Jean and Fran

Jean: You want to do the reading, or do you want me to read?

     Speaker: You both have to read them and you both have to answer. Please say your names, so we know who you are.

     Fran: I’m Fran.

     Jean: I’m Jean.

     Speaker: Okay, good work. That should be fine. You’re all set. Here you go.

     Fran: Question: “What has changed the most since you have lived in Amsterdam Houses? What has stayed the same?”

     Jean: The surroundings. The area has changed a great deal. When I first moved over here, it was like – peace. There wasn’t no, Lincoln Center here. It was just stores and bodegas; chicken houses and, et cetera.

     Fran: And bars. (laughs)

     Jean: Now I’m going to ask you the next question. “What does this community mean to you?”

     Fran: A sense of comfort. Familiarity. And people that I know.

     Jean: Okay, and a “community” means to me the same, because I’ve gotten the chance now to come back to the community center. And just love going back here because I have so many new sisters, like Fran here. (laughs).

     Fran: You’re so kind. “Why is public housing important to you?”

     Jean: Because it’s affordable. It helped me to raise my children. I don’t have to stress if I don’t have a job and I can’t pay my rent, because Housing will conform to the fact, to help me so I can meet the payments for my rent. And I like it because I don’t have to worry about paying utility bills.

     And it’s, for the most part, for me – it’s still about the same as it was when I first (inaudible), for me. And what about yourself?

     Fran: I agree with you on all of them. I raised my children here.

     Jean: Right, right, right. They went to school here too? “What do you need to improve this community?”

     Fran: I have to think on that.

     Jean: Right, right. What do you need to improve community?

     Fran: What do you need? I never thought about it.

     Jean: More security?

     Fran: Yeah, that would be good.

     Jean: More security. A safer place for the children to play.

     Fran: I agree.

     Jean: What about the lighting in the hallways?

     Fran: Yeah, I agree.

     Jean: And we should have security or some kind of protection like we used to have when I first moved here. Because we used to see police officers and everybody walking around in the community. And now, you don’t see any policemen. We used to have a flag that used to be raised. And we would know that this was a community with some kind of stability. What else do we have . . . in the community, to improve it?

     Fran: I agree.

     Jean: What else? What else can you think of?

     Speaker: I wanted to invite either of you to go have your picture taken.

     Jean: You go first.

     Fran: Okay. Oh, great.

     Speaker: So far, so good – huh?

     Jean: Well, I had a little moment, but Rita gave me some candy, because I didn’t get breakfast.

     Speaker: Okay, I have something for you. Do you eat nuts?

     Jean: Yeah, bring me some, please. Thank you. Oooh, thank you.

     Speaker: So you can have this one, or this one?

     Jean: This one, this one. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

     Speaker: Yeah, and I have cough drops also. And I have a couple more of these, if you need it. Oh, your partner is getting a headshot?

     Jean: Well, my partner is doing her thing right now.

     Speaker: She’s like, enjoying it. Look at her! Are you planning to take yours?

     Jean: Yeah, when she comes back.

     Speaker: You’re going to do great. You have the outfit for it.

     Speaker: How was your photo shoot?

     Fran: (laughs)

     Speaker: Of course. You were really working it. You were doing great.

     Speaker: Ready, she was ready. I love it. Love it. What have you all been talking about?

     Fran: Everything and anything.

     Speaker: Everything and anything? Do any of these especially interest you?

     Fran: Okay. This one stumped us, because you know, basically we’ve both been in the area a long time. And improved – the only thing we could agree on is, security.

     Speaker: Security is important?

     Fran: Yeah, yeah. That’s about it.

     Speaker: What is your favorite object?

     Fran: The refrigerator!

     Speaker: The refrigerator! Hah! I agree with that. That is true. What is your favorite food?

     Fran: I’m trying to think of the word that encompasses that. I love all foods. As long as it’s not moving, I’m good to go.

     Speaker: Yeah. Do you like cooking?

     Fran: Oh!

     Speaker: What’s your favorite thing to cook?

     Fran: (laughs)

     Speaker: Yes, I love that . . . she looks great. Look at that. I love these. Are you having fun?

     Fran: Oh, yeah.

     Speaker: Well, I’ll let you be . . . she’ll be back in a second.  (long break in discussion)

     Fran: Where’s your partner?

     Speaker: I don’t have a partner. I just coordinate. Because that’s what . . . Vicki asked (inaudible). In order to do this, I just kind of, I just did it. And then I told them about it. Instead of – because they go, “Well . . .” No, I did it, and then I tell them. Yeah, I have those bars, oatmeal bars?

     Jean: This is good. I just needed something in my stomach. This is good.

     Speaker: Will you ladies give me a smile? I’m going to let you snack first . . . okay, ready? One, two, three. Thank you.

     Fran: And my favorite, Duck L’Orange . . . you were asking me questions before, about the food.

     Speaker: About the food. So, I need this recipe.

     Fran: That’s my favorite food. Somebody else cooks it.

     Speaker: It sounds amazing. What’s your favorite food?

     Jean: Red beans and rice.

     Speaker: Mmmm . . . so good, and corn bread. So delicious. Yes.

     Speaker: Don’t get me started.

     Speaker: I know, now I’m getting hungry! (laughs) That’s so good. Yes, I love that.

     Fran: Okay, Jean . . . how many generations of family have lived in your home?

     Jean: Well, when we got here, they didn’t finish the other one yet.

     Fran: Which one? We’re talking about this one . . .

     Jean: What page? The last one?

     Fran: Well, we did this one, because we went through the security business, and whatever. Okay. “How many generations of family have lived in your home?”

     Jean: Let me see . . . myself, my children.

     Fran: That’s two.

     Jean: And I really can’t say, my grandchildren, because they didn’t really live with me. They came over to visit. They would spend the weekends or the week. So I guess, I should say – maybe three. My children, myself – four. My grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. But they didn’t really, like they was raised there. They just came to visit. And you?

     Fran: Two for me. Two for me. What does activism mean?

     Jean: You know what? I was looking at that word – “activism.” That means to me, active in the community, or something like that?

     Fran: Um-hm. I agree.

     Jean: Well, what do I think? I do what I can, in my community. I try to (inaudible); I try to keep, well, when I see surroundings around me, I try to make sure my surroundings are good. It’s clean, and my neighbors are okay. Because I love where I live. I love where I live. I try to make it safe and clean as possible. You can say the same thing.

     Fran: Ditto!

     Jean: No, don’t say “Ditto!” Say “yeah,” – say, “yeah, you know Jean . . .”

     Fran: I agree. Activism, to me, means – sticking your neck out for a cause. Okay? Basically, for me.

     Jean: Okay, and the same thing . . . you, like this morning, when my clothes were falling on . . .

     Fran: (laughs)

     Jean: (laughs) . . . if it hadn’t been for you, I would have had to turn around and come back home (laughs). That’s what it means to me. You were active, and you went and did something about it. You didn’t sit there and let me (laughs) . . .

     Fran: (laughs)

     Jean: . . . you were a real, you were really on the money, with me. Because I would have been in trouble.

     Fran: “What is your favorite object in your home?”

     Jean: My bed. (laughs)

     Fran: Yeah. You know, I’m going to have to say this – the television.

     Jean: My bed. I love to sleep. I love to sleep and I love my kitchen.

     Fran: Me too. And I like cooking.

     Jean: I don’t want to cook.

     Fran: But it’s really no big deal for me anymore because it’s just me. But when I got to my daughter’s house . . . when I was babysitting for them, you know.

     “What is your favorite room or space in your home?” I know, the bed.

     Jean: Yeah, yeah.

     Fran: Am I right?

     Jean: Yeah, you already know.

     Fran: I agree. The bedroom.

     Jean: That’s right. I love to (inaudible).

     Fran: Let’s see . . . “Name and talk about your favorite person at home or in the community.”

     Jean: At home, it’s my children. My children. Fran, you know I love my babies. (laughs)

     Fran: You know what? I have reached a point, over the decades, living, that my favorite person is me. It’s not meant to be conceited. It’s just that – what is that saying, “How are you going to love someone, if you don’t love yourself?” And it took me a long time.

     Jean: I agree with that too, but still – it’s my children. I love my children. And now that I’ve discovered the Community Center back there – I love the Community Center. I’ve met so many new sisters, because my children and I, we’re the only one here. Because I’m from Louisiana, a small town. And when I meet new people, they’re family. And everybody . . .

     Fran: What part of Louisiana?

     Jean: Zachary. You know where Baton Rouge is?

     Fran: Yeah, Baton Rouge.

     Jean: Southern University.

     Fran: Is that what they call the (inaudible).

     Jean: My cousin is (inaudible) not me. They lived in like, northern . . .

     Fran: Isn’t there an island . . .

     Jean: No, no, no. It’s not island (inaudible) Louisiana; it’s surrounded by water, but it’s not a lot of islands.

     Fran: There’s an island out there . . .

     Jean: Might be. Because you see, when I left Louisiana, it was in ’62 and it was still a (inaudible), but now it’s grown up. I don’t know too much about it.

     Fran: “What brings you joy?” My grandkids.

     Jean: My grandkids. My children and my grandchildren.

     Fran: And money.

     Jean: And going to the (inaudible).

     Fran: I can just imagine (inaudible). “Tell us about the meal you made, or someone has made most often in your home.

     Jean: Red beans and rice. Cornbread. (inaudible) My son loves chicken, but my favorite, we love red beans. Because that’s what Louisiana, you eat red beans, rice . . . not beans and rice. There’s a difference between “beans and rice” and “red beans and rice.” Because we have rice, and we put the beans over the rice. We don’t mix them together. So, we are – red beans, rice; cornbread.

     Fran: Fish?

     Jean: Fried chicken. That’s my most favorite thing; there’s other stuff, but that’s my favorite thing.

     Fran: My people like lasagna. “Grandma, are you going to make lasagna?” “Oh, okay.”

     Jean: Where are you from? Your home is . . .

     Fran: Well, from the age of 10. Before that, I’m a Virginian.

     Jean: Okay. Yeah. Okay, “What do you hear when you wake up in the morning? How have the sounds of your neighborhood changed over the years?”

     Fran: Construction. That’s what it is. That’s what I hear when I wake up; it’s the truth. ConEd across the street.

     Jean: Okay, well, when I wake up in the morning, I hear the birds. Bright and early in the morning; the birds be out there, singing and singing and singing. And what has changed? Like recently, we have a lot of scaffolding up. Because they’re supposed to be doing something, I don’t know what they’re doing but – my building, I don’t have the scaffolding (inaudible). And I enjoy hearing the birds when I wake up in the morning, because it reminds me of home. To hear birds and crickets and, the sound of . . . what do they say? God is waking you; God is waking me up and the birds are singing – “Good morning, Jean. It’s time to get up.” (laughs)

     Fran: All right, it’s come to my attention . . . no really. “What activity did you do in the neighborhood before Lincoln Center?”

     Jean: What did I do?

     Fran: Activities. I liked, when I was younger and had the money – I liked to travel.

     Jean: Okay, what I did in the neighborhood? Really, I was outside with my children. I went to Central Park, because there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff over here to do, except go to Central Park. That was the activity . . . I used to go back to West End Avenue, because nothing was back there. And my children and I . . . but that’s not like, nothing (inaudible) with the neighborhood because I was basically by myself; because I had to work and take care of my children.

     Fran: Ditto.

     Jean: So that’s . . . I haven’t really changed nothing much.

     Fran: I don’t change anything either.

     Jean: You have, basically do the same thing. Like I said, now I go to the Center. Before, I was going out to work and I guess that’s it. Just going to work and taking care of those children.

     Fran: “What was your first impression of Lincoln Center? What did you hope for and what did you fear about what it would mean to the neighborhood?” Outpriced. That I would be moved, because I couldn’t afford it.

     Jean: Okay, like I said from the beginning. I was happy about being here because being here, the projects, it was affordable. I could stay here. And it was a new surroundings for my children, to grow up. They didn’t have to worry about being raised in the ghetto. Or they didn’t have to worry about going to other places in New York, like the Botanical Gardens or to the Zoo, or whatever – to find something that they could relate to. When Lincoln Center came, it was something they could relate to, and my children just loved the fountain, when the water would come up.

     And now, guess what? My son works at Lincoln Center?

     Fran: Oh?

     Jean: And he has been there for, what? Maybe 15 years.

     Fran: Oh, wow.

     Jean: And him, getting the job at Lincoln Center, he would stay at home. My mother was (inaudible). And then, when the circus and everything came (inaudible), and now he works there.

     Fran: Full circle.

     Jean: Yeah, right. And everybody is proud of him to get the job over there. But he (inaudible). “What has changed the most since you lived in Amsterdam Houses? And what has stayed the same?”

     Fran: The people.

     Jean: They changed or they stayed the same?

     Fran: No, they’ve changed. The people that come in (inaudible), all right . . .

     Jean: Because when Mr. Drickle[?] was the housing manager here, he used to do the white-glove test. But I don’t know if you know the white-glove test. He would have on white gloves, and your house had to be extremely clean. There was nobody throwing stuff out the windows. There was no noise — (inaudible).

     Children was not writing all over the walls. And it’s still, on my floor, it’s still nice and quiet. Everybody looks out for everybody. And that’s still the same. I feel like my neighbors on each side, they speak Spanish and I speak English. I don’t speak a word of Spanish, but we communicate; we communicate through gestures or we communicate through the love we have because we’re neighbors.

     And then, we all go to our Community Center. I always have to praise the Community Center because I love the Community Center. Love, love, love. But the neighborhood is (inaudible) and if I would advise anyone to move – well, you could move to a safe neighborhood to be in, of course. Because I’ve been living here for – let’s see, my oldest son is 57, and I’ve been living here for 56 years.

     For me, nothing’s changed. It’s still the same. It’s gotten better because we have a lot of buildings around. A lot of surround; as I’ve said, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, they’re all part of this community. Although they don’t live here any longer, because they’re in Florida, I love this neighborhood.

     Fran: Me too.

     Jean: I ain’t going nowhere. And when I go – feet first.

     Fran: Yes. Yes.

     Jean: That’s the only way I’m going to move out of here.

     Fran: And that’s an answer to this question: I love it!

     Jean: (laughs)

     Fran: Feet first! (laughs)

     Jean: (laughs) Well, Fran, I’m with you. They’re going to be seeing the bottom of my . . .  

     Fran: Right?

     Jean: Because I don’t intend to move. I don’t intend to go anywhere. The only thing that I want to do is just make it better for me and my sisters; and when I say “sisters,” because my sisters are – people who I’m in contact with. My sisters in the Community Center, like Fran here.

     Fran: (laughs) The activist. (laughs)

     Jean: And I’ve known Fran probably, I don’t remember, because when I first met Fran, all Fran did was read her newspaper.

     Fran: (laughs)

     Jean: She’d be listening, but I’d say, I’d like to see Fran’s face. I like to see her face. I like to hear her talk, and I like to see her smile. Because if you don’t know her, she’s got a very pleasant and vivacious smile. Love her, I love her, I love her. And there ain’t nothing she can do about it. (laughs) Because I don’t (inaudible) to a sister. (laughs)

     Fran: Be nice to me.

     Jean: I am, Fran. But nothing she can do about it, though. Because she and I are going out of here, feet first.

     Fran: (laughs) Kicking and screaming.

     Jean: That’s right. Don’t try to move me. I shall not be moved. (singing)

     Fran: . . . not be moved! (laughs)

     Jean: (singing) I shall not be moved. (inaudible) I shall not be moved.

     Fran: Hallelujah!

     Jeam: Hallelujah – is right! All right, that’s it.

     Fran: That’s it.

     Jean: Bye y’all!

     Fran: Okay.

     Jean: How do you take this thing off?

     Fran: We don’t.

     Jean: So that’s it. That’s it. Neither one of us ain’t going nowhere. And I wish we still had a Mr. Drickle living here.

     Fran: Because now it’s ridiculous – they don’t vet people.

     Jean: Uh-uh. He was the ultimate, best.

     Fran: They just don’t vet them.

     Jean: No.

     Fran: They get real pissed off at me.

     Jean: Jackie, turn this thing off. We’re finished. We’re finished.