um, for that because, um, like my daughters, um, she, my daughters is 38. For instance, my daughter's 38. I take a 38 year old parent now who has children, and that their children did something wrong, That 38 year old parents, she's going to write. She, she's going to want to fight. She's going to want to believe her child. She's going to want to go through that with that. Where's that? In my age, you know, we, we, we, we tend to have more respect.
It's a lack of respect. And I believe not only is the lack of respect, and I believe that's some of them. That's probably, if they're still on drugs and their minds still altered by the drug, then their children, I know people that I grew up with, what their children are selling drugs. And so, depends on the parent. you know, and, and not only is it okay with parents, parents, the adults are doing the same thing. I think it's how we were raised and your morals and you are raised with morals and respect. You know, that's, that's my, one of my theories about it.


Anna:
[55:41] So to sort of close, what should people who aren't familiar with your neighborhood or people who are listening to this from way off in the middle of Arizona or Texas or whatever, what should they know? What's like the most important takeaway?
Wanda:
[55:58] Um, in terms of the neighborhood and in terms of the neighborhood? Disintegrating?


Anna:
[56:06] Neighborhood disintegrating or just like, what do you want people to know from after listening to this? What should they think about?


Wanda:
Okay. I would like for people to know that growing up in the projects, it's not the worst thing in the world because what people, um, for instance, I have some cousins that I, that I'm getting to know, I've never known them and we just, we were just talking and knowing each other and they live from New Orleans. So when I tell the story about where I lived in my, and the progress that they are, the first thing they like "you in the projects? You live on top of each other and everyone's living on top of each other?" Right. And, and the, here they are, they've never known anything about projects and projects to them it's like a two story, maybe a two story condo to them. And so, so they'll look at me like we were less fortunate. I don't think, I don't, I don't think living in the projects, it's someone that I wouldn't consider myself less fortunate. Fortunate. Here's why. Because there was so many families there and back in those days we all taught each other and look out for each other. I mean, there's a lot of great things that, that I, I'm, I'm a product of the projects and I consider myself doing very fairly well, thank God. You know, so there's a lot of good people that's coming out of projects that people, I think probably just get a bad rap because, um, like again, because there's so many buildings that did, they're tall. Where's that in different states. They don't have these sorts of a tall building in certain states. It's like a, a, a office or something like that or trump tower, you know, and for, and so they, they think that surely, you know, um, they, they, they low class, you know, they, they low budgets and low class and they don't, didn't have any care. And that's why they had to live in the projects. But many successful people came out, you know, and I'm very, very happy where I came out. I'm, I'm, I'm a proud, I called myself a PJ, project kid. And I'm very happy. My mom taught us great morals, you know, and, and it was not just because the stigma of a project, people think that is drugs, everybody's drugs and low class. Not Everybody who came out of the projects, you know, got caught up in the drug epidemic. And like I said, there's a lot of good people that came out of the projects. It's just, I believe that is how you're taught how you were raised and your morals and stuff like that. Um, I can't, I'm from the old school and my mom taught us, you know, we were grounded, we respect, you know, um, we've learned to appreciate what we had and what we didn't have you know, so no, I don't, I don't, I don't see, I mean, you can live in new and you couldn't live up there. You can be up or medical upperclass and drugs is drugs. drugs don't have no, no name to it. They don't have, no, no, occupation, you know, no color no creed or anything like that. You, you see a lot of rich, famous people and, and, and, and, and they had it all. And, and a lot of them have, you know, fell into drugs. So don't, um, the stigma of the projects, drugs you know, that's, that's a bad, it's a bad rap because like I said, you could live in the White House. You can live in a mansion. Can you imagine what goes on in there, in times of drugs? Look read the news paper, but see, follow you. You know what I mean? You see a lot of people that's more, that's more fortunate monetarily wise. Crack hit them too crack has no name or no nation.

Citation

“An Oral history with Wanda McAllister Transcript,” (Dis)Placed Urban Histories: Melrose, accessed April 3, 2020, http://melrosestories.org/items/show/198.