Smoketown (Louisville, Ky.)
This interview covers Armstrong's experiences as a resident in Sheppard Square public housing. Prior to moving into Sheppard Square, Armstrong lived with her two children in two crowded rooms on Magnolia Street in Louisville. She applied three times for public housing but reports difficulty in getting approval because she was not married. Armstrong helped form Resident Council, a model for other public housing resident groups in Louisville. She recalls positive relationships with police and discusses how the community changed in the 1980s. She also comments on changes in the resident population and attitude. Armstrong expresses concern that people with little or no income will not be able to find housing.
Barker shares her memories of her childhood and early adult years at Sheppard Square. She talks about Grace Community Center, mentioning many teachers by name, includig Fred Stoner. She remembers a childhood filled with physical ctivity, much of it spent outdoors. To Barker, Sheppard Square was "a great place to live" where neighbors knew and supported each other and corrected one another's children. Her father worked for the maintenance department of the Louisville Housing Authority. She talks about the changes in the complex, including an increase in single-family homes and a decline in property maintenance.
This interview covers Dorsey's childhood and teen years in Sheppard Square housing. Dorsey connects his career in community organizing to his childhood experiences. He recalls an abundance of playmates and play activities. Dorsey shares a strong appreciation for the history of Smoketown and a pride in his family's roots there. He recalls feeling safe despite criminal activity in the neighborhood and a short-lived epsiode in which he was recruited to sell drugs. He talks about benefits and detriments of living in a compact and isolated neighborhood. He specifically credits his mother, mentors at Bates Memorial Baptist Church and at the Presbyterian Communityi Center with instilling in him a belief in his potential.
This interview covers Ellis' recollections of his childhood at Sheppard Square. He recalls activities at Grace Community Center, a predecessor to the Presbyterian Community Center (PCC), and the mentors there, who inspired him to become a community activist. Ellis recalls a supportive neighborhood, including white-owned businesses that sold groceries on credit and funded neighborhood athletic teams. He expresses pride in coming from Sheppard Square, even though he believes the community's attitude changed from a focus on working for a better life to complacency and permanence. Ellis voices concern about former public housing residents who may not be equipped to live outside of the housing authority's oversight.
During this two-hour interview, Fields describes his childhood experiences at Sheppard Square. He recalls a relatively safe environment where a shooting would have been an out-of-the-ordinary event. Grace Presbyterian Center provided a safe place for skating, boxing, and other activites. Fred Stoner is talked about as are his grandparents, Bennie and Elizabeth Gardner. He talks about competition, personal responsibility and contributing to the community. In addition to childhood meories, Fields recounts his journey of self-discovery and offers insight into being an African American male, coming of age during the Civil Rights era, and increased opportunities for the black community through education and individual perseveranace.
This interview covers Griffin's memories of her childhood and teenage years at Sheppard Square. Her husband, Edward, accompanied her during the interview. She talks about her family, neighborhood mothers, the Presbyterian Community Center and other mentors. As a young child, Griffin was exposed to the community's danger: gun violence, drug deals and prostitution. Despite the harsh world she witnessed, she describes a happy childhood playing outside for most of the day and enjoying a variety of activities at PCC. She is proud of coming from Sheppard Square. Griffin offers an insightful look into a public housing childhood, experiencing its best and worst episodes, and a young girl's journey to self esteem.
Helms recalls her experiences living in Sheppard Square. She kept to herself and didn’t have any problems with her neighbors. She felt safe and was comfortable there with her children. She recalls older residents caring for their flower beds and yards. Over time, the people that she knew best either moved or died, and the character of the community changed. After two people were killed near her home in July 2011, she was ready to move as part of the HOPE VI project. Helms eagerly gave the interviewer a tour of their new apartment commenting on its spaciousness and convenience.
This interview covers Hyde's memories of her childhood in Sheppard Square. Outside of school, her days were spent doing chores, playing with friends, participating in activities sponsored by neighborhood churches, the Presbyterian Community Center and the nearby public library. She recalls a strong attachment to the senior citizens in the community. She was influenced by her mother's commitment to communtiy volunteer work. She noticed a change in the neighborhood in the later 1970s attributing that to a reduction in services to children, the departure of senior citizens from the communtiy and a decrease in two-parent families.
Jin, a native of New York City, talks about her move to Louisville in 1996 and the circumstances that brought her to Sheppard Square. She describes the first two years as "rough." Shootings and illegal drug activity were prevalent. Jin served on the Sheppard Square Resident Council but became frustrated with the process and resigned. Generally speaking, Jin talks in survival language about her and her daughter's experiences in Sheppard Square. She believes that people outside of public housing unfairly characterize its residents. She adds, however, that there are people who seem to perpetuate the stereotypes. Her reaction to the Hope VI project is mixed.
Clay describes a protected and nurturing childhood at Sheppard Square. She describes the Presbyterian Community Center (PCC) as pivotal to her and the neighborhood, a place her mother trusted. Clay recounts a shooting at Meyzeek Middle School. Her strongest memories are of people coming home from work, helpful neighbors, and mentors at her schools and at PCC. She recalls people bringing food baskets to her home and understanding that her life was different from others. Clay talks about changes in the community: residents became frustrated, crime and unemployment increased. She talks of the juxtaposition of her story in that her mother worked in the restrooms at Churchill Downs and years later, in 2004, Clay chaired the Kentucky Derby Festival. She hopes the new community supports the PCC because every child, regardless of family income, needs a safe refuge outside of their home.