Karen Ransom

Antioch College
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00:00:02 - Intro 00:00:21 - Early Life

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Partial Transcript: "The Haitians were just coming into the country"; "Brooklyn of course is not the Brooklyn that it is now"; "It was a very difficult situation unless you learned how to adapt and kind of roll with the punches"; "In the 80s, that's when crack hit the streets"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about the stigma around Haitian people in the early 70s and view of Haitian people as poor boat people in part due to limited representations in American media. She talks about coming up in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn before it became the posh place it is today. She talks about dealing with American stigma around her Haitianness outside the home and strict Haitian obedience inside the home.

00:04:38 - Old Gangs and Rough New York

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Partial Transcript: "No, but we did have a gang that was really rough at that time called the Park Slope Boys";

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about the presence of gangs in the 80s in the Bronx and Brooklyn. She talks about how gangs have become large organized crime networks but previously were groups of 8-15 people who ran together like a posse.

00:05:53 - High School

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Partial Transcript: "Since we were an experimental school, there was a lot of artists, there were a lot of poets, you know--there was a lot of pretty boys which of course we loved.";

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about traveling to John Dewey High School in Coney Island and talks about going to primary schools in Park Slope which she describes as a rougher area. She says the rougher high schools were Lincoln, Grady, and Lafayette. She talks about Dewey being radical in the early 90s because she could pick her classes which made it so she could work after going to classes in the morning.

00:08:49 - College and Education

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Partial Transcript: "They were always like everyone else- my grandmother- they knew that that was like the ultimate goal"; "my parents didn't know much about the system"; "Now looking back I can see , especially having my own children, how it is so critically important for you to have that foundation"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about not getting a good foundation in New York public schools and the cultural divides that influenced her educational experience. She talks about how her academic experience informs how much she values the academic foundation of her own children.

00:12:45 - Other Family/Haitian Values

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Partial Transcript: "I think the concepts that they raised me with are very important but I'm open and receptive to hearing from anyone"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about family values and Haitian values being one and the same for her and her choice to be more open-minded in understanding available options with regard to raising her own kids.

00:14:18 - How did you come to identify as Haitian?

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Partial Transcript: "I didn't have a choice"; " I identify myself very strongly with being Haitian"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about Haitianness as integrated into everything she does and how her parents constantly remind her and her children about the fact that they are Haitian.

00:15:04 - Do you identify as Black?

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Partial Transcript: "There's always been a very big disconnect"; "They were always like a lost people"; "I bought an American flag once before that and that was only for the family reunion"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about feeling connected to blackness more now and how the election of Barack Obama in 2008 made her feel the most connected to blackness. She talks about not feeling like she fit into a ghetto or whitewashed stereotype of blackness and later in life reprocessing her relationship with African-American people and America in general.

00:17:26 - What does it mean to be Haitian woman"

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Partial Transcript: "That whole subservient role, that's how I used to a lot of Haitian women"; "Now having 5 children it's almost this overwhelming sense of gratitude because you realize how much work and respect you have to give these people for what they did"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about how when she was younger she saw her aunt's tiredness as embarrassing and she has come to understand how hard her aunts worked to meet the cultural expectation that they as women manage the home. Karen speaks about the ways she chooses to change her relationship to these traditional gendered expectations but also has a more respect for the women who came before her.

00:19:52 - Karen's Father and negotiating gendered expectations

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Partial Transcript: "Because his father died when he was very young, his mother and his older sister really raised him. It put a whole different perception of relationships of men and women";

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about her father differing from other Haitian men in that he believed in education for women and girls and being raised by women, he learned about sheisty men very early on. Karen also talks about a female cousin who was expressly forbidden from going to school because her father thought educating her would be a waste of resources. Karen talks about having a lot of expectations and responsibilities and choosing in adulthood to what extent and what way she would like to meet them.

00:22:32 - What does it mean to be a Haitian man?

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Partial Transcript: "I feel like there is an underlying sense of responsibility to your family and kids is constant, how they express it and communicate is completely different"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about a commitment to family and children as a part of being Haitian man. She talks about this interesting dynamic where some Haitian men cheat but their children's physical needs are always met. She also talks about the role of a Haitian man as typically that of a disciplinarian, a person who handles the business of the home, a handyman when necessary and as a protector of wife, children, and extended family.

00:25:49 - Responsibility and Connection to Haiti

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Partial Transcript: "We all had that sense of what could we do to go back and help the country"; "Right now what I do to give back is, I contribute to an orphanage that's down there."

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about wanting to go back to Haiti and start some businesses in Haiti at one point and being discouraged from doing so as the threat of violence mounted.

00:27:40 - Visiting Haiti

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Partial Transcript: "Very often when I was in my 20s"; "Last summer I went with my kids"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about the various times that she has been to Haiti in different stages of her life

00:28:24 - Haitian Culture

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Partial Transcript: "I try to pass it on to my children because I think it's important"; "You look at my house like downstairs. It's Haitian art. The statues the paintings"; "I definitely can hold it down with basic Haitian authentic meals"

Segment Synopsis: She talks about the importance for her of having her kids understand Haitian culture in terms of art, food and family and the how she wants to make sure that her children don't lose themselves in all of Brooklyn's diversity.

00:32:58 - Family and Friends

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Partial Transcript: "It's not even extended family because I have people that are not even related to me that I call my aunts"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about different understandings of family and how she has multiple people in her life who she later found out were not related to her by blood but she still regards as family.

00:34:33 - The Role of Language

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Partial Transcript: "I always wanted my children to speak Creole or at least understand it"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about different family members negotiating their relationships to Haitian Creole. She also talks about her loss of French fluency and her obstacles she's faced in teaching her kids Creole.

00:37:46 - Religion and Spirtuality

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Partial Transcript: "Born and raised Catholic"; "I was kind of searching for the right church"

Segment Synopsis: She talks about going obligatorily Haitian mass as a kid and then choosing to engage with spirituality differently and mentions my mother as an influence in helping her explore her on spirituality.

00:41:22 - Vodou?

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Partial Transcript: "No, with the exception of..."; "When the crap hit the fan? Where you at?

Segment Synopsis: She tells a story of her brother being taken to Haiti to be cleansed in some sort of ceremony when he was acting up. She also mentions learning somethings from her grandmother about what to do if a man mistreats you.

00:43:15 - Haitianness and Sexuality

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Partial Transcript: "I have been very blessed to know a lot of gay people that I love to death"; "A kid is going to gravitate to what they gravitate to but I want them to understand that there is value and respect in your responsibility as a woman"; "I feel there's a lot of beauty in being a woman" ; "I'm not a very feminine girl but I'm a clearly defined woman"; "He could be gay.. but he clearly understands... his place as a man"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about how over time her parents in particular have toned down their stances on homosexuality. She says for her, sexuality is a nonissue but she values her womanhood very highly and raises her daughters to understand that.

00:50:38 - Lessons

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Partial Transcript: "In any role that you play in anyone's life you have to be open minded and it's always easier said than done"

Segment Synopsis: Karen talks about being open-minded, listening and taking time for yourself-with yourself". Unplugging sometimes.

00:53:06 - Always Remember Your Heritage

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Partial Transcript: "Maybe if you're not reading their names in fancy textbooks that doesn't mean that there's not a rich culture and history there"