Personal Accounts

Statistics and studies are important to consider. However, they must be considered in relation to personal accounts and stories.

It is important to note that the South Bronx is the home of many artists and musicians. The South Bronx has a rich music history. Melrose’s diversity allowed for discovery and innovation in music genres such as jazz, be-pop, mambo, salsa, R&B, and hip hop. Angel Rodriguez, a musician and community activist, said in an interview with NPR that, “Yeah, the Bronx was burning down, but all we had was what; our creativity, our music, and our culture, and it was a voice that they couldn't take away, you know. So it was happening on rooftops, school yards, front of the buildings, on the corners, and this is the way our people always been”.

Sister Patrice Owen’s oral history interview is a rich resource of insight into what school can be like for children. Sister Patrice Owens said, “I want them to be proud of where they live and of the people who live here” and instead of saying that “someday I want to live somewhere else, you can actually stay and live here and improve the quality of life and make a beautiful community right here. I think that’s something that I know other people have done and I want our kids to see that as a possibility”.

 In The Rat That Got Away: A Bronx Memoir, Allen Jones recollects what his Melrose school was like. Jones recalls:

“Right across the street from the Projects, the city built two new schools: Clark Junior High and John Peter Zenger Public School (PS) 18 (an elementary school). PS 18 was an inviting place. It had a glass window so big you could stand outside and see everyone in the cafeteria. There was a sandbox in the school yard we called “The Little Park” because of the swings and wooden seesaw. Both schools had big concrete school yards with softball diamonds, basketball courts, and handball courts, in addition to playgrounds with swings and monkey bars. The school yards were surrounded by trees and park benches with tables whose tops were painted with checkerboards, where people could sit outside and play a few rounds while enjoying the weather and the scenery. All these amenities were within easy walking distance of the Projects”.

The Education of Margot Sanchez is a new novel by Lilliam Rivera. Although a fiction novel, Rivera discusses contemporary challenges faced by girls in the South Bronx. It explores how the pressures of gentrification can force students to assimilate and lose touch with their cultural heritage. Rivera's novel is shaped by some of her experiences growing up as a Puerto Rican girl in the South Bronx. In describing her main character of the book, she says, "she’s going to assimilate and copy the people who are in power — and usually, the people in power are the white people. Because that’s what her parents are teaching her to do".

Personal Accounts