Antonia Charles

Antioch College


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00:00:03 - Antonia Charles aka Man La La

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Segment Synopsis: In this brief introduction, I laugh because I had never asked or heard Antonia addressed as anything other than her nickname which is "LaLa". In 21 years, I didn't even know her full legal name.

00:00:37 - Where were you born?

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Partial Transcript: "When I was in Haiti I feel comfortable but for some reason, I am in New York"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia is a humorous lady, she says with a chuckle that she was born in Haiti. Her youngest daughter, Mitzie Charles, was there to help with any potential communication barriers.

00:01:42 - First Day in the United States

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Partial Transcript: "I come here in August 15th, 1970, it was on Saturday"; "When I went to church on Eastern Parkway I saw many many many Haitians, I thought I was in Haiti again"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia remembers the exact day and day of the week she came to the United States. She remembers going to church the next day near Eastern Parkway and seeing a lot of Haitian people. She says my grandmother, my great grandmother and my grandfather came to pick her up from the airport.

00:03:37 - First Occupation

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Partial Transcript: "When I came, I say whatever I find, I'll take it"; "I feel comfortable with that job, they love me, I love them-- and they respect me. So, I can't complain about America.

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about initially working at a factory and that she had training as a dressmaker in Haiti but never used those skills in the US. She says that after her stint in the factory, she was a babysitter for 18 years.

00:05:31 - "Life not easy always"

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Partial Transcript: "I didn't work for nothing because of them"; "I love them dearly, they respect me and I respect them"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia speaks very briefly about her marriage to her husband and conveys simply that he was a very bad man. She beams with pride about her daughters and how much she loves and respects them.

00:06:48 - Why is respect important?

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Partial Transcript: "Even [if] I am penniless, I am a millionaire today because of them"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia says that it was difficult to raise two kids and that they have made her very proud. She seems to imply that she made sacrifices for her children as her answer to why respect is important. I thought it best not push especially since she is an elder in the family.

00:07:21 - "What was the main reason why you came to the United States"

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Partial Transcript: "For a better life"; "Man NiNi and Marie said by the time they came here, Antonia will follow them"; They send me a paper, I fill it out, and I came here"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about wanting to leave Haiti for a better life. She also mentions my great grandmother and grandmothers role in her immigration. She says came here at 36 years old

00:08:40 - What does being Haitian mean to you?

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Partial Transcript: "Love your country. And if you want to die, you can die for your country too"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia says succinctly, "Love your country. And if you want to die, you can die for your country too"

00:09:12 - What does it mean to Haitian and American?

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Partial Transcript: "You have some opportunities here when you're American but like I said earlier, I am not American by birth"

00:09:38 - Do you consider yourself black?

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Partial Transcript: "I am. and I'm proud of that";

Segment Synopsis: "I am. and I'm proud of that" she says with a smile and slight chuckle

00:09:58 - Being black and being Haitian; What does being black mean to you?

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Partial Transcript: "Nothing change. I'm Haitian. I'm Haitian. I'm Haitian"; "Because my ancestors- Dessalines, Petion, Toussaint L'Ouverture shed their blood for us"; "That's why I am who we are now"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia doesn't really see a difference between being black and being Haitian. She says she is black because of her ancestors' sacrifices and names Haitian visionaries of the past.

00:11:27 - What does being a Haitian womanmean to you?

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Partial Transcript: "Always they have to work to get money, to raise your kids. Some of them-I among them"

00:11:58 - What does it mean to be Haitian man?

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Partial Transcript: "Some Haitian men are good, but we cannot say 100%"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia speaks her truth by first reminding us that in life there is good and bad and then saying that most are "no good, no good"

00:12:44 - Do you feel a responsibility to Haiti?

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Partial Transcript: "Like yesterday, I went to a place to send money to Haiti"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about sending money to a more distant cousin of hers in Haiti because she recognizes that sometimes she throws food out in the US when it's hard for people to eat. She sees her sending money as a part of her responsibility and shares that she likes to help people.

00:13:44 - News and Phone Calls

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Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about being kept abreast of happenings in Haiti through talking to her friends.

00:14:18 - Haitian Culture

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Partial Transcript: "They used to work on the earth but since 10 years ago, it's not the same. You have to import everything"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about overall shifts in Haiti in the last 10 years or so where there is less local agriculture and an increase in imports. She also talks about being taught to cook traditional Haitian dishes by my great grandmother.

00:16:25 - Languages

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Partial Transcript: "At school they learn you French but when you get home you speak Kreyol- Patois"; Because that's my language

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about the settings for different languagesShe says some Haitians, like my grandfather, speak Spanish as well.

00:17:57 - Has being Haitian changed for you over time?

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Partial Transcript: "Sometimes, I think about Haiti but since it is the way it is, I say forget it. It's a good country, I'm telling you if it wasn't for those people who rob people and kidnap people"; "I pray for the people to change their hearts"

00:20:12 - Religion and Spirituality

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Partial Transcript: "When I pray, God answers my prayers. Believe Me"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia says she is Catholic and it has been a big part of her life. She was raised Catholic and stayed Catholic and speaks about going to mass and the role of prayer in her life.

00:22:44 - Sexual Harassment In Haiti

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Partial Transcript: "Sometimes they need money to survive"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about widespread sexual harassment as being common in Haiti.

00:23:34 - Second Job

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Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about her love for children leading her to a second babysitting job for 10 years and how she enjoyed going to Israel-Palestine with the family in the mid 1990s.

00:24:49 - Going back to Haiti

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Partial Transcript: "I came here is 70 and I went back in 1978"; "The last time I went was 1999"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about her first time going back to Haiti after migrating to the United States. She then talks about the threat of kidnapping in the 90s that made her trip to Haiti in 1999 the last time she went back to visit.

00:26:18 - Raising two daughters in NY

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Partial Transcript: "Always in Brooklyn but I work[ed] in Manhattan"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about some of the struggles she went through working and raising her two daughters. She talks about having many people, family and friends, help her through difficult times. She talks about the cooperative aspects of family.

Subjects: family

00:29:29 - Haitian Music

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Partial Transcript: Since I was a little one, I love to dance"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about her long standing relationship with dance and music and how music, dance and drinking for some are a part of Haitian culture

00:30:22 - Traditions

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Partial Transcript: "On January 1st, you have to make a soup"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about traditions that she has carried on in the United States. She talks about her daily routine and experiences like going to Rockefeller Center and going window shopping with her daughters. Antonia also talks about gathering the family on New Year's Day to eat traditional Haitian soup. She mentions that it became a lot more common to eat the soup with the larger extended family when she moved to the United States

00:35:30 - Family Reunions

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Partial Transcript: "I remember the first person who came with this idea was Karen"

Segment Synopsis: Antonia talks about family reunions being introduced by Karen about 13 years ago

00:36:49 - Final Thoughts

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Partial Transcript: "Because of difficulty of life, some go to Santo Domingo, America, Dubai, Caicos, Italy-- they travel all over the world looking for a better life but Haiti, I love it.