Tracy K'Meyer: . . . is when and where were you born?
Delores White Baker: I was born in Buffalo, New York, but I've lived here sinceelementary school so Louisville is home. And my birthday is today, May the 18th.
TK: Oh, happy birthday!
DB: And I was born in 1929. I don't know why all of the sudden it seems likeit's '29 --seems like such a long time ago, which it was, but here lately I feel like I've always had to say 1929 because when I say '29, I think of 1829. [Laughter] So May the 18th, 1929.
TK: And what brought your family to Louisville?
DB: I was adopted and I was brought here in that way.
TK: Okay. And what were your parents' names, or the people who raised you names?
DB: Lucille and Emanuel Martin.1:00
TK: Martin. And could you tell me a little bit about them, what they did for a living?
DB: My father worked for Ford and my mother was a domestic worker and I was anonly child. We belonged to R.E. Jones United Methodist Church, which was R.E. Jones Methodist Episcopal Church at the time. And my parents had married there in 1918 and that's where I more or less grew up.
TK: So what neighborhood did you grow up in or what streets?
DB: West End.
TK: West End, okay.
DB: I live on Madison, Twenty-Fourth and Madison and then we moved herepractically forty years ago.
TK: Here as in this house?
DB: In this house, yeah.
DB: And all my kids were brought up here. And I've come back and forth. I've2:00lived in Louisville. I've globe-trotted. I lived in New York for some time and I've lived this place that place and the other place, but after Portia, my youngest child, which is 37, was born, I just stayed here because it wasn't as easy hipping and running around from place to place. And then I got involved with theater groups. I have worked in theater, little off-Broadway theater in New York.
TK: I wanted to ask about that. Well, where did you go to school? Did you go toschool here?
DB: I went to Bennett. I went to high school here.
TK: At Central?
DB: Yeah. But I went to Bennett in Greensboro, North Carolina.
TK: In North Carolina, okay.
DB: Do you know Bennett?3:00
TK: Yeah, I went to graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill and so just down the road practically.
DB: Oh, okay.
TK: So you went to Central and then Bennett. Madison, then Central, thenBennett, Madison Junior High?
TK: I'm getting to know those schools very well.
DB: James Bond Elementary, which is now Dann C. Byck.
TK: So James Bond, then Madison, Central, and then to Bennett. How did you getinvolved in the theater stuff?
DB: I don't know. I majored in English literature and theater arts and I don'tknow, that was just it. I've always been interested in theaters even as a child. As a little girl, I remember on Sundays when my mother and father would have company after church, I was always doing, entertaining the guests. I would either do poetry or sing and when I think back at how the expressions on their 4:00faces I saw, "Oh God, this again." [Laughter] And then when I would have company, we would do little plays, and then I start charging people two and three cents. When it was really a big production, I'd charge a nickel and that was about nine years old, ten years old; just a ham from birth.
TK: Were you involved in any clubs or organizations or anything like thatgrowing up?
DB: Social clubs. Well, as a child, yeah, I belonged to the Girl Scouts. I was aGirl Scout. I belonged to the Methodist Youth Fellowship group at church and I sang in the church little junior choir. What else did I do? I took dance from 5:00the time I was seven.
DB: I took ballet. There was one black ballet dance teacher here, Jewel KayMcNary, and I took dance from Jewel. I took piano lessons from Elizabeth Menace. Then I took piano lessons from an old German woman named Mrs. (), I believe and I remember that was during the war and I was hating taking music lessons and I told my mother that she was a spy for the Germans. [Laughter] My mother believed it and she took me from there and then I discovered I still had to take piano 6:00lessons and she gave me music from Mrs. Menace.
TK: Did your father go off to the war or was he older?
DB: No, Dad was older. Daddy fought in World War I, so the war was all over whenit came at that time.
TK: Were they from Louisville?
DB: Mother was from Paris, Kentucky, and daddy was from Frankfort. They came tothe big city, I guess to work, and stayed here.
TK: How did they end up adopting you all the way from Buffalo?
DB: My father was a musician and my mother was originally from Chicago. AndDaddy had played the slide and trombone in a club in Chicago and my mother was a 7:00dancer in this particular club. And I really don't know the particulars but Mother and Daddy couldn't have children and my mother had gotten pregnant and Daddy and Mother knew about the pregnancy.
TK: Oh, so they knew each other?
DB: Well they had worked in the same club together.
TK: Because I don't think they had such organized adoption back then.
DB: But it was, you know looking at my adoption papers, that's what reallysurprised me. But it was an agreement between the two families. It wasn't like 8:00it is now where you go through an agency or the state. It was an agreement but they had legal papers drawn up through an attorney for no repercussions later on during the years.
TK: That's really interesting. I haven't heard too many stories like that. Onething I like to ask everyone about their childhood is when and how did you first become aware of racial prejudice?
DB: You know, I guess I knew about it. It didn't affect me emotionally because Iknew my limits. I knew where I belonged unconsciously or subconsciously, put it that way. And by my mother doing domestic work I always had the opportunity, the 9:00people that she worked with or worked for, when they would go to the theaters or something like that, plays out to Memorial Auditorium, they would take me.
DB: So I didn't know that I couldn't go because they took me with them. And thenif something came up that my parents wanted me to see, I remember once a month me and three of my girlfriends would go to Cincinnati to see the ballet, to the orchestra, and things like that. So I guess I was fortunate but I just took it for granted because you know I guess I thought, I don't know why I thought we had to go to Cincinnati or to Indianapolis to see a ballet. I never thought. I 10:00saw the ballet and that's all that was important at that age. And I don't know if it was naiveté or whether you know I just made the assumption that everybody did it if they wanted to. But I think the first time racial prejudice really hit me in the face, believe it or not, was when I was living in New York.
TK: Really and when was that, after Bennett?
DB: Oh yeah, this was after kids. This was in the fifties. I worked on StatenIsland and I lived in Manhattan and I wanted an apartment on Staten Island to be close to work. And I was looking through the newspaper at vacancies and I called this place and the woman and I talked on the telephone and she was so nice and she really wanted me to live in her apartment. And she said, "It's like I've known you forever." And she even wanted to come over to Manhattan and pick me up that evening and bring me back over to Staten Island to see the apartment and take me back to Manhattan because she wanted me to live there so desperately. 11:00And I said, "Oh no, that's too much of an inconvenience. What I'll do tomorrow when I get off of work I'll just come by." And I did and I knocked on the door and as she approached the door, I could see her through the glass and I noticed 12:00the expression on her face when she saw me. And when she opened the door she said, "Yes, what is it?" And I said, "Oh hi!" I said, "I'm Delores." And she said, "Delores?" And she was a Hispanic woman and maybe because my name was Delores she was expecting me to be Hispanic or something. But she had an accent, I did not, so I said, "I'm the person that you talked to on the phone about the apartment." And she says, 'Well, I'm sorry you didn't tell me you were a nigger." And she slammed the door in my face and it hit me. It really hit me. And I said, "And I'm in New York." I said, "I've never had this to happen in Kentucky!" Then it seemed like after maybe I became cognitive, maybe I was more 13:00aware and in -- tuned into what was going on. And then I start seeing it every place, you know, everywhere. And then I moved to the South, deeper South and I really saw it there. I lived in Georgia. My husband was in the military and we were stationed at Fort Benning and wow, you know. Robert?
[Another voice]: Yeah.
DB: Here comes Papa John. [Laughter] It was just being put off the bus because Iwasn't sitting in the right place and you know, just all kinds of things like that, which made me kind of grateful for the experience that I had had in New 14:00York, because I had really. . . . It was funny to me in a way because, and I think the funny thing was, the thing I thought was funny and yet sad these people don't know me and they've already formed an opinion just because of the color of my skin and how in the world could this possibly be. And we're supposed to be rational animals and intelligent people and look at this, you know. And then I guess I've always sort of been adventurous and sort of played the devil's advocate and even though I was afraid and I was alone, I still kind of stood my 15:00ground. And then I left Georgia and I went to South Carolina and it was even worse in South Carolina. And these were tiny little places and the place I lived in South Carolina was Chester, South Carolina, and it was about as big as that tape recorder, you know, and so you know! And that was before, that was the early fifties, so that was before I went to New York. Maybe what was going on in New York I didn't expect the prejudices and that's when it hit me that it was everywhere it was not just in the South. But when I went to North Carolina to school, you know I'm backtracking now, because in the forties when I went to 16:00North Carolina, I shall never forget going downtown to a department store and I saw water fountains, black water fountains and white porcelain water fountains, and I remember white water and colored water. And I said, "But water is colorless," and I, drawing back from my little chemistry in high school. I said, "Water. . . . " Robert, can I have a piece? Do you want a piece of pizza?
TK: No, I just ate. Thank you anyway.
DB: I said, "Water is colorless and tasteless and odorless. And this is whitewater and that's colored water." And I'm looking at the black fountain and I'm looking at the white fountain and it still didn't hit me, but I was so curious 17:00as to see what color was the colored water and something in my head told me it was green. So I venture over and yet I knew that it was a no no, something was wrong, but no one had told me. And my parents hadn't said anything about, "You're going to deeper South and you are to expect this and you expect that," because they never prepared me for anything like that.
TK: Why did you choose to go away to college rather than going here to, it wouldhave been, I guess, the [Louisville] Municipal College at the time?
DB: I don't know. I started at Municipal because I couldn't get in when schoolfirst started. And my mother wanted me to go to a private girls' school and plus Bennett was a church school; it was a Methodist girls' school. It was more or less her decision. Kids didn't make decisions in those days. We had no opinions, we just did what parents told us to do, we never asked why. The why was because 18:00Mother said so, and that was it, so that's where I went.
TK: How did they teach you to respond to racial prejudice when you came againstit? Did they ever talk about it?
DB: My parents?
DB: No, it was never discussed and I find that strange. And then I don't thinkthat I ever really discussed it with my children, other than I always taught them that they were no different from anybody else, that their skin, their economic background, nothing made them better or worse than anybody else, that they always had to do their best. But I never said anything about race. I never 19:00said you can't do this because you're black or you can't go there because you're black. And of course those stigmas were being lifted by the time my children came along.
TK: They were born in the fifties?
DB: Yeah. Portia was born in '62.
TK: So the last . . . how many did you have?
DB: Three, I had three. Macio was born in '57, Leon in '59, and Portia in '62 sothe pangs were not as harsh but I was forever putting them in situations. They were forever integrating things. I don't know why I did that all the time. Portia was the first black to dance with the Louisville Ballet Company. 20:00
TK: Really! That's interesting. Is her name spelled like the car?
DB: No, P-o-r-t-i-a.
DB: Of course I was right on top of that because she was young, she was youngestand she was black and you know, I practically was a member of the ballet company myself because I didn't know if she could handle anything that might come up. Nothing did. There were times in parts that were assigned that maybe I got a little supersensitive about, but I dealt with it. I never did it to the point where it's, you know, because I'm black.
TK: How old was she when she got into it?
DB: Her first experience with the ballet company was a guest at The Nutcracker.21:00You know how they have the little kids?
DB: She was a deer, a reindeer for two years and then she auditioned for thecompany. So she was about fourteen.
DB: Yeah, she was in the () at fourteen. Oh, thank you so much!
TK: I already ate actually, so you can have that piece. Thank you anyway.
[Another voice]: Well alright. [Laughter]
TK: So that's about 1976, then?
TK: So let me get this, so you said that you were in New York when she was born?
DB: No, I was in New York before she was born.22:00
TK: But you came back here after she was born?
TK: And what brought you back to Louisville?
DB: My mother. Well, I had two kids. I had the boys and you know, my thing was Iwas going to New York and I was going to be discovered and I was going to make fame and fortune and then I was going to send for my kids. Never happened. So I lost my job, I got sick and lost my job in New York. I was working at Willowbrook State School. I was teaching dance therapy at Willowbrook State School, and it was at the time Willowbrook was a mental institution and they treated the patients so horrible. And I guess I'm sort of sensitive to as to how 23:00people are treated, especially people that are not responsible for themselves and can not defend themselves, more or less the underdog and I sort of go out for those people. And a lot of things were going on and I was trying to make a difference and I discovered I was really going to get hurt if that was the kind of difference I was going to make. Then in the meantime, I got hepatitis. They had an epidemic of hepatitis at Willowbrook and we were quarantined inside and I really got to see what was going on. After the quarantine was lifted, I was 24:00still sick and they let me stay off. They granted me the time off but when I went back to work I had lost my job, they had replaced me. And of course I sued and I got a check every month, every week or month or however they were paid until I found another job. And I decided to come back home.
TK: So about. . . . ?
DB: That was maybe in '60 when I did that.
TK: Do you want to eat a little bit more? [pause] Next thing that I sort of wantto shift to talking about Louisville when you got back. What was going on in terms of civil rights activity or organizing? 25:00
DB: Okay. My kids . . . schools were being integrated. Macio and () were readyfor first grade and kindergarten and they were assigned to Shawnee. I didn't want them to go to Shobe (???) because at the time I didn't have a car. This school around the corner at Fortieth and Garland I wouldn't have mind them going there, but for some reason their district was Shawnee Elementary. I did not want them to go Shawnee, so there was Redeemer Lutheran School just around the corner at Thirty-seventh and Del Park. So I decided that that's where they were going. So we integrated.
TK: It was a church school?
DB: Yeah, it was a church school. So we integrated Redeemer and that was funny.26:00I had quite a few experiences there. And I was really protecting the kids there from prejudices because the people were prejudiced but I don't think they knew it.
TK: That's interesting.
DB: And I think that's the worst kind. That's the kind I'm always sorry for. I'msorry for the individual and we all have prejudices, you know, some form or the other. I prefer green over yellow, you know so that's prejudice. But when it's directed to people and you don't know that you're doing it, it's really, it's scary. So we had a lot of incidents, I had a lot of incidents over at Redeemer with the children like little plays and things they would do and they would typecast the children. You know, I know that my daughter couldn't play the role 27:00of . . . what a princess from England or Rapunzel. She couldn't be Rapunzel but you don't grease their bodies and do Stephen Foster songs and things like that around, you know and that's really that's ignorance, but a lot of those little incidents happened over at Redeemer. But I was there to keep it from . . . and the children were so naïve, because I remember one time Portia was in a play 28:00and she told me she had to have this little granny dress. Granny dresses were very popular at that time and then she said she had to have a bonnet. Well, I didn't think too much about the bonnet, but something made me ask her why do you have to wear a bonnet. And she said, I said, "What is your role? What are you going to be doing?" And she said, "Megan and whomever else is going to be sitting in a swing and drinking lemonade and I'm going to be fanning them."
TK: Oh my!
DB: "And I'm going to be fanning them!" I said . . .
TK: "Oh no, you're not!"
DB: "Oh no, you're not!" Oh, they were just hot because she had her poor littleheart set. I mean this was a big thing and she could not, this mean mother was 29:00not going to allow me to wear this granny dress and bonnet and fan my friends. "But they're my friends!" I said, "I don't care, you're not doing that!" And I don't think I ever explained to her why, I just said you're not going to do it. If they can't find something else for you to do, you're not going to be in the play. And then Macio, that was my oldest, he was upstairs practicing his part and he . . . and that's what made me ask Portia, what are you doing to wear the granny dress. Macio was standing there, shuffling his feet and he had a hat in his hand and he was twisting his hat and his shoulders were slumped and his head was down and he was saying "Yessir, yessir, mister boss man, yessir." And I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm practicing my part." I said, "Part for what!" I mean I went ballistic. 30:00
TK: Oh, my God!
DB: And whatever his role. You know I don't know if those things were deliberateor whether they were done. But I think they did, "Oh, we got black kids," you know, "And we can do this part! And we don't have to black face somebody, we can use the real natural born black faces!" And it just didn't go with me.
TK: Today someone would say they just didn't get it.
DB: I think they just didn't get it and that's why I said I think it was out ofignorance because they were really nice people, however when open housing came I'll never forget walking the kids to school . . .
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A
START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
TK: Open housing.
DB: Open housing. But I'm saying the people over there, maybe they weren't aware31:00of what they were doing and maybe again they were because one black family bought a house on Thirty-Seventh Street, and everybody from Broadway to River Park on Thirty-Seventh Street both sides of the street belonged to Redeemer Lutheran, the church.
TK: They were white families?
DB: Yeah. And a black couple bought a house in that block and honest to God inless than a week I walked the kids to school and it was just a flood of for sale signs on both sides of the street! And that was the first time I understood white flight. I mean they would have, they were practically selling their houses 32:00from the street, you know, whatever anything you got, I'll take it. And they ran! And the school eventually had to close because they didn't get enough black children and they weren't enough whites to stay. The church is still there, however, but the school is now a community center.
TK: Does the church still have a predominantly white congregation?
DB: You know, I really don't know. I know there are several black families thatbelong but as to how many, I don't know. But I don't think there's that many black Lutherans in Louisville.
TK: No, I don't think so. When you moved onto this block, was it a mixed block?
TK: It was already mixed when you moved here?33:00
TK: How did you start, how did the West End Community Council, because it'sright around that time?
DB: When I came from New York I needed job and I went down to the Y, well, I wasgoing to the Y, the YW, it's down there at Forty-Fourth Street. I don't know, when I was going down there, I was taking a class or something down there and I discovered that they needed a program director. And I figured I could do that. So I applied for the job and I got the job and then West End Community Council organized and they met there.
TK: At the Y?
DB: At the Y.
TK: So you were hired by the Y?
DB: Yeah, but I worked with the Community Council.
TK: Could you tell me what you remember about the Community Council in terms of34:00what it was doing and who was there?
DB: Well they were dealing with housing, open housing. They were dealing withschool integration. They were dealing with education, health, and welfare and things of that nature. Then the cultural part was where I became seriously interested in the council. They were doing things that I was really interested in, but I mean the theater part and the cultural part is really what sparked my energy. But I think before, I think it was before or maybe it was during, on the West End Community Council that I started. . . . There were no black cultural 35:00arts things going on in the West End. There were no black dance classes since Jewel McNary, which meant I was a child, had passed. And she hadn't died at that time because Portia took ballet from her or took dance from her for a year, but there wasn't a discipline, Portia is a very disciplined individual, and Jewel didn't offer the discipline that Portia worked well under. But I wanted a ballet class because I felt that little black girls, and it wasn't just black, I had white kids in the ballet class but it was housed down at the Y. And I think that 36:00was the first cultural arts thing that I started doing was the ballet class because I liked the discipline that ballet brings. And then from that we had the arts and talent festival in the park every year. And that was my big role, I was in charge of the arts and talent festival.
TK: Well, that's something I definitely want to, because this I've seen picturesfrom the newspaper and that's it. That's all I know about those. So why did they do that?
DB: It was just a, the council, the West End Community Council was black andwhite. It wasn't just black folk, it was white people. It was everybody that had 37:00not run from the West End and it was quite a few. And even a lot of them that had moved came back and were participants in the West End Community Council. I don't know where the idea was born to have the Arts and Talent Festival, but it was a citywide thing. I think even people from Indiana came and shared their art. There was one day we had art and the next day it was theater, the next day it was music, the next day it was dance, and it was all the art mediums. And it was very successful and I just wish that that could happen again.
TK: Where was it held?
DB: In Chickasaw, was it Chickasaw? Chickasaw Park.38:00
TK: I knew it was one of the two but I wasn't sure which one.
DB: Yeah, it was Chickasaw.
TK: And did you organize it yourself?
DB: Well not all by myself. There were other people, somebody was in charge ofphotography. Laura Furlong was in charge of the art, Laura's an artist, and Laura did the art. I would solicit the artists and things, but she being an artist, she knew more. And she would bring her people in and they would set up easels and everything and everything was for sale and to be viewed. I did the theater component. The music, in fact, have you watched the series Jesus on television this week?
TK: I saw an article about it.
DB: Okay, well, the young man that played the role of the Messiah, his father .39:00. .
TK: Jeremy Sisto was his name.
DB: Yeah, well, Dick Sisto is his father.
TK: Oh, okay!
DB: And Dick was a part of the West End. He was a musician and he used to playwhen, you know, and so all these people were drawn in.
TK: Well, I've heard of Dick Sisto because of the jazz he does every weekend here.
DB: Right, well, he was sort of active with the West End Community, with thearts and talent festival. You know and out of that just a lot of things grew. So 40:00from there I came up with . . . God, that's hot! [tape paused] Out of the West End Community, the arts and talent festival, I didn't want it just to be once a year, I wanted it to be ongoing. So that's when Pigeon Roost Theater became a reality and that was in the loft.
TK: Now what's the loft?
DB: It's like an attic, only it's bigger than an attic, at the Y. I discoveredthat space up there and I think every corner needs to be filled. I guess you can tell with the junk in my house. [Laughter] I discovered all this space up there and nothing; it was just storage space. And I cleaned it out and what we discovered once we cleaned it out, the windows were all broken and everything and the pigeons had come in and were roosting. 41:00
TK: Oh, okay!
DB: And they had laid eggs and the eggs hadn't hatched. Well, we couldn't throwthem out; we couldn't do that. Then after the eggs hatched we had to wait until the little squabs became big enough to fly and then we had to protect them to keep people from getting them because squab is really a delicacy and very expensive and very good eating. So then we had to protect the little squabs to keep folks from eating them and after all that then we started building. And that was fun, oh gosh, that was so much fun! And we had a real nice theater up there. We did a lot of one-act plays, improvisations, and never anything major 42:00but it was an ongoing thing and it was an integrated. It was equally integrated and we eventually did major plays. I did a lot of religious plays, scripts that I had written myself and it was equally black and white, people that, whites that lived in the West End. Some that, like I said before, that had moved away from the West End but they came back, still had ties here. The Logsdons especially. They got a zillion kids and their kids have kids and the Logsdons still live down here. So I just did a play two years ago, a slave wedding out to Locust Grove.
TK: I heard about that!
DB: Did you?
TK: Yeah, I think they told me about it actually.
DB: Oh, okay. And the Logsdons participated, some of the Logsdons, Shirley and43:00Norb's kids and grandkids participated. So we stay pretty close.
TK: Were the people who were acting in the play, were they adults or children?
DB: Adults and children.
TK: Okay. All amateurs then?
DB: Oh yeah.
TK: Just people from the community and stuff?
DB: Yeah, but we also worked along, we pulled in with Actors Theatre. And ActorsTheatre, a lot of the performers from there came in and helped us and got lots of props and everything there. The director of Actors at that time, who was Richard Block, was a personal friend of mine and Richard would let me borrow some of his actors.
TK: How often did you perform?44:00
DB: Oh maybe four or five times a month.
TK: Oh really? Wow!
DB: Yeah we were ongoing.
TK: And what was the reception in the community?
DB: We had a nice house, believe it or not, as much as the little loft . . .we'd always have a full house. What we would do, we would do the production and after the production we would have a discussion group and coffee and pass the hat and it was always, you know. . . . And a lot of the plays were controversial. We did a lot of [Edward] Albee and . . .
TK: Just for my transcription, is it Edwin or Edward Albee?
TK: Edwin Albee, okay.
DB: Or is it Edward Albee? I think it's Edwin.
TK: Edwin sounds more familiar, yeah. Did the plays deal explicitly with social45:00issues or were they more . . .?
DB: I guess they did deal more because Albee's plays were social issues; TheZeus Story.
TK: I don't know that one.
DB: It's about two men that meet in a park and one is middle class and the otherone is not; he's a drunk or something. And they have dialogue back and forth with who they are. Another one, I can't think of the author, Two in a Trap. It's about upper middle class white women and a black welfare woman that is attempting suicide, the black woman's attempting suicide because she's just 46:00lost. She doesn't know what to do, she doesn't know where to go. Robert? Someone's at the door. [Doorbell rings]
TK: Do you want me to pause it?
DB: No. Yeah.
TK: Pause it?
DB: Two in a Trap, which is a social issue, understanding issues from differentpeople, different viewpoints. The rich white woman could not understand why this woman wanted to commit suicide. She had no husband, she was a single parent, she was on welfare, she had cancer, her children were ill, she had no food stamps. There was nothing, she had absolutely nothing. And the rich white woman's concern was she was redecorating her house and she could not decide whether she 47:00wanted blue carpeting or green carpeting and she was just in a tizzy because of not being able to decide. And her daughter, who was very wealthy, didn't have any children and the woman was knitting booties for the dog, and here's this black woman didn't even have bootie to put on her children's feet. And it was you know those two extremes. So those are the types of plays that we more or less did. And then we did some original plays.
TK: And how long did it last?
DB: Well you know I guess we're not . . . if I have a good play tomorrow, I48:00could call my people together and we would do something.
TK: So the space is still there?
DB: I don't know if the space is there, but we will find space and we will stillcome together and do things, you know, and of course now it's finding an old folks' play because we're all seniors. [Laughter] I suppose, because a lot of us are dying out and just become complacent. A lot of people my age are reluctant to go out at night and I don't know if there's anything that much to do, but I'm 49:00sure if I decided to. . . . Well, just like three years ago when I did Slave Wedding, you know, I just said, "Hey come on, we're going to do this." And everybody was there. 'Course you had new faces because of the type of play it was and the energy it . . .
TK: It was at Locust Grove?
TK: Did you contact them or did they contact you?
DB: No, I contacted them because I had a relative that had been a slave atLocust Grove.
TK: Oh, really!
DB: And I thought that was the place to do it.
TK: It must have been a really interesting event.
DB: Yeah, a blast, it was fun.
TK: Sorry I missed it. What other kinds of work did you do in terms of communitywork in the West End?
DB: You know, I guess, really that's about all, you know, where I could fill inif anybody needed me to do anything, I would do it but I was mostly involved in 50:00the ballet and the theater and seeing to it that children. . . . I had Genesis Arts, it's an organization for low-income kids, (), mentally and physically handicapped and homeless kids. And I'm a member of First Unitarian Church at present and that's where I had classes.
TK: The one downtown?
DB: Yeah and that's where I had classes for Genesis Arts. And Genesis Arts isstill in the wings. We're kind of looking for a home at the present. I thought we were going to be housed down here at the Catholic Enrichment Center, but the space is not large enough. So I'm still looking. I'm looking for an old church 51:00that's an ideal situation, because I'd like to have a theater, like a dinner theater-type thing and to have a place where we would can go in and work as long as we need to and stay as long as we want to and come in for rehearsals, not when somebody else is going to be there and when it's convenient or not. So Pigeon Roost Players, I guess, lasted up until the early eighties and maybe '82 was the last thing we did under the name of Pigeon Roost Theater, but then right after that came Genesis Arts. So I guess it's the cultural things that I've 52:00always been involved in in the community.
TK: Were there other cultural initiatives, sort of, around?
DB: You see, no, because . . . since then yes, but Pigeon Roost Players was thefirst black little theater group. And I can't really say black, I'll just say West End-based theater group. There was nothing else and that included poetry and music and all mediums of the arts. And then Genesis Arts, the dance part, that was the only dance based group in the West End because I worked very hard to see. . . . And Genesis Arts at one time, I had Native Americans, I had blacks, I even had Asian, a couple of Asian kids, and I had Hispanic children. 53:00Hispanic is not politically correct anymore.
TK: Latino, I think.
DB: Latino, okay. It's hard to keep up with. I've been so many things myself.You know, I think it's important to have a cross-culture for the children's sake, you know, if no more.
TK: Was there ever very much in Louisville, because other communities had this,so I don't know and I'm trying to get a sense if it shows up here at all. Sort of in the late sixties, there's a kind of resurgence in interest in African art and sort of the black pride ideology. Did that affect the Louisville culture scene or art scene?
DB: Yeah, we had Ed Hamilton. I know you know Ed.
TK: I know the name, yeah.
DB: Okay, Ed and Fred Bonn and G.C. Cox.54:00
TK: Don't know that name.
DB: G.C. recently, well, not recently, died, yeah, well within the last, lessthan two years. Around the corner over here at Thirty-Sixth and Del Park there was an arts . . . it was a house and it was an apartment, it was a duplex. And they had knocked the walls out and made it a big arts center and that's where Ed and Fred and all of them. . . . It was a meeting place and the art, a lot of Gilliam, Sam Gilliam and all those guys were over there doing sculpture and oils 55:00and everything and they would have shows. You know it was not much, a lot of the people, the black community, was not educated to appreciate the arts so you did not have the influx of people just, you know, knocking down the doors to get in and buying art and things of that nature. But it was there and they taught classes and I even took a dance class over there and just it was a lot of fun doing it. If I got to come back after I die, if I could choose my time, it would be within the sixties and the early seventies when the struggle was new and everybody was out there, and what happened, I don't know. We got old and the 56:00younger generation didn't follow.
TK: Why do you think that is?
DB: I don't know. I guess the one thing the young people, my daughter's age andyounger, they didn't come up in the struggle. They're still in a struggle but they're not aware of it. It's sort of disguised; it wears a mask and when we were struggling during the sixties and the fifties the mask was not there. You know, "I don't like you because you're not black, I mean because you're black and hey, that's it, and I'm suspicious of you because you're white and that's it." But now it's not like that, you know, you're people are wearing masks and you really don't know what's underneath. I was telling my husband the other day 57:00I said, "I certainly would like to go down to the Klu Klux Klan rally this weekend just to look at the crowd to see who's in the crowd that I know that pretend that they're really my friend." How many people do I teach with that's going to be down there applauding what the Klansmen are saying and I'm sure there will be some, but it's different and I think that's why the struggle was not carried on. And Louisville is a strange little place anyway. Louisville is, I can't say that the people are laid back and I can't really say that the people don't care, but they're lackadaisical or something. There's no real, you know, okay, I'm happy, nobody bothers, throws garbage in my yard so why should I worry 58:00about whether or not they throw it in the woman's yard next door and that's the attitude and that bothers me. My husband is pretty laid back like that and I think we've only been married twenty months.
TK: Oh, okay, he's a more recent addition, okay.
DB: Yeah, yeah, and I know that he thinks that I'm radical and crazy sometimesbecause he just doesn't get involved.
TK: Is he from here as well?
TK: Oh, really born and raised?
TK: That's interesting.
DB: Yeah, but you know nothing touches him and nothing bothers him and that'sjust probably his demeanor, you know. Just feeding the birds and feeding the squirrels and feeding the stray cats that come through my yard, you know, he's 59:00never heard of such. You know, "Why do you do that you waste money because you buy squirrel food and the bird food and the stray cats eat the birds and you keep on going." But some people just don't take on anything other than that which touches them directly and I feel like if you live in a world, everything that happens touches you, whether you're next door across the street or on a different continent. It can't be without, you know, the fire that's going in Mexico, it's going to affect us.
TK: It's not that far from where I used to live.
DB: Oh, really?
TK: Yeah I lived in southern New Mexico for two years. One of the things Iusually like to do at some point is ask people some sort of general questions 60:00that are sort of thought questions, and you've actually answered a couple of them in talking along the way. But one of the things is in the time that you've been, let's say, since the early sixties since also you were here and then left and then came back and more recently in this period we were talking about the late sixties and seventies, what would you consider sort of the main problems or the main issues facing the black community?
DB: I think as of today I was thinking on my way home wondering what you weregoing to ask and I guess that was one of the things. I feel that . . .
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A
DB: Relationship with police. I think early on I sort of viewed policemen as my61:00friend. I felt that they were there for me. I felt if I had a problem I could go to them or if something was wrong in the street, if my car broke down or anything and a cop came by. Now I'm afraid, you know, I'm afraid that if something was wrong, I'd feel intimidated by policemen and I don't know if it's because I'm black. I guess it is and I do know that the policemen in a lot of cases are afraid of me. 62:00
TK: When you say early on, do you mean when you were a young woman or back inthe sixties, seventies?
DB: Maybe in the sixties, the fifties and on back. I don't know when it started.I do know that during the early part of the civil rights movement policemen were not your friends because you were supposed to stay in your place and if you got out of your place you were in trouble. But now it's even, I think it's even worse and I don't think you have to be doing anything. You walk in a store if you're black and if you're not dressed a certain way, they're going to look at you. The detectives, the floor detectives, the police are going to immediately 63:00be suspicious of you because of your pigmentation and I never felt that before and like I said, a lot of it could have been that I was just naive. And of course the media reaches much further now than it did back then, so you're constantly hearing and reading about things that are going on all over and not just in your block. So that could be and I'd guess you'd be a fool if you didn't realize that! I've got a five-year old granddaughter and she goes to a Jewish daycare and her name is Sara with an A and her best little friend is a Jewish child who is Sara with an H and it's so pleasant to listen to Sara talk about 64:00she and her friend. And she says, "Grandma, you know we are fooling everybody at school. They think we're sisters." And I said, "Really, Sara?" And she says, "Yeah, because we're just alike! And both of our names, we're both girls and both our names are Sara, only her name ends in an h and my names ends in an a and everybody thinks we're just alike and they think we're sisters." You know, and I said, 'Oh come, let me hug you!" You know, and I said, "Oh God, wouldn't it be wonderful if it could just stay like this." I read something in "Family Circus" yesterday, I can't remember what it was, but one of the kids didn't know a difference in somebody. I don't know what it was. 65:00
TK: I'll have to go back and look at the paper yesterday.
DB: Yeah, I think it was yesterday's, and I meant to cut it out but I didn't. Soif it could just be and I think that's what the West End Community Council was about. I mean we knew we were different outside but we also realized that we were the same on the inside. And we know that attitudes come from environment and things like that, but you don't have to stay there. If your parents were prejudiced and you grew up in a prejudice household, that foundation is there because I always say, one of my favorite sayings is, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, but it can be kicked away, you know, it doesn't have to stay 66:00there. And it's your responsibility to broaden your horizons and you look around and to make your own decisions as an adult. And I think that was the main theme that that was the focus of the West End Community Council. And the arts and I always believe that the arts do two things, it helps retarded people and it helps people with differences to come together and share a common bond. And I think a common bond is definitely in the arts more so than in religion.
TK: Like we said before we started the recording, I do think the West EndCommunity Council is a really interesting organization and I hope to be able to write a lot about it because they really, they go through, you know, they're involved in a lot, the arts stuff, the open housing stuff, and such. Do you remember any of the other people in it because I could use more people to interview? 67:00
DB: Yvonne . . .
[Another voice]: Excuse me, I'm gone to get Sara.
DB: Where were we?
TK: I was asking about the people in the . . .
DB: Oh, some of the people. Myna Daniels. Then there was Hulbert James; he's nothere. See most of the people are not here anymore.
TK: They've moved out of Louisville?
DB: They've moved out of Louisville and the Logsdons are the only ones, theLogsdons and Anne, and who else.
TK: Were either, the two names that I have that I don't know if they wereinvolved but people have told me were Sam Robinson and then Mildred Robinson, not necessarily related.
DB: They're gone. Mildred's gone.68:00
TK: Oh, she is?
TK: Okay, that's probably why I haven't been able to get. I have old addressesfor people.
DB: Now Sam Robinson, I'm not sure Sam if . . .
TK: He's with the Lincoln Foundation.
DB: Yeah, for some reason, I don't remember Sam being in it because Sam's not aLouisvillian, is he?
TK: Oh, he's not, okay.
DB: I don't think. Now () is a Texan and I don't know if they met in college orwhat, but I don't remember Sam from early on.
TK: Did you actually, I know you worked for the West End Community Council, didyou go to meetings and other events that they did, too?
TK: What kinds of things?
DB: Like I said, they were involved in open housing sit-ins.
TK: Did you do any of that?
DB: Oh, yes.
TK: Oh really! Why don't you tell me about that?
DB: Well my parents, oh Lord, they were just always so upset because theythought I was going to get hurt because I was sort of outspoken. I wasn't 69:00militant but I wasn't turn the other cheek either, you know, and that's what you almost had to have been. You know, I think if someone had spit on me, I would have spit back. I did not have the temperament to be abused like that and that's what used to frighten my parents, but I never got involved in any scrapes or anything like that, but we would go to restaurants and sit down. And of course I enjoyed that, that was fun and maybe I wasn't as sincere or maybe I didn't realize the seriousness of what I was doing. I was trying to make a point, but I 70:00was also making a statement, "Yeah, here I am. I'm entitled to this, you know, if it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't even be in this country. You know my ancestors were over there in the bush somewhere doing their thing and you brought them over here so here I am accept me." But the only thing, I guess maybe it was God, I would go in places and sit down and nobody would bother me and that was really depressing, you know because I wanted somebody to say, "You can't sit there. You've got to go!" And people would either ignore me or come to wait on me, you know, and I'm going what! This is not the way the script goes! You're not following your lines, you know.
TK: Were you in any of the marches about open housing?71:00
DB: Oh, little ones, not big ones, not in Washington.
TK: Oh, I meant locally, yeah.
DB: Yeah, I did those.
TK: What were they like?
DB: Singing and walking, and I don't really think they were proving anythingother than letting people know you were dissatisfied. I don't want to be quoted, but I think sometimes that marches or. . . . I know the squeaking wheel gets the oil and I know if you sit back and you say nothing and you become passive, all kinds of things can happen to you, but I do not see walking through the streets 72:00holding hands singing "We Shall Overcome," I do not see that that's a cure for anything. And I feel like there are things, and I don't know what they are, that can be done that are more constructive. When I was younger, maybe it's because my feet and knees hurt now, it's that I can't do it, but when I was younger, it was fun and it was making people know, "Hey I'm not satisfied with the way things are." And that's all well and good, but what am I doing to make it better and that's my biggest concern about the marches today. "We shall overcome;" how and when and what vehicle are we going to use to do that. So I marched then but no, I would not march today. 73:00
TK: Interesting. There's usually some sort of wrap-up type questions that I askat the end, towards the end of the interview. One is, I ask everybody this question, which is if you were writing this book a book on the civil rights struggle in Louisville, when would you start it and when would you stop it?
DB: Way before your time, way before you were born. I just got through doing ahistorical thing. I'm on a committee out at Locust Grove, it's the African-American, I don't even know the name of the committee as we speak, but my big interest in what I was doing with Locust Grove -- African-American 74:00interpretation Committee or something -- and I was doing the religious part the religion and I think that would be the beginning of any civil rights movement with black folk was with religion. And that goes way way way back, even before my grandparents in Kentucky, with the churches pulling out from their . . . the black slaves trying to be a group within themselves and not being meshed in with the slave masters because the slave masters did not give them what they needed. It was a discipline, it was a control-type thing, a mechanism to keep them in order whereas I guess they wanted to dream of going back home, not to heaven 75:00home but back to the grounds that they had come from. Once they realized, I suppose, that they weren't, how are we going to survive now that we are here. I saw more cohesiveness back in the 1700s in reading history with black folks with their little religion than I do now because they knew they had a struggle. They knew that if they did anything, they were the ones that were going to be responsible. There was no government funds. There was no mayor to throw 76:00something a little bone or () to gnaw on and they knew that everything they got they were going to have to do it for themselves in some shape form or fashion and that's what's lacking today. But that's where if I were, and I would trace it from there from when religion first started when the first black churches started in Kentucky on up to wherever they are. Of course I guess you can't do that if you're not just doing all religion, you know you would have to branch out. But a lot of things, because out of that came education and out of the education comes the arts, so all of it has little branches from the one big thing. 77:00
TK: Do you mind me asking how you switched from being Methodist to a Unitarian?
DB: Oh well, that's another story.
TK: Because you've mentioned religion a bunch of times and I guess what I'mreally wondering is are your social and political kind of outlook on life is that related to religious outlook on life or do you consider it. . . .
DB: I'm not a religious person, okay. I think maybe I'm spiritual but I'm not areligious person, and the reason why I moved away from the Methodist Church to the Unitarian Church, I had two sons to be killed, not at the same time, but three years apart almost three years to the day. And as I mentioned earlier, my parents joined R.E. Jones in 1918. I was christened there and brought up there 78:00and my children were christened there. When Macio died I was more or less by myself; I was divorced, Leon was gone, had died three years earlier, Portia was living in New York, I had no siblings, and I was alone. I mean I had friends, but my friends have families and I needed somebody, you know, and I thought that I could depend on the church because I had always felt that . . . I remember as a child, I remember Mother made me so angry when I must have been about eight, 79:00and she made me so angry and I told her I was leaving. I wasn't going to live with her anymore and my dad said, "Where are you going? Where are you going to live?" And I said, "As soon as Mother does the dishes, I'm going to get you to take me to church. I'm going to live at church." And I felt that the church was the nuclear of everything about my being and I thought it was my extended family and if anything went wrong, you could go to church and church would make it right. And that's really the way I believed and I guess I believed that up until when Macio died and I reached out to them and got no response, but I had the 80:00dance classes up at the Unitarian Church.
TK: The one at York and Broadway or Fourth and Broadway?
DB: Fourth and York.
TK: Whatever, yeah, I know what you mean.
DB: That's where I had my dance classes and when those boys died, those people,they didn't know me, but they came down here, they brought me groceries, they cooked meals, they did all sorts of things for me and it was like I belonged to them! So I said, well, hey, this is where my loyalties lie, you know, not with people that just because my family has belonged there since 1918, you know, that doesn't mean anything. And I'm survivor of breast cancer and when I had breast 81:00cancer they were there. I didn't see anybody from R.E. Jones, you know, and when I got a divorce, they weren't there, you know, so that's why.
TK: The Fourth Unitarian Church, it's a nice, I mean I've been there a couple oftimes, not that often.
DB: Come back!
TK: Well now, I live right near the one in Clifton so I was going to go to one alittle bit closer. Well, I was curious because like I said you had brought it up a couple of times so I wanted to have that clarified. Actually, I usually end with one last question because like I said, you've answered a lot of them kind of along the way, is what makes Louisville's story interesting or different? What makes Louisville interesting or different?
DB: You know Louisville . . . I don't know, Louisville has had a lot of blackfolk that have a lot of education, a lot of clout, a lot of dignity, and I guess 82:00other places, too, but to be in the South and to be a small town Louisville has really been, has black folk that were really about something. I don't know where they are, they're dead and apparently they didn't have children. I don't know but it's gone, that air of a certain sophistication and a certain pride, you know, the struggle was there but the welfare scene I think, and it's not just Louisville, I think the welfare scene has been abused. It's taken away people's 83:00dignity and people's pride and you know, I don't know. And I think that has destroyed some of the uniqueness in the black community that used to be here. There were certain sections of the city where black people lived on Chestnut between, I don't know, Twenty-First.
TK: Those big houses along there.
DB: Yeah and those were not apartments like they are now, they were one-familydwellings. And those people kept those homes up, the lawns were always manicured and landscaping was done and there was never any loud talking and police calls 84:00and all that! And it wasn't just on Chestnut, it was certain blocks, certain areas on Walnut and, you know, all up and down. And the black pride is gone, but something is still there but it's dormant. It's not gone, it's just dormant or I hope it's dormant. But that's what was unique about Louisville. The old Walnut Street was very colorful. And you know, the men; I remember because the first R.E. Jones was located at Sixth and Walnut where the welfare office is and coming from church sometimes we would walk down Walnut Street, and yeah, there 85:00were men standing out on the street shooting crap and using vulgarity and when you would approach, they would hide their dice and they would stop cursing and they would tip their hats and say "How do you do, young lady." And you didn't have to be afraid of somebody raping you or touching you and I'm sure that went on but people didn't push their values on other folk.
TK: I'm actually going to just start doing pretty soon a little mini-researchproject on Walnut Street for the African-American Heritage Center. They've asked me to do a little mini-project on Walnut Street.
DB: That's interesting. Now all those people are definitely gone.
TK: Right, yeah.
DB: I mean people up and down the street. I can not think of one individual and86:00if there is anybody, he's probably so senile, he doesn't even remember.
TK: You mean the business owners themselves would be gone, yeah.
DB: The business owners are all . . .
TK: We're hoping to find people who just maybe, you know, went there or you knowfor the night clubs or the . . .
DB: I'm sure there are people that might have . . . I've got a book! I'll runupstairs and look at it.
TK: I'm actually out of questions. Do you want to answer your . . .
END OF INTERVIEW