Preston Wilcox Interviewed by abdul alkalimat

AA

Ok.

PW

I always start my history with the fact that I was born at 736 Harlem St. in Youngstown, Ohio; a steel town. There were 11 families on the block; seven blacks and 4 whites. I have pictures of some of them. And uh, my sister and our neighbor used to dance to Brother Beans and Susie, (laughs) and I couldnít figure out how they even knew about him as kids, you know? But I guess they knew they knew from Duke Ellington and so forth coming to Youngstown. But uh, and then uh, my father could not read and write.

AA

Where, where was he born?

PW

Uh, in uh, Epps, Alabama. My motherís born in Georgia. In fact, see my motherís picture up there behind me?

AA

Yes.

PW

Thatís my graduation day. We always say that was her graduation day, cause she made it possible for me to go to (inaudible). And uh, Iíll never forget it. In fact, she taught me something that was very important. That men have to die to protect our honor. Cause, you know, you go downtown, white boys say anything to your mother. And I had about 250 guys I was gonna kill when I grew up (laughs). But unfortunately now, everybody look for my list of people I should take off. A lot of them are Negroes (laughs). And uh, and then Roy Commenser who is now a medical doc, I havenít seen him in years, told me about Morehouse. And uhÖ

AA

Now you knew him in Youngstown?

PW

Pardon?

AA

You knew him in Youngstown? You knew him in Youngstown?

PW

Oh yeah. He lived right near me. And uh, cause when I was on the honor roll when I graduated from high school. I was the first black in the history of the town to be elected as a member of the uh, as a class officer, first class officer. And uh, we organizedÖ

AA

What year was this?

PW

1942. Yeah I graduated January í42. And uh, the four people that organized to make sure that we controlled the offices. So we had a Titan girl, Francis DeTesco from Briarhill, we had a Titan girl from my neighborhood, Mary Brandosie, and you had Preston Wilcox. Any my nickname was Sy, from the Weaver of (inaudible) Syvus Morner. So I always used to carry a book home from school. And that book I can fit into my pocket. And since I was on the football team, basketball team, guys would hide it and all kinds ofÖ So they started calling me Sy, Sy Wilcox. They still call me that. And uh, and I guess uh, there was a neighbor in my block, Miss Haerian, who put her hand on my head one day when I was about seven years of age and said, youíre gonna make a great contribution to your people.

AA

Beautiful.

PW

And at first I looked at it as a burden man. Supposing I want to hang out, chase women (laughs), wonít be of no good. But it came through. For instance none of the girls in my neighborhood could go to a dance unless I was going. The parents would check, Preston, you gonna be at the dance? And then when we, on the way home I said, the girls would always, and the guys would say give me 15 minutesÖ I said no, no. When I leave you, Iím (inaudible). Iím gonna say I left you at 12:02, 12:09, whatever time was. I couldnít lie to Ďem. And uh, Iím sure that contributed to who I became, you know. Cause I once went home and visited one of my friends. I knock on the door, his mother is telling her son, I want you to grow up and be like Preston Wilcox. She came to the door and almost fainted cause she didnít know I was at the door. And so to me, that was a kind of responsibility, you know. And people looked to me to provide that kind of responsibility. And uh, also, Iím convinced that I was never in the, uh, on a journey to become a Negro. I mean, uh, once when I was about second or third grade I went to school and told the story about little black Sambo. Cause my grandfather told me that at Friday night meetings, family meetings. And the teacher loved the story so much from a stereotypical standpoint. But I was telling the story from the standpoint that Sambo out thought the tiger, turned the tiger into butter. You remember that? And Iíll never forget, he took me to every class upstairs. Iíd never been on the second floor in my life. And he wanted the kids to hear the story. And he was enjoying the stereotype part, of little black Sambo, which by the way is an Asian story not a South, South American story, and uh, he never got, acknowledged that my punch line was different than his punch line. And that was considered as my, one of my first times taking him on. Because I learned you canít take on white folks in distance, you got to take Ďem on face-to-face. But uh, (inaudible).

AA

Correct.

PW

And a lot of our professionals, reassure white folks that no matter what you do, I will never kick your ass. I say, I donít promise brothers and sisters that (laughs). So uh, and then uh, I went to Morehouse cause my friend called me about Morehouse. And I consider that one year at Morehouse the major educational experience of my life.

AA

Who were your, who were your classmates?

PW

Uh, Hugh Lane, uh, he was the main one, Jerome Harris, basketball player, Oliver Brooks, uh, couple other people like that. Also, also, I used to hang out with the guys from Harlem at Clark; Rodie J. Cox, Joe Gibbs. Iím not saying I didnít like the Morehouse guys, but I started hanging out with them.

AA

Was Benjamin Mays the president?

PW

Dr. Mays was president. Iíll never forget during one of our blackouts, at Yates & Milton Drugstore, somebody put a box of Kotex under my arm (inaudible). The lights come on; Iím standing there with a box of Kotex under my arm (laughs). I still donít know to this day who put it under. Dr. Mays called me to his office. And uh, it took me years to understand that. Because, see there were, there were gay men there. But for some reason or another, they never messed with me. But the guys I went to school with years later told me even some of the teachers were gay, and were working with the kids. And so, I think he called me in to find out if I was gay. You know, and uh, he was serious about it. I had a lot of respect for him, man. And uh, and they taught us something about going back and serving your own people. Like many of the graduates went to Liberia the moment they graduated. Like the current things going on, you know, thatís where Garvey went. And thatís where DuBois went later to undermine Garvey. You remember what the uh, airline uh, he sold the land to airline, rubber. Whatís the rubber company?

AA

Yeah, um.

PW

Goodyear.

AA

Thatís right.

PW

He sold the land that Garvey was supposed to get to Goodyear. Cause everybody I see a football game the Goodyear flies, I think about that.

AA

Yeah.

PW

Cause Garvey never got to Africa.

AA

Yeah. Did you uh, uhÖ

PW

I have the article on that by the way too.

AA

Did you, what did you major in?

PW

Uh, thatís a good question. See, I wanted to be a doctor. And I majored in you know, sciences and so forth. Uh, I was only at Morehouse for one year cause I went into the military. But uh, Iím glad you asked me that cause a lot of peopleÖ I was an all A student at Morehouse. Like some of the guys, my friends who are doctors now remember. Now Iím just asking about two months ago, what happened with you, you had all Aís too. Well my mother and father separated and I figured I had to follow my mother to New York. She came here as a domestic and I came here. I had been in New York before to get Prisoners, you know. But I never lived here. And uh, I always say that uh, probably one of the reasons I never became a doctor, is that I didnít come from a professional family. Get my point? Uh, I felt when I, cause I went down to Howards several times and talked with them. They wanted to let me into Dental school. I said nah, I want to go to medical school, cause I, you know. And uh, but I maintained that I look at it. Cause that was the problem.

AA

Ok. Iím just trying to get the sequence, the chronology. You were at Morehouse.

PW

Yeah.

AA

Then you went to the military.

PW

I went into the military.

AA

What branch?

PW

Air Force. Breeze blowing off the line.

AA

Air Force. There werenít that many black people on the Air Force.

PW

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. My whole line, we was segregated. And uh, Iím glad youíre doing this man, because while I was there, the government wiped out a pilot training program at Tuskegee. All black pilots training the 99th Red Squadron. And they sent them to my base in Greensboro, NC. And the first day they were there they asked me to take them down and do some KP. We got down there they wanted them to do KP for prisoners of war. These guys are college graduates, pilot training, so thereís nothing but embarrassment. And some of these guys were very upset. I have never met a group of educated black men of that caliber. That many. Even though I went to Morehouse. You know I didnít hang out where all the graduates are. So every day I would take them to sick leave. Starting the second day, I said you got a cold, you got a stomachache. And by the time we left sick leave, they have to use the white boys to do the KP for the prisoners of war cause they didnít have anyone. Cause they were living on the whiteÖ

AA

When you say prisoners of war, who are you talking about? Who?

PW

Pardon?

AA

Who, Germans?

PW

Germans. Oh yeah, this is World War II. They were German PWís. POWís. And they had captured them and stationed them there on a segregated base. They put them in the whitey area. But the white guys were not good enough to do KP for them. And my sergeant, Sergeant James whose brother used to own Lawson Mills on 125th St. called me and threatened to charge me with treason for not taking these black pilot trainers to do KP for German prisoners of war. And uh, I say ok, make a charge, you know.

AA

Thatís right.

PW

I was a young guy, you know 21 or 22. Cause I played on the army military basketball team. And I had a lot of guys from New York there.

AA

So, how long were you in the military?

PW

From November 5, 1943 to March 17, 1946. And thatís when I came to New York. And I played on a basketball team in the military and uh, you know, I met, Iíll never forget her, Mary McCloud Bassoon. And uh, Eleanor Roosevelt on Bennettís College campus, and I shook hands with them one after another, Iíll never forget it. And uh, it was like meeting W. Dubois in Atlanta (laughs).

AA

Whatís that, while you were a student?

PW

He was, he was teaching at A.U. when I was at Morehouse. Thatís when he went to, Hugh Lane went to store for him. And uh, and then Charlotte Hoffman Brown School was right near thereÖ

AA

Did you ever go to hear him in class?

PW

Huh?

AA

Did you ever see DuBois in class?

PW

Well, he used to take us to meetings. Heíd say come on, and sit over there. And weíd sit there. Heíd say now write up what your experience. Whoís not a part of the meeting? But he was grading us as though he was the teacher (laughs). Which is to me a tremendous technique, you know. And no, he didnít expect that youíd know, understand everything but he wanted your assessment of what you saw. But heíd also teach you not to waste your mind. And I just want to add this that uh, when I got into archiving, I attributed it to W.B. DuBois because I read, one year I read everything that I thought heíd written, you know. And I remember once in Atlanta being in a barber shop with him. In my judgment, he was not comfortable in a black barber shop. Now and you know, Iím not criticizing, but he came from Framingham, Massachusetts. And uh, I remember when I was teaching at Princeton, that the black athletes didnít like to go to a black barbershop in town, theyíd rather go integrate a white one, cause that was like a Princeton thing. And uh, but anyway, so I always figured that there was stuff that, that uh, DuBois wrote that he wouldnít recognize if he walked into it. Like these guys on college campuses, you know. They check theory, but they never saw it practiced. So they walk into the practice. They never uh, also, most of them are not capable of learning from a practitioner what they should know in order to understand their theory.

AA

So, í46 you come back to New York.

PW

Yeah.

AA

Then what happens?

PW

Uh, let me see. When I first came to New York, I lived in Brooklyn. And uh, I ran a, I worked for a welfare department.

AA

But, did you go back to school?

PW

Oh yeah. I went to City College (inaudible). I went to City from September 1946 until January 1949. Thatís when I graduated from City with a B.S. in Science. And uh, I didnít like City because it was the cheatingest institution in the world (laughs). Every time they pass out these green books, white boys started writing; black guys are reading the questions. Cause they had advance information. They were in the Dean, in various department offices and so forth. Plus, if I got the highest grade on the test, they just pass out and took the papers up. If a white boy got the highest grade on the test, Robert Smith, come up and get your paper! And then reading my paper down on (inaudible). And I never liked it, and also one dean had the gall to call us in, to Frederick Douglas Society and weíre traveling with the president, and ask would we rewrite our constitution to keep communists out of the organization. And in the first place, if we want to do it we donít need his advice, you know. And we donít need him to rewrite it. Well, Iíll never forget, the guys who went along with him went a long way. Some of them became deputy mayors and all this kind of stuff, you know. And I walked out of the room cause Iím not gonna sit there and listen to that kind of stuff. And uhÖ

AA

Who did you uh, the Frederick Douglas SocietyÖ

PW

Yeah.

AA

Who did you have come to speak on campus?

PW

On campus, yeah. Thatís still the name of the black group up there.

AA

But I mean who, who, what people, what leadership, or what thinkers, what writers did you, did you, do you remember having had some contact with cause you were in college then. Iím just wondering who you were dealing with in, in New York.

PW

Man, you shaking my memory, you know. Uh, thatís heavy.

AA

Did Powell, did you have Powell come up?

PW

No, you know, Adam, you know, Adam was around you know. Uh, man, thatís, Iíd have toÖ

AA

Did you know Richard Moore?

PW

Huh?

AA

Richard Moore?

PW

Oh yeah. I knew Richard Moore.

AA

The Frederick Douglas bookstore.

PW

Yeah, thatís right.

AA

On the second floor. Where they had the lecture hall on one side and the bookstore on the other.

PW

Thatís right. And uh, wow. You had me trying to drag up these names, cause I know I knewÖ

AA

No, but thatís ok. Let me ask youÖ

PW

Sweeting, remember Sweeting? His wife was here recently. But I tell you, the guys I remember most in Harlem are the Garveyites. Man they were uh, like one of them by the name of Columbus, gave me the actual program when Haley Salassi came here looking for support and the program from the uh, Abasenior church. Make sure I, make a note Iíll send a copy to your brothers and uh, that uh, and see Garvey by way was a part of my up growing in Ohio. Cause every time the Garveyites had a national meeting, they would stop off in Youngstown.

AA

Why?

PW

I still have not been able to find out why they always stopped (laughs). Cause I even talked to a guy who was 96 years of age one time out there. And he was so, see the thing I find, the Garveyites, understood what they were into, more than any group I know of. You know, Iím talking about the Panthers, the NAACP, Core; and the Garveyites were well informed about what Garvey had in mind for you. Uh, and they still are. You know I can still (inaudible) uh, and uh as a kids I used to follow their parades. And Iíve been trying to think about it lately. Cause in those days there was no hope of black folks growing to a god damn thing (laughs). Really. Cause the white folks had everything tightened down. You know, like, you know people go out and looking for a job would go look in the window to see if they hiring any blacks. No blacks are sitting there, they keep walking. And women got the jobs, they were doing domestic. My mother once a year would have all her family out to help serve this white family she worked for. And with my job starting at the beginning of the dinner, to start putting stuff in the trunk; food (laughs); we didnít want to walk out with it all at one time. We knew what was happening. You know theyíd ask you, where you going with all the food? And by the time the last person was served, the trunk was jammed. And the other thing, things like if somebody would send back lettuce, weíd wipe it off and send it back out there. Cause it was a war relationship. These people acting like they respect you and they didnít respect you and we knew that. And uhÖ

AA

Ok, so in, in, you graduateÖ

PW

So marching, anytime I went marching behind Garveyís band my family never said a word. They wouldnít. Cause, see everybody knew the band was everybody. And everybody would be marching behind that band. It was like a rare opportunity to express something about your own culture, and your history and so forth that didnít come regularly, you know. Cause white folks didnít come to your church and all this kind of stuff. Uh, they knew you cause you lived on the same block, but they never wanted to think of you as their collector; that you was individual to them. And uh, if anything they wanted to advance you to become one of them. But anyway uh, Iím thankful for that. And uhÖ

AA

So, in 1949 you graduated from City.

PW

Yeah.

AA

Then what?

PW

Well, I applied for, you know, medical school. I got in to Howard Dental School. I got into Flower Fifth Avenue as an alternate, uh, and I was reluctant by way to leave my kids. I have, you know, four kids, and I had three then. And uhÖ

AA

When did you get married?

PW

Huh?

AA

When did you get married?

PW

1950. And uh, I was reluctant to leave them and uh, and you know, there were people who referred me down to Howard and so forth. Doctors and so forth. But I always thought there was something about my (inaudible) middle class upbringing that turned those mothers off (inaudible). Even though I was smart. I got all Aís, you know. Guys still tell me why do you got all Aís. See my family was not into that kind of stuff, you know. And you know, thatís just a guess, you know.

AA

Sure, Sure.

PW

And uh, I worked for the welfare department, organized with the United Public Workers, which is mainly communist, you know. Uh, in fact, I always wanted to record the first picket line I ever walked on was with the Scottsborough Case, Youngstown, Ohio, 1931. And a judge from my hometown defended them. And uh, I grew up to write a letter to had, to Wallace, the governor of Alabama, to have the last Scottsborough boy pardoned. I have a letter from him thanking me for it. He says something about running the long races, you know. And uh, I told that story to one of my school kids. He ended up in the joint. He wrote back to me, thanking me for telling him about the Scottsborough case. And I thought about all of the black teachers who wouldnít dare tell black students about the Scottsborough case. You know that theyíre afraid that they might turn wild or something, you know. And uh, anyway IÖ

AA

Ok, so uh, what, where did you do graduate work?

PW

I did the, I worked, when I came out of the military, my first job is with the Veterans Administration as some kind of clerk, you know. And then I got a job with the Welfare Department. And then, oh, while I was with the welfare department, they asked me to run a center for senior citizens. And I loved that experience because my position was how am I going to tell people twice my age what to do. So I organized the center so they could run it. The only thing I did was handle the writing, you know, keep the records. But they decided what the meals were and everything. Iíll never forget that. And they, whenever I get involved in like, with some kind ofÖ

AA

Was that in Harlem?

PW

That was in Brooklyn.

AA

Brooklyn.

PW

And uh, and Silo, and Silo and Press was there in church. Uh, Reverend Glamison, who led the school integration movement, that was in Brooklyn. Thatís where I met Gitsu, sunny cars, oh God (laughs).

AA

So this is in the Ď50s.

PW

And Al Rand.

AA

Is this the Ď50s?

PW

That was in the Ď50s, yeah, cause uh, yeah, cause I went back to graduate school in 1955, Columbia University, School of Social Work. I graduated in í57. So that was in theí50s. And uh, while I was running that center I was paid by the welfare department. And the thing I remember is that uh, the guy who was in charge of the whole program citywide, white, was always trying to tell me something, you know. And I just let these guys know the only person I follow blindly are my mother and my father. Cause I know they love me. Anybody else Iím gonna check it out. I may not do what you want me to do. If I do do it, itís cause I come to a conscious decision thatís the proper thing to do. And I tried to teach that to people but they donít, you know they aint (inaudible). And uh, but the thing I remember about that experience is how proud the older people were when they read something about me and doing something in their community, like protesting or something. I mean they had a tremendous sense of pride, theyíd go home and talk about it, and uh, cause they wanted me to be a man, you know.

AA

Yeah.

PW

And uh, the funny thing about it among many centers are run by young people who probably tell older people to, you know. Now how they gonna tell a black woman what to do in the kitchen. Itís impossible (laughs). Black women cook better chicken than anybody. They should own Kentucky Fried.

AA

Right.

PW

Like Blimpies downstairs now, they re selling cornbread. I said man, black women make the best corn bread in the world. And we have not organized that yet. You know, Silviaís is still here doing a fantastic business. And Reger, she hasnít changed her menu. Itís the same as it was 30 years ago. Cornbread. People go there just for the cornbread.

AA

So what happened when you graduated from Columbia?

PW

Graduated from Columbia um, í57. Golly. Oh, golly. I took a job in East Harlem. And I consider it one of my best experiences. Cause I worked with Blacks and Puerto Ricans. Now they call them Latinos and Spaniards. Back then they, in fact, they spelled Puerto Rico, Porto. And I used to have, they used to fly from Puerto Rico for $90. And I used to, I had a station wagon, so Iíd go out to the airport, pick them up, and I learned after the first trip Iím gonna take some blankets, cause they wouldnít have no jackets and so forth. And uh, I organized; I was running an organization called a Youth Harlem Project. It was funded by a foundation. But we had staff, and schools, and in the housing projects. So we had an East Harlem Parents Association, and we had an East Harlem Tenants Association. And uh it was an, to me it was one of my best experiences. Uh, cause like, we organized a credit union on the, in the (inaudible) union settlement. I suggest that the whole community become a part of it. In a matter of no time, you had $5 million, you know. And the credit unionís still going. Uh, cause always weíve been sharing with the people, you know. And uh, but that was a tremendous experience culturally. Cause I worked with Puerto Ricans, I worked with Italians, uh, like uh, Iím trying to think of the guy who this country used to infiltrate Mussoliniís army; uh, his mafia dude. Hang on, Iím gonna remember. Anyway, I knew him and the other thing, when the cops came around the union settlement to spy on the Italians, we said no man, we aint going for that shit. These are our neighbors man, these are, this is our community. And they looked out for us, you know what I mean. Like I remember, that the Italian women can only get out when I invite them to a meeting. Once a year theyíd go to the ball where the men were. They have big parties. So they loved being on my committee cause they could get out of the house. But these guys checked me out, you know, it wasnít no bull shitting. And I admired that, you know. And the uh, now the Puerto Ricans, they liked to have their wives come out to get them after the meetings. They be so macho so that if you donít come get me Iím gonna beÖ And Iíll never forget, I meant, Iím running a meeting, Puerto Rican guyís chairperson. All the members are black women. So about 9 oíclock, he sends his wife out to get coffee. Man these black womenÖ Is he out of his mind? How come he doesnít go (laughs)? Well, Iíll never forget that, and then heÖ They didnít ever tell him what they were upset about. But when he said, letís adjourn now; weíre not ready to go yet. He said, can we just have some coffee? Naw, I donít like coffee, coffee makes me sick. They were letting him know they didnít like what he was doing. And I had to tell him after the meeting, cause I couldnít tell him during, that, I mean, the cultural differences. You know, you send your wife out. Cause I donít know a brother send his wife out. You know.

AA

Yeah, yeah.

PW

So it was that kind of cultural thing. And uhÖ

AA

So you were in, in East Harlem for how long?

PW

ĎTil about 1963 when I was invited to Columbia. By the way, I wrote a, I wrote a paper on neighborhood planning and union settlement which I gave at a settlement conference. I always felt that was why I was invited to Columbia. Cause I told them today I wonít have a right to plan for us. That we have a right to involve ourselves in our own planning. In fact, I wrote the first men proposal. That was an antipoverty proposal. And what I did was I had something like, I divided the neighborhood into ten areas; ten smaller areas. And each area had about 90 jobs paid for by the poverty program. And each area had a role in governance of the whole thing. I always believe in governance, I still believe in it. Uh, and uh, when they talk about that proposal in that community, they say man, everybody got a piece of the action, cause so many people got jobs so. And they began to control the community. And uh, one of the things that happened, uh, the Italian gang, the Eagles, came down on the Dragons, the Puerto Rican gang. And who got, who got locked up? The Dragons. Why? Cause all the drugs were Italian, right? So the Italians, you know, they arrested them, but they got sent home until the case came up. So I used that to teach the Puerto Ricans the power of politics. So they begin to organize politically, you know. And uh, just as a side line, uh I was working, I had a student at Columbia that was working with a gang in Wilmington, Delaware. And they, and the gang was being harassed uh, by the cops. He invited me down, I later found he was inviting me down to make him legitimate with the black gang. Cause they didnít trust him (laughs). They kept giving him, you knowÖ The moment I got there, he never told me what it was. But when I got there I realized what it, what it was.

AA

You knew what was happening.

PW

And so I suggested that they organize politically. They elected their gang leader to the state legislature. Jesse Miller. I have a letter from Herbert, Hubert Humphrey praising me for seeing the positive value of this kind of thing. And uh, like, I used to work with Sunny Carsonís group in Brooklyn, and they had that same positive attitude. Cause they had a right to have a voice in their own community. And uh, most of the social workers who work with the gangs treat them as though they were (inaudible) criminals and all this kind of stuff.

AA

Who invited you to Columbia?

PW

Uh, I was invited to teach in the uh, in the theatre department, Community Organizations. And the Dean, at the time was Mitch Ginsburg. He and I were good friends. He knew me before. See there was a guy by the name of Mollen, M-O-L-L-E-N, who ran the city planning commission. He didnít like my statement. Cause I talk about our right to manage our own lives, you know, and to control our own community. And the director of union settlement wanted me to go down and meet with him. Thatís why I figured, you know. And I couldnít figure out why he wanted me to meet unless he wanted (inaudible). Iím no Tom. Uh, but I began to realize from that, thatís where they wanted me, you know. And but we most like, slip into that position. But I did meet with the guy. And I didnít tell him. I just said if youíve got any questions about anything I said. He has no question. Shortly after I got a letter would I come over and join communist. And then at Columbia, most of the black teachers avoided me. And theyíd used to tell me, Iíd have lunch with my students. They say why donít you have lunch with the faculty, and Iíd say no, I want to enjoy my lunch (laughs). These guys want to ask me questions like, what do I think about having Adam Clayton Powell? Heís the baddest dude ever (inaudible) on the plank, man. They would have written you all kinds you got something critical on, you know. And there was a guy up at uh, Harvard, who was always writing negative stuff about Adam. Heís, he took the position that because Adam looked like a white man, that thatís why we was voting for him. But Adam was blacker than most black men. Not only that, remember the book on the mulattos?

AA

Which one? Sharshi, McIntyreís book?

PW

Uh, no, no. It was long before that.

AA

Oh, ok.

PW

Anyway, they only had about one page on Adam. Cause the mulattos didnít accept him cause, you know, he was black first. And uh, Iíll have to dig up that book. But they had a big section on DuBois and you know.

AA

How long were you at Columbia?

PW

Ten years. And I left Columbia, man Iím so glad youíre doing this. Cause I was asked to plan (inaudible) College. And Al Van and Jim Palmer and I were the three blacks on the planning committee. There were four whites. And I aint, by the way I considered it one of the best jobs I had. And uh, Iíll never forget uh, Sonny came by one day and said, man, Iím glad youíre out here on the inside. Sonny Carson, I said man, donít worry, you want to get in, come on, Iíll open the door. And what I found is that blacks who would want to complain, they wanted you to complain for them. They didnít want to come in and make their own complaints. I said man, Iím, thatís bullshit, I put away the white man. Unless you in, you tell them what you want to tell them. If I agree with you all, Iíll support you. But Iím not gonna run you all, anyway, uhÖ And during that time I working, working with Jim Palmer was a beautiful experience. He told me the story about how uh, Edgar Hoover has film Martin in a hotel on 42nd St. and (inaudible) Ave. I forget the name of it. Hyatt Regency, and J. Edgar Hoover wanted to release the film to embarrass Martin, expose him. But L.B.J. wouldnít let him do it. So Jim Palmer went to Washington to look at the films with L.B.J. and he said that L.B.J. was looking at the film. He said, hey boy, turn that back man, let me see that again. Now this other thing Iím gonna share with you. Ben Chaney lives in New York. Iím on a committee with him. He discovered that L.B.J. and the state of Mississippi gave Goodman and Forno $1 million dollars each to families. Nothing to the Chaneyís. He went, Ben whoís down on 42nd St., heís in the same office with Ramsey Clark, you know, thatís sort of a guess. And he went to the L.B.J. library in Texas and documented the gift. By (inaudible) on the senate, I mean, why hell, why didnít he give it to the Chaneyís also? A million dollars. And uh, but anyway, so I resigned from Columbia, thinking I was going to be teaching at (inaudible), cause I wanted to be in a black community, you know. My experience at Morehouse, my experiences uh, (inaudible), in fact the only touchdown I havenít made in college football was against the (inaudible) Cookman, in Florida (laughter), Daytona Beach. And by the way, thatís where Jackie went to spend two months before he went into the majors. He get himself together. Thatís the first park named after him, Daytona Beach. And that was a smart idea, going to a black campus and getting your stuff together, and uh, so uh.

AA

So you resigned.

PW

Pardon.

AA

You resigned from Columbia?

PW

I resigned from Columbia.

AA

Getting ready to teach, but then that didnít work out?

PW

Huh?

AA

What happened?

PW

Well, I uh, just resigned, thatís all. I mean like now thatís like a uh, people introduce me as though that was the biggest thing I did in my life. That a bitch (laughs). It bothers me, you know what I mean?

AA

Well, you mentioned Princeton.

PW

Huh?

AA

You mentioned Princeton.

PW

All right. At PrincetonÖ

AA

When did you go to Princeton?

PW

I did the pilot study leading to Upward Bound Program. I had 40 students from the state of New Jersey and uh, who were on campus for the summer. And uh, most of them were like gang members. And one of the things I found out which youíll never see in any report, if a guy mess up in class, they would visit him at night and tell him, cut that shit out man, we want to have some, we want this program for other kids after we leave. Iíll never forget that. And I can never share that with the white boys cause they always thought gangs were, you know, thugs, you know, mafia or something. So I never shared it with them. But, every one of the kids that was visited showed significant improvement in the opinion of the teacher who did not know he was visited. I mean there wasÖ

AA

Who visited him?

PW

Pardon?

AA

Who, who visited him? Who? Who went to make the visit?

PW

Oh, the kids did.

AA

So, if one was messing up, then they would have a discussion that night.

PW

Yeah, they would show up in his room that night. And not only let me in on it, but only let the faculty in on it. So theyíd go ahead and knock on the guyís door and tell him, cut that shit out man and get your work (inaudible). And uh, in fact, the only guy who didnít go to college was a gang member. Cause he was so busy organizing. Now nobody ever visited his room, you know what I mean? And uh, but 39 of them ended up in college. And uh, I visited all of their families in New Jersey, cause I knew when the families came to Princeton University theyíre gonna be in a strange mother of a place so I wanted them to know somebody. And one of the exciting things that happened, when they went to the barber shop, they didnít have Princeton stuff on. A bunch of black students (inaudible). So the guy would not cut their hair, they went to the white barber cause thatís where the guys on the campuses went. And the black barber was miles away. So they met with the director of the program, a white guy. He said, listen, we want you sitting in the chair; they organize this by the way, when we come into the barber shop on Saturday morning. So he was sitting there getting his hair cut, they walk in, the barber says, sorry kids, I will not be able to serve you. The guy stood up for the first time in his life, he said, listen, if you donít cut these guys hair, Iíll close the shop down (laughter). Iíll never forge it. And he was, man he was happy about having that opportunity in his life, you know. And uh, but the black students whom, many of whom I knew, they were ducking that, you know. There was a white girl in the program, Iím walking in the library one day, they wouldnít let her use the library. She was a uh, teacher in the program. I said listen, sheís a member of the faculty. (Inaudible) that old male shit. I remember when I met another white student told me he was the fastest track man in Florida. I said you ever hear of Boy Hayes? He said, year mister, but we donít run against blacks (laughs). Cause the guy still calls himself the fastest man. Isnít that something? I mean the illogic of it all. Anyway uh, anyway, that was the pilot program for the Upward Bound Program. And later onÖ

AA

You mean pilot for the country?

PW

Yeah. Later on they had a conference in New Orleans. We took over the conference on the basis that these programs with a high number of black students should have black leadership.

AA

What year was that?

PW

I donít know. I have the report. Iíll find it.

AA

Approximately.

PW

Oh, God. Well Princeton was 1964. That was the year that (inaudible) and Chaney and Goodman got it, on June 21st. And by the way, I want to mention this. The only good thing that J. Edgar Hoover ever did, in my opinion, he sent a mafia dude into the jail in Mississippi to find out where the bodies were. And he slipped a gun into the guy and the guy put the gun in the KKKerís mouth (end of tape). See I would say that the meeting in uh, New Orleans (pause), I have to look it up. But anyway, the thing about it was uh, we took over the meeting, and there were some brothers who were working with the whites. So they only come to our caucus to uh, go back to the whites. And we knew the guy was doing it. He never picked up the fact that we knew he was a Tom. And uh, we presented out position, and we said, you can ask questions but you cannot evaluate it. You can ask questions for clarification, like what does mother fucker mean?

AA

Correct.

PW

But donít tell us that we shouldnít do this; this is our program. And then we made a plan for meeting in Washington with, with the Upward Bound staff and the Department of Education. Right there and then at the meeting and we showed up, up in Washington. And I actually have letters in my files from colleges across the country who thanked us for bringing that to the attention. Cause they would never hired a black guy. But Iím not sure what kind of blacks they got. Cause I would say from the community control movement here in Harlem, the biggest weakness for the black staff that we got jobs for. They never uh, like the ones in Harlem became uh, principals, not one of them has ever thanked me. The Puerto Ricans have thanked me, Italians have thanked me, the Jews and the Irish have a lock on the exam process. Most of the principals were male Jews and female Irish, and uh, so you knew some Puerto Ricans got in, some Italians got in. See one of my uh, mentors was Dr. Leonard Cavello, who was a principal of Ben Franklin High School. Ben Franklin uh, had uh, a basketball team that for three years won the PAL, PSAL. Sonny Woods, Eddy Yummer, guy by the name of John Wilson, another guy by the name of Jerome Bailey. The other guy is an artist now out in Levistown, forgot his name. But anyway, for three years in a row, they won the city wide championship. And Bobby Wonzer, I donít know if you ever heard of him, played with the Rockefeller, with Rochester. He was the sixth man for three years (laughs). Thatís right. Yet when the NBA started, you know they had no blacks. And uhÖ

AA

So uh, the chronology, the chronology, you know. You were at Columbia for ten years, then you uhÖ

PW

Well, uh, see after I left East Harlem I went to Columbia and uh, when I left Columbia thatís when I came to uh, nah, nah. I worked planning uh, Medgar Evers for about two years I guess, you know. And Medgar Evers would never hire me. I mean people hire me on a part-time basis. But they were you know, the Western Unions were taking over various departments, and they, they had this colonialized kind of education and uhÖ

AA

Did youÖ

PW

They didnít have a warrior mentality and uh, what is embarrassing to me, I left a white institution and went to a Negro institution and they were afraid of me (laughs). I mean it was sad, you know what I mean? It just, says something about our, you knowÖ

AA

And this was, this was in the mid 60ís; or this was in the 70ís?

PW

That was late 60ís, early 70ís. Cause see my last class at Columbia, and I will send you a copy of the report, I did a paper on it, was a class at Hamilton Hall with Bill Sale, Sam White, uh, a whole bunch of young guys uh. Guyís father was a lawyer in Newark. He defended Brocka when Brocka got arrested. Anyway, they were all in my class. And uh, I assigned them to various groups in the community like the Panthers, Wallace, Democrats. In fact, they could not get into Wallaceís club. He said we donít want you (claps). Nope, nope we donít want any volunteers. And uh, one guy I sent back to his community to organize a political boy scouts. He almost got run out of his own community. I said man, donít come here, that call my non-racism and so forth, and uh, but uhÖ And one of the things I dug up that they, youíll see in this paper, Iíll have to mail it to you, that the white man is the original Uncle Tom. I got that out of uh, uh, a guy by the name of White Streaker.

AA

William (inaudible).

PW

Organization man, organization man. That was my analysis. Any by the way, the students agreed with me. And they thanked me for it, youíll see in this paper. And I even got some of the Jews who had never lived in the Jewish community cause theyíre like the military and so, to get in touch with their own cultures. And the most exciting part in í68, is that every night I was there with the students at Hamilton Hall. Cause thatís where my class was and thatís where Bill and those guys took over the building and uhÖ But the elevator operator was a brother. As soon as I hit the elevator heíd take me up to my class (laughs). When I came out, he come down first and go then go back to the (inaudible). And these white guys (inaudible), they would never say a word (laughs and claps). And uh, then there were some uh, the students felt that if they, the SAS, Students for African American Society, and the student body organization which were mainly liberals, if they could come together in one group they could take over the whole thing. Cause every day guys wearing yellow ribbons, pink ribbons, the administrators would send them out there. Iíll never forget, the president saying to Mark Rudd, why are you so political? Mark Rudd say, you guys are political. Got shut up. And uh, anyway, so I would meet with each group once a week. I wish I had a tape recorder or video then. The funny thing about, the liberals would always ask me what the radicals say about them. What did Mark Rudd, they donít mention you guys. The meeting would end, and they only came to find out, I used to go up on Saturday morning with the SDS. See SDS was the youth group for the league from (inaudible) Democracy. Wyatt Rudson, Michael Harrington, and every time we go up on Saturday, about 4 a.m. Iíd get a call from some board member. I donít know who those guys, who knew me. Listen, will you look out for Communist literature? You know, I never did, but they were always calling to ask me, bring back any Communist literature. And they just (inaudible) far left, you know what I mean? And uh, but I took my kids with me, they enjoyed it.

AA

So where did you work after Columbia?

PW

Iím trying to think. Damn. For awhile I did some guest stuff at Medgar Evers. Oh, so we had developed a reading program. Uh, which ought to be used where the parent reads the instructions into a tape recorder and the child carries it out. We were using it in the prisons throughout New Jersey. Where the fathers and mothers would join, would make a tape, we take the tape into the home. Of course, they send all their messages and so forth. Very successful program. Every kid we send into the public school was reading. And uh, but it was too threatening if you ask me, cause uh, too successful. It was tested by ETS, you know, and uhÖ Iím trying to figure out what I did after Columbia. I did something. Oh, (inaudible) 1968 and uh, we developed a parent decision-making educational model.

AA

What was the idea when you set up Afram?

PW

Pardon?

AA

What is Afram?

PW

Uh, itís an educational research corporation. And over the years weíve done a lot of writing, done research, evaluated educational programs. Like we evaluated Borakaís Africa, Africa free schools; evaluated Masterís Educational Special School up in Boston. But the main thing we developed this parent education model, decision-making, where we put decision-making on the national follow through map. And we had programs in nine cities in five states: Little Rock, Michigan, Boston, and ended up in Washington D.C. And uh, I donít know if you know Ken Haskins?

AA

Yeah, yeah.

PW

Well, you know, Ken was really my best friend, you know. And he always ran the principal center up at, up at Harvard; and uh, tremendous guy man. And he died of cancer. And the guy who developed the reading program, Greg, also died of cancer. Iím just wondering why the hell they left me here. And uhÖ

AA

Well let me ask you this. From that time Ďtil now, what has been your main activity?

PW

Uh, I would say archiving, getting information around the country, uh, uh, man, uh, and serving my people. Since I work with public housing tenants, parents, Iíve been active with some neighborhood groups. I would say that uh, I have a problem with a lot of neighborhood groups cause theyíre bullshitting. And uh, see I used to have something I called the bullshit test. Iíd say that to people. And I remember uh, some guy wrote to me from California. Like a lot of guys send me information about their doctoral dissertations. Like weíve had two doctorals done here, one on Community Control and one on the uh, New York Renaissance for its coming out soon. And the one on Community Control, Iíll make sure you get a copy of it. A sister up at Harvard did it. Which reminds me, when Ken was at Harvard, one of the students wanted to do a doctoral dissertation on my work, and a brother up there, forgot his name, you probably know him, wouldnít let her do it.

AA

Martin Keelson?

PW

Huh?

AA

Keelson?

PW

Nah, I knew, knew Keelson, I was on a panel with him. This is uh, this guy was at Syracuse at first, cause when he was at SyracuseÖ

AA

Oh you mean, I know who you mean, uhÖ

PW

Cause his daughter just did a study comparing the black college experience with the white college experience. Anyway, see my daughter was at Syracuse when he was there. As far as I was concerned he was bad news, and uh, when he got to Harvard, he wouldnít let this student, whom I knew well, do a study on me.

AA

What, uh, what was your first experience in a library?

PW

Say that again?

AA

Your first experience in a library?

PW

Yeah, good question, man that was aÖ When I was at City College, uh, I did a paper on the second year course leading to a Bachelorís in Science where in addition to the scientific analysis I used (inaudible), I used examples from novels and so forth and I used the library a lot then. And after I handed the paper in, one day Iím walking in the library, three faculty had gone there checking out my paper cause they didnít, they didnít believe it. And what I did, I just followed them around finding out what books they checked out that they had (laughs) on the books that I footnoted. Cause they didnít believe I could make that kind of connection, know. And uh, but also the DuBois experience. Cause I read all of DuBoisís stuff and I realized in my own, from my own prospective desk, he probably would not recognize in practice a lot of the theories he talked about. And then, I was educated a lot by people in the community. Like Iíll never forget one day a guy whoís dead now and been in the joint, he said to me Iím gonna walk down the street and Iím going to show you every guy whoís been in the joint, and uh, I couldnít, you know I would have guessed that maybe five people, at least 20 people. He just give me a little signal. He knew right away that theyíve been in the joint. And he also taught me something else. He said the best time that you end up being into a guyís life where he commits a second crime, cause the first crime he commits, he made a mistake, man, goddamn. Families are (inaudible), he never been in trouble before. And the parole officer, man, I never seen him before. But the second time, the guy says, man maybe something wrong with me. And parole officer, you come in my (inaudible) again. And the mother says, uh huh, we got to get on his behind. And uh, I shared this with a lot of parole officers. But, see, theyíre not into the life of the people. UhÖ

AA

Have you ever known, other black archivists like yourself, in the community or in the library?

PW

Oh yeah. Um, good question, Iím trying to think who they are. I never met Vanderzee, but I remember when they found his stuff. Ken Clark found it. So as you know, Iím aware of that. Uh, I do know others, Iím just trying toÖ

AA

Well, I mean you, youÖ

PW

Uh, well itís amazing I canít think of it.

AA

But, early, you, you, when did you first go to the Schomberg?

PW

(inaudible) Uh, when they hired a white guy as the archivist. So we picketed. I have pictures of the picket. And uh, in fact, thatís how Howard got there. We ran a guy by the name of Wendell Ray out. He went back to the University of Pittsburgh. And uh, one day I heard him and John Clark on the radio. He trashed Clark for even raising the question about a white archivist. And see by the way, I wasnít against a white archivist but I felt if heís white, we ought to check him out and he ought to be able to sit and talk. But he would, every time Iíd walk into Schomberg, heíd run. And uhÖ

AA

But you had been in the Schomberg before that.

PW

Um, Iíd been there but uh, not extensively.

AA

What about uhÖ

PW

See I knew uhÖ

AA

Jean?

PW

The curator, uh, isnít that something?

AA

Jean is her name? Jean? Jean?

PW

Jean Hudson. And uh, cause sheís, we used to have lunch together at 22 West down on 25th Street, 135th Street. And Dr. uh, (inaudible) Arnold Hedgeman was there practically every day and uh, another guy from NAACP was there. So weíd have nice discussion. And a guy by the name of Bennett who organized the national movement to establish a Martin Luther King holiday. He sent in, he took six million signatures to Washington. Uh, I have a picture of it some where.

AA

Just a second.

PW

I didnít mention Mississippi.

AA

No.

PW

See every year I would take my studentsÖ

AA

From, from Columbia?

PW

Yeah, in fact, Iím glad I got this, cause uh, see I wrote the think piece on the Community Controlled Movement at Columbia. Now, there had been an earlier piece suggesting that we change the curriculum to include African History and so forth. But I added a piece about, we should run all the principles out, our own principles. And uh, I was, Columbia was getting so many calls they hired another secretary. But they didnít tell me. I found out later, this new person sitting over there, cause one day she asked me do you have any papers on your Community Controlled Movement; can you put them on the table? I come there one day, thereís maybe eight guys from around the country: Northwestern, Harvard, Yale, reading this stuff. But they never told me that they were getting this many inquiries. And what made me think about it is that they still donít want us to control ourselves. And uh, thatís what most of us have come to conclude now.

AA

So, did you ever meet Malcolm?

PW

Oh yeah. See, in 1963, one of the black faculty invited Malcolm to do a workshop on human relations, you know, at Columbia. And uh, by the way, Iím going to send you a statement that a white boy did who met Malcolm at a (inaudible) and uh, uh, I published it. Make a note to make sure I send it to you. But uh, cause I sent it to Spike Lee, who (inaudible) the impression of Malcolmís ability to deal with white folks in a non-hostile way, or whatever you want to call it. But he didnít use it, cause he, he had a vested interest in the other thing. But anyway, Iíll never forget, when Malcolm walked he had a fruit of Islam with him. So he sat down and they brought him some tea. He passed the tea to the fruit of Islam, fruit of, taste it, passed it back to him. No discussion, just did it, it was beautiful. I mean, you couldnít have staged it better. It wasnít staged by the way, it was real. Cause he was checking that shit out, for real. He not gonna trust them, why should he trust them? And uh, at one point, some, at the end of the presentation, first, most of the white faculty came back from all over the world from vacation, cause it was in the, it was the end of the summer. And most of the people had made up their minds, they were going to be against what he said. Therefore integration was, and they didnít mean mutual, they mean subservience, you understand that. Uh, and every time theyíd ask him a question, it was a double question. So heíd have to turn around and say this was (inaudible Ė laughs). And it was a brilliant presentation, absolutely brilliant.

AA

Was it taped?

PW

Uh, it probably was, but; it was in the summer of 1963, you might write to them for it, you might be able to get it. At Columbia University of Social Work. Itís on 113th Street now. Cause I been (inaudible) it was a black guy who called the workshops.

AA

But is that the first time you met Malcolm?

PW

Yeah. Cause I rode back to Harlem with him. Iíve tried to explain to a lot of people, most people donít explain. Cause people see Malcolm as Messiah, which is wrong. Like uh, Iíll never forget one woman who (inaudible) and misunderstood him. She said, Malcolm, Minister Malcolm, Iím gonna follow you all the way. He said, no, come to your own conclusions, come up with your own opinions. Uh, she, I donít think she understood that, cause she still talks about him as Jesus; like meeting Jesus. And uh, see my concern, is that he might have seen me as a tong, cause Iím Columbia. And uh, by the way, and thatís what happened to me in my life, you know. Like some street brother will see me over a Columbia games, think Iím, think I sold out. But Malcolm never treat me that way. It was a brotherly experience. And uh, I donít think I could explain it to most people. But we rode all the way from 91st Street to 121st Street in his car, and we just talked, you know.

AA

In the Oldsmobile?

PW

Oldsmobile, the Oldsmobile, thatís right. I knew, I knew a guy who later bought the Oldsmobile, you know. And uh, thatís something. See, very few people would mention that. Uh, and uh, now the other thing I found out, see, when I ran the follow through parent program, I hired Muslim sisters. And most people around here would not hire Muslimís, you know. Well, I would hire the guys who had been on drugs who were trying to get off, you know. And one guy I hired, I said if you can put this coat rack together, you got a gig. Took him about two days to do it but he did it. And now heís, by the way, off the drugs, and he runs a drug program himself. But frankly, I was never sure if an ex-addict can out con me. And so I give up on it. No most psychiatrists can deal with it. I mean, they just make money off of it, they donít, these guys too smart, man.

AA

Tell me when and why did you start the Malcolm X Loverís Network?

PW

Man, there was a brother in Indianapolis, you knew of himÖ

AA

Omar.

PW

Omar. What was his last name?

AA

Baroque.

PW

Yeah. For some reason, he and I started writing to each other and sharing information and he suggestedÖand I went from there, you know. And uh, but I also felt that Malcolm had a special message if we could get it to people. Uh, see I never understood why Malcolm joined the nation, even though I understood what the nation contributed to him, understand that?

AA

Mmm. Hmm.

PW

That is uhÖ

AA

Well, he had family in the nation.

PW

Yeah, but the guy was, you know uh; see most of the guys I met in the nation, even now, if I were to read something in the paper about them, they say man, I canít touch that. They still wonít talk about it, you know what I mean? Uh, and uh, like Ben Chapis, you know he got in this whole thing with women, nobody wants to talk to you about it, you know.

AA

As you think of all the people you have metÖ

PW

Say that again.

AA

Of all the people you have met who have been interested in Malcolm, who are the people that you respect most?

PW

Youíre one of them. Omar is another one. I have a brother in Queens, Omar Chavez. I donít know if youíve ever met him. But he did, he did several interviews on tape for Malcolm. Not with Malcolm, it was people around Malcolm. And uh, this guy, whenever heís up by the museum, heís in a trance man. He just gets taken away, and uh, I wish you could get a chance to see the museum because it has a big mural, and a lot of pictures taken by Hagenís, you know Malcolmís photographer. But they didnít have a picture of John Bolige and uh, I have questions about that. Cause John Bolige made a contribution. Whether you respect that or not, those guys out here now had been on drugs all those years, man we, we, how, so Iím trying to still deal with your question about Malcolm. Omar, Queen Mother, he had tremendous respect for. I would say Baraka, Sonny Carson, Al Grans, Jitsu Wheelsy, uh, and Percy. Percy Sutton; heís right down the street by the way. He had a lot of respect for Malcolm. Charlie Rengel, uh, Alice Corningday, sheís dead. Sheís an activist around here. In fact uh, she saw Malcolm at the march on Washington; told me the next morning he was there. Cause see, people in Harlem knew where Malcolm was every minute. Cause if they were on the East side, somebody would mention, Malcolm just went that way, you know. It was amazing, I mean how they knew where he was and what he was doing. Like, Iíll never forget the day that the cops went into the mosque. There were helicopters flying over. So everybody started heading over to 116th Street. I wanted, I walked from 131st to 116th Street. And Iíll never forget when I got there all these junkies, heroin junkies were there. And they were getting straightened man. They were standing straight. I mean, like it had an impact on them. And I remember Faracon saying that the young kids in the school wanted to fight. Let us help out. And you know, I donít know if you remember that book, one cop was killed when he went in there. And they, they never were able to convict anybody else. Cause they had no right going in there. Iím sure thereís some other people.

AA

Sure.

PW

And Iíd like to add their names because uh, some of them were in Boston. I knew people in Boston who knew him uh, but uhÖ

AA

Who else has been material like you?

PW

Omar. Omar and the brother in Queens, uh. I, I, leave me that question, Iíll have to send youÖ Cause see a lot of people send me information. I got people in California, people in Atlanta send me information, and a lot of information they send me I would never be privy to, you know, if they didnít send it to me. See, Malcolm is the most talked about individual in the black community. I mean, heís quoted on every issue. Somebody will find something that Malcolm would have said if he was still living or did say, you know. And so uh, almost anything affecting black people, his name comes up in some way, or people make a reference to him. Yeah. But like this guy, Meat Patty Fritz; every time I say him, heís talking about Malcolm. And Iíll never forget his statement; I would like to have had him as my son-in-law. Thatís the highest commendation a black man can receive, man; from another black man. Share my daughter.

AA

How many people do you know around now who knew Malcolm?

PW

Oh, a lot of them. A lot of them. Like uh, see Malcolm suspended more people than any (inaudible) in the nation. Cause he wasnít bullshitting. See if you messed up, in another month, theyíd say sell more papers, shine my shoes, bring me a sister. The guys tell me that calling a sister, you know like a sister, dark out here, the brothers out here, walk a sister home, end up in her bed, the sisterís. The guy would go off to sleep, 3 a.m. the sisterís get on the phone call Malcolm. Minister Malcolm, brother Geraldís over here, heís sleeping. Malcolm would come over, 3 a.m. in the morning, wake the dude up. And when he put you out in the mosque, it was for a year and four. For a year you could not come into the mosque, and for four years you could never, you couldnít get a leisure position. He had high standards, very high standards. And he, he took it serious that he had a, that he was trading out people. And by the way, see over the years, every now and then, some guy would ask me to write his letters to the, to the (inaudible). And every instance they were asking for external control; stop me from beating my wife, stop me from using drugs. So they, they wanted to be controlled by another source. And uh, I donít know if thereís ever been a study of that kind of a personality, you might know. Uh, I donít know, but uh. See that was one of the things I couldnít understand, cause Malcolm didnít want anybody control him and he didnít want to control anybody else. So that, that must have been a very uncomfortable network for him, you know. And uh, Iíll never forget Faracon saying to me, once we were on a plane somewhere, that Malcolm made the mistake of getting closer to the honorable Elijah than his own son, you know. Like Cain and Abel thing. And I always felt that Wallace sort of like set him up when he told them about the women, cause Malcolm was the heir apparent. You know things were going along nicely. But when the things came about the women, Wallace walked right in there, you know. But I had a lot of respect for Wallace in terms of his metaphysical approach, you know. In fact, he changed the whole structure as such that it wasnít top down, it was group up, you know. And uh, and when I was planning, involved in planning, thatís the process we developed. Bill Bimbom who hired all of us was like a little dictator. We said nah, we will make the decisions and you ratify them. And by the way, we planned Medgar Evers as an independent college. Independent institution. We wanted to make it like a, a southern institution in the north, but independent but Bill Bimbom sat down with one of the Kennedyís and before we knew it, he was (inaudible) it was project number seven. Thatís the seven, Malcolmís number at that time in New York City. And theyíll never know how much that damaged him. Cause theyíre sitting around waiting for money from both resident developing the way some of the black colleges develop themselves, you know, black churches support.

AA

Now, I uh, I want to try to put up a page and take one month to feature you and the material on the website.

PW

Ok. Yeah. And Iíll, Iíll send you some more stuff by the way.

AA

So we need to plan that.

PW

Yeah, ok. Very good. Iíd appreciate that.

AA

And then we could also put all of that information on a CD, CD Rom. And thatís even something that you can market and sell.

PW

Ok. Good, I need that (laughs). Ok. Good. And uh, see Iím gonna go through my stuff cause I donít send you as much as I should. One thing my damn, I had a young guy come in cause he wanted to use my office and he messed up my email. And Sam is supposed to be working on it now. You know Sam White? And uh, Iíve been trying to understand him for years. Cause you know Bill Sells is out of New Jersey. Other guys are doctors, lawyers, and so forth, you know. And Sam still walking on down the street. I know he was married to a medical doctor you know, that he met at Columbia. I knew her, he had two kids by her. He came down to New York from Connecticut.

AA

But look, wait a minute. Iím getting ready to end this tape. So I want to ask you. Weíve discussed your life history and your work with Malcolm. And Iím just wondering, is there anything else youíd like to say to be part of this tape?

PW

Well, Iíd like to talk about Mississippi. Cause í62, I mean í63, í64, í65, I took students from Columbia from Mississippi. And we were never called them up, we just walk into Jackson and hang out wherever we could, into a church, this and that. And uh, while we were there, they elected a guy by the name of Walker to the state legislature. Cause uh, blacks had built a church, a community center in Holly Springs. But the whites would not sell them oil, so they could heat it up, so they knew they had a problem. So they started putting 24 hour guards around the building. And we used that struggle as a way to say this (inaudible). They elected the first guy to say (inaudible). And then there was a guy from CORE who became the democratic leader in Mississippi. Uh, cause uh, you know I went to uh, Israel with Chuck Stone, remember Chuck Stone?

AA

Sure.

PW

Heís out at the University of North Carolina. Paul Parks from Boston. Uh, this guy from Said Pree, and uh, a couple other people. And while we were there we visited the original Hebrew-Israelites of Damona. And you remember, on their way to Israel, they went through Liberia. See, Liberia is a big part of our history. Cause Liberia was you know established by African Americans.

AA

Sure.

PW

Plus, when I was at Morehouse, they had students when they graduated they headed right to Liberia. Cause some of them got killed when that previous revolution Dolgin, whatís the guyís name? The guy who took over from the family that ran Liberia for years.

AA

Yeah, the guy who took over after Tubman.

PW

Yeah, after Tubman, yeah.

AA

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

PW

Well some of them were killed at his revolution. They were students at Morehouse. Uh, and so, uh, Liberia has been part of it. And uh, so I worked in Mississippi those three summers and thatís where I met Chaney the first time. And then one of the white students did a book on it. And I knew Schwarner was a student at Columbia when I was there. And uh, Shirley Chisholm ran a day care center where I was assigned as a student. And uh, Iím trying to think where else there is. But, and uh, but I still feel itís a community controlled movement was probably the most significant thing I was involved in; trying to educate black kids. And we still havenít achieved it. And I do want to mention one of the privileges of my life, my kids. My son, David, has his own xerox company down on 30th Street. Each year they outsell everybody else and get a free trip to Hawaii. His area is from 14th to 42nd, east of Fifth Avenue, maybe the second or third richest area in the community. And uh, heís also into martial arts, and he also became a muslim. He went and did his Hodge in Mecca on the same day when college was funeralized here, February 24th. And so I know when I meet my grandmothers, theyíre going to say, Preston, what happened man? Didnít I raise you fire and brimstone Baptist, now youíre going and getÖ And then I have a daughter whoís a lawyer, my first one. Sheís a lawyer for Local 1199.

AA

Beautiful.

PW

The biggest union in New York City, hospital workers. And then I have a, my third child, runs a youth program, Brothers and Sisters of Soul. And uh, she just got the Harlem Renaissance Award from Avasenior Hospital, Avasenior Church. Cause see, Avasenior runs the schools in Harlem. One of the few churches thatís doing it. They run the uh, Thurgood Marshall School, 136th Street. And uh, they now own what was a small paradise, where Malcolm used to work as a waiter. And uh, we were trying to get them to keep it as small. They want to make a school out of it. And anyway, she won that award. She works with youth. And uhÖ (tape ends)