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Carlos Lezama

Oral history interview conducted by Craig Wilder

May 13, 1993

Call number: 1994.006.15

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CRAIG WILDER: Where were you born?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I was born in Venezuela. Coro, estado--state of Falcón. That's in the Orient of Venezuela.

CRAIG WILDER: What was it like before you left?

CARLOS LEZAMA: It was pretty good. I worked with General Motors Corporation. Then I gotta find another job with the Chrysler Corporation, all repairing and building parts. In other words, in the United States, the cars were manufactured--the materials--and they were sent to Caracas, Venezuela, where they assemble the cars, and have them sold there. I worked in such factories, for Chrysler Corporation and GM Corporation. It was very nice. You got a good salary, but I always wanted to come to the United States, because you have more to offer in the way of education and stuff like that, so that's why I moved over here.


CRAIG WILDER: What were your expectations when you came?

CARLOS LEZAMA: The way you see movies and you see different things, you figure well, the bright lights and different happenings. There's so much activity. It seems to me that is what I got caught up in. That's what I came to expect. When I got here, well, it was--When you realize, you see certain buildings, you know, because of the weather and so on, you never--it's two different--What you see in picture form and what you see in reality is two different things. Nevertheless, I have been living here for so long, it becomes quite interesting, and I always, for some reason, happen to have a job. Because in the machine business, there's always jobs for that. I have been very successful. Then I went to school. I went 2:00to take a course in tool and dye machine shop work. I graduated in that, and then I took another course after that was over, in television and radio repair work. And then, of course, dental technology. I used to do it in Caracas, Venezuela. I worked with a German doctor for some years, and then I took courses in that, and I graduated in that as well, as a full-fledged dental mechanic. I found that very interesting. Thereafter, I started operating culturally. I used to be a steel band member, and so we played for different people. After a while, the parade came up. I saw a guy operate, and every year we would leave here and go to Trinidad for the Carnival season. The very same thing that they do there, we try to bring it to this country. I saw a man who was very interested. He 3:00started here in Brooklyn, and I assisted him. I volunteered my support to him. He encouraged that I should come to his home, and discuss a few points. That's how I really started into this business.

CRAIG WILDER: When did you come to the United States?


CRAIG WILDER: Did you come by yourself?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Yeah, I used to be a seaman, a merchant seaman, and I used to visit different countries and so on. That's when I decided to stay here, because there was a lot of information I saw that I wanted to get involved in, like radio and television repair work. I wanted to complete a course in that type of technology and so on. I always followed up with my machine shop, because I 4:00started off very early as a machinist. [unintelligible] to get the full theory and operation, practice, with the machine shop. I always liked to keep active, doing something.

CRAIG WILDER: Who did you live with when you came here?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I lived with no one. I rented. I got a job the first day I came here. I managed to get a job, and the first week I went to get a room. You eat in the evenings in restaurants, and that's the way you live until you start getting organized. It was really tough, but what could you do. You're living alone, so it was quite interesting. I made a great effort, and it worked out, finally.

CRAIG WILDER: When did you come to Crown Heights?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Just around the time, in 1954, I'd say two years later, because I 5:00used to be in Manhattan, on Broadway. From Broadway, moved to Crown Heights. I lived above Atlantic Avenue, which is from Dean Street, all the way over to--I'm now on St. John's. So, in this particular neighborhood, I have been living for all those years.

CRAIG WILDER: Why did you come to Crown Heights?

CARLOS LEZAMA: A number of my people started relocating and living in this area. You have friends who come from the same area you've been from, in the West Indies, and you start having something in common. That's why I stayed here. There was a lot of friends living in the neighborhood. As a matter of fact, right now, in 1993, there's a lot of homeowners from the various West Indian Islands, that own homes in this area right now, including myself.


CRAIG WILDER: Were there any organizations here that you used?

CARLOS LEZAMA: There were organizations, but not at the time. There used to be clubs and so on, that we visited. I used to be a steel band member, and we used to get engagements to play in the places, and it used to be very exciting. But per say, I never joined any fraternity.

CRAIG WILDER: When you first came, where did you live in Crown Heights?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I lived on Prospect Place. Then I moved. I think it used to be called a kitchenette. From there, I moved to Dean Street. I got an apartment 7:00house there. I lived there for a number of years. From there, I bought a home on 1028 St. Johns-- I mean, 1028 St. Marks Place. That's right. I moved over here in 1970, to this present place.

CRAIG WILDER: At that time, how common was it for your community to own homes?

CARLOS LEZAMA: You worked for a small salary, and you never had anything. You've got to build that income when you're talking about a home. You have to have collateral and all that sort of stuff. Of course, when you first come to a country, you have to do many things, little jobs here and there, until you receive some of your funds to get what you want. This is how I got it done. This 8:00is how I accumulated some funds [unintelligible] to purchase this home. Before this, we just paid a meager rent, for the place until then. Whatever you could save, you save until you manage to put together the money required to really get yourself a home.

CRAIG WILDER: Did most people want to buy a home?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Yes, this is what people from the Caribbean always long for. Educate their children, and also to have a piece of property, so if something goes wrong, you always have something to fall back on. That's the way they think. That's why you see today, so many Caribbean people, the first thing they lust on is to get a home, to get a piece of property, and say, "This is my home." They continue that, and of course, you gotta pay a mortgage, and until 9:00you pay it completely off, then the home is yours. Right now, you're paying a mortgage, but it feels comfortable doing it this way.

CRAIG WILDER: Who did you buy from?

CARLOS LEZAMA: This home was purchased from Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. During the time, I was in contact with her, she was a most prominent person in the area. She was a Black woman, and she had been our Grand Marshall for many years, so I got into contact with her. I was eager. She told me, "Carlos, I have a home for sale. Are you interested?" I said, "Sure." From the time we all stepped into the house, the children and my family saw this thing, they said, "Well, that's it," and we bought it right away.

CRAIG WILDER: Does the community have any way to help people buy homes?


CARLOS LEZAMA: No, I didn't get help. I did it on my own, myself and my wife. Both of us worked and saved our funds, and we purchased this house on our own. There was no one I could have gone to, or if there was, I didn't know about it.

CRAIG WILDER: What does your wife do for a living?

CARLOS LEZAMA: She's a nurse.

CRAIG WILDER: How helpful was your extended family in general, when you came? Did you have a lot of contact with the rest of your family?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Most of my family is either in Venezuela or Trinidad. The Caribbean people, they need more help than one over here. We used to help them, actually. We used to assist them. Every so often we'd send groceries or send a 11:00barrel over with food, or some monies or something, whatever we can do to assist. They were very grateful. The U.S. dollar over there is higher for everything. We always tend to send, not they send to us. All what we did, we did it on our own.

CRAIG WILDER: Were families important to most of the Caribbeans?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Yes, family values are very important to the Caribbean people. When we get together, our friends, we think and say the same things. We speak the same language, so you understand, everybody has that closeness of the family values. When we come here, we learn how to mingle, and the way, the American 12:00system, and we try to get involved. Then you have a second generation, and they pick up from the schools, the children that they go to school with, and that's how some of the things, the stories that they would tell us when they go to school and so on, what happened and things like that, that's how we get familiar with the kinds of things that are going on. Then it becomes general information. You have information that you brought here with you, and what they grew up with, with their time, and it becomes very interesting.

CRAIG WILDER: Do the Caribbeans in Crown Heights still have good families today?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Yes, they have very good families. They stay together, because they have a great respect for family values, the old traditions. Some of them even try to mimic us, our accents and so on. It is a big joke among the family.


CRAIG WILDER: Are there people in the area who don't have good families?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Well, there are unfortunate people who don't have families, but what we do is we try to assist those who don't have. We try to tell them and to show them the ropes. Once, you went out in the fields, and you see how it was out there, so you would try to educate those to be careful. Try to avoid walking on hot ashes, so they would know which way to go, and how to go about certain things over here, because they are used to the Caribbean way of life. Once they over here, we try to organize and tell them exactly which way they should go. It works out really fine sometimes.

CRAIG WILDER: You had said before that you came to Crown Heights because a lot of your community was already here. How big a Caribbean population was there?


CARLOS LEZAMA: There were quite a few old heads, heads that came way in the 20s, and they gave us a lot of stories, and tell us some of the good times and hard times they used to undergo and so on. We also take that as a pattern, and move in a certain direction, to see our way, so that the best would come out of it.

CRAIG WILDER: Were the old guys that had been here a long time leaders of the community?

CARLOS LEZAMA: No, they weren't. They were humble people. They do a day's work, but these type of people were people who never tried to get involved. They were always very low-key, very intelligent doctors and lawyers and so on, but they stayed to themselves. Unless they get a group of them that come from the same 15:00island, that speak the same language, custom to the same [unintelligible] they stick together. But beyond that, there was nothing else that was really going on. It's only of late, since this Caribbean festival that takes place, that we even get tightknit families that get together. You'll find out that when we don't meet or have friends to converse through the phone, so we gather during weekends and so on at different we celebrations, different affairs that take place. And we meet and greet during those times, you understand?. And at our place on Christmas Eve, we all get together. And this one we'll have at their homes. We try to get together and do interesting things. Some groups went to 16:00school and learned different things, so we will have different lectures, debate and so on, different things we do to keep the interest going.

CRAIG WILDER: Back then, what did you and your family do for fun?

CARLOS LEZAMA: There were a lot of invitations that would come, and we'd go out. We'd go picnicking at friends on the islands and so on, to keep the family together. That's how we stayed together.

CRAIG WILDER: What did Crown Heights look like?

CARLOS LEZAMA: It was a beautiful place. The reason why a lot of West Indians come, and they always come to Crown Heights, from Kennedy, and down into Brooklyn, and they never wander, because from the time you land here, it gives that sense of the island. There's something about here, it brings back the 17:00island to you, the way they live on the island. Then, there's so many friends that keep coming and gathering here. They prefer to live here. Crown Heights is a beautiful place, to wrap it up in a nutshell. You find that there are things that happen here, and certain operations that take place, it's exactly like what would take place on the islands. When we all came here, especially now, it brings back that home type of value. That's why so many people living in the Crown Heights area, they make something of it as well. There are certain things 18:00that you have here, that you go to Manhattan and you wouldn't find it. But you will find it here, in the Crown Heights area. That's why so many West Indians settle here. On Nostrand Avenue, all this way, you see so many West Indians, a lot of West Indian music, and all that sort of stuff. That's how it's done on the island. So it gives that sense of island, something like you come directly from home to another home.

CRAIG WILDER: How about in the '50s?

CARLOS LEZAMA: It had to grow to what it is today.

CRAIG WILDER: What did it look like in the 50s?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Well, in the '50s, it was far and in-between. That's why you don't know who's who. Sometimes, somebody would say "hello." Right away, you make conversation right there. It was far and in-between. It didn't have so many. Sometimes people don't like to talk too much, because they don't want to 19:00show that they are from the islands. For some reason, it used to be a hidden thing. But today, it's far different. It's out. The Jamaicans, when they speak, speak with an accent. Sometimes you don't understand them, but that's the accent from home, and they speak loud and clear, without any fear that anybody would laugh at them or so. A lot of people wanted to speak like the Americans, but somehow it wouldn't come out that way. They have to express themselves. But, as time goes on, that freedom comes out. They never try to adopt the accent. I remember when I was at home, some guy may be working on a ship, and when he 20:00comes home, right away he starts to talk like an American person. Like you would talk. He tried to drop his accent. You'll find that it doesn't happen any more. People go out and they speak--I mean they come from the island. You'll notice me, I try to make it as clear as I can, but I have my own accent that I came from, and I never drop it. In other words, I am proud to let you know that I am a Caribbean person.

CRAIG WILDER: Was there any significant tension between American born Black people and Caribbeans?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I think there was, because they used to have a name for the Caribbean people. They used to call them "monkey chasers," whatever that means. That was a name, a stigma that came out, and it was very degrading. They call 21:00you "monkey chasers." I don't know what interpretation they may have in mind, but that's the name that was given to Caribbean people at the time. If you could find a name for me, it shows that there is not a welcome attitude. Right now, it's far different, because you have a second generation, and it's a little better than it was in those days. Right now, I never have any problems, because I go about my business. I used to go to school, so I make sure I learned and do the things that I would like to do, and get certificates, not no degree, but 22:00certificates, to make sure that you could make a better living. If you know a trade properly, or have something, if it's a shoemaker, you go and do the shoemaker properly, so that you know you make-- once you know you can do a job, you will get paid for the service you perform, and you do it professionally. You will get a better salary, and this is what most of us do.

CRAIG WILDER: Intermarriage between Caribbeans and American-born Blacks has increased a lot more.

CARLOS LEZAMA: Yes, it is good.

CRAIG WILDER: Was it prevalent in the '50s?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I don't know for the '50s, but I know now, because Americans and the Caribbean people, it goes on very well. What used to happen years ago, it start to feed off, and now, there's a lot of intermarriages. People, especially from the South, marry with West Indian people here. I have a lot of friends who, 23:00the woman might be from the West Indies, and the man from the South and vice versa.

CRAIG WILDER: Did your family go to church when they first got here?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Yeah, they were already Catholics, and they always have been. Staunch Catholics.

CRAIG WILDER: Where do you go to church?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Right here, St. Gregory's.

CRAIG WILDER: What was the largest ethnic group in that church?

CARLOS LEZAMA: When I came here, it was only Whites. White people alone. And this is some years back. Then, they start fading out, and there are mostly Caribbean people over there now.

CRAIG WILDER: How did everyone get along?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Good. I remember when I went to church, when I sat down, the 24:00whole church was White. I don't know where these people moved to. It's all Black now.

CRAIG WILDER: How active were you in the Crown Heights community, when you first came?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I used to be, what I am doing still, I used to be a member, not in the church, but culturally I used to be a--You see, when they first came out--A man named Rufus Gorin, he used to be a man from Trinidad, and he used to delve in to a lot of costume making. We rallied around him, and we he died, I took over the head of the whole thing. I carried on his tradition, and that's the kind of involvement that I have with the community. I make what is called 25:00today Labor Day Program, that is done in Eastern Parkway. That's what I used to do, for these many years. To perfect this thing, a lot has to go into it, for what it is today.

CRAIG WILDER: How long have you been doing this?

CARLOS LEZAMA: 26 years.

CRAIG WILDER: Who do you work with? How many people are involved?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I work with 27 people. We have a board of maybe 17 people, and then other general membership, to make up the 27.

CRAIG WILDER: What's the major national group in the committees?


CARLOS LEZAMA: Well you have all kinds of mixture of all people from the Caribbean. You have Jamaicans, Guianese, Barbadians and people from Trinidad. Most of the people are from Trinidad, because the costumes and the Caribbean--the Carnival, it comes from--Trinidad is the one, they do this with all they got.

CRAIG WILDER: What big events do you remember in this community? When you think about your lifetime and your experience in this community, what do you remember the most?

CARLOS LEZAMA: There used to be a parade in Eastern Parkway many years ago, a military parade. But they no longer do that. I don't know if it was from Utica Avenue or further down, to Grand Army Plaza. I remember it was sort of a military parade. That was the biggest thing that used to happen here. Then, the 27:00Jewish people used to have a parade in Eastern Parkway. They don't go all the way, they close off I think it was from Nostrand Avenue and Kingston. So that's a Parade. And they used to go down into Empire Boulevard, in that area. That was the biggest thing in the way of happenings here. But since the Caribbean, West Indian parade, right now about 3 million people gather every year. So this is the biggest thing now.

CRAIG WILDER: How has this community changed in the past few years?

CARLOS LEZAMA: There used to be a lot of White people around, but they suddenly moved out. Now you have a lot of people from the South. So you have the Southern 28:00and you have the Caribbean people who live here now. That's what's happening now.

CRAIG WILDER: Generally, has it changed for the better or the worse?

CARLOS LEZAMA: No, people live together and--the only problem we had in the Crown Heights area is because of that incident with the Jewish people there. What happened is one time, for some reason, and it still is, they are doing everything to get the Caribbean people off the parade, to move to some place else. To remove it. But I think it is impossible to do that, because of the amount of people that gather here. For example, at one point, a Rabbi called me, and put a proposal that Atlantic Avenue is a better place for us. I said, "Why? 29:00We live here." He wanted us to go down Albany to St. John's, and move west towards Nostrand Avenue, and when we reached Nostrand, turn off on Eastern Parkway. So, well, Why? Because they don't want the parade to pass in front of their synagogue. I said, "No, it can't happen. What is to happen here? I say, "Are you a tax payer?" He say, "Yes, we are tax payers." I say, "Well, we also are taxpayers here." Nothing came out of it since, until the riot took place here. We are the ones that really smoothed it off, because we encouraged them to come and march, to give that brotherly feeling, to bring that unity 30:00together. So out of all this, we still do some harmonizing here. This and that [inaudible]thing there are from Mayor Lindsay. He donated that for the same ethnic, bringing the people together. There's two here, one from the borough president, and one from the church, for that purpose.

CRAIG WILDER: When the Hasidim resist the carnival, the parade, why do you think that is? Is it religious?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I don't know what is in their mind. They figure that their synagogue is a sacred place, and carnival, you know what carnival is like, it shouldn't pass in front of their sacred house. Well, it just so happens that your building is on the site, but we can't have that. This is the road, it's a 31:00street road, Eastern Parkway, and there is no cutting off. And we didn't go for it.

CRAIG WILDER: How do you think the Caribbean people responded to that?

CARLOS LEZAMA: We responded by saying, "We have to pass here." That was it. Then, the incident that took place the other day. Well, you know, the controversy took place, and we tried to heal, by inviting them into our parade, to march together with us, and they accepted this. That brought about a great healing process.

CRAIG WILDER: How many marched with you?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Quite a few. Better than fifty, sixty, close to a hundred people. I have pictures to show that. And right here, right in this home here that I'm speaking to you, two representatives of the Jewish community came. [Gap in audio.]


CARLOS LEZAMA: I like our Crown Height. It's a very quiet area. Again, as I explained before, like Venezuela, like Trinidad, there are certain things here that remind you of home. As a result, one is very comfortable in this area. With all the happenings that are taking place, I still believe, after so many years--I have been around a lot of different states, and I always yearn to come back, always in a hurry to come back to Crown Heights. It may be a mental thing, but whatever it is, I love Crown Heights. It's something that words cannot really express, the thing that I see and feel for here. Even though I go to 33:00Orlando, where my wife relocated, and some of my family, when I am there, I feel haunted. I want to get back here. It's a beautiful place, and I want to stay for a long time.

CRAIG WILDER: What do you like least?

CARLOS LEZAMA: There's nothing that I don't like. I have everything here. There's shops around. There's different things that you need in the neighborhood. You don't have to go for miles like when you go to other areas of this country, you have to ride miles before you get to a shopping area. But here, you have everything. You catch a bus, and you go down a few minutes. You 34:00go downtown, and you purchase what you need and you come back. Transportation is very difficult. If you don't have a car in certain areas of the country, when you go, you're running into a lot of trouble. You gotta have a car--if you don't, then what? Over here, you don't have to have a car. The train gets you around to Manhattan and all other areas, without having a car. Anywhere a car could take you in this area, we could take you in this city here leaving from Crown Heights. There's always--any kind of transportation you could think of is right here. What do you want? Is anything better than that?

CRAIG WILDER: If you had a wish list, what would you do to make this community better?

CARLOS LEZAMA: If I had enough money, like a millionaire status, I'd try to do everything to improve it. Some people who happen to win the Lottery and they 35:00move out of here. I don't think I would want to do that. I would try to improve certain things in the community.

CRAIG WILDER: What do you want other people to know about Crown Heights?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I want them to know the same feelings that I have, the same desires that I have. I would like it publicized and known that this is a beautiful place to live. There's a lot of people running from New York, for whatever the reason is, but I don't feel that way.

CRAIG WILDER: What do you think that people outside of Crown Heights think of Crown Heights?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Because of the violence we had one time, we are always on the news. Crown Heights, Crown Heights, Crown Heights. There is nothing wrong with Crown Heights. You have to come and experience. You have to feel. It's just like 36:00the carnival. If you don't come and experience it for yourself, firsthand, how could you describe it? It's the same thing with Crown Heights. The people here are a beautiful people. We mind our own business, and we live in harmony. What do you want to run from?

CRAIG WILDER: Are there any tensions still here?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Not that I personally know of. What we do is to try to harmonize. There are records to show that we try to bring about harmony, and this is what we think about all of the time. Once you bring other things in your mind, it will happen because this is what you are trying to create. By creating things, it becomes a reality.

CRAIG WILDER: So among your community, there isn't?

CARLOS LEZAMA: Not that I know of. And anything that I know of, I would try to get involved, to quell whatever bad feelings there are.


CRAIG WILDER: Do you think that the institutions in the area, the museums, the schools, the government should be involved more in calming--

CARLOS LEZAMA: Of course, because you have to give a hand to Children's Museum for one, the Historical Society for another one. They bring all the information, and it is wonderful to have some historical background about what's happening in your area. And to have people actually think about that. The Children's Museum, to bring all those children into this particular area, I think it's the most wonderful thing that could ever happen. How beautiful this could be. One could not desire anything better. I'm sure there's a lot of volunteers, professors and doctors volunteering their services to come and do this. This is something to be appreciated.

CRAIG WILDER: Who is responsible, and I don't like to use that word, but who is 38:00responsible for the tensions that did exist here, the ones that exploded?

CARLOS LEZAMA: I myself don't like to get involved with that at all, but I know there was hard feelings on both sides. Who to blame? My role is not to point the finger, but to heal whatever differences there are, to bring it together. This is my role, and I don't think I want to say anything better than that.

CRAIG WILDER: Finally, one more chance to tell everyone what you think about Crown Heights.

CARLOS LEZAMA: I think it's the best place to live, after coming from wherever. After 1954 to now, quite a number of years, I have never had any problems, and I had no violence. I never get involved with that. I think it's one of the most beautiful places that one would ever want to live. This is how I look at it. Even though I am retired. This is how I see it still. I don't want to move to no 39:00place else.

CRAIG WILDER: Thank you.

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Carlos Lezama

Carlos Lezama was born in 1923 in Coro, Venezuela. He grew up in Trinidad but later returned to Venezuela, where was an auto-worker for General Motors and Chrysler, as well as a mechanic in Caracas specializing in dental machinery. After that, he departed for a job as a merchant mariner. It was during his travels as a seaman that he first visited the United States and eventually resolved to move to New York City, which he did--alone--in 1954. He had lived in Manhattan for about two years when he noticed the greater movement of Caribbean people into the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and followed suit. At some point, his wife and children joined him; they were all congregants at Saint Gregory Catholic Church. He continued to work as a mechanic, taking vocational courses to supplement his training, and after a while was able to buy a home on St. Johns Place. During this time, he became a prominent figure in the cultural life of Crown Heights' West Indian residents. Along with Rufus (Lionel) Gorin, he was a key organizer of the first Carnival parade on Labor Day that went down Eastern Parkway, now commonly called the West Indian Day Parade, in 1969. When Gorin died, Lezama was elected the first president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA)--a position to which he was repeatedly reelected until he retired in 2002. Located on Eastern Parkway and now called the West Indian Day Parade, and remained president of the Carnival Association for nearly forty years. He died in 2007.

Lezama spends the better part of his narration recounting the many years he has lived in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. He describes his life in Venezuela as a young man, the experience of moving to New York on his own, and the steps he took toward settlement and--eventually--home-ownership. He relates the personal facts of his life to the observations he has made about Caribbean immigrants in general, and he favorably compares the openness of the present-day West Indian community to the more isolated, almost sectarian environment that he encountered when he first arrived in the 1950s. In particular, he describes an improvement in relations between West Indian immigrants and American-born Black people (an increasing number of whom, he notes, are from the southern United States). He tells the history of the Labor Day Carnival (or West Indian Day Parade), which he had been leading for twenty-six years. He notes that the parade has long been a source of tension and debate with the Hasidic Jews of Eastern Parkway; he ascribes the 1991 unrest that erupted around the deaths of Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum, in part, to this tension. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

This collection contains oral history recordings and transcripts, as well as exhibit materials, from Brooklyn Historical Society's Crown Heights History Project, also known as "Bridging Eastern Parkway." Crown Heights History Project oral histories include audio and transcripts created and collected within the context of an exhibition project undertaken in part by BHS in 1993 and 1994. Three interviewers recorded conversations with over forty narrators. In addition to exhibition product value, the oral histories were conducted as life history and community anthropology interviews; topics of discussion include family and heritage, immigration and relocation, cultural and racial relations, occupations and professions, education and religion, housing and gentrification, civil unrest and reconciliation, media representation and portrayal, and activism. The series of exhibition research materials document the outreach efforts for interviews and materials from the community as well as exhibit scripts and curatorial notes.


Lezama, Carlos, Oral history interview conducted by Craig Wilder, May 13, 1993, Crown Heights History Project collection, 1994.006.15; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Lezama, Carlos
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • West Indian-American Day Carnival Association


  • African Americans
  • Caribbean Americans
  • Carnival
  • Ethnic relations
  • Parades
  • Race relations
  • Riots
  • Venezuelan Americans
  • West Indian Americans


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Venezuela


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Crown Heights History Project collection