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Pearleta Price

Oral history interview conducted by Jenny Goldberg

March 24, 2017

Call number: 2016.027.2.05

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GOLDBERG: Okay. Today is Friday, March 24th, 2017. And my name is Jenny Goldberg. I'm sitting here with Pearleta Price at Brooklyn Movement Center on Stuyvesant and Decatur. This oral history interview is for Brooklyn Historical Society's Voices of Crown Heights project. Could you please introduce yourself, giving your full name, birthdate, and where you were born?

PRICE: Okay. My name is Pearleta Price, née Pollard. I was born in Christchurch, Barbados. I was born in [date redacted for privacy] 1952.

GOLDBERG: Can you tell me a little bit about growing up in Barbados?

PRICE: Wow, [laughter] climbing the trees. Climbing the trees, going to what we considered "the woods" to get a quiet place, because there were ten of us. I would always take a book and go to the woods and just sit there, listen to the birds, and just read. I also liked to run, so sometimes, I would challenge my 1:00older brother to a race or two. It was quite an interesting life. And as a teacher, I've taught my kids, my chil-- my students, when they say, "Oh, I didn't do my homework" or something, I was like, "Well, you -- all you have to do is flip a switch. I had to use a kerosene lamp." [laughter] You know, and if we broke the shade, forget it. We used what was called a speakeasy, where you put either a corn cob -- or you roll some paper really tight and you lit it, and that's what you did your homework with if you didn't do your homework during the daylight hours. So, as I said, there were ten of us. We had a lot of property, so we helped with the planting and the reaping of crops. But the main focus for 2:00us was school. We had to go to school. We didn't have a choice, whether it was what we considered a crop season, where they, the sugar cane was harvested, or if you had to go dig potatoes, or whatever. The main emphasis was school, so -- and if you got, if you got lower grades -- fifty was passing because the standards were so high. Oh, my gosh. If you got 50, you did very well. [laughter] But that was the past, they'd mark it-- not like here was 65, but the-- most of what I experienced here was a little bit, for me, watered down. But back there, everything was just so detailed. And I came right into high school and it was easy breezy. I started getting 85s and 90s out of nowhere. I 3:00mean, it comes with hard work. But, for me that was much, a much different experience than growing up in Barbados. A lot of what we did home was rote. You had notes. You studied your notes, you studied your notes, you studied your notes, to the point where, one year, I was taking the geography exam and I failed because I forgot one word. [laughter] I also had a love for art, so I did a lot of drawing, and pottery, and painting. Once I came to New York, life was so different. I ran track. I ran track when I was growing up. I was very good at it, but when I came here, they were like -- I went to join the track team, and my sisters, especially my older sisters, were like, "You just got here. You don't know anything about that." Then I went to apply to go away to school, and it was like, "No, you can't go away to school. You just got here. You don't 4:00know those people. You don't know anything about anything but right here." So, I -- when I migrated, I went to Wingate High School on Kingston and Rutland, between Rutland and Winthrop. And that, in itself; getting there was an experience because we didn't realize that the bus was just up the street. We walked in the cold. We came in December. We walked in the cold from January to maybe about May before we realized that there was a bus one block away that we could've taken to get to school, and get to school in a warm setting. My younger sister, my younger sister, she decided that she wanted to do -- to be a 5:00candy striper, so she did that at Kings County. You just walk across the street from Wingate, right across into Kings County, so -- but she was pretty good at what she did. I know I'm jumping ahead. But in terms of education, she went all the way. She did a degree in nursing and she became the head nurse in ICU at Brookdale Hospital. And she was there for 23 years, until one day, she just got sick, and that was it. She passed. But, life was quite interesting because we had experiences that children here don't -- wouldn't ordinarily have. If you 6:00live in the South, perhaps. But, a lot of times, because we have so much property, a lot of the children in the community gravitated toward our house, because it was there that we played games, we beat each other up. [laughter] Whatever we had to do, we did it right there. But we were watched. We were watched. Our parents were very mindful of what was going on around us and helping us to develop. They gave us a lot of words. They may not have had money. We had property, which -- we didn't realize we were rich. [laughter] But we had the property, which we used to our advantage, and other people's advantage. During that process, we had a lot of words. Today, I still tell my 7:00children, or any people that I meet that need to hear a word. I'll say, you know, my dad will say so-and-so. One of the things he taught us very early was don't talk where you, where you go to work, because -- I heard this because others were older. When you go to work, you don't talk about your salary, you don't talk about politics, you don't talk about religion. [laughter] Those are the three things that were off limits on your job. Not that you can do it anywhere else, but especially on your job. Thinking of some other things that he would say to us that would really make us think. Oh, he said when you go across the pond -- meaning, when you, when you go away -- don't room with your countryman. And then he gave us a story about two guys who lived together while they were cutting. They came across to the US to cut crops, to, to pick fruit, or whatever it was that they were doing. And every time they got paid, this one guy, he would sit down and he would just count his money out, how many ones, how 8:00many fives, how many tens. And he said, eventually, the other guy went to the police and said that this guy stole his money, and told him the exact denomination. And that guy had -- he lost all his money, and he ended up in jail for a little, for a small period of time. But little things like that that still stay with me over the years. We had quite a few friends because, like I said, everybody gathered where we were. And at school -- for whatever reason, my voice was -- my voice is big. So, the kids usually laughed at me. So, I took that and I would always go off in the corner by myself, and sit down, and find some tree or somewhere, and just sit down and read, or paint, or color, or draw something. That's what I -- that was my escape, because, "Oh, you sound like a man. [laughter] You sound like a boy." So, I just did what I had to do 9:00to make myself comfortable.

GOLDBERG: What kinds of things were you reading?

PRICE: Oh, at one point, there were -- the classics. My older brother, he used to -- he did a lot of Latin. So, he would tell us about Ovid and different characters in the Greek mythology and all that. So, those were things that I read. When I left school in the evening, I had to wait for -- for the first two years, I waited for him to pick me up, because he finished work at 4:00 and I was finished at 2:30, so I would go down -- literally, down the hill to the library, and sit there, and wait until it was time for him to come. I read everything. I read about Hans Brinker, and the skates, and the guy that put the hole -- put his finger in the hole to stop the water from coming through, and -- the Dutch story. I just read just about anything I put my hands on. Yeah but, 10:00and I think that's what brought me to -- that's what lead me to become a teacher when I got here. And the one thing I wanted to teach so badly was math, because I felt I was good enough at it. But over the years, I've taught just about everything. I've taught the little ones to read, to read from pictures to words or from letters to words and phrases. And then I went on to teach; although I taught elementary, then I taught middle school. And in middle school, [laughter] middle school, those kids are so different from anybody else in this world. But I taught math for five years, and then I taught English Language 11:00Arts for another five years. And then my sister got sick in 2005. That's when I left the system, because they didn't want to give me a leave of absence. I was in the private school. So, I took to what I did best, next, and that was I started doing makeup, and it landed me on Broadway. I was working on Broadway before that. But once I realized I wasn't going back to the school, I would go to the public school to help my friends out. But in helping them, I also gained some other information in case I wanted to go on, which I wanted to do. I want-- I got a bachelor's eventually. [laughter] Took quite a few years, but I got a bachelor's. When I got my degree, I got two degrees; one in education and one in liberal studies, with a major in geography, so -- lost where I was. Okay, 12:00so, I-- Oh, I did the degree, and when I came back, I finished with that. The city had a freeze on hiring, so I couldn't really go in and teach for money. So, I just helped my friends out. And at -- around the same time -- within the next year, I was working -- my main job was Phantom of the Opera, then I started working on Color Purple, the original Color Purple. And I got a call to do Dreamgirls. So, I went to do Dreamgirls. We did Dreamgirls at the Apollo for a few months. After that, they -- we -- they said we were going to tour. I had 13:00no idea what a tour -- what it meant to tour. I know my sister had toured, but I didn't know the extent of it. And this young lady, my sister had trained her. She came in, and she was a supervisor, but she was difficult, very difficult. So, what I did was, I had -- because she came after I did, I had a copy of all the notes for each track in the show. So, she asked me for the notes. I gave them to her, but then she -- once we started touring from city to city and people say, "Oh, you're so-and-so, and I know your sister, and" -- people would come to the show just to see -- not just to see the show, but to have a conversation with me. And she got very ridiculously jealous. So, was -- we went to Tokyo, Japan. That was part -- that was the only place we went outside the United States. And once we got there, she had, us, she had an audience, so 14:00she performed. I said, "Okay." So, in all her performing -- when I got home, every night, I would talk to my -- I have a younger sister who is in Atlanta. I would talk to her and she would say, "Well, you know, I know she's difficult, but try to hang in there. Try to hang in." And I did that for a while. But eventually, what I did was I wrote my letter of resignation. So, when we got back to the U.S., we went to Philadelphia. And in Philadelphia, I gave them my notice. It would have been easy to leave in Philadelphia, but I didn't want to leave before two weeks' notice, which was what you needed to do, because then you get blacklisted. "Oh, she left in the middle of everything." So, I gave enough time to find somebody. We had gone to L.A., we had gone to San Diego, and she found somebody from San Diego that she brought, she brought in, she trained. And I left. I said, "I need to leave with my dignity and my sanity." 15:00So, I left. So, once we got back -- once I got back to New York, I slept for, like, three days' straight. Just to get up to go to the bathroom, eat something, then go right back into bed. I was so burned out. But it was a good experience. Overall, it was a really good experience. So, that's the only tour that I have done. I would like to do another one if it becomes available, but they're not always available because people have cliques. So, if I know you from over there, you're first. Doesn't matter what the union says. "I want you to work," and "We want you to work," no matter how horrible you may be, you know, in terms of doing the work that needs to be done. But, I came back and I wor-- I went back to Phantom. And they were laughing, because the girl said, "Imagine if she had to go back there." But I'm still here, and she didn't have work for a long time, because she's-- Her attitude's really bad and she needed 16:00to, she needed to downplay people to lift herself up, but it actually worked in opposite. Came back to Phantom and then I started doing other little things. I would go off and do some TV usually, like ESPN. I did a couple days on some soaps, but that was -- it was just, like, a last-minute call to do something, to fill in for somebody who wasn't there. Then I got -- last year, I got a call -- I actually got a text on the way home from Phantom one night, a Thursday night, and they wanted me to come in the next day. And that was [unintelligible]; that was an experience, because I was in it from the ground up. And it worked out pretty well, and then it just closed abruptly. That was it. So, again, I went 17:00right back to Phantom. Because I didn't quit Phantom. I just took a leave of absence. So, I was able to go back. So, I've been there, and then in the last -- within the last year, my sister had an accident. So, I ended up working more than I normally would at Phantom. So, I worked the whole eight shows unless I really had something to do and I had to take off the days, so then we had a lady who would come in and sw-- what we'd call, sort of-- "swing" for me. But that's where I am right now. So, now my sister's coming back gradually. So, she was back for two shows, now she's back for three. So, it gives me a little space to do something. And I like it when she says, "Okay, I'll work on a Saturday." That means I have Saturday, Sunday, and all day Monday off. So, that works out sometimes, yeah.


GOLDBERG: Going back to what you were talking about earlier; the difference in school from Barbados and here. Can you tell me about leaving Barbados and a little bit about that move?

PRICE: Well, I came to Barbad-- to -- I came from the sun, the hot sun, into the freezing cold in December 1968. The first thing I did was to put my bag on the floor, 'cause I needed my hands to be in my pocket. And I heard, "You don't put your bag down! Somebody will take it!" [laughter] That was the first warning. The other thing was we had snow piled up -- it was worse than the snowstorm we had. Snow piled up. And then, on top of that -- that was December. In January, we had a really bad snowstorm. And all they said is, "You guys brought this snow with you? [laughter] You guys brought the snow. You brought this bad weather. But you leave good and come to this, and you bring 19:00the bad weather." Okay, all right. We tried to find a school -- the first school only went to ninth grade. So, instead of having my sister go into the ninth grade there, we both went to Wingate. And Wingate is a circular school. So, you had to figure out what color door was close to your classroom. That's how I looked at it. The science department was on the long end of it. They had -- it's a circle, then there was one side that went straight up. Really did the sciences, and back then they did mechanic and woodwork. Those were part of the curriculum if you were in that track. And that's when I realized that they had a track. We had -- in Barbados, we had your Form A -- you, let's say -- we did 20:00forms, not grades. We did forms. So, it was form one, form two, form three, form four. But within those four, you may have, like, A1, A2, B1, B2. Then, you may have a -- like, in between third or fourth form, if you didn't do very well between -- at the end of a third form, they put you in something called lower four. You're in the fourth form, but -- I didn't understand that that was tracking. When I got here and they started talking about, okay, you're on academic track. You're business track. And you were on -- what's the other one? You're academic, business, and I forgot what you call -- oh, it's woodworking and all that. The name evades me right now. But anyway, that was the track you were on. And then, they had something called "Special Ed." I 21:00didn't know what Special Ed. was. But I found out what it was -- I had been at the school for about a year. So, they did all the courses where if you weren't especially bright -- what we would call mentally challenged now -- if you were in that category, they assigned you certain things that you could do. You did house -- what was that? House -- it wasn't called housekeeping. It was called -- oh, we called it "housecraft," because we learned how to do needlework and all that. But it was something very similar. They'd give the -- they gave those students that track so that they could go to -- when they got failed, they could get a job maybe in the flower shop, maybe making something with their 22:00hands and so on. But --can't believe I don't -- I can't remember that word. But anyhow, that was the track that they were on. Then you had the nursing. They had nursing and you had to do, you had to do CPR. But we all did it on dummies. So, there were a lot of things here that I -- that were new, but not so different from what I was doing at home. But once they put me on that academic track, once I graduated, you had an academic diploma, business diploma. So, once you got into the academics, they pushed you for the four-year, the four-year schools. Anybody else, they would push for the two-year school. But somehow, I believe that those students who did the business section -- the 23:00commercial, they call it. That was commercial. Those students probably came out better than the academic students did, because they had, they had opportunity to go into business right after school and make money. We went on to school, we went onto the colleges. And if you thrive, you thrive. If you didn't know how to work the system -- because they had just got open admissions in New York. Open admissions mean it didn't matter what grade you -- what you graduated with, you can go to college. And a lot of people took advantage of that. Then, there were those who took advantage of the money aspect of it. When I went to Hunter, I pay $68 a semester -- $68 for a semester. That -- you don't hear -- see, you don't even pay $68 for a credit anymore. But I went to Hunter College and I sort of fell through the cracks at one point, because I 24:00didn't realize the importance of the guidance that we had. The first year was fine. The second year, my dad said, "You need to find a job." So, he said -- no disrespect. He said, "The White people children are working. You need to go get a job." So, I tried working, but that didn't work for me, because with school and work, I couldn't do the two together. It wasn't, it wasn't normal. So, I worked at Alexander -- the famous Alexander's. Oh, my gosh. You got so many good things for so much less money than if you had gone to Bloomingdale's or Lord & Taylor or something, but quality was good. I worked there for a few years, and then I just dropped out of school and just worked, because I thought 25:00that was a thing to do. But that was a big mistake. The next thing I did was I said, "Okay, I'm not going to get married until I graduate from college." Well, I found the boyfriend and I got married. [laughter] And I continued to work, but then the children came. Children came and I was just, like, 37. He just turned 37, actually. The other one is 35. He'll be 36 at the end of the year. And my daughter is -- the two boys, and then my daughter is 30. She's 30. She'll be 31 this year. But in dropping out of school, I learned some valuable lessons, because -- to return -- because my GPA was so low, I had to go to community college to build my GPA to go back to Hunter. And it worked out okay, except that the children just kept coming. So, every time I had a child, I stopped. 26:00And eventually, I registered at Medgar Evers College. And when my daughter graduated from high school, I encouraged her to go there. Well, I didn't encourage her. I wanted her to go away to school, which she hadn't done before because the boys went to boarding school. She didn't have that experience, but she didn't want to go. So, the music professor from Medgar went into the different schools, high schools, and she went to the LaGuardia High School. And having a voice and all that; she sings very well. She knows her music. She, I could say she almost has perfect pitch. But she decided to go to Medgar with me. So, when I grad-- when she graduated, we both graduated in 2009. She had, she had marched before. So had I, but I had things that I didn't complete, so I 27:00couldn't get a degree. That's why I got two degrees in the end. But the year that we both marched was 2009. And that was the big thing for me, because my younger son was also supposed to be there with us, but he played a fool. He just -- he was part of a, of the men's group that had a 3.75 or over, and he just blew it. He blew it over a skirt. So, afterwards, he just said, "I wasn't going back to school anymore." But getting back to the transition, it was very difficult at first, because I found that even in the building, asking people, "Well, where is this room? Where is that room?" "What you talking about?" Nobody wanted to -- no, the students didn't want to help because they thought that you have an accent, so who are you? One boy, he said his grandparents are 28:00Barbadian. He asked, "Where's your tail? And which tree did you climb?" And I was, like, "What are you talking about?" And then I got what he was saying. [laughter] You're supposed to be a monkey -- because I come from the islands, okay? But nonetheless, we excelled at what we did, and that made the biggest difference, because everything wasn't loss. You lost your friends and so on; the familiarity of the school, the system. But now you're here, so you have to assimilate. So, we did what we had to do to make it work, yeah.

GOLDBERG: And how did you find the neighborhood that you moved into?

PRICE: Oh, my goodness. My neighborhood was predominantly Jewish. My family was the first Black family on the block. That's on Rockaway Parkway. And 29:00within three years, it looked like everybody was gone. We had two Jewish families in our house, because my, my mom and my sisters purchased the house. And they stayed with us for a while. The Einspruchs were the ones who stayed the longest. They were European Jews, and they stayed the longest. I think they stayed until he was very sick, so he couldn't climb the stairs. And the door -- one of the doors in that house still has the Jewish -- I don't know what you call -- that little symbol you put outside the door, it still has that. And Mr. Einspruch was very handy. He was a carpenter. He had, he had one good eye, but he worked. Anything my sisters wanted done in the house, he would do it. Of course, there was payment involved, but he would work on our house. I still 30:00had the love for the garden. So, I planted flowers in the front of the house. There was a bigger rosebush, but it was, like, killing everything else. So, we pruned that. And I planted lots of flowers in the front. And the little old ladies will come down at -- well, two o'clock every afternoon, and they will just sit on that bench right there. Just sit there and talk and talk. Nobody bothered you in there. They will just sit there and they will talk, and when they were ready they will just get up and go back home. And-- no, we didn't bother them. If we had to pass, we'd just say, "Excuse me," and we left. And one of the instructors I had at Medgar, she said she grew up in a building not far away. It was just at King's Highway and Rockaway Parkway. And it was the -- I was very impressed. "You came from this neighborhood?" [laughter] "Yes," she said. But it was a very peaceful environment -- just as the Blacks moved 31:00in, the Jewish people moved out. The Italians, they all moved out. They moved to -- supposedly Long Island or Jersey. And in fact, I'll go fast, for what I see now is-- those people who moved out-- their children and grandchildren are coming back now to buy the properties that are in our area. We had issues at one point because there were a lot of muggings going on. And one night, my sister came in with her bag, just holding it up like this. "They thought they got money, but they didn't get any money. All I had in the bag was paper." So, she had -- whatever was in her pocket, she held up to us. And they were gone 32:00with the bag with the paper. And she said, "And two White boys took my [unintelligible]." [laughter] Meaning, "These White Jewish boys shouldn't be, shouldn't be robbing me. It should be the Black people robbing me or the Hispanics who are robbing" -- we didn't have too many Hispanics. The one Hispanic that moved in on the block -- oh, my god, they tore the whole front of the house apart. Their garden was no longer a garden. The rails on the front were broken. And whoever owned the house decided -- because back then, you could -- I think it was Section 8 you could get, and you could move into any place you wanted to move. And it wasn't so good when the Spanish people moved in. But then, eventually, we had some Haitian people move next door on both sides of us. We had -- we still had a couple of Jew-- old Jewish people on 33:00either side of the street. They were very nice. They would -- you know, sometimes they would cross over -- especially if the milkman came and they didn't, they didn't get the milk that they wanted, they would say, "Well, the next time he comes" -- they would bring their bottles, they were glass bottles. They would bring the bottles and say, "The next time he comes, would you remind him to come across the street?" So, we kept their bottles until the milkman came. And we would say that so-and-so across the street needs milk. So, he would go across the street. And I watched the neighborhood change. I watched the neighborhood change and change and change. Where there was a bank, the bank became a flower shop. Where there was a flower shop, probably became a beauty parlor or something. But the whole neighborhood just changed, and I watched it change drastically. Little old ladies would -- they had stores down Rutland 34:00Road. They would encourage you-- even if you were in the beauty shop getting your hair done or just sitting there-- they would come in and they would offer items, say, "Oh, you -- it's," let's say it's $10, "You're going to pay me two dollars today and I'll come back every week and get whatever." Or you can come to the shop and you can bring the money. Even the small newsstands; everything just disappeared, just disappeared. Then, Utica Avenue was a hub. All the buses passed at Utica Avenue. A lot more shops were on Utica Avenue. So, we would take the walk across the park, Lincoln Terrace Park, to that place, and think nothing of just going in -- there was a Carvel's on the corner, so we were over there all the time. Carvel's is now some jewelry-something, then next to 35:00that is a jerk spot. We didn't have those back then. You had, you had the regular drugstore, you had the pizza shop, the ice cream shop, and then the ladies selling their wares, you know? But we didn't really have what we have today. Today you will find, today you'll find a Jamai-- a bakery. Usually it's a Jamaican bakery, because it seems as though whatever their hands touch, they can make it work; the Jamaican bakery. We have the Golden Krust patty stores. And we have a lot of those chicken things, like Kansas Chicken. There was even an Obama Chicken at one point that everybody made a big deal about. "Why are you using the man's name for that?" But the neighborhood -- a lot of 36:00barbershops. You don't see the ones with the swirl anymore. You just see the sign that says barbershop. Back in the day, you had a pole that actually spun, and it was a -- know it was a barbershop. Oh, the supermarkets; Waldbaum's was the big thing. Waldbaum's was the Jewish supermarket. And then, we had the blackout in 1977, oh my God. I never saw people loot before, and it was bad. I had moved out of the neighborhood, over across Pennsylvania Avenue. And you could see people carrying refrigerators, stoves, washing machines on their backs. It was just amazing. I was, like, "How can you do that? And the thing is, it's not even yours, so why are you even carrying it?" But that was, that 37:00was another major change in all the neighborhoods, because what wasn't looted was burned. So, the face of the community just changed, totally changed. And then, some of those people decided they were not going to have a business back in their own neighborhood. So, they just all moved out. Moved away. So, you had to -- that -- so, then the mom-and-pops sprang up. So, on almost every corner, there was a mom-and-pop store. If you didn't get what you wanted in this one, you go to that one. And those people will tell you, okay, "I'll let you have it, but you have to bring me the money." Some people did take the money back, or they went to another one and did something different, so -- but that's where the mom-and-pop stores sprung up. The other thing in the community were the dry cleaners. There were always at least two dry cleaners in the community. I just watched so much change. The blackout was a major, a major 38:00change across the -- across -- for me, across Brooklyn. I don't know what the Bronx looked like, what Manhattan looked like, but across Brooklyn, stores you went to before, you couldn't-- when you went back they weren't there at all. They just weren't there. So, that also changed the community. So, the advent of Black or people of color, and especially the people of color, were Caribbean people who came into the neighborhood. Churches; almost anybody opened the churches -- unless you went to the more established ones, churches sprung up all over the community. The church that I attended was on Brooklyn and Union, which is St. Mark's Episcopal. And I went there for many years, until I had my first 39:00child. And while the child was crying, the lady turned around and she said to me, "Why don't you take that child outside?" And I decided, you know what? I am out of here. I didn't go back. I just stayed home and listened to whatever was on the radio, the TV, and that was it. So, then, eventually, I started going back to the church I started in, in Harlem, because my mom lived in Harlem while we lived in Brooklyn. So, I started going back to that church and got -- became very involved; Scouts, Girl Scouts, Youth Fellowship, things like that. And then, that was another problem, because then there were too many of us as family in that organization. So, like, if you had 10 ideas, maybe five or six of them came from us. So, it became a problem. So, you know when to move, so I 40:00just moved on. But at St. Mark's, I remember the minister telling the people, "People are coming to buy your house. Do not sell your house. That's where you have to live." Because that was -- what do they call it today? God, where are you? It's not repatriation. It's something else.

GOLDBERG: Gentrification?

PRICE: Gentrification, yeah. So, most of the homes, especially those massive homes that people saved their money and purchased -- and they weren't expensive back then, either. You can get a house for $20-25,000. If you were a woman, however, that was different. You had to have somebody else to work with you, sign with you, to get a house, which is what my sisters did. And then, they 41:00said, "Well, there's no man involved here." So, my mom stepped in. She said, "Well, my husband is coming soon." So, in 1967, they purchased a house. The house on Rockaway Parkway. But he was stressing, "Don't sell your house. Your house has value." Some people didn't get it. They figure, "Oh, I get some money and I move to Florida," or "I'll go back home" or something, you know? Wherever home was. And that was a detriment, because to come back -- to even try to buy a home or to get an apartment in one of those buildings that you would have lived in before is not as easy now, so -- and most of the houses in that area -- President Street, Crown Street, most of those houses -- not the apartment, just the houses themselves, were labeled landmark homes. So, if you 42:00had a nice, big, sprawling home and you sold it and you thought you were getting so much money, today the value of it is so much different. Going to St. Mark's church, I had to get out at Kingston Avenue and walk down Eastern Parkway and then make the -- take the corner to the church. And most often, on a Sunday, I would meet the Jews. And I didn't understand what they were doing, because although I was here for a while -- this was back in the late '70s -- although I was here for a while, I would find that every time I passed a Jew, he would spit, and I didn't know -- I just figured he was spitting. I didn't know it was a derogatory something. So, then we came to the place where we -- I mean, they 43:00always had police protection, because wherever you turned there was a parked car. On certain days, usually Friday evening, Saturday, you couldn't turn on the service road because the car was there blocking the street at Kingston Avenue. And then, here came this incident. Oh, my gosh, I mean, it was bad because we realized that there was tension. But then, here came the accident with Gavin Cato and all hell broke loose. I didn't even walk back in that area for a long time; I didn't take the bus, I didn't, I didn't go in that area. If I were on the train, that's fine, because the train -- my train stop was one train stop after Utica Avenue, which is Sutter Avenue, and I would just go there and get on the train and go through. But for a long time, I didn't even go to -- like I said, I wasn't going to St. Mark's anymore, just the train. But then, 44:00that incident happened. It was, like, the climax in a story. Everything hit the head, and the police presence was even more. It -- and I will say that, as a people of color, we felt that, with everything that was going on with us -- because we had a rise of gangs. Young Black men, Hispanic men. Mostly Black men, because that's the community where even children that came from the islands joined gangs, and I couldn't understand that. But we had all that going on, and you had them shooting at each other down Utica Avenue. People were running into stores, Chinese store or this store -- my sister lost a friend who -- they want him to join the gang and he didn't want to. So, this one day, he was walking on 45:00Utica Avenue and they just, they just ran up on him. And he ran to the Chinese store and the guy chased him out. And just as he got outside, they shot him. He died right in front of the store. And that was very devastating for all of us. But at the time of the Cato incident, the number of policemen that actually came out after the whole thing happened -- was, like, almost 2,000 policemen in -- that concentration in that one area. And I was, like, then what happens to the rest of the people in the city? But because this was predominantly a Hasidic community, we felt that they were getting preference before, but now, here, with all these people in this one area, there is even more. And if you had to walk on Eastern Parkway near Kingston, you will still see police presence 46:00there. Not like then, but you will see it there. And even the ambulance, they have the ambulance hooked up to the New York City streetlight. Anything that they have-- that they need for the community-- in terms of vehicles, for service vehicles, it's hooked up to the streetlight. That means it's -- the battery's always charged. It's always -- if we had to do that, forget it. You couldn't hear of that. You couldn't hear of that at all. But I think the biggest mistake that was made was -- I think his name was Nelson? Lemrick Nelson, or -- I think that's his name -- when he killed that young man who had nothing to do with what was happening. That, for me, was a blow, not only to their community 47:00but to our community. And I'm sure, with that last name, he came from the islands somewhere. And there was no need for that. Okay, yes, Gavin lost his life. It was an accident and I felt that it was an accident. 'Cause when you're, when you're in a funeral procession, you try to keep up all the lights, unless somebody stops and make sure that nothing else passes. Your procession goes through, then you move and person goes on. But he just, he just kept coming. There was a controversy of whether the light was red or whether it was orange. Nonetheless, the child died. And I was a little afraid, to be honest with you, because I felt that sometimes my children would get -- they were going 48:00to school -- okay, Carlyle was going to Prep for Prep. That's a program he went through. And sometimes, we would just get off at Utica and walk down the hill and walk home. But here now, you can't even walk down the hill. You have to wait for the train for the next stop, because you don't want to be outside and then something happens to you, too. And at that time, I had two boys in New York City. What am I going to do? The opportunity arose; Carlyle went on to -- he went to a prep school on the Upper East Side. [laughter] That was another joke, too, because you'd think he was safe in that environment. He stayed over one day to play in the park with his friends. I think it was his 13th birthday. And, not even a guy, some girls mugged him; took his bus pass and whatever. I was, like, "You serious? Today's your birthday." But that's what happened to 49:00him. And then the younger one started going to the same school. That's Brian. He started going to the same school. And one day, just wearing a very simple baseball cap, some White kid grabbed his cap and took off. You don't expect those things. Well, I didn't expect those things in that neighborhood, because I felt they were safe. But wherever you go, it's society. So, things happen. So, with the program that Carlyle was in, he was offered a scholarship to -- at St. Paul in Concord, New Hampshire. So, we took up, took him up on that, and they went -- he went off to St. Paul. He stayed there for three years. The fourth year, he said, "I can't take the cold anymore." And by now, he has grown his hair like this, all -- see my son coming back to New York City with a big 50:00old afro in these times. And I was, like, I don't know. Anyway, Berkeley Carroll was good enough to take him, and Berkeley Carroll is down in-- ok, I'll tell you the streets it's on. It's on Union and Fourth or Fifth Avenue, somewhere down there. But they took him, and that hair got him a part [laughter] in -- well he, he performed at middle school. He performed in middle school. But that particular hairstyle got him a part in -- oh, what's the name of the play? The Rhymers of Eldritch? I might have the words mixed up, but -- 51:00yeah he played, he played a stereotypical part of the drunk in the show. [laughter] And then, later on, he did Moulin Rouge and a couple other things that they had going there. But, when he left there, he went on to, he went on to Swarthmore College. And he started doing very well until he had an accident playing some sport. And I didn't even know that he was injured until I got the bill from the hospital, because at 18, the school is not responsible for telling you anything. You have to hear from your child. So, I made a lot of contacts, but nothing came out of it except, "He's 18. He's the one responsible for telling you." So, eventually, he just got frustrated and his grades were going down. So, he just took some time off and came home. And while he was home, he 52:00ended up at Medgar Evers College again; good old Medgar Evers College. But when he left there, he tried going back for a year, but things had changed and the people in his class had moved on or whatever. And he came back home, he went to Brooklyn College. So, that's where he finished. But --

GOLDBERG: Can we go back a little to -- you were saying that you felt afraid --

PRICE: Oh, bec--

GOLDBERG: -- at that time --

PRICE: For them, because --

GOLDBERG: -- as a mother.

PRICE: Yes, because there were -- or, I think Gavin was eight. These boys were 10 and 11 and had -- and they were free to go and come before. I just let them go on their own on the train and so on, especially the elder one, because he 53:00was, he was singing at City Opera Children's Chorus. So, he, he would go on the train alone and I would pick him up. But now, I can't even do that because I don't know what's going to happen to him between home and there. So, I was, my caution was always stay in the car with the conductor. Carlyle-- well most often, because he was the older one, and he was going all the way up to 96-- either his dad would drive him or I would get on the train and take him. So, it was a little more pressure, but it was a safety issue, yeah. Because to be -- at that point, for me, to be Black, a young, Black male in New York City is -- either the gang's going to take you out or you have to have another route. And my route was -- I thought a safe haven was letting him go to boarding school, and that's what I did. Some people used to tell me, "Oh, you always like to 54:00send your children to these White people to, to raise them." I said, "It's not White people raising them. It is that they get what I think they need right now, which is a good -- a better education in a safer environment." Well, of course, those high schools had their drug issues, too. I didn't, I didn't even think about all that. But as far as I know, I didn't have -- as far as I know, as far as I know as a mother, Carlyle wasn't involved in that. If he were, he didn't say anything about it. But it was, it was sports and books. They had an opportunity to play lacrosse. They did a football thing, which is common here in the city -- any street corner you -- any street you go on, or the park, you'll see the kids throwing the ball. But it was different. So, they had -- they have lacrosse, they have football. I don't think my kids really liked 55:00playing baseball, although I still have an old baseball bat in the closet from when they were little. And their dad was a cricket person, so -- at St. Paul, I think they had cricket. I don't know that they had it at -- no, they didn't have that at Indian Mountain, where Brian went. But it was the sports or education. They even approached me about doing farm school and I said no, because the education came before the farm. That's how I felt. I could teach them about farming. I grew up like that. So, they needed education. And they basically got it. But the fear was having them on the street alone. I mean, I can't protect them 24/7. They -- certain things they had to do for themselves, so that one bec-- one came out street smart and the other one came out book 56:00smart. [laughter] But they both, they both had a good education and they're both intelligent, so I don't, I don't regret what I did. When the scholarship didn't go through, when they didn't have scholarship, or if they didn't have a full scholarship, I did what-- in our community-- we call "esusu." You know what that is? [laughter] Okay. It comes from the key Swahili word esusu, with an E in front, S-U-S-U; where people pool together monies. So, if there were 10 people, we set a, we set a price. Let's say we're going to do $50 a week, or every two weeks. Let's say $50 a week. So, every week, every -- each person puts in $50. That total -- 10 people, $500. So, if I get it this week, the 57:00ne-- sometimes we draw lots. But, you know, we could just assign a number. I tell you pick a number between one and 10 or something. And the first week, somebody gets that $500. The next week, somebody else gets it. And you keep throwing your money until everybody gets $500 -- which I think happens in a lot of communities, but they just call it by different, a different terminol-- The Chinese people do it a lot in terms of getting their stores up and running, whether it's a laundromat or a food store, whatever. But that's what I did. And I remember the year that I threw a big susu. And I was -- it was to pay off both tuitions at one time. I was, like, yes, although I -- do I want this for the rest of the year? [laughter] Because you would pay every -- you pay a down payment at the beginning of the month, and then every month, you pay until -- I think it was May. So, if the child was returning in September, in June you were 58:00paying for September the following year. But it worked out, it worked out. I sacrificed a lot and it worked. It really worked. But that whole Crown Heights riot thing threw everybody for a loop. The tension was bad before, but it got worse then. And that's where I feared for their lives of my children and I was, like, "Maybe I should send them back home to their uncle [inaudible]. And I said no, I won't be able to see them as often. [laughter] So, I just did boarding school. That was it.

GOLDBERG: The tension that you talk about that was there before, how did you personally experience that or what was that like?

PRICE: Well, I talked about people moving out of the neighborhoods once Black people started moving in. And then, trying to purchase the houses that we had, 59:00it was almost like harassment if you didn't -- if you told them no today, they come back next week again and offer you a higher bid, and so on. But there was always, among the young people -- and I don't know why they do that -- the young ones would instigate things, whether it's from one side or the other. It was more the youth having the problems than anything else. And eventually, after the accident, then here it was that they were trying to -- between Mayor Dinkins and -- I forgot who the police commissioner was then. And I want to say it was 60:00Brown, 'cause I was thinking about Les Brown. But I think it's Lee Brown, 'cause Les Brown was one of my favorite people, inspirational people. I think it was Les Brown, or Lee Brown. I'm not sure, but I think -- I know the last name is Brown. The two of them tried to work things out so that the communities -- the two communities could come together; town hall meetings and stuff like that. But a lot of what was happening wasn't with the adults. It was with the youth. And that's when I said people like -- almost 2,000 policemen in one small area. What's happening to the rest of the city? But a lot of the tension 61:00was with the young people, in that -- so much so that Nelson decided he had to do something. And then, what? He did what -- he took somebody's life, and then yours is gone, too, because you're in lockup for your life. So, you took two lives: yours and someone else's. Not in the same way, but I think that tension lead to what he did. It's scary; looking back on it is really scary, because we have similar things happening today, not across the -- not across the board, but one-on-one, on our level, on our side. The most crimes committed against Black people are by Black people, so --


GOLDBERG: What did it feel like to have so many police come in at that time?

PRICE: Oh, my goodness. They were even on the train, because at Utica Avenue Station, everybody comes out. Most of the Jewish people come out at Kingston Avenue. Now you get them coming at -- well, from anywhere now, because so much has changed. But back then, just to have -- hmm, all those policemen, they're walking through the cars on the train, especially after you pass Franklin Avenue. There was a police station at Franklin Avenue Station, but they moved that now. But they were always on the train in that area. Once you got to Utica Avenue, that was it. You didn't -- you very rarely saw them go past Utica 63:00unless it was late at night. But it was, like, they -- it seemed to me like more policemen on the street than people. That's [inaudible], 'cause there were about 2,000 policemen, yeah.

GOLDBERG: What it did it feel like their purpose was at the time?

PRICE: To protect the Jewish people, because I believe that they felt they needed the protection from the Black people. I think, at one point, it actually came up that that's what they were thinking. And I think at some point they -- the Jews said that the -- I think during the whole incident with Gavin, they were thinking that because they put the driver in the car and let him go, they should have taken care of the children at that time. They felt that the 64:00policemen were for the Jews and not for the Black people. And, I mean, they always felt that because there was always a police presence anyway around the synagogue. So, but now it became worse, because now you let this little Black boy die and you arrest somebody who wasn't even injured, off-- But at the same time, I say one thing, I have to say the other. The ambulance that came was a Jewish ambulance. And just like I can't go to a Jewish school to teach because I'm not Jewish, they didn't put those little Black children in the ambulance because they were not Jewish. That's how I felt. But life is life, and that could've been the -- an exception to the rule, you know? But the tension just 65:00got really weird. And then you're walking, you see a policeman and you think, oh, he's supposed to be protecting everybody. But no, he's protecting the Jewish people. That's what that was all about. But today, you see them and they're all over now. So, when they had the drug, the little drug dens in the Black neighborhood, you will see them on almost every corner. So, again, say one thing, you have to say the other.

GOLDBERG: Can you tell me about the changes since you moved here in regards to relationships with police and your feelings of safety in the neighborhood?


PRICE: When I got here, I didn't have anything to worry about because I felt pretty safe. The neighborhood wasn't quite mixed. But at least Rockaway Parkway, Winthrop Street, Rutland Road; that area was pretty safe. We didn't need, we didn't need any policing or anything like that because people were civil. After a while, that changed. I don't know how much longer after, but that changed. But I know, in '77, with the blackout? That was a, that was a catastrophe. Oh, my gosh. Because even the policemen couldn't stop those people from carrying what they were carrying anyway. You may wave your baton and say something, but you're not going to really help the situation. Did I 67:00answer your question? Okay.

GOLDBERG: And how have things changed since that time? Can you tell me about how Crown Heights feels now compared to, say, 20 years ago?

PRICE: Twenty years ago, 20 years ago. Hmm. Well, I think that -- in terms of 68:00policing or anything? Okay, 20 years ago -- between then and now, I've seen a shift again in the community where we have, we have a lot of young Black homeowners, first time homebuyers, who, they think they have arrived and it's okay to feel that way, but if you have a home and I come to rent your apartment, you're putting -- a private house, that is -- you're putting so many stipulations on me that -- it's like saying, "I don't really want you here." So, just come right out and tell me, "I don't want you here. I'm not renting my place," or something. But you can't do that, because there are laws that 69:00protect you from that. But I've also seen a lot of people from Manhattan come across the river. So, that's another shift. A shift in more ways than one, because it makes finding a space much more difficult, because now the rents are so much higher than they were before. That's one thing. We have that and we also change the face of the community by getting rid of -- Okay, let me go to 70:00the mamas-and-pops; most of the moms-and-pops are closing because other big stores are coming in. And then, you have -- you also have the malls trying to eat up everything that's in the community. So, as a small business owner, it's very difficult. Even if you had a steady, a steady customer influx at one point, now they can go somewhere else and get something -- the same thing a little cheaper, you know? A lot of the apartment buildings now are doing -- okay, are going co-op. So, I'm going to force you out. And if you have -- if your rent was $800 and I -- and you're not rent-stabilized, then I can push your 71:00rent to whatever I want it to be. On the other hand, if it's rent-stabilized, I'm going to do something that will force you out of this apartment so I can get it. And things like that are not really good. But it's happening. It's happening all over. I remember my sister went to get an apartment at one point, and-- last name was Pollard, so they thought she was Jewish. And she's an opera singer, so she used her voice. And when she got to the place, they were, like, "You are Katherine Pollard?" "Yes." And she had to take out her ID and everything to show. They were shocked, but they couldn't tell her at that point, "Well, you can't have the apartment," because, "I'm already here. So, what are you going to do now?" And back then it was not -- allowing the landlords that they had -- the slumlords, sorry -- allowing those who didn't keep up their apartments. Then you had those who you have to file a grievance 72:00against because they didn't want you, because -- for one reason or another; whether it was racial or you're a woman or you're too young or something. They don't want to give you the apartment, so those are a couple things that have changed. The school system has changed a lot, also. Because now, you have -- before, it was -- and it's still, it's still that. But it's in a different light. Now you have -- you had mainstream -- where everybody was a mainstream. You had -- now you have inclusion. So, if you are a student with a certain 73:00disability, you should not be included in the mainstream classroom with a para, okay? So, as a para, I may have one student to work with in the whole class. Or I may have two students. But if there are two students, they have to be the same type of student, whether it's, whether it's -- whether they're two autistic students with similar problems and one para -- or sometimes, you have the two and you have two paras in one classroom. But the system has changed a lot. And thereby, back then, everybody got literally the same education. It's good and it's bad, because now you have those students who have special needs. They get 74:00similar instruction, but in a different way. So, it's good. It's good on that end, because I found that with mainstreaming, some children got left behind, 'cause if they're too slow, they can't catch up. If they're too fast, they're keeping the others back. So, that in itself is a good thing that happened. I didn't like the No Child Left Behind policy, because it meant that you were promoting a child, although the child didn't really make it. I didn't like that. But things are changing. Things are changing. And people are thinking differently about -- not only education, but all different activities, and they 75:00-- activities, and they act in the community. I remember when we had, we had swimming in school. You don't have swimming in school anymore. [laughter] There's no space for that. You don't -- you -- some schools don't even have gym. They have a gym room, but it's storing this, that, the other. I could talk about transit, how that has changed. [laughter] When I came to New York, you could buy 10 tokens for a dollar. [laughter] You can't even get on the bus now. You can't do for the dollar in the bus, even if you have fare, you have to put the other 25 cents. So, some of that has changed for the good. The whole Metro Card thing, I think that was good, until people started misusing it. "You 76:00want to buy a swipe?" "No, I don't want to buy a swipe, because I need a transfer at the other end and I won't get a transfer if I get a swipe." [laughter] Which is illegal, anyway. But people still try to get away with it. The system itself, although they're upgrading, there's still a lot lacking. Because, when I leave work at 11 o'clock at night, I can't get home until almost one, and that's not good. And when they have the signs that they're working on the lines and all that, you have to, you have to maneuver accordingly. But, you have to do what you have to do.

GOLDBERG: Besides going into work, would you say most of your personal social life is in the neighborhood?


PRICE: Well, not exactly. I worship in the neighborhood, but that's about it. And I don't -- I am literally a loner, believe it or not. I don't like large crowds and I don't like -- This maybe the longest anybody would have-- If Carlyle were here, he would say, "This is the longest I've heard you talk." Because I use very few words. [laughter] [inaudible]

[Interview interrupted.]

GOLDBERG: Okay, we just took a little break, and we're back with Pearleta 78:00Price. So, I was wondering, when you think of what the word "community" means to you in Crown Heights, are there certain places you think of or people that you think of that come to mind?

PRICE: Okay, basically, it's the people. Because everybody together-- no, no man is an island, so-- everybody together, they create a community. But what I've noticed -- what used to be -- okay, there are certain areas that you could -- There are certain parts of the community that you can go to and you're welcome. The Jews have, on Kingston Avenue, they have a lot of stores. Children's clothes, you name it; it's on, it's on Kingston Avenue. There was a time when you can just go in there and they would just, like, ignore you. Like, "What are you doing here?" Even the supermarkets: "What are you doing here?" But now, if you go in, you're not a threat to them. So, if you want to buy -- 79:00like, they wear long skirts. So, if you wanted a long skirt for an occasion or a long skirt for your child to wear to school-- although we have our own-- they will sell it to you. They will sell it to you. I know that before, when the older ladies-- they were mostly European ladies, though-- they had their shops, you can just go freely. You can go in and come as you please. But when you got into that -- to the Hasidim community, you -- it's not as free as it was -- as it should be, because, okay, I leave Brooklyn, I go, let's say I go into Manhattan. I go to Bloomingdale's or something. Okay, even if they follow me around, which is something that they do, I can still buy what I want. But I'm welcome, because I'm spending my money. But sometimes, you can't do that in 80:00that community. It's, like, "You go back to where you belong," that kind of thing. But some things I've learned to live with over time. Carlyle says, "You, you don't -- You need to speak up, you need to speak up," but you can't always speak. You have to know when to -- or where to and how to, because also, your tone tells people a lot about you. If I go into the store and I say, "Excuse me," and, "Do you have so-and so or such-and-such?" I might get a better response than the average person who'll go in, "Where is that? You got this over here?" You know? People are different. You have to know how to approach people, yeah.

GOLDBERG: Well, it's interesting, 'cause you said when you moved here that you were the only Black family on an all-Jewish Street.

PRICE: On that block, yes.

GOLDBERG: And how has that changed? Like, your relationship with the Jewish 81:00community here, from then, being-- you know, with the neighbors and the people that you said lived in your house-- what's your interaction like now with them, with the Hasidic community?

PRICE: Well, just to say hello, or to give direction or something. I remember one night, this guy wanted to know how to get someplace. And I did this to my eye. He said, "Oh, no, I can't talk to you. You're scratching your eye." What does that have to do with where you want to go? [laughter] Do you want to get where you want to go? [laughter] So -- and I knew he wasn't from this area. So, it meant a lot that I was able to help him without saying, "Okay, well, later for you," you know? But I don't really have-- except for work-- I don't really have a lot of interaction with people, with the Jewish people in this neighborhood.

GOLDBERG: And the new people that you said, like, coming from Manhattan? How 82:00has that changed the relationship with the Hasidic community?

PRICE: A lot of them have tried to integrate, but at the same time take over. I remember the first Jewish instructor that came to Medgar Evers College. And everyone was saying, "What is he doing here?" "He's part of the community, you know? And he's going to impart something to you that you don't know." Usually, it's a -- usually, it will be distance courses that they will teach, anyway. But, the same where you accept the people from Africa who come teach you history -- your own history. Why can't you accept a Jewish person who's going to teach you something about business? And who better to teach you something about business, because they own a lot of businesses, you know? But apart from that, and apart from the instructors I have had there, and -- I don't really have -- 83:00and the people at work, I don't really have a connection, per se, with Jewish people.

GOLDBERG: And you said that there are police, a lot -- more recently, there are more police?

PRICE: But there have always been police in the area. There've always been -- oh, shit. Sorry. [Interview interrupted.] Yeah, there've always been policemen in the area. But to see, to see them now is not like seeing them back then, because back then, there were so many. And it almost created a-- for me-- a conflict, because what, what are you going to do to me? Just seeing a Black person walking the street -- I wasn't fearful, because I can, I can talk my way 84:00out of anything, really. [laughter] But I wasn't fearful -- but the whole point was you're here. But if it's for the Black people -- it's to arrest somebody or to cause some problems for somebody. But to, to-- not create-- but to absolve some problem with somebody. But then, it's -- when they see that you're here for the Jewish people, it's always something peaceful. I know it's about something peaceful. It's not about -- or something's happening or something. But like I said before, a lot of the problems in the community were with the youth, to the point where we actually have-- I don't know his name-- but we actually had, in terms of unity, a black -- a Jewish rapper. There is a Jewish 85:00rapper on the scene. Lot of people don't know of him, but he's there. And where did he get all that? You know, the two communities came together, and that came out of it. So, the police presence is not always about the negative, but sometimes you have to wonder why, have to wonder why they're there, yeah.

GOLDBERG: What do you see in the future for Crown Heights?

PRICE: Well, if they continue moving the way that they're moving, in terms of having the quote-unquote "town halls" every once in a while-- A lot of people don't know that their district meetings in New York City. But especially in Brooklyn, there's a district meeting that you can go to and you can voice anything you want to voice, whether they listen and do something about it or 86:00not, it's a different story. But there are those meetings that are being held, and people have a voice. Before, you may-- you didn't think you have a voice, but now you have a voice. Just step up and do what you have to do. But I think that, although the community is what it is, with everything that's happening, I can see some sort of cohesion. I think that -- and I hope I'm not wrong in saying this, but I do believe that some sort of unity will -- has come out of this whole situation, and it could get better. It could really get better. It's my prayer it'll get better, because, you know, I would hate to have my 87:00grandchildren raised in this environment that's so hostile, you know? Don't have any yet, but -- [laughter] boys didn't give me any. The girl is married, but she's not ready yet. But then, they have to know when just like I had to know when, so -- But this is my prayer; that as we grow as a community, we'll become more cohesive and more understanding of each other. Because without the -- without wisdom, you know, what do you really have? What do you really have?

GOLDBERG: Okay, is there anything else that you'd like to talk about that we didn't mention?


PRICE: Oh, in my life, that I love to cook and bake. [laughter] I have a special cake I bake, especially for weddings or around Christmastime. And that's my, that's my specialty. I'm hoping that my children will be able to carry that on, because it's not something everybody does. I know Carlyle tried at one point, but I don't know. I don't know.

GOLDBERG: Do you cook for other people a lot?

PRICE: Sometimes. Sometimes. At work, I have people who are always -- who -- they want that cake and they -- I have the pound cake that I make. They just love it. So, they're always asking for stuff like that. But I want to mention one thing; the Carnival. The Carnival started -- when it started, it finished 89:00at -- it started -- I forgot how far down it started, I think Nostrand or something, and it finished in Lincoln Terrace Park, which is by Eastern Parkway and Buffalo. And it has grown so much since then. It has become so wild that they don't even want to have it anymore. The Jewish people are just fed up now. They don't even want to have that on the Parkway anymore. But it's -- like I said before, it's about how you carry yourself, how you speak to people and all that. A couple years ago, we had one policeman who was actually working and he decided to step out of line and that was a big thing, because he was not supposed to be doing that. He's supposed to work, not get involved in what's happening. And he got reprimanded for that. But it's -- the Carnival, it has -- it became very wild. Even the, the trucks; people dying under the wheel of a truck or things like that, that, that was crazy. And then you had -- you always 90:00have, at some point, some sort of shooting. Even last year, they had a shooting. It wasn't on the Carnival, but it was the night of, night before. But I think that needs, that needs to be put in a different perspective so that it'd be more peaceful and people would enjoy it like the -- I mean, the costumes are nice and all that. But it needs to be put together in a better way, because years ago, it wasn't like this. You had the costumes and you were able to see the floats. You were able to see the parade happening. But now, it's not as good. It's -- it may be bigger, but it's not better than it used to be, so --

GOLDBERG: What did you like about how it used to be?

PRICE: You can actually either stand in one place or walk along the sides but still see the parade. Now you have everybody jumping in the street with the, 91:00with the performers and everything else. It's just -- it's not what a parade is supposed to be. Parade's supposed to be showing off what you're, what you're doing. Whatever your wear is, you're supposed to be showing that off. And then, you know, there was a point where they talk about Fifth Avenue. They can't go to Fifth Avenue, not with that behavior, and then you're drinking and carrying on. It's something that -- it came out of something really good and something positive, but it has gone south, let's say. [laughter] It's gone -- totally different direction than it used to be, where you can just see the floats, even -- you don't walk in the street in a parade. You go to Fifth Avenue, you don't see people walking in the street, except those who are on parade. And that's the way it used to be. But now, it's all crazy. And a lot 92:00of it has to do with the young people not knowing, not knowing and just doing what they think that they should do, you know?

GOLDBERG: Are there any other regular neighborhood events that are important to you?

PRICE: Well, there -- There're a couple of churches who do have their own little parade in a certain way, certain times of the year. But nothing that's really major. I would like to see -- because of the-- where I work, I can't get to those meetings, because I'm usually working at night. But a lot of people need to go out and represent themselves and the community at the community board meetings. That's another step in the right direction, yeah. But there's hope. There's hope. I hope that one day my children -- like Dr. King said -- not his 93:00words, but I hope that one day, I can live to see that the young people in the community are different. They have -- a lot of them have no regard, no respect for the older people or for themselves, and that's really sad. It's really sad. It's like going back to Babylon, oh my gosh. I tell my children, "When you step outside, you represent yourself first and your -- you represent me next. You represent your family, because the way I grew up, all you needed was the family name." And you knew who that's [unintelligible] belonged to. But it's a 94:00different environment, I know. But still, you have to represent yourself. I remember when the boys came home from boarding school, they would come in and they'd take their pants out their bag and they'd put it on and I'm, "What are you doing? That's not what I taught you!" So, eventually, they decided to either fold their clothes properly when they wash them -- because I don't do that anymore. [laughter] I stopped doing that a long time ago. You fold your clothes a certain way so you -- when you go to put it on, it's presentable, you know? Or you -- yeah, the iron and the ironing board, and you take care of yourself that way. So, there's still a lot that these young people need to learn and to -- go back and visit with their parents and their grandparents, you know? Yeah, my parents died old. We had a lot of them. We had -- we got so 95:00much out of them. My mom died at 92, my dad died at 86. And even my children -- the grandchildren in the family -- can still say, "Oh, Granddaddy did this, Granddaddy said that." And, "Nanny did this and Nanny did that." You know? That's good to look back. But you go back to see how far you come -- but now, as you move forward, move forward with something positive. Okay?

GOLDBERG: Okay. Shall we end there?

PRICE: We can.

GOLDBERG: Okay. Thank you, Pearleta.

PRICE: You're very welcome. I will look forward to this so much. I know Carlyle will want to hear about it, because he -- there's so much that -- he asks me a lot of questions and there's so much that he gets out of me. But a lot of what I said today, he doesn't know. [laughter]

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Pearleta Price

Pearleta Price was born in Christchurch, Barbados in 1952. She grew up on a farm and was one of ten siblings. When she was sixteen, her family moved to Brooklyn- 136 Rockaway Parkway- and she enrolled in George H. Wingate High School in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. She attended Hunter College and Medgar Evers College, where she earned two bachelor's degrees in education and Liberal Studies: Geography. For many years, she was an elementary and middle school teacher at various schools throughout Brooklyn, where she taught math and English Language Arts. She also worked as a paraprofessional for the Board of Education. She then worked as a make-up artist on Broadway; working on "The Color Purple" and "Dreamgirls," and in 2017, she worked primarily as a make-up artist for the musical, "Phantom of the Opera." She continues to work as a teacher on a freelance basis. She is the mother to three children; Carlyle, Bryan, and Grace. She currently lives on Clarkson Avenue between East 92nd and 93rd Streets.

In the interview, Pearleta Price begins with reflections on growing up in Barbados. She talks about her work as a Broadway make-up artist. Price recalls early days in Brooklyn; in 1968, at sixteen, she moved with her family to the Crown Heights neighborhood, during a harsh winter. She describes being the only Black family on the block (136 Rockaway Parkway) and her predominantly Jewish neighbors. She compares her education in Barbados with that of George H. Wingate High School. Many changes in the neighborhood are described; with a focus on mom and pop stores being replaced by more anonymous larger stores. Price talks about her church attendance and how the family's churches intersected with community support of tenants' rights. She remembers several factors related to the August 1991 turmoil in Crown Heights. Price ends with a discussion of West Indian Carnival and her criticism of how it has evolved. Interview conducted by Jenny Goldberg.

This collection includes oral histories conducted by Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS), Brooklyn Movement Center, and Weeksville Heritage Center beginning in 2016 and collected and arranged by BHS in 2017. Each organization's interviews form a series within the collection. This oral history is one in the Brooklyn Movement Center series. The assembled collection was part of broader programming efforts by the three organizations to commemorate and examine the transforming Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn a quarter-century after the August 1991 conflicts and unrest sometimes called "the Crown Heights riot." The oral history collection features a broad range of narrators; educators, community organizers, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, bloggers, and longtime neighborhood residents, who describe the changes they have observed in their neighborhood over decades.


Price, Pearleta, Oral history interview conducted by Jenny Goldberg, March 24, 2017, Voices of Crown Heights oral histories, 2016.027.2.05; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Cato, Gavin
  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department
  • Price, Carlyle
  • Price, Pearleta
  • Rosenbaum, Yankel
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)


  • Caribbean Americans
  • Community development
  • Community organizing
  • Crime
  • Gangs
  • Housing
  • Jewish neighborhoods
  • Jews
  • Parents
  • Police-community relations
  • Race relations
  • Riots
  • Theaters


  • Barbados
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)


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Voices of Crown Heights oral histories