Buddy Hannah 2

Antioch College
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Jenny Tarnoff: Well this is Jennifer Tarnoff, and I'm interviewing Buddy Hannah, as part of the Engaging the Wisdom Archive Project. This is the second interview. The interview is taking place at Kalamazoo College on, it's on May 15th, 2013. Ok. And I just wanted to start off, thanks for coming back and talking to us.

Buddy Hannah: Thanks for having me back.

JT: I-I want to start off with going back to like your early life that we talked about before.

BH: Uh-huh.

JT: And you said how you didn't like living on the farm.

BH: Right.

JT: When you moved, can you just tell my why you didn't like it?

BH: Well, you know, basically I was a city boy, so to speak, because I had been born in Miami, Florida, and I lived there until I was ten, so all my, all my childhood, my early childhood, the first ten years of my childhood was spent in the city, you know, and I used to go to Georgia to the farm to visit my 00:01:00grandparents, and it was fun, you know, seeing the animals and all of that good stuff, but it was a whole different thing when I went to live there, so it was kind of like a culture shock when I want to live with them, because now I knew, ok, I wasn't going back to my school that I was used to. I wind up going to, in Georgia, I wind up going to a one room school, you know, where you had three or four grades in it. Whereas in Florida I was used to a two-story building, and nice walking to school and all of this, so everything was just different. And then I had to pick cotton, feed the chickens, the whole - I just wasn't, that wasn't me, you know. That wasn't me. So even though I had to do it, I did it, but in my mind I always knew that this wasn't where I wanted to stay, so I didn't, I didn't. I knew I had to be there until I could leave, until I graduated, so to speak, so that's when I left.


JT: What did you like so much about living in the city?

BH: Well, you know, it was- when I was a kid, all well, first of all, you know, I had, I was uprooted and I left all my friends. That was the first thing. But it was just so many things, and in Miami, at that time, that, you know, I just enjoyed doing, going down to the, to look at the ocean, and just going downtown, and there's so many stores, and just all kinds of things that, you know, a kid would enjoy doing, you know. The neighborhood that I grew up in was a nice neighborhood, that was early crime, it was before crime actually, you know. You could, you could, go outside and play. You could go all over the place, as long as you was back by the time the lights came on, the street lights came on. That was the rule, you know. So, so I just enjoyed that freedom. And then having to leave all of that and go to the country, where I lived out in the country and the closest house to us was like, maybe, oh, two miles, you know. And in the 00:03:00city I had indoor toilet. In the country I had outdoor toilet (both laugh). You know, in the city I had a bathtub; in the country I had a wash tub, you know. So, so, yes, so, so I missed all those things, you know, but I adjusted to it, because you have to adjust to some things, and I had to adjust to that because my mother died when I was ten. That's why I had to go live with my grandparents. But my grandmother did a real good job of filling the void in my life, so it was an adjustment which I made, but yet I knew I didn't, that wasn't the life I wanted, you know, so -

JT: Ok. Do you have any, like, I guess just specific memories, like favorite memories, from growing up in the city, like hanging out with like your friend or ??+

BH: Oh, yeah, you know, I had a friend who, I can't think of his real name right now, we called him Junejune, and I can remember, you know, late night, playing outside, sitting up on the stoops, as they call them. We-we would go roller 00:04:00skating. We would just, it was just our kind of thing. We would play stick ball in the streets, you know. We just had so many things. There was a-a-a guy, we called him The Monkey Man, and I really don't know his name, but he had this little monkey, and he played, he played the accordion, and he had this little monkey sit up on his shoulder, and he would come around from time to time, you know. Then they had this little truck that came around and had a little carnival ride on it, you know. So, so there was always something going on. And then the neighborhood itself was just bustling with people. There was all kind of characters in the neighborhood - the rag man, there was a man who would come around selling rags and all kinds of things, so, you know, I had fond memories of, of the city. But then all of that changed, and then I had to go and-and live on the farm, and then everything changed. And I didn't have bad memories of the 00:05:00farm, because my grandmother, like I say, she filled the void. It's just that I didn't like farm work, you know, so (both laugh).

JT: Ok. Well so I guess, so you already talked a little bit about the differences between, like, like the difference between your life in the city and life on the farm, but then, I guess, how did it vary, like, going, moving from Miami to Georgia and then Kalamazoo?

BH: Well, you know, it was, it was, moving from Miami to Georgia was-was-was, it was hard two-fold, because I was leaving my friends and everything, and my mother had passed away. So, that was, that was really bad. But, my grandmother made, she became my mother, so even though my mother had passed away, I had a mother still. And eventually I began to make friends in Georgia, so it took a while, but, you know, I think I was, I can't remember, maybe fifth grade, fourth 00:06:00or fifth grade, I can't remember. But I did make friends and after a while that became my life there, you know. So I was there from the time I was ten years old until the time I was seventeen years old. So seven years I was there, and I made friends, and I had fun. I had good times there. It's just the farm work I didn't like (laughs). Liked my friends, just didn't like the farm work (both laugh).

JT: All right. But I guess, so then, but then, coming to Kalamazoo, so you lived in the South your whole life, and moving up North, did you notice anything different like social, political climate-

BH: Snow. Nah, snow. Snow (Both laugh)

JT: Snow. (Both laugh)

BH: Well, you know, having grown up in the South, in the segregated South, and then moving to Kalamazoo, I did notice the freedom - I guess you can call it 00:07:00freedom that you had in terms of different things. Still, when I came to Kalamazoo, my life was still kind of centered around being within the African-American community, so it wasn't like I was automatically saying, well hey, you know, I wanna go be with other people, because I had grown, grown up in an all black community. So coming to Kalamazoo, at the time when I came to Kalamazoo, the North side of Kalamazoo was entirely different than it is now. There was businesses, there was stores and shops and, and dry cleaners, and meat markets, and shoe stores, and all kind of activities that was going on on the North side. So, it, it was bigger than the city I had came from from Georgia, and my memory of Florida had kinda faded, 'cause by this time I'm seventeen years old, but it was different in the sense that I felt, I felt that city life 00:08:00again, so to speak, you know. And it, and, and it felt good, even though I guess it wasn't to compare with, with Miami, but compared to the little town in Georgia that I grew up with it was city life, you know. So, so Kalamazoo was bustling at the time, you know. And then you had the, you had all kind of things going on in the African American community, so my-my-my life when I first came here was still centered around the African American community. It wasn't until I went to Vietnam, and came back, and then got a job that I began to mix and inter-intermingle with, with other people, you know, so.

JT: Uh-hmm. So, you said that their used to be a lotta businesses and it used to be really bustling on the North side of Kalamazoo.

BH: Uh-huh.

JT: Why, how is that different today?

BH: Well, I don't know, you know I can't, well, I guess I can , I can, I can 00:09:00give a guess as to what happened. This was during the early sixties. I came here in sixty-six ,yeah sixty-six, so this was during the early sixties, so you had the, the Black Power movement going on. You had all of this awakening in the black community. The Civil Rights Movement was still kinda going, it was, all of these things was happening and changing, you know. But still, even Kalamazoo was segregated to some degree, even though I think everyone had the freedom to do these things, everybody still kinda focused on the North Side. With that being said, you had black lawyers, you had black doctors, you had all of these different things that provided services for you. When I left and went in the service, I went in the service I went in, I went in the Army in 1969. And I was in, I came back out of the service in, well I went in the service in 1969, seventy-eight, yeah, so I came out of the service in, two years later, when I 00:10:00came back a lotta that was changing.

BH: Now, some of that was changing because of the opportunities that was available to African-Americans that was available, even here in Kalamazoo, that wasn't available before. Some of the other things that I think changed was that some of the parents that-- the people that had these businesses and everything-- the younger people didn't keep em, they didn't want em. They didn't keep em, they didn't want the businesses, so when the older people was too old to do the businesses, run the businesses, what have you, they just didn't continue that so therefore that business disappeared. I also think that, once things opened up outside of the black community, people began to go and shop ?into? other places that they never had the opportunity to do, so it kind of killed the black businesses to some degree, that time. So by the time I got back, out of the service two years later, the Northside was changing, and it just kept declining, 00:11:00so to speak, in terms of businesses and activities.

JT: Okay. [inaudible] Why do you think the young people didn't want to keep up their parents' businesses?

BH: Well, first of all, they may not have an interest in it. Secondly, again, a lot of them was going off to college because now they had an opportunity to do something they've never done before. A lot of people at that time was the first in they family to go to college. A lot of em had opportunities, had job opportunities at other places, you know, so, and again, you know, like myself, when you're young, you kind of want to see what's out there sometimes, and I think some of them had grown up here in Kalamazoo, and a lot of them just wanted to leave Kalamazoo, so therefore they didn't wanna take on the running of the businesses, keeping something there. They just wanted to leave. So I think that 00:12:00had a lot to do with it, but I think one of the main things was the fact that they just had opportunities to shop and to do things in other areas of the city that maybe hadn't been even open to them before, so therefore they took the money away, and when you take the money away, well, businesses close. And then, you know, you begin to have the malls and all of these different places that was opened up that the small moms and pop businesses just couldn't compete with.

JT: Okay, that makes sense. So we talked last time, we mentioned Vietnam, but I didn't actually ask you about it. So how did you feel about that, initially?

BH: Initially, I guess my thing was that, no, I didn't wanna go, because I felt that the war was something I didn't have a part of, but on the other hand I didn't wanna go to jail. I didn't wanna leave and go to Canada, so I wasn't gonna run away. And we had the draft, so I was drafted, so you either woulda had 00:13:00to leave-- (coughs) scuse me-- and go to Canada, or you would have had to try to fight it in court and everything, and at that time I wasn't in school, I wasn't in college at that time, I had just got married, so I couldn't get any kind of deferment for being in college, like some young men did. You know, so, basically I went, like a lot of young men. We went, and I don't know if it was so much from a patriotic duty, as it was, like, hey, well, I don't have a choice. So I can't say I was that patriotic that I wanted to say, hey, I wanted to go fight for my country, because at that time, a lot of things was going on here, inside the United States, that I felt I needed to fight for my people, you know, so yeah, but I went because I didn't have a choice. So I guess, in a sense, I wouldn't say that I was glad to go, but I'm glad that I had the experience, 00:14:00because it did change me, in terms of maturity, growing up, seeing different things. It just had a different effect on my life, you know, and it wasn't all negative. I mean, war is like, you know, there's nothing good about war, but on the other hand, it does change you. The Army, the, any branch of the service, it changes a young man, you know.

JT: Can you speak more about that? How did it change you?

BH: Well, it made me more independent. And being in a war, it made me appreciate life more. I understood that, life can be snuffed out anytime when you in a war.

BH: You miss the things that, little things that you took for granted back home you don't have when you're in a war situation, no matter whether you was in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, wherever, things are different. So you live 00:15:00different, you interact different. I met guys that became lifelong friends. I met people from all over the United States, you know, so you just put in a different situation where you're exposed to different things and then the training and the discipline, the work ethic, all of that had an effect on how I lived my life after I got out of the service, because you had to do those things and by having to do them after a while they became just a part of you doing. So when you got out you didn't have to do those you still didn't have. I wasn't, how can I say it, I wasn't afraid of hard work (Laughs). I knew how to take orders, you know. I could, I could follow orders, so there was things that I learned in the service that I think helped mature me as a person.

JT: Okay, would you say that before you were drafted were you [?vehemently?], 00:16:00like anti-war, or were you just [Unintelligible].

BH: I never even really thought about it (laughs), you know (Laughs), I mean, I registered because you had to register at that time, when you turn eighteen you had to register, but the thought didn't cross my mind, you know. I was going along with what little life I had, but then I registered when I was eighteen. I think I got married when I was like twenty, so I didn't have a whole lot of time in between to think about nothing, but you was young and partying and having fun, you know, so the thought of Vietnam was always there, but I didn't really think about it until I actually got the draft notice. Then it hit me that I actually would have to go be a part of this thing that I'd been hearing about and seeing about, you know, so, so yeah, but up until that point it wasn't like 00:17:00I was going like I'm against the war or I'm for the war. I just didn't think about it, you know. I really didn't, you know.

JT: Okay, how do you feel like you were, you talked a little last time about [the war's] impact on your writing and on your work. Can you just talk a little bit more about that?

BH: Well, that's where I started writing, attempting to write so to speak, and it was just a means and I think a lot of guys did it, I wasn't the only one, but I think you find something to take your mind off what's happening around you, and for me it was the writing, trying to write about my situation, you know - not only with the poetry and stuff but just in the letters that I would write back home. So I did, you did a lot of writing, and you tried to, after a while, after being there a while, then you began to try to make sense of what's going on, you know. Then you began to draw some kind of opinion of the war. After I 00:18:00was there, no I wasn't for the war. Actually I wanted to come home, so (Laughs) it really didn't matter if they blew up the whole country long as I could go home. So that's when I began to just write things to express my feelings about different things, and that's where I started listening to a lot of, sometimes we was able to, somebody would send somebody a tape, you know, back then they had reel-to-reel, so a lot of times somebody would send them a reel-to-reel and we would listen to LeRoi Jones, who became Amiri Baraka, either Sania Sanchez, Nicki Giovanni. So you would hear certain little things. Somebody would send books and you began to read different things - the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X's autobiography, Dr. King, you just, then the mind started to change and that's where I began to formulate things that I wanted to write about, you know.


JT: That's really interesting. What else did you do to kind of, to escape, in order to get you through it until you were able to come home?

BH: Well, you know, like everybody else, you made friends, , and you depended on those friends, and you spent a lot of time with those friends. In fact I still have one friend, we still communicate. We was in Vietnam together and we still communicate together. We don't see each other, but we call each other. He lives in Oklahoma. I haven't seen him in years, but you meet people and you spend what time you have that's not fighting, so to speak, you spend time with your friends and stuff. We listened to music, you know. We played cards, and so, so even though you're in a war, there was some other things that like I said, I wouldn't say they was good times but they wasn't all fighting all the time, so therefore you was able to kind of take your mind off until you had to go back out again, 00:20:00you know.

JT: Mhmmm. Can you talk a little bout- a little bit about like segregation in the army?

BH: Uh well in Vietnam we didn't have a lot of it in terms of out in the jungle. Okay. When you was out there fighting, on the front line, you didn't have time to think about that- being segregated, because everybody was dependent on everybody. You know, the guy next to you might be white and he depending on you to cover him and you depending on him to cover you. So you really didn't- that wasn't- that's wasn't too much of an issue in the-in the heat of a battle. Now when we got back to the "real", they called the "real," and you wasn't out there on the front line, I think we did kinda segregate ourselves to some degree. You know the black guys would be with the black guys; white guys would be with the white guys. And you had some who would be with both, but I think that was just a 00:21:00thing where we just- when you got back there yeah, cuz then you wanted to be around your own. But when you was out fighting in the jungle, naw you- you- at least I didn't, and the guys in my company, we didn't-we didn't think about well you white and I'm black and you from the South and blah blah. Nah, it was like we all wanna live, we all wanna come back home, you know, so, you help me and I help you to stay alive you know, hmm.

JT: So were-so were the troops themselves segregated or-

BH: No, I mean it wasn't- no it was a- you know- you- you have racism everywhere you go. You know what I'm saying, in the army, in the war, I don't care as long as you got people, as long as you got black and white, minorities, you gonna have racism. So you had racism, but no, it wasn't like a segregated union-unit like back in the 50s, in the 40s. Okay, it wasn't like that where I was in an all black unit, no, it was- it was a mixture of everybody. So, no it wasn't that kind of segregation. When I say we segregated ourselves we would just spend time 00:22:00when we was down back just relaxing with each other. And sometime you know, like I say, there would be some white guy, some black guys that did both, but no it wasn't like, "Oh there's a black unit and there's an all-white unit," no it wasn't kinda that segregation.

JT: Okay.

BH: Yeah. Plus everybody had guns, so you know (both laugh). We all had guns, you know, so. (both laugh again)

JT: Okay, let's see. Well, you've also- you've talked a lot about the Black Arts Movement and about Malcolm X and everybody. So who's- I would just really like you to talk- talk to me about what-what you like about the Black Arts Movement and your involvement in it.

BH: Well, when-when I got back to the States I really got involved. I still had six months to do when I was-got back and I was stationed out in Colorado Springs. And I began to meet other guys who hadn't been to Vietnam and had 00:23:00stayed back in the States and they views was a lot different because they was thinking- they were against the war. They were involved in the movement so to speak. And then I began to meet guys that introduced me to a lotta things. So I began to read different things and one of the things I think about the Black Arts Movement of the 60s and early 70s was the fact that it gave African American people freedom to be creative and to produce. During the Harlem Renaissance we created a lot but we pretty much was dependent upon other people to produce. Well, during the Black Arts Movement it became where we were in control of producing our own stuff. So, you know we began to have publishing companies. We began to have theater companies, you know. It was a-a-a free, the 00:24:00freedom to create and then produce what you have created. And it-it-it felt good to sit around a lot of time and-and talk with other people about different things and your views on what is happening in our community and to us as a people. So it was just a time that I think was a-a- it was a- changing of literary arts for African Americans and it was a time where you just had the freedom to be creative and a lotta people was. Singers, poets, actors, dancers -it was everywhere you turned you had African Americans just doing all kinds of things that we had never done before, you know in terms of a creative standpoint.

JT: Mhmm. Who-who is the- do you feel is the most influential black leader in 00:25:00the 60s and 70s?

BH: Well, you know right off that bat you would say Dr. King, but we had so many of 'em. I mean, Dr. King was up here, but then you had others that was right behind him. He didn't do it alone, I mean you had different people. Me personally, I was a Malcolm X man, you know I mean, that was just I-I-I felt connected to him. But you know, you had so many black leaders, even Jesse Jackson was back there, you had- then you had the Black Panther Party, then you had the Southern Crestian- I should- Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Jesse Jackson, Stokely Carmichael. Then you just had so many people that was doing so many things. Dr. King was just far, far above everybody, you know what I'm saying? But he was- I guess, you know, he was an icon that everybody looked at. But even the people that was just out on the streets that was facing 00:26:00the dogs and the fire hoses and was getting beat, those people had an influence on- cuz you're looking at this and you're saying, "Wow, you know, these people can stand up for what is right, then I should be able to do it," you know, so there was so many people that you know. But for me, you know, Malcolm X was always somebody that I felt because he- how can I put it? Dr. King was looking at getting everybody to love us, you know, Malcolm X was kinda at that point trying to get us to love ourselves, you know and I just kinda leaned toward him a lot. I read a lotta of his work. I wasn't a black Muslim. I-I-I- that wasn't the issue I just liked what he was saying. You know, so yeah there was, I guess you know Malcolm X had a big influence on .me, as well as Dr. King.

JT: Can you speak a little bit more about Malcolm X and more about why you feel 00:27:00like, so inspired by him?

BH: Well, I just think that he-he motivated people. He motivated us as a people and what he was saying was we need to love ourselves, we need to do for ourselves, we need to be more productive, we need to move from being consumers to being producers, we need to own property, we need to do all of these things that everybody else was doing. Because it was there, this is America. This is what we could do here. And I-I just felt that his-his-his thought pattern, his early thought patterns was more of loving ourselves. Now, he began to move away and he did split with the Black Muslims and he began to accept white people, you know, and-and I never was a part of what he was saying-and he wasn't preaching kill white people or anything, he was- Dr. King was preaching non-violence. 00:28:00Malcolm X was saying "Well if you slap me, I'm gunna slap you back." He wasn't saying I'm gunna go out looking for somebody to slap. You know, so a lotta time people misunderstand what he was actually saying and preaching. He wasn't advocating violence, he was advocating self-defense and protecting yourselves and stuff. But he was also advocating love yourself. You know, be proud of who you are, be productive in your community, strengthen your communities, everything. Things which we still need to take under consideration today.

JT: What do you think was the-like- one of the most like-would be-oh how do I say this? The mission statement, like some of the like, the things that the Black Arts Movement really were focusing on? So like you talked about producing instead of being produced by someone else, but what were other things that 00:29:00people were really focused on?

BH: The-the-the freedom to say what you felt, to voice your opinion, to speak for yourself. You know, to not let other people speak for us. You know, we wasn't waiting for other people to write about our situation. The freedom to speak out against the system. You know, the freedom to speak out against injustice, because there was a lot of injustice going on at that time, still going on to some degree. But-but, just the freedom that we had, you know, to say things and to do it our way and not be dependent on the fact- you could do- you could produce a black play and do it black style, you didn't have to have a white producer producing something and saying, "Well you know this is not the way-"

BH: You began to have other people that had that freedom to come out and speak 00:30:00against things, or for somethin', you know. Either way you had that freedom and that was just a time where it opened up to give everybody that. And I think that helped other minorities to begin to say, "Well hey, you know, I think we should be able to speak for ourselves. And that was it, the freedom to speak for yourself, to create for yourself, you know.

JT: What do you think defines that, that black style, or that, like black mode of expression that you just mentioned, [unintelligible] being able to do black style now?

BH: All the literature that was produced at that time. - the books, the movies, the plays, the dance theaters, all of the things that was produced. You had more things produced at that time. You had places like Third World Press. They began to produce and publish books for people. Broadside Press,that was another black publishing company. Up until then you didn't have black publishing companies, you know, you would either have to have a white company publish your work and 00:31:00what have you. But now we had black publishing companies that began to publish people like Gwendolyn Brooks, Nicky Giovanni, all of these people that was able to get their works out there and everything. You had theater companies, dance companies, so the most defining thing was the results of having that freedom, and what we did to use that freedom to create. And a lot of those things are lastin' today. I think Broadside Press and Third World Press are still going today, you know. Maybe not as strong, but they're still there. So you had the freedom to make movies, you know. That was the first time you began to see black movies, you know. I mean with an all-black cast and all of this stuff produced by black people, you know. So it was, the defining thing was the results of what 00:32:00happened from having that freedom, the things we produced.

JT: Were there any particular, like, type of style that, like, when black people are in control of their own work that shows differently than when you have a white person producing it?

BH: Well, not, I wouldn't say, how can I put this? I think everybody pulls from what they know about themselves, and they culture and they history. So if you had a show and an Irish person was producing it, you're going to find some of their culture and their history in there. So yeah, we had our own style, you know. When I saw the movie Shaft, you know, there, that was, that was, that was something different, you know. I don't think a white guy woulda, woulda came out with Shaft, like the way it was-- So yeah, we, we were able to put our own styles, and everybody's style is different. I think all cultures of, the the the thing about black and white is that we're so intertwined with each other. 00:33:00Because when I was growin' up, I had to learn about white history. I had to learn about how white people function and everything. White kids didn't have to learn about black history. They didn't have to that. But I had to. So, so we're all intertwined, you know. Even now, I probably know more about your history than you know about mine because of what I had to do when I was young, and what was put in front of me. So I think what happened was the African-American was able to put things in front of us for us, okay, and not have someone else put things in front of us. So it definitely was a different style. Can you put your finger on it and say, no, we talked about the same thing sometimes that we talk about now? Love, death, you know, surviving, you know. All of those things that 00:34:00are human nature was discussed. It was just the way it was presented, so. And, you know, it's hard for me, right now, to sit down and say "Well, ok, I'm going to write a poem about the Irish Revolution" when I know nothing about the Irish revolution, when I'm not Irish, you know. So yeah, it would have been difficult sometime for a non-white, or non-African American to portray black life. I think that I'll say what like today, you know, Spike Lee is someone I admire in terms of his movie. I think he can portray a lot better, you know what I'm sayin'? But it all comes back to the basic thing, the human nature an' how we all try to survive.

JT: So, I forget what I was going to ask. Oh, so like, because black people are 00:35:00forced to learn about white history, and white people can get by without knowing anything about black history, so you think the Black Arts movement gave white people an opportunity to learn?

BH: Oh yeah, sure. Well you know, there was a lot of white people that was curious about African-Americans - and I'm not saying-well we was creating at that time, it was for us and about us but we wasn't saying that "yall can't read this" you know what I'm saying? So yeah I think that during that time it did open up the doors for white people to learn more about black culture and black history, you know. And I'm not saying that everyone went out and did that, but I think that a lot of people was reading a lot of the literature because good literature is good literature, you know. I don't just read African-American 00:36:00authors, I read anybody that's good. So I'm sure that back during that time, people was reading good literature, you know, white or black. But the overall thing was that we was able to speak for ourselves, and not have other people do it.

JT: Ok cool...well um...I'm just wondering because before you said, in the other interview, you said you didn't really experience segregation directly but yet I wonder how come you were so strongly involved in the Black Arts Movement.

BH: Well I think...you don't have to be sick to want healthcare to be right for other people you know what I'm saying? You don't have to get shot to know that you can feel sympathy for somebody that got shot. So, even though when I said I 00:37:00didn't experience it directly, there wasn't anybody coming and dragging anybody out of my house and hanging them or beating my father or my grandfather. I did experience it from the fact that I wasn't allowed to go in this place or that place. I wasn't allowed to drink from this water fountain or that water fountain, you know. When I said I didn't experience it personally, like some people, first hand, was beaten, you know, threatened-Ku Klux Klan never came to our house but some black people they did, you know what I'm saying? But the idea of, I think, everybody - there's an old saying that if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything, so I think at some point in your life you take a stand for something and if you see some injustice, everybody takes a stand for injustice. And this was done not only by African Americans. I mean this was done by white people and other people during the Civil Rights Movement. I mean don't get me wrong, the Civil Rights Movement couldn't have accomplished 00:38:00what they had accomplished if we hadn't had white people joining in and other people joining in. But my involvement became-I became aware of my history, my culture, and what I could do on my own so that's how I began, that's what drove me to get involved. And I think everybody is concerned about the well-being of their family and their children, you know, and they want the best for them. So if I couldn't go to a white school and I was getting what they considered a second class education, I didn't want to grow up and say hey "when I grow up I wanna have children, I want them to do the same thing I'm doing" so yeah.

JT: What other types of impacts has being a part of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement had on you?

BH: A better appreciation for who I am as an African American and as an 00:39:00American. But just the fact that everybody should be proud of who they are. We're all Americans. But America is full of different nationalities and everything, so why shouldn't an American Indian be proud to be an American Indian? Why shouldn't an Asian American still be proud of their Asian history? So that gave me that pride, that- African Americans we were a little bit different there because all of that was taken away from us during the slavery. So we had, that was just stripped away from us. So a lot of the time we had no knowledge of some of the things. So when I began to read not only about what we accomplished here in this country, but what we were about before we came to this country. So it gave me a sense of pride, a sense of knowing who I am and being proud of who I am. So that was one of the main things that happened. It didn't 00:40:00change my views from the fact that, yes I'm an American, because, no I've never been to Africa. I hope to go one day, but I couldn't relate to Africa from that standpoint. But I could relate to Africa from the standpoint of that down the line these are my ancestors; this is where I came from, just like anybody else would say "well hey, I came from Germany" you know; "I came from England" so yeah.

JT: You mentioned the Black Panthers a little bit. What was that like with Kalamazoo being so close to Chicago?

BH: Well you know, when I was talking about the Black Panthers I never knew anything about them here in Kalamazoo. When I was in Colorado Springs, doing my six months that I was stationed in, that's when a lot of this - I went to some of the meetings. I never became a member of the Black Panthers. Never took part 00:41:00in any demonstrations. I just wanted to know. I used to read their paper. I've read a lot of the books that Huey Newton wrote, Eldridge Cleaver. But the Black Panthers had an impact, you know. Some people might say it was a negative impact; some might say it was a positive. But during that time a lot of people made history, during the sixties. There was a lot of histories. And not just black people, but you know, you had the Kennedys. You had a whole lot of people that was -things changed during the sixties. It was a decade of change. And a lot of things that we do today and things that we have today came out of the sixties, you know. So the Black Panthers, me being a young person, sparked my interest. Not so much from the standpoint that I went and said, "Hey I want to join the Black Panthers," but I wanted to know what they was doing and why they was doing it and just like I wanted to know what the Black Muslims was doing and 00:42:00why they was doing this. And I think at that time, myself and a lot of my friends, we wanted to know what any black organization was doing, you know. Dr. King, we wanted to know what was happening, you know. So yeah, but when I came back to Kalamazoo, I didn't know too many people when I left and I didn't know too many people when I first came back. So all of that was stifled for a while until I began to - and my creative part was stifled for a while because I had to re-indoctrinate myself into the community. And that part didn't come again until I did meet Gail Snyder and got involved with the Black Arts and Culture Center. So from the time I was - a year, a year and a half after I got out of the service and everything, I was still reading and all of that, but I didn't really have anybody to discuss this with or do anything with it. I wasn't involved in 00:43:00any groups. I wasn't involved in the community, you know. So it was just more or less me still just doing it for my enjoyment. And then once I got back involved with the Black Arts and Culture Center, then all my creativity and everything was able to come full bloom.

JT: Okay so if you weren't directly involved with the Black Panthers, but did you -how do you see their impact?

BH: I don't know if they had-what kind of impact they may have had in this area. But out in California I'm sure that they had some kind of impact, simply because people think of the Black Panthers and they think "Oh this terrorist group, these people that's killing," but they did a lot of things you know. They had afterschool programs. They had food programs. They had clothing programs that they was distributing clothing and food. So in their California area and Compton and all those places they was at, I'm sure they had some positive impact. Just 00:44:00like all the stuff that you read in the media, even today, they're more apt to show you the negative things than the positive things, because that's news, you know. That makes news. Especially if it's any group that has some type of negative image to them, you know. But I think that the Black Panthers, all the organizations back then, had some type of impact on what we as a people was trying to do. I think the Civil Rights movement had the biggest impact, but everybody that was during that time - we needed all those things, you know. Because, here again, I think the Black Panthers at first, initially, they was looking for the same thing everybody else was looking for - freedom to do this, freedom to not be harassed by the police, freedom to be able to walk the streets without being profiled and all this. Some of that is still happening today, you 00:45:00know. So I think they had some type of impact. I don't know if they had any impact in Kalamazoo. I don't know anybody -- at the time I didn't know anybody that was saying, "Yeah, I'm a member of the Black Panther Party". There may have been, but again, like I say, it was a year, a year and a half there that I was kind of finding my way back through here. So by the time I got back to the Black Arts and Culture Center in the seventies, well the Black Panther party was kind of, you know, gone.

JT: Can you also just talk a little more about-I know they're all intertwined, but more specifically the Civil Rights Movement and how you found- what was that like in Kalamazoo?

BH: When I came to Kalamazoo, there was a lot of things that had already happened in Kalamazoo, you see? Because I can talk from say, mm-m, 1969. I could 00:46:00say from 19, a little bit about 1967-68. I was here when Dr. King was assassinated. I know the impact here. But based on from what I've read and known in Kalamazoo, there were things - they had demonstrations at Van Avery Drug Store, which is on the north side. They was on the north side, but they didn't hire African Americans. And some of the youth from the NAACP youth organization decided, "Well why shouldn't we be allowed to work there," so that was an impact that changed some of the things. You know if you go back through the history of Kalamazoo and you talk about the Van Avery demonstration, everybody will tell you that had a big impact in changing the hiring practice in Kalamazoo, you know. Even beginning in the early 70s and everything, more people -when I first 00:47:00started working at Upjohn, there was very few African Americans working there, you know, very few. Well the 70s began to change a lot of that. A lot of people began to work there. I think I started work there in 1972 and it was a lot of African Americans who began to because everything was changing in terms of hiring practice you know. So the Civil Rights Movement, even all over the country and locally, had an impact on all of that. Had it not been for the Civil Rights Movement, none of that would have happened, you see what I'm saying? So even though some of the things may have been happening there, there was things that was happening in Kalamazoo as well that changed things for us as African American people and for the city as a whole.

JT: So, specifically, you talked about that - about the drug store and about your own work. Just - any of their impacts that you noted like then or today?


BH: Well today, you know, I think that as a result of what happened at Van Avery drugstore, made it possible because eventually they did hire African Americans, and then they went out of business. But I think that opened up the doors for people to work at Jacobson, all of these stores -Woolworth and all of these stores that maybe had not began to hire African-Americans. So, to me, when I look at the history of Kalamazoo and I'm sure there may have been much - but not having grown up here, you know, again, I can only speak on that incident. I see where that had that impact in terms of the hiring practices of a lot of companies. Then when you look at Upjohn and everything, then you had affirmative action which was something that came out of there, a lot of companies that never hired African Americans before, they was kind of forced to hire them, so to 00:49:00speak, you know, but due to the fact of the Civil Rights Movement. So the Civil Rights Movement had an impact on everything, whether it was locally or nationally, there was some impact, whether it was down South or up North, there was impact.

JT: So you said that you remember. You were in Kalamazoo when you heard about Dr. King's assassination. What do you remember about that day?

BH: Well, I just remember it was a sad day, you know. We couldn't believe it. As a matter of fact, I think my wife and I had been to the movies and we came out and we saw people crying and going on like, "What is happening?" you know. And somebody said, "Dr. King has been assassinated". And, you know, you had mixed emotion because it was, because you had the sadness, then you had the anger that someone would kill this man -this man who preached non-violence and here he died a violent death. He was killed violently. So there was a lot of sadness, but 00:50:00there was anger too. That's why you had the results of all of these riots in Detroit, in LA, in different places. Now I don't think they had big riots here in Kalamazoo. They had some small riots. It was kind of a rough touch and go there. But there was the anger along with the sadness and we had lost a man that was a leader, but yeah he was just a good person. And he had done a lot, not only for black people, but he was just doing a lot for mankind so yeah. So it was a mixture, you know. I remember being mad and I remember being sad. Like everybody else, we cried you know, but some of those tears was not only sadness but we was just mad. And you did want to hurt somebody, you know. And when we found out that a white man had killed him, now you're even more angry, you just, 00:51:00so yeah - anger and sadness.

JT: Did that- those riots, you take part in them?

BH: Oh no, no. Nah, I was married with a child and any riots that was going on, no I didn't take any part in that. I can't say that I've ever taken part in a riot. I've always tried to let my writing speak for me. I don't believe that violence is the way. I'm not saying- I still think that you have the right to defend yourself and everything- but violence is not the way for anybody. So no I didn't; I didn't take part in any of those, you know. I wasn't involved in any of that (laughs).

JT: (Laughs) Just, just checking.

BH: Plus, I don't know who's watching this film and there may still be a warrant out (laughs).

JT: Well you say that you let your writing speak for you. How did it come to be 00:52:00that you chose to express yourself through your different forms of art instead of a different form of expression, like teaching - I don't know.

BH: M-mm, well once I started doing it I found that it felt good. And I wouldn't say it was easy to do but it felt right you know? And what's the old saying? The pen is mightier than the sword? You know. So I found that you can reach a lot of people through music, through theater, through poetry, through fiction, non-fiction, through the written word, you know. So the written word became something that I found that I could use to not only express myself about how I 00:53:00was feeling about what's inside of me, but also express myself about what I was feeling about what's happening around me. So it became a tool to speak out against things without having to stand up in the middle of the street and say, "Well hey! That ain't right! Blah blah, blah." I could put in poetry form and say it in a different way. And that's when I began to realize that there is power in words, there is power in art, even the visual arts. When people create paintings, you speak something. That artist is speaking something. So I found that I could speak my piece through the written word and that's what I began to use.

JT: Do you have any advice for someone that's just starting out, trying to do 00:54:00art or trying to do writing to express themselves?

BH: Well I think the best advice is to first know what it is that you want to do. Secondly, learn something about what you want to do, learn about your craft, study your craft, immerse yourself in your craft. Know as much about what it is you're doing. If you want to be a writer, learn about writing. And, of course, get an education. But also, the bottom line I find with writing is, write. The best way to learn to write is to write. Okay? You're just going to have to do it. And that's just the best way to do it. Just go on and write, you know. And do all of these other things, but write.