Ty Thompson

Interview by Natalie Saldarriaga, August 31, 2021

Transcript

*The video interview has been edited due to technical interruptions*

[0:03] Natalie Saldarriaga: Okay, so please introduce yourself. Tell us your name, where you’re from.

[0:09] Ty Thompson:Hi. My name is Ty Thompson and I reside in Bergen County, New Jersey. 

[0:15] Natalie: Okay, and how would you describe your cultural background?

[0:21] Ty: Mos Def said it best, “I’m black on both sides.” 

[0:24] Natalie: Okay.

[0:25] Ty: The meaning of what he said intrinsically and outward, but also I mean… My paternal family is from New York City. Um, his father was New Yorker, but from the West Indies. And my paternal grandmother is from Augusta, Georgia. There’s a whole story with that I just don’t have all of the information, but that would be a part two for you. Then on my maternal side, both of my grandparents are from Virginia. My grandmother from South Boston, Virginia, Halifax County. Where I ended up leaving New York and moving to. Um, and my grandfather, my maternal grandfather, was from I think it’s an unincorporated area of Virginia known as Zuni, but it’s toward, um, the Tidewater area. Probably like closer, the closest city would be Suffolk and that’s one of the seven cities in the Tidewater. But it’s country. They’re peanut sharecroppers 

[1:29] Natalie: Okay.

[1:30] Ty: And the story centers around my grandfather. My maternal grandfather and his maternal Uncle Willie Elam.

[1:42] Natalie: Okay, and.. 

[1:43] Ty: Archie Warren. My grandfather’s name was Archie Warren Sr. 

[1:47] Natalie: Okay, and did you meet your grandfather?

[1:50] Ty: Uh, my grandfather had a heavy hand in raising me that why…

[1:54] Natalie: Okay.  

[1:55] Ty: Yeah. 

[1:56] Natalie: Okay. Okay.

[1:56] Ty: When I left New York to move to Virginia I was with them. 

[1:59] Natalie: I see, I see. Okay. Alright. Alright, so go ahead and whenever…

[2:02] Ty: Oh, sorry. My mother, but my mother was from New York as well. She was from Long Island because that’s where they moved. 

[2:09] Natalie: Oh… 

[2:10] Ty:She’s from South Hampton. My father is from the Bronx. And they met at university. My university, Virginia Union. My father was a senior my mother was a… My mother was a senior, my father was a freshman. 

[2:21] Natalie: Okay. 

[2:22] Ty: So that kinda, yeah. A lot of Southern roots. 

[2:27] Natalie: And, did your mother move to New York after having met your father?  

[2:32] Ty: No, she cause she moved to New York from Virginia at like age seven. 

[2:37] Natalie: Okay.

[2:38] Ty: So when was at university, that I graduated. We all attended Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. That’s where they met. And they, that’s where they met. 

[2:48] Natalie: Okay, I see. But then what would you consider yourself? Like, are you from the South? Like what do you feel the stronger connection… 

[2:57] Ty: I’m a New Yorker.  I’m a New Yorker. You know me Nat I’m del calle 

[3:04] Natalie: That’s what I was waiting for that’s why I was like… 

[3:07] Ty: [laughs] Come on, you know I, um, I cut my teeth on the East Side of Harlem. So, but I’m a child of… I was raised by the village so I was everywhere. But I’m a native New Yorker and that’s what I represent, but I love Virginia as well. And I live in Bergen County, the greatest place on Earth, so just throw it all in. 

[3:27] Natalie: Okay, a nice mix. 

[3:29] Ty: Yeah, yeah. 

[3:31] Natalie: Alright, so if you’re ready you can go ahead and tell… well share the story with us.

[3:36] Ty: Okay, it’s not a long, long story. But like I said it’s a story that progresses in years and, um well it really doesn’t. Imma speak on it. So my grandfather A.G. Warren. His mother whom I also I knew, she… I was around her for a little while. She died when I was six. That’s the first death I ever experienced. Beatrice James, married name. I think her maiden name Elam. She left to go to New York. She met my step-grandfather, but the only grandfather I knew, Jimmy James. She left Virginia and went to New York, settled on Long Island where my mother’s from. And my grandfather and his, my Great-Uncle Stirlee. I don’t know how to spell that. Don’t ask me. I don’t even know if that’s two names or one. You know my people’s Southern so it might have been… Stirlee was always the… I met him he died when I was young too, but I met him a couple of times. But they stayed in Zuni with their uncle Willie and this, what… My grandfather was born in the twenties, yeah the Depression era. So he was raised in the Depression, Roaring Twenties and the end of the Depression, to the thirties. He came of age in the thirties, right. So, as black folk we hear these about how our great-greats had to walk twenty miles to school one way and [laughs] but he literally had to walk. He figured about two miles everyday one way. There was no bus. And him and Uncle Stirlee had to walk everyday. My Uncle Stirlee was older, but my Grandfather Archie was the alpha. Meanwhile the white kids got bused to their school everyday. So, the cliche, my grandfather did have to get to school everyday to bus wood for the stove. But this story really begins with the walk back home. So, two mile walk back home. Mind you I told you the white kids get bused to school so they also get bused from school. Of course they’re home a long time. I mean you figure ten year old boys can walk a couple of miles. So like I said the white boys get bused home. Grandfather, great-uncle walk home. Now, I figure maybe it takes twenty minutes to walk home or whatever. But in the time they’re walking home one day the white boys had already gone home and got on their bikes. And this is a country road now, so it’s not paved. And you know what a ditch is, right? But you from up here. A southern ditch on a country road is like your car run off it’ll crack an axle and it’s done. Like those ditches are kinda deep. So, the white boys got out of school and got their bikes and made like a toll road. Cross the bikes off. Now we going to speak frankly. Like I said I stand behind everything I say and the language is going to get a little… “Nigger walk in the ditch.” My Uncle Stirlee was a playboy, player type he never wanted smoke. My grandfather was a war veteran to be. He always wanted smoke. He was like, “I ain’t walking in no damn ditch.” He was ready to get it in. Uncle Stirlee is like “Nah, nah Archie, no, no. Nah.” And he looked at, he looked at my great-uncle and said “Alright, today. Only today,” and he swallowed his pride and he walked in the ditch while those white boys laughed at him. Very next day… Repeat. What I just told you about the day before. Walk to, white boys get bused, they go to school. Do what they have to do. Come home, walking. White boys get bused and again they are waiting for them. Toll road. “Walk in the nigger,” but Archie told Stirlee he was only going to do it that day. So unbeknownst to Stirlee before they made it back, before they left the schoolhouse, at some point, Pop took his lunch pail and filled it with gravels. Rocks, gravels, whatever dirt was… closed it up. Come walking down the road, “Get in the ditch nigger,” Archie told them, “Not today.” So one particular white boy stepped up, yammy, caught him dead in his face. Split his shit. Split it. Other white boys were terrorized. They went home. That boy did whatever. Archie and Stirlee went back home, to the house. Uncle Willie’s house. Willie Elam, this is where my great-great-uncle comes into play. Now, this the thirties. This is deep in the woods in Virginia. It’s active. Now I don’t know any particular incorporated branch or chapter of the Klan. But you know for a fact the Klan in our there. So they get back home… by the way my Uncle Willie had a famous quote, we’ll discuss that off camera. That can’t be discussed on camera. That would be a bit too much. Even for me. Um, but I will share with you when we cut the camera off. 

[9:50] Natalie: Alright. 

Ty: So, um, they go back home. They tell the story. Uncle Willie like alright. He knows what it is. They coming. “You just split a white boy’s face.” Uncle Willie got the gage, sitting on the porch. They come by later, but Uncle Willie was a black man of respect out there even back then. White men didn’t mess with him. For whatever reason. I don’t know. My grandfather never told me just somethings are just imperative you just. And they came and said, “Elam, we need your nephew.” Uncle Willie said, “Nah, you can’t have him.” I don’t want to keep capping or start capping I don’t know how far… that was the end of it obviously. But to end the story, grandfather was in Norfolk. 

[10:47] Natalie: You said he was in Norfolk.

[10:49] Ty: State. He went. Well he was… Norfolk has a military out there so he was there and I don’t know if he was leaving or coming in. But he said he was in a… like a Five-and-Dime store. Like an old… what would a Five-and-Dime be now? It’s like a little convenience store type, but back in the day you would have a section with the newspapers and the magazines and that’s kind of… you don’t really see that as much anymore, but even like if you went into Woolworths that would have its own section. So he says he’s in this little Five and Dime and he looks in the back of the store and he sees some eyes looking at him. Didn’t recognize the man, the white man, but he recognized the scar that came down his face from his forehead. They kind of looked at each other and it was what it was. And that’s the end of my little story. But this is something I didn’t ponder until like yesterday or today. This morning. If the story goes how it went so many times back then. There’d be no me. My grandfather would never have made it to adolescence. He’d never have started a family. He would have never went and fought for his country in the segregated army. But Willie Elam had that much stain back in the thirties. That the white man came for his nephew and Willie told them no and there was no retaliation at any point. Obviously but that was…

[12:37] Natalie: It’s so interesting like those little pockets of life. Where we learn this one thing that it’s black and white literally and figuratively, it’s black and white. But within these little communities there are like these exceptions or these moments in life or luck sometimes where just that one moment that one decision, that one person changes the whole future of a family, of a person. 

[13:02] Ty: Yeah, they said Willie Elam had a lot of, lot of respect out there. And it’s crazy because the one millionaire in the family Wesley Elam, the late Wesley Elam Sr. he made his bones in Carolina Research Triangle area. He owned about I think three McDonald’s and I’m pretty sure that’s a ninety-ten split how they do the franchise-y thing. So he ran three, he owned three McDonald’s in the Raleigh, Durham Chapel Hill area. He’s like the big guy out of the family he was. I know he helped out my mother when she needed for the house that she owned that I lived in Virginia. But that was his son, but that was my grandfather’s lude-dude. So my grandfather had a big part in Wesley being who he was, but I’m pretty sure that was Willie’s son. So that’s, my grandfather was that type of man of respect. A lot of great things he did in life. He was one of the first black selected to the Bridgehampton, Long Island school board and he did a lot for black people out in that area of Long Island, because people think about the Hamptons they think about the elite and that’s true, but the elite can’t run a town or city as far as who works in the store, who works in the field. Who does this and that. So, it’s a lot of black folk out there that never had really much any money that’s just where they were and he did a lot keeping that high school opened that my mother graduated from. This K through12 with like a hundred-and-something kids. They wanted to end that school five, six, seven times. But a lot of his efforts helped back in the day and they still fight that good fight. But that’s my lineage on that so there’s no me. Tyrone doesn’t meet Shareon in Virginia Union his freshman year. Meet that senior Delta and go head over heels cause she would have never been there if it wasn’t for my grandfather and his Uncle Willie Elam. So… 

[15:27] Natalie: Wow. 

[15:28] Ty: And I couldn’t think any like, uh, special quote stories. Anything like that. I didn’t… that was the only story…. And that’s the reason Nat why it took me so long… Should I go with this story? Cause I don’t know if it really fits the criteria how she really said it. But you know me and you know what I’m about. So when I let you know that my grandfather had a big hand in raising me and that was the man who raised him then you can get a little insight on to how I’m the person that I am. 

[15:55] Natalie: Definitely. 

[15:55] Ty: Unabashedly and unapologetically and proudly. 

[15:59] Natalie: Yeah. 

[16:00] Ty: It’s funny. I was talking to my lady and I was like, “You know I can’t say that I haven’t in my life had my issues. My self-confident issues things like that.” You know when you growing up? Growing up an academic kid in the church house-hold and I grew up in a tough era. So I had my little issues, self-confidence issues when I was younger which they eliminated… they evaporated a long time ago, but one thing I never in my life… ever once… I want to say this as a forty-two year old, hopefully forty-three year old black man in two weeks in America. I’ve never for one second of my life, one nano second ever been ashamed of my blackness. Not just the fact that I am a black man I mean the complexion of my skin. Everything. The grate of my hair. Everything. I have always loved and embraced my blackness and always will. I couldn’t… and you know I’m a historian. I could go back before 1619 you know that. I wouldn’t trade a damn thing. Even when I look at my struggle. Our struggles. If I could do it again, send me out a black boy from Shareon and Tyrone. No doubt. Never. Archie Warren has a lot to do with that. Black on both sides like Most Def said [unintelligible]

[17:41] Natalie: And is he the one who told you this story? 

[17:45] Ty: Archie?

[17:46] Natalie: Yeah. 

[17:47] Ty: Yes. Yes. 

[17:48] Natalie: And do you remember how old you were when you first heard this story? 

[17:51] Ty: Man. Young. See the thing you got to understand about my grandfather. You know I’m an orator so I had to get it from somebody. One thing to him everything was a life lesson with him. Like I wanted to tell you another story, but it was so bland. Like just to.. while we talking just another… So when we moved to Virginia, right? Um, he bought this beautiful. He bought this beautiful brick home. Three bedrooms, four bathrooms with another bedroom in the basement. Home had a damn two car garage. It was brick. It was part of the structure. It had no damn doors on it. 

[18:31] Natalie: [laughs]

[18:32] Ty: No doors. So one of my chores was to sweep the, as Archie Warren would say, “guh-rage”. It wasn’t garage, it was “guh-rage”. Mind you when I first moved there I was like ten. Stayed with them for about three years that’s when I was a roomie with my little cousin, the Marine. Then my mother bought a house and I moved with my mother. It’s a whole lot with that, but that was for the best. Um, but even when I was in high school like if I wanted… not even if I wanted to get away from my home, but just cause I loved my grandparents that much and they had such a hand in my life. I would go there for weekend. Or somedays granted I used to, the way Halifax County is. The elementary bus also picks up older kids and dumps them to another bus that goes to the middle school and high school so it was the same bus route. So I could still take the bus and get to high school from their house with no problem and the bus drivers knew me so I could do that. Seventeen years old. Full scholarship on the way to university, all that. You know what my job if I got off that bus at four o’clock on a Tuesday evening? Soon as I got in the house, put my books down? “Aight, Doc. Good to see you, now go sweep that guh-rage.” 

[19:56] Natalie: [laughs]

[19:58] Ty: Now, Nat. I bullshitted on that garage my whole life that I swept it. I probably only gave maybe only one decent good effort filled sweep because they had big good Roadmaster which was a big… it was a big ass garage and it always had a truck and a car in it. So I wasn’t getting down on my knees with the push broom and hell no. I’m sweeping the outside and sweeping off to the little cement pavement on to the grass. I’m not even picking it up. I don’t… who cares. My grandfather would always come out. Now, when I was ten, eleven years old and it wasn’t to his liking I might have gotten my ass whooped. But at seventeen, nah. We men. He’d come out and look and he always said one thing Nat. He would say, “Doc, never half way do a job.” And I don’t know if I ever told you that at Ebenezer but, not you personally, but cause I know you go a hundred. But that’s just part of my work ethic. That was instilled in me from a very young age. Never half way do a job cause if you gon’ have way do a job you not doing nothing. You wasting everyone’s time. Somebody going to have to come behind you and do the same job that you failed at. “So if you’re going to do it son, do it a hundred percent.” Another thing he taught me along that line, was and this has a big play in like the sports world today. Cause I look at athletes he says, “son if you sign a contract you work to the terms of that contract. You don’t get an attitude and decide that you don’t want to work because all the sudden you don’t like the contract. You signed it. You work to the terms of it. Now when it’s over and it’s time to renegotiate, then you go in there and get the dollar you’re looking for. But if you sign that contract you don’t bitch and complain. You go work.” That’s Archie Warren. Willie Elam instilled that in him. He passed it to me. So it’s was like… well he passed it to my uncles too. And then it got passed to me when I was like the fifth child because I spent so much time with them. But, yeah those are the men that really and of course I never met Uncle Willie. He was dead long before I came along. But he’s in me. 

[22:25] Natalie: Yeah. And going back to the original story. You said you were young when you first heard it, right? 

[22:33] Ty: Probably, uh, definitely before adolescence. 

[22:35] Natalie: Okay, do you remember your initial reaction? Did it like stick with you? Or…

[22:41] Ty: When you that young… See that’s the thing with it Nat. When you’re that young, no. It doesn’t resonate. When you ten, eleven years old you know a little bit about history you just getting… you’re being taught history. I’ll also say as a side, history should be taught at home first. Especially with black folks. I don’t care what they doing, banning critical race theory. That’s stupid because that’s not really what’s being taught. That… this is a side bar. I’ve always campaigned for black folks to teach they black children about themselves. If anything you go on in the schools and check the teachers, “No that’s not true.” And that’s what I’m trying to instill in Ryan right now. Like know your history. She’s on the way. 

[23:23] Natalie: [laughs] 

[23:24] Ty: But, um nah when you that age it doesn’t. It can’t because you don’t know enough. That’s why the older you get the story hits even harder. So that’s why now at forty-two it’s like when I think back to that story it’s like damn. And I always, that story always popped in and out of my mind. And it’s not something I think about often, but when you asked me about doing this and I was trying to think about stories. I was thinking on both sides like I wasn’t just jumping on one side of the family. And that another thing like I don’t know enough about my Thompson side. I know things but I don’t have enough to really give you something. Like I don’t wanna just be patchy, nah. 

[24:11] Natalie: So then what does that story mean to you today? 

[24:14] Ty: Everything. Cause that’s who I am. I would have been Archie. I just might not have made it to the second day. But I probably would have got killed that night. What? Especially at that age. Like I had a gap in my [laughs] being in which kinda like when I got to middle school it was a lot of pressure on academics and, “you can’t get in trouble”… “you can’t do this.” I grew up in an abused household so I fought a lot. I fought a lot. From like age eleven, twelve down to like five, six. I fought a lot. So we getting it in that day. So, I know it had a lot… it had whole lot because it’s who I am. 

[25:03] Natalie: Hm.

[25:03] Ty: It’s just an extension. It’s just… look at the lineage come straight from that mold. 

[25:14] Natalie: And within your family, you said your grandfather used to always tell you stories, right? 

[25:18] Ty: Yeah 

[25:20] Natalie: Apart from his own life, did he ever share with you stories about other family members, or anyone else? Were stories important in your household or knowing family history? Was that something that was important?       

[25:33] Ty: It was very important because him being a service man now. Like other family members per se, not like particular stories. Maybe things about them but a lot of our stories was about a lot of what he would tell me was like going back to his younger days. Like his service days like fighting in the segregated army in World War II and being on the other side of the world. My passion for baseball comes from him. So a lot of baseball stories about when I think he was at Fort per say and he met um.… I don’t know if they traveled through or whatever, but he saw Willie Mays and Hank Aaron play ball before the major leagues. Before blacks were allowed and that was what? 47′, Jackie Robinson, so of course that was war time. He talked about how he, like a lot of, he was a taught man so a lot of things didn’t make him impassioned or excite him. But when he spoke baseball, a lot of baseball stories and just correlations to life. Like one thing he would say, he played first base. He said, “Doc,” and referring to the ball being thrown to you as a first baseman he said, “ they can get too high, but they can’t get too low.” You don’t have to use baseball for that. 

[27:08] Natalie: You are your grandfather. [laughs]

[27:10] Ty: [laughs] You see, like really like. They can get too high, but they can’t get too low. So how do you remove baseball and apply that to life? The things that are out of your reach, that you can’t control you don’t worry about. But the things within your grasp in your control then you should be able to have something to do with the success of that. That’s kinda like wax on, wax off with Mr. Miyagi and Daniel son. You just, it doesn’t have to be baseball. So like a lot of, I don’t know if they’re parables or what, but a lot of things came from… another story he had a chance to make it to the major leagues. He had a chance to make it to the major leagues, um they were playing a white team, and this is like semi-pro ball because Zuni had they own team. His cousin Richard Warren that the only other name that I could remember, but they had their own team. So they were playing a white team from like Norfolk and my grandfather said he was two for three. He was up one for one, got another hit, he had one hit and then he got another hit and he was trying to stretch a single into a double. And he said he got to second and he said, “Doc, clear as day I was safe.” He said, “that umpire he called me out.” It was a white umpire. And my grandfather cussed him out to a fairly well. He got put out the game. And they went with the white pitcher. He went two for three of off. He never regretted that one day. He said, “ I would have cussed him again, Doc.” He said, “ I was in there, man. I’m safe. What? No.” A lot of baseball and life and just the realities, like. My pride comes from him. My political awareness. I can’t give him all the credit, cause my father actually is a very learned man. He’s just a hot head. But my passion for news. You run up on my father right now I’m sure he has probably about three, four Daily’s in front of him. When he used to come up to New York cause he lives in Charlotte, I think. But when he used to come to visit, come home. I come chill with him for a day or so. He had a Charlotte News Observer, USA Today, Daily News, Post. Now of course the Charlotte paper he brought, but everything else.

[29:49] Natalie: You’re breaking up… You said everything else.. 

[29:54] Ty: [unintelligible] Just always. He was on it. So, I get a lot of that from my father but most of it I get from my grandfather just politics, man. Like, um he was just so tickled pink about George W. That was the last president before he passed. I think my Pop died in like 04’, 05’. I’m not good with people’s exact dates because even my, his wife my grandmother was my heart and soul and died from Alzheimer’s and I watched her go from a hundred to zero. Like that tore me apart, mentally. So them being sick and dying that’s… and of course when one goes, the other goes. She actually out lived him. She was a vegetable but she outlived him. I did get to spend a lot of time with him right before he died because I spent that spring break with him. But like 04’, 05’ I know so, it was W. Around the middle of his first term or second term. But, um, he would call me and, um, “you see your president, Doc.” I’d be like, “man that’s not my president Poppy.” He’d say “ You voted for him.” I said “ I did not I voted for…” Was Al Gore in 2000, yeah. Yeah. Just, he would that would be our talk. You know old black men don’t, “I love you,” and [hugging gesture]… nah. But we could talk about sports or politics and you sneak the love in. I’m not that person. Like I’ve evolved. Like I got the best of him and like I am loving toward mine. But I do incorporate a lot of that too. Talk about something concrete and get abstract with it kinda, but he, yeah. Him, man. And I hated my grandfather from age ten to twelve. Like when we first moved down there and he wanted to make me Farmer Joe. Fuck, I don’t know about no damn garden. C’mon man. Killing me, man. But I appreciate him so much more because I grind like I’m a behaviorist now. I’m at work in three hours and home. Never stop. Pandemic or not. He did a lot to incorporate that, you know what I mean. To impart in me rather. 

[32:25] Natalie: Hm, and just talking about history in general or the “main narrative”, do you see yourself or your family reflected in history? In American history? 

[32:39] Ty: I mean we’re part of the black experience definitely. Did we have any Watershed moments? No, not that I can think of. I’m still active though. You know, I’m still up for that Pulitzer. But yeah, as far as being apart of the black experience, yes. Seventy-four percent of blacks never own a home in America. My grandfather owned two. That’s my next goal. Credit rating is a 763 was a 770. Started another credit card, so. But that’s the goal, like, yeah. What is winning? Raising a family, owning a home, leaving a legacy, definitely. And I’m not big on the Waterloos or the those big events, single events. It’s the things in between the big single events in life that make it. Single events is just get the highlights it’s the everyday things that are most important to me. I call them stolen moments. For me it’s the stolen moments not the. Like I’m not big on birthdays not cause I have something against birthdays it’s everyday of life is a blessing and a celebration. So I was born on this day so this day is more special then… okay… If that’s how you feel, I don’t. I’m all 365 is a birthday. I’m here. 

[34:04] Natalie: Yeah.

[34:06] Ty: I could be gone. I could have been gone a couple times for health reasons and other reasons. So… 

[34:16] Natalie: And, as a society… as this modern society do you find that people are becoming more interested in finding who they are? Who their family was? History. 

[34:29] Ty: Not at all. Everything’s trending in the other direction. Who cares? The young kids now, the ones we have a hand… no. No. Now is it a hundred percent, no. It’s always going to be a… like you. You a jewel. Already and you still a youngin’ there’s not too many of you. The thing about the yougin’s, youngin’s, under you, I’m still with them. I’m still in the trenches, no. They care about the sneakers, they just. And I’m not going to be that critical because maybe at fifteen, sixteen years I was about the sneakers and the this and the that and the girls, but I had a grip on reality. Like I knew what was going on outside of my bubble. They don’t. And, their history? No. Because I mean, I’m going to say with African American kids, no. Because the things that they tolerate in society, and I’m not talking about my radical [puts fist in air], my people that’s out in the street, I’m talking about the average kid on social media. They focus is not on those type of things, man. Like they and it’s not being imparted in them from young ages like us. Certain things were instilled in us so we, even if we pushed it away we had to embrace it at some point, they not even getting it. So how are they, why they care about their life if they, you know how many rappers I’ve seen on Vlad TV talking about they’ll never date a dark-skinned black women or have babies by her. Come on man. You love who you love, I don’t care if she white as the damn hospital sheet. If you love her. But if that’s your sole purpose to reproduce is to have a light-skinned baby and you think they… Aight man. I see a lot of that. So, no. And then they history getting white washed everyday. But their parents don’t know any better so no. Two-hundred years it’ll be a small percentage of black folk and ethnic folk really holding on to their culture and their tradition. I think. Because…  

[36:57] Natalie: Do you think there’s a better way to engage these children or it’s just if you don’t start from when their young it’s kinda too late. 

[37:04] Ty: Yeah, you don’t. And like I said nothing is a hundred percent anything there’s always a chance one day by chance a kid that’s totally oblivious to every fucking thing, excuse me, will be like,“Oh yeah let me tap in.” But it has to be a moment. It has to be an epiphany. The catalyst has to be something almost catastrophic, almost. Life changing. Let me go in this direction now. Let me look this way. Just doesn’t happen when all they care about is clout and followers and slaves to this man [holds up cellphone]. That’s what I see. You have to instill it in yours early or if you don’t you have to have enough sense to get to educators who will instill it in them. Like the Harlem Children’s Zone, like. Lord forbid I go on record saying something great and they have a scandal next week. But, being a Harlemite and being in Harlem when it was being built. It’s just aesthetics from what I saw they’re building this nice facility, but then to actually learn about it and the creator. That Bronx, that great man from the Bronx. I don’t know his name so I’m not going to fake. It’s just what they do. Now from age three basically they start cultivating and they have a certain block. A block out of Harlem, not a literal street block but on a map, a block. Like kids from this zone to zone are eligible. From age three they start cultivating them and they keep up with them and at eighteen, and damn near when they graduate they all got scholarships, but it’s being instilled in them from the time that they, what do they say is the best time for a person to pick up a language? When they young. I got a Colombian friend that made sure he didn’t teach his baby a word of English. He said I’mma let the get to school and learn. I make sure you’re fluent in Spanish. That kid just graduated high school last year, he’s fully bilingual. He’ll always, and that the thing that people don’t realize. People like you, that have two languages and I love people that are able to sign. You’ll always have work. Anywhere you work. My man Euris, my man is Dominican brother, they in Alaska. He just takes at the courthouse translating.

[39:37] Natalie: Wow. 

[39:42] Ty: [unintelligible] He might be the only person, out here that speaks fluent Spanish and you have a market. I don’t even know how we got there but, with tradition and stuff, nah. Nah. Nah. 

[39:58] Natalie: Okay, and last question. For you personally, is there anything about your family history you’d like to know more about? 

[40:06] Ty: Everything. Like I wish I could trace it back to Africa on both sides. And I’m sure you probably can on Ancestry. When I have the money to play with it I might. See with us it only goes a couple generations. That’s another thing, black folks don’t live too long. So your oldest reference piece might just be in their seventies or approaching their seventies. Ain’t too many ninety-something year folk in our family we can just still with their wit that they can sit back and, “…get a notepad boy. Let me talk.” And as we progress there is less interaction where as we can sit and be like, “yo, talk.” See that was a thing in my era. You shut the hell up and listen. We didn’t have voice. So you did a lot of listening. That didn’t always have the best effects for other reasons, but for that specific purpose, it did. You had to sit back and listen. Is less of that now. Everyone has a phone in front of them. It always goes back to communication. How can you really sit back and have these types of sessions when there’s a phone ringing or somebody on social media, somebody this and that. How can you really…And that’s all part of the plan from what I’m seeing. Liquor em’ up and what Larry Holmes said he was going to do to Gerry Cooney before the fight when they asked them. He said, “I’m going to get him drunk and then I’m gon’ mug em’.”  Basically mean he’s going to set them up, set them up, set them up, BOOM. And he’s going to drop the ham on them. We get em’ drunk and imma mug them and that’s what they are doing to society. We give you all this bullshit to concentrate on. Take your mind off of what’s really real, and if we do that long enough nobody will remember what’s really real. They have no point of reference. And if we get in the classroom and, uh, let this revisionist history go through then they won’t have any reference point at all. And there will be no more me’s around to tell them about 1619 or the 1877 Compromise. How many people don’t know about the compromise of 1877, Nat?

[42:23] Natalie: [laughs]

[42:24] Ty: And that set the stage for the South to be the South that it is now. And it assured the Reconstruction ended abruptly and [holds up the book Three African American Classics] Souls of Black Folk, if you never read it. It’s kind of a companion piece so you got to read Up From Slavery and the Souls of Black Folk together. 

[42:52] Natalie: Okay. 

[42:52] Ty: One is Booker T., one’s Dubois , Dubois. W.E.B he speaks about Reconstruction in the South. The Compromise of 1877, that Rutherford B. Hayes if I’m correct. The backroom agreement they made to let the South, ya can have that. You let me do me. And that meant the Reconstruction was over and they had been robbing us during the Reconstruction anyway. If you read Souls of Black Folk he’ll tell you how money that was supposed to be alluded here wasn’t here, land wasn’t. And it depended on who the white man was. Who was running that particular, as far as the Freedmen’s Bureau who was running that section or whatever because some of those men were justified and righteous and did the right thing and made sure black folks did their thing. Then some were like lining their pockets and some were all out, “fuck em’ we don’t care about them.” And the sad part is that all of the got gobbled up irrespective, it got gobbled up in the 1877 Compromise. Even the good deeds. That’s why they trying to get them black folks their land back down in South Carolina. That’s their land. It was given to them and taken back. Now, I’m not who I am, and giving a shit about stuff like that without my grandfather. He’s the reason why I’m passionate about that and if anybody is listening, especially black, I’ll talk to anybody. I’ll talk to the door. If the door is listening. But preferably a living black person, know your history, and telling these black parents, teach your children. And if you can’t get them to me and for a decent, fair price, they’ll learn. 

[44:39] Natalie: You froze for a second. What did you say? 

[44:41] Ty: I said, that’ that. 

[44:43] Natalie: Oh, okay. 

[44:43] Ty: Oh, I said. If you can’t teach them. Get them to me and I’ll…for a fair price. 

[44:49] Natalie: [laughs] Alright. Well, thank you so much and thank you for sharing that story. Even though to you it seems small it’s not really because there’s so many layers to it. And knowing you personally, it’s a gem of a story. To see like your origin, like where all this comes from. 

[45:07] Ty: I don’t think small of it. I don’t think little of it. It’s heavy to me, it’s just I don’t know how heavy it can be…

[45:12] Natalie: It wasn’t a very, very dramatic story.

[45:15] Ty: Yeah, it wasn’t.

[45:16] Natalie: It’s exactly, kind of what I’m looking for, though. It doesn’t always have to be this dramatic thing. It’s just these stories that we share with each other that not knowing it in the moment, it’s going to affect us in the way we think and the way we see ourselves. The way we carry ourselves and who we share our own stories with and the way we do it. So that’s the whole gist of this project. Even if it’s not a big dramatic story to you, to someone who’s listening, to someone who stumbles upon this that can relate or they learn something new and that’s what’s most important to just tell the stories. Even if they’re not the big movie stories they’re stories and they happened and they’re important. But is there anything else you’d like to add before we end the interview. 

[46:04] Ty: When it’s all shaped, done, edited, cut, pressed, just like see everything. Not just mine. I’d like to see how it translates, but every. I want all the perspectives. 

[46:17] Natalie: Okay, definitely. Perfect. Alright then.                 

 

Project Support

This project was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.