Courtney Brown Oral History

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  • Oral Histories

Citation

Brown, Courtney, “Courtney Brown Oral History,” Harlem Education History Project, accessed September 17, 2019, https://educatingharlem.cdrs.columbia.edu/omeka/items/show/149.

Transcript

Courtney Brown: Howard University - that to me is the most important because his [John Hope Franklin] book is From Slavery to Freedom and that was always… and um the other, I get the MSW [Masters of Social Work] at the uh... and my functioning in - as a black social worker… how can you do social work if you don’t know the lifestyle, the history and the background and that the people you’re working with are people who have… so you know… and I’ve worked with Alex Haley and the whole nine yards.

Interviewer: Um… You’ve had a great deal of experience.

CB: Oh, I’ve been around the major, some of the major people in this area…

I: Um. I’m sorry, I’m just trying to find my…

CB: Huh?

I: I’m just searching for my…

CB: Relax your nerves.

I: Phone so that I can, um…

CB: Are you comfortable with that?

I: I’ve very comfortable. I just want to find my phone so I can time us and I don’t take up too much of your time.

CB: Now close that, just close the door and then…. So you can see what you’re going to talk to me about, I –I keep on the wall.

I: Oh great, okay… [Interviewer gets up and looks behind a door at a plank on the wall]

CB: Do you see it?

I: Okay, let’s see…

CB: That’s original.

I: Oh amazing…

CB: That is it. And these are the people that basically functioned all through the period you’re interested in. So it’s just no me, I’m just the clerk writing everything down… and uh… that’s the bunch, that’s the gang. Well Father Weston, you’ll hear from me about Father Weston. He had a… he was… He was odd because he um… we come from similar backgrounds. His father and grandfather are from Barbados and my family is from Barbados and I remember… but you’ll get, we’ll get into that. But I remember one time since you mentioned Johnny Hewitt, Johnny was… he represented a different school of thought about the church. And where Weston was in his thinking, Johnny wasn’t there. Um… Weston knew of my work… I had worked with Urban Leagues, street… blah, blah, blah, blah… and uh… even though Johnny we were friends and we went to high school together, but you’d have to see Johnny – Johnny was very… And that’s one of the problems you’re going to find at St. Philip’s – the color of your skin and your hair. And Weston was familiar with that, but anybody, who looks at the lifestyles of… they have take into that – take that into consideration. If not, you’ll never pierce through that veil… um, so I said well when you come here, I was going to show you that here it is, it’s not just me. You know? And uh, the dominant force of the vestry there are people of Caribbean background – their parents are, but that was the change in the-in the, I… well St. Philip’s. They had been left out – if you didn’t say you were from Virginia or North Carolina or South Carolina – which you’ve seen that in your early beginnings – um – it was a whole, but we eventually – cause I was the clerk for 21 years of St. Philip’s so. …

I: Do you remember when you first started there?

CB: I grew up… yea… that was my Sunday school.

I: Okay

CB: And um so I knew Father Bishop very well. Yea, I knew him very well. And um… um… Bishop was a strange man – I-I used to tease him, he looked like George Washington.

I: [Giggles]

CB: No, I’m serious. And um… he um… when I first started teaching Sunday School – and I’ll tell you about Father Harrison in a minute – um… the Church was made up of the movers and shakers of St. Philip’s… were people who were out of the old Harlem Renaissance period. It is very important to – that you understand St. Philip’s and Father Weston. If we break with the tradition of the Harlem Renaissance and um – there were two of us – myself and Archibald Murray, who was a lawyer – but his people were also from Barbados. And the other thing about Weston, which I hope you… um… when we had problems – and Johnny was one of the… no, he was a problem always – I don’t want you to… um, um…and the only reason we got along was because we went to the same high school cause he came from an upper class background. I went to Dewitt Clinton High School, but I started off at the Bronx High School of Science where you pass the exams and blah, blah, blah, blah… and… and um… there were very few of us at the Bronx High School of Science so I want to be with the fellows to help - and the girls didn’t get off, you know they got off further. I ended up going to Dewitt Clinton… well I transferred from the Bronx High School of Science to Dewitt Clinton. And the reason I’m giving you that background – uh – I met Johnny again in Dewitt Clinton, but he didn’t come through the Bronx High School of Science, but that… uhhh… Johnny you’d have to see him, he was very fair… um… and when were in Sunday School he tried to be a basketball player… and I was pretty good at playing basketball. And I to remind Johnny that he didn’t make the basketball team at St. Philip’s. I did, he didn’t. And Johnny would come with his socks and shoes [CB rolls his eyes]…

JB: [Giggles]

CB: Uh, But um, Johnny, I don’t know, he … he respected me cause he knew we went through the same… but um… if you look up at the vestry there, um, I’m the clerk. Cranston – he’s Caribbean background – he went to Stuyvesant High School, which is the same… then Henri A. Le Gendre [pronounces the name in French] – he’s from - we call him Henry – he’s from – he’s background is Haiti, but he’s Caribbean. You come down, Irving Lyons – he went to Dewitt Clinton. Then there’s Archibald Murray – to conservatives he’s a Republican [laughs]. That’s very real, um, but we were very close. We were fraternity brothers, Omega Psi Phi, which is down at Howard University blah, blah, blah blah – I’ll get into that. Florence Richards… um… is Caribbean background. She’s a teacher, she’s a chemist, she was…Uh, Ann Russell was Southern, but she came from more of a working class background in the South… you know she worked at a post office. She wasn’t you know so-called glam of… she’s one of the folks. Then you’ve got Connie Wright – who is, that is very key because… her son is now the um – well he’s an assemblyman and uh… but he’s also a leader of the Democratic party for New York State and I was his Sunday School teacher. I can’t leave these things out…

I: You had a good impression…

CB: Oh yea, I taught Sunday School – that is key, we’ll get to that. Joe Wyke – he’s Caribbean – his parents were from Trinidad….um, but Joe was one of the more conservative guys, he-he uh… but he would go along with the program, that’s what I’m saying. Um… Weston… his background is very important to understand… um… he grew up in North Carolina. Uh, I know you have that. He went to St. Augustine’s and from there to Columbia. Well I went to a little raggedy school across town from St. Augustine’s, it’s called Shaw, which is a Baptist school with all kinds of traditions going back to slavery blah, blah, blah. It was the school to train Baptist ministers. It was supported by the Southern Baptists and the Northern Baptists and – you know, it had a reputation all over – it trained Baptist ministers. I got there because I went on a basketball scholarship. Okay?

I: Were you born and raised in North Carolina?

CB: I’m sorry?

I: Were your born and raised in North Carolina?

CB: No, No.. Was a born?

I: Where were you born?

CB: Right here in New York City. Well – I’m a New Yorker. Oh, no, the reason why the Caribbean thing runs through my story… um… no, I’m born at Bellevue Hospital. And my parents we were a part of the early West Indian community, which was in Hell’s Kitchen. I grew up on 35th Street. Born on 36th, and we moved to 35th. And the only reason we moved uptown was that you know, Manhattan was… you know. And my original Church uh was St. Andrew’s, which is all West Indian, Barbadian. But all the pretty girls went to St. Philip’s so I left St. Andrew’s. You know the pretty girls were at St. Philip’s so they had dances. So that was more in tune with where kids really were. You know, St. Andrew’s was a classical, high Episcopal Church ringing bells and swinging incense. My parents went there – my father… but um… I went to St. Philip’s cause the girl I was going around my little – she was going to St. Philip’s so it’s obvious I followed her to St. Philip’s. And it was there that uh Father Harrison, who was my Sunday School teacher – he really was my-my inspiration or whatever you want to call it. Uh, I sat in his Sunday School classes so uh…uh…uh…

I: Do you remember -

CB: I can’t hear you…

I: Do you remember when you were in Sunday School if they taught you Episcopalian doctrine or if it was more community…?

CB: Oh no, it was classical… classical. I mean confirmation, yea, I went through all of that, oh yea… but all that I did at St. Andrew’s, which was classical you know was Sunday School and, but I when I got to so called adolescence that was at St. Philip’s. And Father, well uh, Weston had not gotten there yet… um and um… Father Harrison, who really is a real influence in my life. He was born out on Long Island, or somewhere I-I never was clear on where, but he’s from um… Suffolk County, Long Island. Um, and he’s – well he was quite an influence. He had this discussion group for adolescence so that’s one of the reasons I stuck with St. Philip’s and uh… and I made the same seat playing basket… you’d never think I was a basketball player.

I: I believe you. [laughs]

CB: I made the team and um even when I finished high school, I went to – I first enrolled at City College at night and worked during the day. And, I’ll never forget um – walking down 7th Avenue… um… somebody hollered out at me – my nickname as a kid was Runt…

I: Runt?

CB: Yea, I was small. “Runt! Runt!” It was a very dear friend his name was Kenny Anderson. He said, “Man I got a scholarship for you!” I’m just right there on 7th Avenue… I don’t remember, it was probably uh….123rd – 124th, but it was on 7th Avenue. And I knew you were coming, I was trying to recollect these things. I said “Yea, I’ll go,” and I said “but we got to take somebody else.” Um and um…his name was Dave King. He is also Caribbean background. You got to understand this Caribbean, American, black thing you know – I’m not, you know - most people don’t realize that especially here in New York City - this is important to understand… uh, uh, uh… and it will help you understand because I remember Weston… it was some discussion came up… and you know Johnny was always... I don’t know how to describe Johnny. He was my friend, but we just never could sit horses cause he’s from the old black community. They trace their roots back to the American Revolutionary War. Uh, some of his family, uh I think his original family, his slave family was Dutch – he was into that kind of thing. Me – coming out of West Indian background –um… I’m more attuned to Marcus Garvey… You know… uh. And that’s important to understand as part of my makeup [laughs]… why I uh…when we get into the program side, but I’m trying to get you to see the dynamic… um and Dave King, his people were from Trinidad, but we then went to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is steeped in tradition.. I don’t even want to…uh…

I: You went to Shaw on a basketball scholarship?

CB: Yes, I wasn’t a GI. You see, a heart murmur kept me out of the service so uh… no, I was fair on the basketball court. Kenny [laughs] - I’ll never forget says - “Man I got a scholarship…” but they were looking for ball players. You got to realize that the ball players… they would come up from the southern black schools to Harlem or New York or whatever you want to call it and try to recruit to bring them south and um.... The schools we used to revel uh you know… so some of the guys I knew went to North Carolina College, Durham, but they all came out of Harlem. We were all good ball players – it will all depends on how you won a scholarship. But anyway, um, it’s there that – and I’m trying to give you that kind of background to why I dovetailed with Moran… and Moran thought of me, you know as – he’d call me at six o’ clock in the morning… no I’m serious he would. Moran is a strange guy, but the-his tragedy was… uh… or his anger, either word… um I don’t think people realize he was a social genius. That’s the word I use to describe him, a social genius. He um… he had his bout with Marxism. Um, there was a um - well the Communist party made a big effort to so called infiltrate some of the um-um so-called bright stars um… and Moran at one time was a Marxist um, but uh… it was strange, but anyway, it was at Shaw that I met a big influence in my life. He was a historian… had the Roman name – Cott Augustus Jones – Caesar - he was, he was my real inspiration. And he was the one who got the scholarship for me at Howard – I’ll tell you about that.

Rosalind Brown: [Interrupts with a plate of chocolate chip cookies]. Here are some cookies,but where can I put it that’s the thing?

I: Do you want a cookie? [Offers a cookie to CB]

RB: No, he doesn’t want one.

I: Is it okay if I close the window? I’m afraid the street noise may be picking up our mics… Thank you so much, you’re so sweet.

RB: It’s hot in here. I can close it.

I: Here, let me, I can close it.

RB: I can close it too. Go ahead, talk… [closes the window]

I: Thank you so much, I’m just worried that the um all of honking and stuff might be picking up...

RB: Can I get you tea or coffee?

I: No, I’m great thank you.

RB: You’re so pretty.

I: Thank you.

RB: How old are you?

I: 26.

RB: So cute. Where are you from?

I: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

RB: Okay [exits]

I: Before, we move forward can you - you were mentioning something before about Reverend Weston….

CB: Marxist.

I: And you said he was a social genius, but there was…

CB: Right. Well when I said he’s a social genius, what he was able to do um when he became – it’s a long story about how he becomes uh the rector of St. Philip’s Church… um um. He, in the beginning, he was a real estate – came here as a real estate seller blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and going to Columbia and getting his doctorate. Um… he has in – I would so call –with a very strong …uh…group um of “Marxists.” I went to the Jefferson School myself, but–what stands out in my memory going to the Jefferson School is that there was… after classes on Marxism and philosophy, dialectic, etc. going to get the subway… there was white girls would follow us up and invite us up to the campus they had… no, that’s very real. Uh uh… Weston went through the same experience, but uh he rejected it because he had that strong… being born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina there were certain things you didn’t forget like a Klu Klux Klan, etc. But um…

I: Did you… Did you -

CB: I’m sorry…

I: What was your experience with Marxism?

CB: Uh… It was interesting – I-I uh… even my idol in college… um… felt that I should go there um. Corbitt was an intellectual extraordinaire back then. But um, he just felt that if I was going to grow, you’d have to go through this because a lot of so called leading whites in the black intellectual community had toyed with communism or Marxism whatever word… we had developed a whole black model concept, which is in its roots is from here [Harlem]. But um Marxism, you know, was an interesting study. Um, when I was in college, I was known as the Karl Marx…you know I… uh, the only way that I could talk about uh – all of this is verbalized to date, but um… I began to learn early about politics and um… um… but moving on as I said uh, I came back – I went - cause I went to Howard – I spent the whole year on a Masters in History. And my influence there is John Hope Franklin From Slavery to Freedom – so he gave me my scholarship. Um, and I finished Shaw in 3 years – double major and all that kind because I never wanted to come back home.

I: Why?

CB: Well of all the pretty girls… [laughs] that’s why. You know, I got no teeth, bite and all that, but forget it. Uh, I never came home – I was uh, Shaw is like a home you know? I worked during the summer, I went to summer school. I made it - you know I was a hustler. You know um – I cleaned tennis courts…uh you know, whatever had to be done, hey, what’s come back home for? For what? My parents – my father’s a porter, my mother was sickly, but… she used to work, but my father stopped her. My brother was an undercover narcotics detective so you know uh. He would give me his clothes and then I was looking sharp at school. Uh, my brother is far smarter than me, but he never got over the service. He uh was in the Navy and he was in the invasion of the Philippines – he got wounded – he was in Japan. He’s a funny guy – he just uh - I think he wanted to be a doc. He used to draw… He also went to Dewitt Clinton. His drawings of molecules and all that kind of stuff – used to – the teachers who had him, they’d hang his stuff up. He was very good. Oh yea… I think he was a frustrated artist, but I don’t want to get into that. He never – as I said, he never got over the-the uh… invasion. No, he uh… Hawaii was not a pleasant experience for him and the Navy wasn’t pleasant, but…but he didn’t become insane, he just sort of dropped out of the so-called Church scene…he um… to become a detective. You know he walked. We had a first cousin who was born in Barbados, but quickly understood politics when he came to this country. When I tell you how he got into the police department you’ll crack up laughing. Um… there was an Irish kid, I’ll never forget his name, Charles Nuthickle – that was his name Nuthickle. To make the story short, his father was the district leader for Tammany Hall. I want to get very real with you… and whatever happened between um… Nuthickle and my cousin, uh my cousin beat him up. Uh, his name was Corbis Caldwell – you see Eric Caldwell the attorney general – it’s that family. There’s a lot of those – that’s those island families – I’m just trying to show you how these things work. His father carried him to Tammany Hall, which is down by City - City Hall. And uh…whatever the deal was, my cousin became a policeman. [Laughs] I – I – I – I am always amused at how things have changed. Um, but Corbis was tall and handsome… uh, strange guy, but he was like our big brother… three older brothers….and uh…

I: So you said that your brother stopped going to Church and that your parents…

CB: He would pay his dues, he would put his envelopes in, but he, he had all mixed feelings about the Church – not his belief in God – but the Church. Um, you know, he had been through the war, and you know looked at death you know, and then to come back to this nonsense of separate, but equal, he couldn’t buy it. He just uh – he wondered how I could buy it. See I’m in Clinton… I’m in North Carolina before the March on Washington. I’m trying to give you all the background so you understand your direct inquiries uh how all of us were shaped. So uh…it’s only in later years that I understood Weston, but we were a part of Weston’s grand design that bunch there… because we all had our own networks and Weston knew how to manipulate them – whatever that was. Uh, uh, he uh, is really the key… uh… in terms of understanding a lot of the things that took place in Harlem. And I don’t think I could – I guess somebody is going to write his – well write a biography, because to me, he was the leading light in Harlem in terms of being an intellectual. Um, um, he um, started off with the whole idea that St. Philip’s needed a new building. Um, and, the thing that he was pushing was to really have our own school and you know, that really appealed to me.. not me… but I’m just saying. Um, so he had a um…fund - a fundraising group to help us raise money cause it’ll explain how Weston helped build Carver Bank, which is one of the largest… It’s Weston. And um, um, extraordinary man, I mean. He could be a pain in the ass, but he was really a frustrated genius. He – you know… there were so many things he wanted to do.. uh…uh… but uh…

I: In your experience -

CB: I can’t hear you…

I: In your experience, um, how did the community and yourself perceive him?

CB: Weston?

I: Yes

CB: Uh… Weston was… he functioned on 2-3 levels. The key to Weston’s success, which was having a breakfast in the morning. And he would invite all the so-called lights of Harlem. And they call came. Percy, I’m talking well Percy – I knew him extremely well, I met him through Weston - Percy’s brother, and Charlie Rangel, you know? So we had a gal cook a breakfast. Um…

I: Every week?

CB: At the church.

I: At the church…

CB: Oh, no down home, do understand? You know Weston understood this. I didn’t understand, I just. Now, that I’ve gotten older I have a much deeper appreciation for Weston. So…oh, in the breakfast, he um - he’d always have all the lights of Harlem. Um, and um, I’m trying to recall the cook’s name, I can’t remember the name right now, but she’d made a mean breakfast… sausage cakes, you know… eggs, and the whole nine yards… pancakes… Uh, oh, cause the only, I mean… there were very few people of standing that ignored Weston’s…uh… you know invitation. Everybody knew he was smart, but at St. Philip’s he had a bigger forum and he quickly out grew that so-called left, Marxist group. And, um, we’re not talking about – we’re talking Langston Hughes, Richard… these are folks you know… um um, and um, to understand what we did, you’d have to understand the role of the breakfast.

I: Was it weekly?

CB: No, um. He tried to, I don’t remember… I - know it was not weekly. He was – they would ask to meet again and we…you know, we had Ed Koch – that’s how we got so many influential – I’ll tell you about Koch. Uh…

I: And what would you talk about at the meetings?

CB: Well the plans for Harlem. No, we’d really just talk about it. Um, we’d always have some speaker. Um, that’s how Carver Bank came into being. Um… um, Weston never bought the idea that blacks shouldn’t have their own blank and he felt that was cheating. He thought he was a real estate person – he knew real things. I didn’t know. I didn’t really understand, but I’m there, you know, I’m the clerk of the Vestry, blah, blah, blah, blah. Um, but the breakfastes, um, are key in understanding anything you want to talk about. Because by that time, the word had gotten out in the Amsterdam News told there was a bunch of us at St. Philip’s and so and so was the speaker. Um…

I: So it was open to the public?

CB: No, no, no, no, only on invitation. Uh… and uh… the editor of the Amsterdam, which I think is very key to understand, his name is Jimmy Hicks. And, the reason I got along with Jimmy Hicks is that we were frat brothers at Howard University… I’m just giving you these kind of networks. Um, cause Jimmy used to tease me…he said, “goddamn you…” I’m sort of following Weston’s lead. No, I had access to the Amsterdam – and that was key.

I: You had access to what?

CB: To The Amsterdam News…

I: Oh, okay, I see.

CB: That’s the biggie. It was through the breakfasts that St. Philip’s begins to move into the center pass Adam Clayton Powell. You’ve got to understand that – I know that’s quick, but uh uh… Powell got bogged down in his personal life, and so therefore, Abyssinia, you know, uh and St. Philip’s used to get the Amsterdam stories, you know, uh. Weston was very clever at this – he- he knew where he was going. I didn’t know. I’m following – I’m a follower. Um, he um…so in building the community center – it really – our dream was it should be a school…uh. But life has a funny way of uh…happening. When we started to break ground for the new community center, the goddamn river. And we took us a year to pump the water out. If not, we would have proudly been further ahead with all of things we’re talking about. Um… Father Harrison realized there were a whole lot of us coming to St. Philip’s, who had finished…we had every degree you could think about: doctorate, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Uh, and the group that was functioning there was called Entheos. And, we became Father Weston’s brain group or whatever. I mean, we had Ph. – we had that kind of stuff. Um…um…

I: And…

CB: Um… and you’re gonna ask me? Yea, I was one of the presidents of Entheos. And um… so we touched bases with the political spectrum… uh… to this date Charlie is my dear. I mean, he saved my ass when I was in… [chuckles]. Uh, I guess you know I worked for over 43 years with the Division of Human Rights, I was the Regional Director blah, blah, blah, blah….

I: Did you – did you bring that experience into the church?

CB: Uh, yes and no. Um, the Schomburg Collection was saved by cause I knew Jean and the folks on 42nd street tried to get rid of her. We had this collection that was left of the Schomburg in the basement of the library. They brought in a new guy from second- third, I mean uh… a librarian from Pittsburgh and…nice little guy, but they didn’t want to give Jean the job, they thought she was too radical. And um, so Jean filed a complaint and who was the Regional Director? Me. I just gave her… And who was her lawyer? My frat brother. Uh, you know I mean, I said… and they came and we gave the New York Public Library a whopping, you know. They run the big law firm, but I’m the guy that calls the shots because I’m the Regional Director. And uh… uh…that was I think one the important things we did – saving the Schomburg, bringing the collection from the basement, keeping Jean there. Um…to me, that’s one of our um… but Weston was um… not satisfied with just a community center, you know? Cause it increased our income. We had - there was a very gifted person they called Lorraine Younger. She was not an MSW, but she – she was terribly skilled so she ran the quote St. Philip’s Community Center uh and she kept that job as long as we could get funding, but then to get funding the person in charge had the MSW and Lorraine didn’t have it. So uh… I had it, I had an MSW. But, we built the community center and uh… we then went to the whole idea of uh housing. Uh, the critical piece was senior citizen and if you go there you can see I’m still on the board, but [laughs] …uh and that’s a long story, but uh… from there we talked about St. Philip’s on the Park. And that was Weston’s dream, you know, he uh, uh, so I sat on both boards, uh, uh…

I: When you.. um… when you were securing housing for people, um… it was for people who were mentally…

CB: No, the community.

I: Mentally unstable?

CB: No, the community, the community. St. Philip’s on the Park had about 200 apartments. That was an awful block, I mean um... We also wanted to uh… go a little further in terms of, but Arch Mur being the conservative was a little more cautious and Weston understood that so he.. uh.. today they built that area that Weston wanted. Nowadays, it is a big co-op right there on 134th Street. Uh, but I think that um the breakfastses that we’re talking about…uh… led to the formation of Carver Bank and then the idea was to get churches and groups that were receiving funds from government to bank in Jefferson and you know Carver rather than the Rockefeller bank up the block. Okay? Uh. Though we were identified you know during the – you got to realize I write ministry notes for 21 years that’s why I want you to see this yourself so I’m not making up a fantasy. I’m doing the damn - I don’t need no, but I just trusted Weston and I-I never forgot he - our first clash in the so-called vestry blah, blah, blah, blah and you mentioned Johnny Hewitt blah, blah, blah, blah… and Father Weston at the-the uh… at a meeting of the so-called vestry quote, un quote - he said “Court let me talk to you…” I never forgot that. He took me over to the side and said “What makes you think you’re the only Basian in the place?”

I: The only what?

CB: Basian – Barbadian. We say Basian, see? And that’s the first time I began to understand, he knew from my family background in terms of Barbados. Uh, Arch Murray was also. You follow what I’m saying? Freddie Cranston asked me – and Freddie used to be our critic – we put him on the vestry to shut him up – all these things uh..uh… and that kept Freddie quiet cause he has a responsibility. Bitching about the money and blah, blah, blah – “you the Treasurer.” And I was a Sunday School teacher for his kids and also Father Weston’s kids, I was their Sunday School teacher. But uh…those were things that just happened. I think we were influencing a lot of people in terms of the church has a social obligation… you know… part of it, yes is worship, but also there’s an agenda the – you know - to know the poor. We have an obligation and uh, uh I think that uh if anything uh you know the years that mentioned, uh we built our reputation, uh… that we were not just a church to come for wafers and wine, we believed in the social gospel that the church should be an active force. And um, the Bishop, uh he quickly understood it… uh….

I: And supported?

CB: Well I was a trustee of the Cathedral. You know all of these things, I don’t – I understand them now - you follow what I’m saying? But I didn’t understand Weston’s, but he’s got a little loud mouth… went to black schools, the black fraternity, you follow what I’m saying? Understood the dynamics of the black community because I was there in Raleigh, North Carolina. And then at Howard University – that was the Harvard. And uh, - well – he knew it, but I didn’t know, but I saw the point in it, but uh… go ahead, honey…

I: You mentioned something about inspiring the community – do you think that St. Philip’s initiatives influenced what other churches were doing?

CB: Oh sure. Yes – we had a big camping program. You know uh… we were locked into camp you know - kids going away for the summer and through our community center um I can’t tell you how many…

I: Did it matter if they were members of the church or not? Could they come from…

CB: No we - camp. Families came through our center and signed up for camp. We used to charge you tutoring also, but there are certain things, you - it comes to a point that you can’t – you can overstretch yourself. Cause I-I used to tu-tutor history, but there’s only so much you can do um. The other thing that we brought it in was a theater group, which is still functioning today. Uh, we put them in the basement, gave them a home. So they continued the Harlem Renaissance thing. And the theater group – they even had their – their theater was Sunday, and uh…they sold their tickets. They were self-supporting, they paid us rent. [laughs] Weston was very practical.

I: Do you remember um when you said the community center was originally geared towards education?

CB: Yes.

I: Um, so what kind of… you said, you mentioned tutoring, theater, Sunday school…

CB: Well, the kids had a place to go – that’s what I really meant. Rather than be on the street or standing on the stoop. In the center it was like your home – you played basketball, um… you could come and ask for help, you know that kind of thing. But basically, it was a home away from home. And Lorriane’s brothers…uh…were not picnics you know? [laughs] when you came into the center you learned how to behave yourself… [interviewer laughs]. No, you got the…There’s a joke [chuckles] when you tell a kid I’ll whoop you upside your head they understand that – so um…it was a quiet male fist, but it was understood when you come into the center you understand, you take care of business. We knew how to deal with a thug.

I: Did you have a fair amount of boys and girls that came? Or more boys than girls?

CB: Oh the girls would come because they were safe. And the boys would follow the girls. And the girls had a program – you know they had uh… um…dance classes um. I know one time I directed A Raisin in the Sun for uh the church… but that was… it was busy… that’s what I’m saying… and the kids understood that, you know? We didn’t try to save all of Harlem, but kids from 133rd and 134th – around the church - were the ones that came and if you and if you weren’t around that you couldn’t come….

I: Why?

CB: Because we made the rules.

I: So only kids within…

CB: Basically, we appealed to the kids – the blacks - where our church was. Anything outside of that, brother we got to get down.

I: So do you – can you remember anything about those blocks?

CB: Which blocks?

I: Those blocks that surrounded the church at the time?

CB: 133rd and 134th that was it. Uh, we were very real about that. Uh, and uh, one of the kids I adopted as my godchild – on no very real so. And one, she passed – with a brilliant knowledge, we got her a scholarship to NYU. We finished high school, we tried to get – we got some to go south to school. Um… um… We had – well –uh… it was the whole encouragement thing, but we had a… every now and then you’ve got to show these kids you’re serious. I don’t want you to think that I’m a dictator. But every now and then you have to be – but that’s what those kids – they liked the father figure – I’d grab a kid in a minute – ain’t no conversation. So one thing understood you knew the street and that you’d give your respect. That’s street. That’s Mr. Brown is from the street, man. I didn’t use bad language.

I: But you were familiar with the neighborhood?

CB: I’m from the street and I made something out of my life…And I’d hold that out on the hood for them… And I didn’t back off that, you know, so they knew I was serious.

I: Did their parents -

CB: I’m sorry?

I: Did their parents come to the community center or…

CB: I really don’t know…we focused basically on the kids. We did have a parents group and etc. and I don’t want to say I know anything. But, Lorraine ran the center and the church supported Lorraine. Um, my - I don’t know, I was there because of my beliefs – my church beliefs. And I realized that this to me was Christianity in action – would Jesus do the same kind of thing? And he did. So um – we created, there was a group called Entheos – which I think I told you about – which is of doctors, and you know, lawyers. Have you ever heard of Bruce Wright? The cunningness Bruce, the judge? That is his wife Connie Wright… And uh, so anyway, we were locked into politics of Harlem – We had a district leader – Mark Walpole… Percy Sutton’s brother was on the Vestry. He only came because he married somebody that was schoolteacher – you follow me? - and she married him and she made him join the church. I’m trying to think of Charlie’s last name from the National Urban League, he was another member of the church… So uh uh that was the way it went um… we made an effort uh but the idea of St. Philip’s on the Park, which has over 200 units of housing, St. Philip’s Senior Center… we sold the property on 135th street –um, I don’t know, I guess in your reading… St. Philip’s well we sold- got rid of that um and um, we supported… um…I’m trying to think of Jean’s last name, but she was the librarian, she was member of the church. And we like to feel in the back of that we gave forth to the Schomburg Collection… um…

I: It’s a great collection…

CB: Yea cause I went to City College and I was a part of the kids that took the stuff out of the basement to the top floor of the Schomburg. Because I was heavily - I knew all of these things – not that I was doing it.

I: You knew it needed to be saved.

CB: I’m sorry?

I: You knew what needed to be saved.

CB: Yea yea. So, what can I say? But I - that’s been my life so uh....

I: Can I -

CB: That was an important part of my life that period. There’s so much to do, you know, and you just had to be very selective about it, if not you could burn yourself out…um but that’s pretty much…plus we had a big camping program at you know... People would started signing up with us to send their kids to camp so we sent quite a few kids to camp. And um…um…

I: I remember reading that the church gave scholarships to…

CB: Which one?

I: St. Philip’s gave scholarships to students at public schools…to go to…

CB: No, we – this is - the charter schools is later now…um no we, the church was sort of. Well there were two populations: one population was the mulatto Harlem Renaissance southern, okay um… they were the ones who bought the property on 135th in 1909 built St. Philip’s, they came uptown that kind of thing. So they like to trace their roots back um to downtown blah, blah, blah, blah – that’s – that’s Johnny Hewitt. My stuff is – so what? We’re here and this is a different ball game. And that the church has to adapt and we have to deal with the problems that are right in front of us… And uh…

I: Was there um support from the Episcopal denomination at large?

CB: Oh yea. Oh yea. They felt we helped them be Christian. We - well I told you I was… I was a trustee in the Cathedral uh. So uh I think you’ve been around me long enough – I’d open up my mouth.

I: Yea

CB: I was on the Episcopal Mission Society, which is the camping and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So we got a couple scholarships. And the people from Trinity we’d grab them and so we get some scholarships for kids, but uh…

I: So there wasn’t – that wasn’t necessarily a big challenge?

CB: No, no, no. That was just another thing we were doing so. We was doing a lot of things. But at the core of it, we didn’t realize that the gymnasts moved around Weston – he knew everything going. He was an absolute genius – that’s why I used the word social genius, absolute. Arrogant son of a bitch, but he uh, he was quite... he was a theologian. He uh… we got along because I had dropped off into studying metaphysics and uh early influence by reading Mary Baker Eddy Christian Science that kind of thing um, which helped me develop a greater faith because I didn’t understand so I think reading Mary Baker that gave me a deeper understanding of what it was to be a Christian and all that kind of nonsense. Uh uh Weston used the Parish luncheon as the jump off thing so we would get newspaper coverage, which would be the Amsterdam News etc. and we’d call Jimmy Hicks and he was the editor so we would get our coverage in the Amsterdam so you know… the keynote speaker or speakers for our luncheons were all prominent, but Weston knew them and um um so that you know um we knew how to the play the game, we understood that. Um but, the idea of playing the game our framework was the social gospel… uh, and uh Weston helped us – or it helped him – I don’t know which way even to this day. Um Um he grew and uh – I think uh – he kept growing and then he had to retire and… He had a tremendous ego… you can imagine what we were dealing with. Ego or no ego the guy was just… it didn’t bother me… I-I…

I: Do you think though that’s why maybe the black community criticized him more so than…

CB: Not really. Not, not…the movers and shakers who were the politicians always wanted to come to our luncheons cause these are the people that vote – I mean, he quickly understood that.

I: Was –

CB: That was the purpose of the luncheon to get all the people of the church, bring all of their friends and then let’s go down to the big hotel so you get all dressed up on a Saturday, you follow me? And the place would be jammed – I’m telling, we went to all the big hotels and…

I: With all of Harlem’s leaders?

CB: Those who were important and you know – the speaker – the introducer blah, blah, blah, blah was me…

I: That’s a good job to have…

CB: Yea, yea yea, so I knew a lot of the guests and that kind of stuff.

I: And what would happen at the luncheon… they would just speak about Harlem -

CB: You come to eat, you’d hear a speech and you’d go home, but the way of getting out of Harlem, get downtown, wear your best clothes on a Saturday – it was a social event, but the undertones were political.

I: How so?

CB: Hmm?

I: How were the undertones political?

CB: We’d always have a speaker of some… note. We – you know, uh – we’d sit on top…uh think you know what helped us. Jimmy Hicks was the editor, he was a friend um, but uh…

I: Was he a member of the church or just a friend?

CB: No, I’d say… His wife, I think, Jimmy’s… yes, Daisy Hicks was a member of the church. But Jimmy was uh – he went to Howard University. And I said “oh you went to Howard?” – you know one of those kind of things. You “Omega?” Yea! It’s one of those kind of things you know. He’s Omega so am I. How? The… One knows it… So it’s not a question of not understanding the levels in the black community – Weston was clear about that. He just wanted to energize the-the-the-the literate -whatever word you want to use - that the things they can do in this environment. You know -the south will take care of itself. Yea I - we went to the March on Washington carried 5 buses. He was clear on that. We went to the Poor People’s March, the ERA, you know, we – that was one of the ways that we a lot – we kept a lot of people in our congregation. We tried… you know…we-we-we. And this group Entheos, even though it was a small, but they had an interesting agenda. And so you’d go to plays, you’d buy-buy out blocks of tickets um and it would be written up in the Amsterdam you know… and so we would go to some of the big plays downtown…

I: What do you think their agenda was… just to bring?

CB: Who?

I: You said that they had an agenda…

CB: Who is this?

I: The group, Entheos…

CB: Oh, it was always a social agenda. Yea, Entheos now… whatever the group, you know, so they developed a reputation so it wasn’t hard to invite some intellecutalites and all the kind of thing. The invitation came from Entheos and St. Philip’s. People knew who – oh they understood what was going on- everybody had – we had all kinds of degrees. They were medical, doctors, lawyers, but they were frustrated and they wanted some kind of group meeting that the center ideological is the social gospel. And they didn’t want you – what did you do for the black community, you know? So that was the…

I: Um…

CB: [Laughs]

I: I have so many questions. Um, I know this was a little bit later in your career, but I was wondering if… I know you spoke that St. Philip’s had housing for the community… um and you also were very active in securing HUD [Housing and Urban Development].

CB: HU – what?

I: The housing plan – um I think it was a little bit later in the 1970s or 80s… um…you convinced the state to build housing in Harlem.

CB: Well we were the first church to get into house - building housing and um…

I: Do you remember um… how you convinced them that this should be supported?

CB: Well, it was bold move. I mean, Weston understood real estate um… that whole block 133rd and 134th from 8th over to and uh… St. Nicholas… um… we um were a member of the community board that you know… and the representative from St. Philip’s to the community board was a lawyer and when we began to – you know in terms of being on the board – blah, blah, blah, blah – he became the vice chairman or whoever that is and it just came and we were given the quote rights or whatever that is. And ironically um, the reason we succeeded with St. Philip’s on the Park is the boy who owns a printing press - used to print up all the bulletins and all that… he had uh a broken down piece of space… and we said well he could come into our building and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And uh, St. Philip’s on the Park was a real… but uh…

I: Was it affordable?

CB: Huh?

I: Was the housing affordable? Like inexpensive for people to live there or was it… Like how much -

CB: No, we were in the area. Uh, we joined the St. Nicho - St. Nicholas Urban Development Core so we snatched a piece you know [laughs] for ourselves, uh hoping that – you know all of members ain’t so called upper middle class blah, blah, blah, blah. The problem we found that a lot of our congregation didn’t live in Harlem anymore. You know they moved out to suburbia so [laughs]. Uh one of the things that Father Weston developed, which I think kept all us um…that various neighborhoods developed St. Philip’s counseling, councils, and Father Weston or Father Harrison would meet and bring holy communion because a lot of the folks couldn’t get to the church on Sunday anymore, you know. So that was the way we did the outreach, I mean. Uh, it was unusual [ laughs]. The reason I can talk about that - that Father Harrison started going blind um and I became his chauffeur… so we – if the – the Long Island, blah, blah, blah, blah… uh then I’d – you know -drive out there and he’d service and communion and...So we did that – so that – cause you gotta realize that after World War II, the GIs coming back, they got mortgages and they moved out of Harlem so the problem we had is - who you going to fill in the wholes with? And we felt that the congregations are right around us, and one of the - which was our theme – because the social gospel applied to everyone – and the church is for worship, to give praise to God. It had nothing to do with the social amenities , you know, and so we developed some very strong folks from the community. So what happened –what I’m saying is that the
So what I’m saying is that the strength or leadership of the church shifted away from this high –class, mulatto dominant group to the folks and there were some of us who helped in that transition.

I: To the immediate community in Harlem?

CB: Yea, yea, yea. I mean I taught Sunday school for 25 years so that’s that’s… that’s not… A lot my kids became doctors and lawyers and dentists. Um…

I: What would –

CB: One I adopted as my goddaughter and uh… I’m sorry?

I: Um, what would a normal Sunday school class for you – like what would you do during that time with the kids?

CB: You mean my normal coming to church?

I: Well - for when you taught the class?

CB: When I did…?

I: When you taught Sunday school…

CB: Yea, oh everything.

I: Everything?

CB: Oh yea. The idea is Jesus didn’t have a sex or... you know…What caught the kids off guard – they didn’t realize there was Africa in the Bible so how you gonna talk about Egypt and not talk about Africa or Ethiopia? So this blew the minds of the these kids who came from middle class, mulatto type families you know um… who had disdain for black people or if you didn’t look a certain way. And Africa had – was not free. The only person who talked about Africa was Marcus Garvey movement. So my point? [laughs] Um… I never forgot um, um…Terrence went to uh Father Bishop and said, “Where the hell did you get this guy from he talks about Africa?” Yea, I’m serious they – I wasn’t popular in the beginning, but uh I was a problem teaching the – I taught the senior discussion group, which was for seniors in college. And I’d have room full on Sundays so I wasn’t afraid to deal with their issues – um you know - sex, dating – you know that’s very real and you can’t just move past that… people don’t get it. What the kids heard, I’d - we’d talk about it.

I: When you said that a lot of the original members ended up moving into the suburbs –

CB: Yea – they would – they got the G - you gotta realize because before they couldn’t get any mortgages. And they came back home as GIs – they could get SHA [State Housing Authority] mortgages, you have Carver Bank and bam…

I: Did you notice over the 25 years that you taught that your students changed from coming from the upper class to then coming from the immediate community?

CB: No – basically uh uh… the kids were coming out of the community center. Um…

I: Not necessarily from middle to upper class backgrounds–

CB: No, no, no, no. You come into Brown’s class, that’s it, period. – I didn’t really – that was not the issue. The kids that were talk about these things. And uh, you know Africa to them was like a no man’s land. Um, I was quite comfortable talking about how Nkrumah [Kwame – leader of Ghana, 1951 - 1966] had been to our church, you know? A number of Africans that visited… I could tell them I took Nkrumah to my house and met my mother and father. “Ohhh” - kids are like that, you know? Uh… uh… we-we, I think… St. Philip’s is - has been a historical – well, I would – a real spiritual force during that period. One, we did have the growth of a large black middle-class congregation, who because of the war got jobs and blah, blah, blah, blah. Um you got Civil Rights legislation, you know, so they were able, so so…yea. I’m just saying we were a vital force during that period.

I: Right.

CB: And, we are not the only ones, I’m just saying. Uh-uh, we influenced Wyatt T. Walker who was on 160th Street, he built, but he came – I know Wyatt from uh… they would come to see what had done. Abyssinia you know they would come and the first thing I would tell both of them – I would say, you must have lawyers in your congregation to develop non-profit corporations so you can ask for public funds, run public programs– “ohhh” you know these are things that we did. And um, I knew Wyatt very well – he used to come to see Father Weston, but he went to a black school in West Virginia. They were sister schools so I can vouch for Wyatt, I mean he might be a Baptist preacher. But he’d say, well Courtney went to a Baptist school. This guy was Episcopalian, but he I went to a Baptist school, but hey what difference does it make? In school, I was still a rebel, I would just close the campus down now. No I did that. I would just close it down.

I: What do you mean?

CB: Well, you know, they had some crazy rules. Um… uh… and…. the fellow was from Richmond, Virginia, his name - J. Henry Jasper III. And the school wasn’t, I think uh we had a problem with the food and blah, blah, blah, blah. We worked out something between Jasper and myself and another fellow… and we called for a campus wide meeting and we had you know – uh and we demanded blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we demanded – you know - why couldn’t we go to the movies downtown? Why couldn’t we go the hotels, Sir Walter Raleigh? Kids go, “Yayyy!” That’s when Dr. Daniels – he needs some of that money from the people for the day-to day expenses of the school. And here he’s got this crazy New York kid uh… talking about a sit in. So I picketed hotels and stood out front of movie houses telling folks we were tired of going around to the side, we want to go through the front door. I was able to bring that to the kids at Sunday school. They’d say, “Do you know he did so and so? So and so? And so and so? Cause kids judge you by what you do. You know? And they’d say “well he’s just bull shitting.” And I’d say “hey, I’m for real. I did this –what did you do?”

I: You were inspiring them to be active…

CB: Oh yea, well I was trained as a teacher so I’d be an Episcopal teacher if I couldn’t… but um, you know the period that you picked, I think that under Weston has an impact um and um Weston helped the Bishop to move out that crazy upper-class Yale, Harvard whatever the hell that was and the Bishop became our friend, so he would call… Trinity was sitting on bags of money and they’d help us. So then after Weston left, the priest we got, Father [Chester Lovelle] Dalton, or Bishop Talton used to work for Trinity. So uh, I was on the search committee for a new rector and I said what’s wrong with Talton? Father Talton? So Talton came in – he was a little different than Weston – he wasn’t that…You see Weston was an old pro on that. Uh and uh, but we had the good fortune of having that kind of leadership – we had Talton, we had uh Moran, now how do you duplicate these guys? You know people of that stature… you know… there not going through the ministry. And we had, listening to the new group, we had a female, who was the ‘it’ – she wanted to be a lifestyle. I said, I don’t care about your lifestyle – that’s irrelevant. But uh, she became a problem for us. And uh, the congregation said, “Mr. Brown what are we going to do?” And said, “We go and get her that’s all. You know, she’s not going to hide behind the church and not officially...and this is your lifestyle? Okay.” The black community ain’t that hip and sophisticated on that level of orientation. And this is our culture. It’s not that we didn’t know who sang in the choir, who the organist was and all that, but the folks went along with it. That’s your life and people never said a word about it. But now, when you’re going to bring on Mother’s Day somebody to talk about how they adopted children, you know, uh much too much. And uh, then for you to bring your friend, who happens to be white with an adopted child you know, that was too much for the people – way too much. And I told her, I said, “you ain’t gonna win here baby. Oh no.” And see I knew her father. You know…Here’s a guy that was practicing medicine on 117th street and Lenox Avenue – gut bucket – you understand? Yea he went to Howard and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I said to her, “look at your father.” But uh, uh, he moved his family to Fl-Florida and all that so they didn’t have to grow up in the…he didn’t want to go to Long Island. I knew all about that. But uh, I grew up with her, I just and uh. We got her. And I told her you’ve got to baby. I don’t give a damn about what your lifestyle is – you’ve got a right to that. Ain’t nobody said a word to you about your lifestyle.

I: It just didn’t fit.

CB: It doesn’t fit here. Now, You, this is what we are – this is St. Philip’s Church. You know, we’ve played a role in the black community, you know, since the founding of this country so we’re not rookies. And um, we had…as the congregation changes, you know, you’ve got to respect that and… But they accepted her uh and her friend and the baby, but we didn’t renew her contract. That… is business now. And she would send –[laughs] that’s, I was still working there – she would send her whatever she would - she would come… and said, “Brown” and I said “Look my man, she had a - don’t bring the bullshit because you’re working on your doctorate. I don’t want to hear all that. Let’s get down to business. This is an institution, man. We’ve done so much, you know, in our role in this community, you know. And you a jive, you know you just got here, you ain’t pay no dues, brother. We’ve got to get down on our knees, you know, we’ve helped kids, families, you know…um…

I: When you go… do you still go up to the church?

CB: Physically, I can’t get there as often so I just… um… you know the busses and all that. I-I go on main holidays or… but I keep my envelopes and send them money, yea. No, St. Philip’s has been the light… and uh…

I: Does the neighborhood look very different to you…?

CB: I’m sorry…?

I: Does the neighborhood look very different to you now?

CB: No, it doesn’t. I mean, frankly I don’t talk to anyone in this building anyways. They’re not my kind of people, but…

I: Where were you when you – when you were growing up, where you lived after you lived in Hell’s Kitchen? You moved to Harlem?

CB: Oh I had my mother and father, yea.

I: Do you know when they came from Barbados? When they immigrated?

CB: Uh, the 1920s. My mother tried to get here during the war and um the boat she was on was hit by torpedoes she had to go back to Barbados um and then she came back again. My father – they never explained, but they had their own plan – he came up through the um – the fruit lines with the boats – and he-he hip hopped, but he spent time in Cuba, but he would never use Spanish – never. And I only realized in later years when Castro came to power. He says, “Ahhh,” He says, “Apagado.” I looked at him - I had no sense of this, and then he just let me know. He said he walked around Havana with no shoes and he had whole thing about Spanish culture. You don’t get anywhere, they just as dead as the South um… and he would never discuss Cuba – he said, I don’t want to discuss it… the Spanish have the same problem as these southern characters. They’ll be on the sidelines, but they make all these goddamn babies, but they have no power. And he was - he was very strong on that. I’m not that way, I just… Spanish speaking doesn’t bother me. You know –um - elementary school – I was half –as smart so they sent me down to school to uh PS 11 on 21st Street, I was going with kids from strictly middle class backgrounds blah, blah, blah blah, blah. And uh, my two friends was, one was Cuban and one was Puerto Rican, but we were the only 3 spots, you know [laughs] and we bonded on that. And then Hector forget - forgot he was a Cuban – them Irishmen put a whooping on him.

I: Oh no.

CB: Oh yea. I got along with the Irishmen uh because– his name was Sullivan - but I used to help him with the homework, you know, and he protected my back so they didn’t bother me. Uh, Frankie, you know, Frankie was a little uh, but my father made it quite clear so… uh… you know… you talk about Irishman and I knew I had to get out, there ain’t no conversation. But that’s what I learned in Hell’s Kitchen before we moved to Harlem so uh, but I have high respect for Irishmen…if you got an Irishman on your side, you’ll be alright cause they gonna run with you. But we’re now facing – we’ve got this new guy and um, but he’s a brilliant man. Um, um. I don’t know how far…. um …he’s going to go….um… He’s married to a white woman with – he’s got a family. One of the – one of the girls – or one of them has a learning disability…uh and um his ministry was in Florida, you know, but he hasn’t had a ministry like a big, urban northern city and uh, he’s reached out to me and you know, I’ve said well you have to – and he now has that in the newsletter - to talk to his congregation through his newsletter that blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And people will forget your sermon, but you’ve got something, they’ve got, they’ll read and before they throw it they’ll read it again. And I said, “This got to be basic for your ministry.” He’s – he’s – he’s – he’s doing alright. Because the congregation is changing. We have a big Caribbean group um and I don’t know what we’re gonna do – I just don’t know. Uh… uh… it’s even difficult for me to deal um to deal with the new Caribbean, the attitude. I said I can’t – I said whoa, whoa, whoa. And uh, it is still people who have been in the church for a while, but we’ve got a new wave coming in, but they leave me alone you know I’m a Basian. But what I went to as a Barbadian with you all I’m not gonna get into that. I went to so I don’t get into that I just uh – I just stay away from it. I think the church will – it has a funny way of renewing itself. I say, this is the history of St. Philip’s, but they keep the social gospel in front of them so they’ll be alright. Every now and then I still get phone calls… Mr. Brown what do you think about the new…? He’s struggling, he’s a southern boy and decided to be Episcopalian. I said, you’ve got see his mindset… he didn’t grow up in Sunday school. He found this met his needs, you know so… through the backdoor that’s what I’ve been getting people to understand. Wait a minute, whoa let’s back up a minute. One, he didn’t grow up in the Sunday school, you know, you did. He grew up in the southern black church and for a lot of you it is based on call/ response, which is what Jesus did. Ya’ll not into that, you’re more into, you know… I had a few phone calls. People said thank you, they really, you know… And he’s called, he’s been here. He’s an interesting guy – bright, very bright, um… I can see by his weight – you know, you know weight to me is a problem that is psychological, but uh he’s um he’s going to this whole new thing, yoga, and I can’t. You know it’s real, I can’t ignore it, but uh… I just have a problem with it [laughs] I have a problem with it – I have a problem with that. I’m just a contemporary and I remember when I went through my Marcus Garvey stage and you know, we all grow and some things we outgrow. Yoga is something, you know, but uh…I just… you know, having been to Africa, and both East Africa and West Africa…. I’ve been to Egypt and all that kind of thing. Been to – well my folks are in Barbados…. Brazil… My thing with…You’ve got people of Africa descent everywhere and they adapt they’re in different cultures. So I think this new wave will adapt and learn something about the history and blah, blah, blah. I guess because I’m a trained historian I think that way and uh, the social work was a gig you know. The dean came to me and said I can’t keep you here unless you get your MSW. So I got my MSW, blah, blah, blah, blah. Ah uh…

I: You did that for quite some time…

CB: What’s that?

I: You were a social worker for quite some time.

CB: Oh yea. Yea. Uh, the Dean, he was my buddy, he uh – when he got hired….well I was hired by a black acting Dean, who I knew – she was – it’s a long story, but uh she uh they were looking somebody or students that called a strike at the school and closed it down and… and… she called around – we gotta find somebody to talk to them. Uh, we gotta find somebody to talk to them. So somebody knew what about that crazy Courtney Brown. I got a license to teach high school and all that kind of stuff. And that’s how I got to Hunter and then when I required um that students had to walk through the community, they were shocked. I said, no this is a requirement. You’ve got to come with me on a Sund…Saturday and walk through the marketplace. You went to Africa, Africa is the marketplace. And that is when the people come out of community and you’ve got to see the marketplace.

I: So where would you take them?

CB: Walks through Harlem.

I: Harlem… like a walking tour?

CB: All through Harlem, well I showed them the high life of Harlem, which is still there, you know? Well when they walk through Strivers’ Row on 138th and 139th, they faint. I said it’s been there all the time. Then when they see, you know, black churches. They said, the congregation built that – like we built St. Philip’s.

I: What was – what was your goal in-in taking them on the walking tour?

CB: The what?
I: What was your goal when you decided to start taking them on walking tours of Harlem? Like what did you -

CB: Give them the sense that it’s history –everybody has a history. And I’m heavily influenced by WEB Dubois, you know, so I interviewed him. And he said one of the problems we have for persons of African descent is that we’re left out of history. So when you see the socialization and the educational process you come up as a non-being because you have no historical roots. And until you establish historical roots, which means you’re a part of mankind or humankind, you’re going to be seen as outside. I had a long talk with him. That’s one of the greatest things that ever happened in my life. I interviewed WEB Dubois. I spent the whole morning. I can’t describe it to you. I think he felt sorry for me, you know, I was this so-called rebel. But I’ll never forget. The interview was at the NAACP headquarters on 40th Street, they had moved uptown. My-my professor said, “I think you should meet Dubois.” And I said, “me?” “Yea, he said, why don’t you…” I think he did for a reason. And I made an appointment, I remember saying it wouldn’t be 10 o’clock.. And he closed the door and we talked for about, well two hours. He said, “well young man, I’m very glad to have met you?” And said, “I’m glad you gave me, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And we both left the NAACP headquarters and walked up 5th Avenue, he went 10th and I walked this way. That’s one of the highlights of my life.

I: What kind of questions did you ask him – if you can remember?

CB: Well I was interested in this historical thing and he suggested in a lot of his writings, uh that why are people surprised at the behavior when people are forced to live in two different cultures at the same time? It’s got to affect them. And um, the very nature of-of black folks at that time was schizophrenic, you know, you’d zip back and forth. And, yes, it produces bizarre behavior, but who the hell is gonna listen to Dubois, you know, I mean, come on. They’d say, stay in your field – this is not your field. And um, he felt very strongly, you know eventually he retired and died in Ghana, his attitude was “I’m going home.” And uh, you know they wanted him to write the Encyclopedia, but he never got a chance to finish it. But he was a - he was a little guy though – dressed very European – Spats and the whole nine yards. But yea, I think felt sorry for me. I’m talking this whole nonsense. And he’s lived it – he’s gone through all that, you know. I guess he felt sorry for me, but he was very gracious...very gracious. The other influence, you see him on the wall, Whitney Young. Oh yea. That’s when I did my street work up in Yonkers….going to jail… demonstrations… getting locked up and asking the district – no, I’m serious - to come up to Getty’s Square and give his holy communion. Oh yea. [laughs] And when all these things made the newspapers, Whitney came to see me in uh Yonkers and said, “man what’re you doing?” And I said, “hey, somebody has got to do it.” And we became just like that. And politically, he um just like Earl Grey is who with Black Enterprise I mean, black, his name, what black, oh boy, black-black-black-black-black. It’s a business magazine – I don’t know why I can’t. Anyways, he was Whitney, he was uh-uh, he was – he was with the treasury department, but Bobby Kennedy, he was assigned to take care of Bobby Kennedy. And, I met him because Bobby was looking for somebody to do his street thing - I was so-called good at that. And uh, Earl became we found out he was from a so-called West Indian background, he goes to St. Philip’s in Brooklyn, you know we were both Omegas and uh, he uh, when I had some political problems, I’d call him, you know. I remember one time he called me from Paris. [laughs] “Hi, Courtney, what’s up man? He said the white folks are still here.” [laughs] And I told him my little political problem that and whatever happened – whatever the problem I was facing just disappeared. No I’m very close to Earl, I-I you know, he’s a different league, but I’ve been around Bobby Kennedy like I’m talking to you so. You know, Kennedy when the Kennedy thing came up – I said man I don’t know –the Kennedy I know had a steel brace man so all this potency about sex is – I don’t know what you can do with a bad back, you know. Bobby was a funny –he had a non-photogenic side and we had to carry suits and shirts and go and get the colored TV and he had a… but he was a funny guy, Bobby, a nice fellow, uh, but uh… He had a whole problem about his brother – you know he was the smallest guy – and he had that’s why he’s … you know all of his brothers are tall… And he was – it’s a sad - I was supposed to go – when he was running for the Senate – um, I was supposed to go meet them in California, and then Buddy called me and said he’s dead man and I said, “oh shit.” But he was funny guy. And the thing that bothered him was Lelia Farr. I’m serious! She’s gorgeous, oh my God. And he just couldn’t just – I don’t understand it, you know. I said well uh. She grew up in Bed-Stuy you know and um, but that affected him. There was a whole movement of folks of so-called Harlem to Bed-Stuy to own their private house and that kind of thing. She got exposed to the whole Caribbean thing and you know, Marcus Garvey. And anybody whose going through that period of history, um, you couldn’t ignore the Garveyites that I’m talking about it because it was non-intellectual, it was more of an emotional thing. Um… and um…But Earl, I don’t call him that, he’s Earl Grey. I remember he called me at the office and um I was a guest of Jimmy Carter when he got elected and all that stuff. And uh, we were very close, but life is a strange experience so um… but it’s a lot of pleasant memories, but what can I tell you? I know, I’ve been running my mouth – you didn’t get a chance…

I: It’s all, it is all very interesting. I guess um… the last question that I have for you is really more about um like your overall experience living in Harlem and having been involved in a church that was so socially active and also had a career in activism -

CB: Yea… I think Harlem has changed though. The Harlem that is there now is new for me. Um… um. Which to me, represents one of the new things that’s happening in American life – um - urban living has changed so um I really, you know. We had a few Caucasians or whatever word one wants to use who have joined St. Philip’s so you know uh. Um, one of the reasons I say the Kennedy’s - we had a priest um who grew up with the Kennedy’s. His name was Coughlin, Father Coughlin. And um [laughs] he came to help us at St. Philip’s, good force… and he was a late Irishmen not a Shanty Irishman and he wanted us – he understood that every inner-city has some culture or… That’s how they were able to survive and handle the hostility and blah, blah, blah, blah. You know and um… um… I guess that’s what we taught the two bishops of this diocese. We went on a retreat and one of the bishops said [laughs] I’ll never forget it. And um, um. I said whatever it was I said, what emerges we call black theology and the man almost fainted. I’m serious. I mean his family is so-called some of the founders of Harvard – he had all the credentials and he went on a retreat with us because in South America you had liberation theology and he uh. I-I have - I said well I’m a broken down historian so I went to Howard University, John Hope Franklin. I said have you ever seen the Negro Bible? No, but that’s what it’s called. It was the religious school at Howard these guys wrote the Bible, you know, based upon what the history of the Bible was. And the first thing, I told the Bishop – I said well the folks who were chased out of Asia Minor crossed over and they lived in the African civilization called Egypt and I don’t know whether he gurgles or what [laughs]. And I said uh- whatever it is, it came down to he Greeks cause the Greeks used to go and study. Well I - I had a great professor at Howard named [Frank M.] Snowden and his dissertation at Yale was- was called Blacks in Antiquity and he talked about the presence of people from Africa, and German, I mean in the Roman armies and the Greek and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. He uh – in 11 years before he retired, he had made the rounds. He realized that the voices come from everywhere if you have a listening ear, that’s-that’s what it’s all about and uh… But this present group at the Cathedral, I-I don’t know about. I just I haven’t been a Trustee of the cathedral... I was on the dio- the diocese, uh…Board of St. Luke’s Hospital and all that kind of crap. I just have limits to myself.

I: Do you have you vestry notes?

CB: I’m sorry…

I: Do you still have your vestry notes?

CB: No they’re in the Schomburg Collection. All my handwritten about 20 years of writing on yellow sheets. They are there, they’re at the Schomburg. That’s a whole other thing- uh. And uh, I checked my notes. And uh… Gail, who is the church secretary, she would be about the only one who know where the Collection is saved. So I don’t know what they’ve done at the Schomburg. I know they’re there, my papers and…Have you had a chance to look at that?

I: I have -

CB: Okay…

I: it’s a pretty extensive collection. It’s great. I actually –

CB: What’s that?

I: …recall your name from looking…

CB: Oh yea, yea, yea. I mean St Philip’s I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I’m glad for that because uh…uh… it influenced my life, you know, and then uh you know, with the chief [his wife], folks didn’t understand… she went through the same experience with her family. They don’t come here or nothing. She suffered more from our relations than I did, but uh she’s quite a lot, you know. The folks in the building, you know, they were… this building was once, oh basically - was rental blah, blah, blah. But he major holders of stock were Jewish and she doesn’t deal with religion. She just –she said, no, let’s get out. But here we are… I mean she’s the one who hangs up all the stuff.

I: She made it your home.

CB: This is it. So we’ve been here most of the time during the summers we’d be in Europe, you know? She’d carry me – in order to get away from the cutting-edge, you know, sensitivity. And I – uh - we had our problems overseas…

I: Um…

CB: But she would tell me – you’re in an American, you’re not in America. And that’s why I call her the chief.

I: [laughs]

CB: No, she’s a brilliant women, - extraordinary, she’s got a... She’s paid a price for the relationship, but it doesn’t bother her, you know, she’s- um she’s very concerned for my health. You know, my next birthday I’ll be 90.

I: Wow.

CB: 90 years of age.

I: That’s great…

CB: I’m 89.

I: I would never have guessed that…

CB: You know, but that’s what I’m saying. God has been good, you know, I can’t. I think it’s the social gospel, you know, I’m about business… and um… in philosophy I’m the person that admires Paul so a lot of my views are very Paulinneal. You know I’ve - we’ve been to Turkey and that whole area…

I: That’s um – you seem…

CB: The Islands in the North… We’ve done the whole nine yards because I just wanted to see these places…Athens too. I went to Athens.

I: Wow, you’re very –

CB: This is the way that John wrote the… Paul, I’ve been to Masters Row and this is real [laughs]. So, you know, uh you know we stopped off at the Byzantine Empire and all that stuff and we spent time in Turkey so –

I: That’s incredible.

CB: We got around Turkey. So that’s me – I don’t know if that bored you or…?

I: This was wonderful. I just want to make a note – it’s November 8, 2013. I’m in Dr. Courtney Brown’s apartment and he’s agreed to an oral history interview. Thank you so much…

Title

Courtney Brown Oral History

Description

The life and experience of Courtney Brown in relationship to St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Harlem, New York

Creator

Brown, Courtney

Date

2013-11-08

Contributor

Boyle, Jennifer

Rights

Transcript pending
Permission granted

Format

.m4a

Language

English

Type

Oral History

Coverage

1950s - 2013

Interviewer

Boyle, Jennifer

Interviewee

Brown, Courtney

Location

Courtney Brown residence, New York, NY

Transcription

Courtney Brown: Howard University - that to me is the most important because his [John Hope Franklin] book is From Slavery to Freedom and that was always… and um the other, I get the MSW [Masters of Social Work] at the uh... and my functioning in - as a black social worker… how can you do social work if you don’t know the lifestyle, the history and the background and that the people you’re working with are people who have… so you know… and I’ve worked with Alex Haley and the whole nine yards.

Interviewer: Um… You’ve had a great deal of experience.

CB: Oh, I’ve been around the major, some of the major people in this area…

I: Um. I’m sorry, I’m just trying to find my…

CB: Huh?

I: I’m just searching for my…

CB: Relax your nerves.

I: Phone so that I can, um…

CB: Are you comfortable with that?

I: I’ve very comfortable. I just want to find my phone so I can time us and I don’t take up too much of your time.

CB: Now close that, just close the door and then…. So you can see what you’re going to talk to me about, I –I keep on the wall.

I: Oh great, okay… [Interviewer gets up and looks behind a door at a plank on the wall]

CB: Do you see it?

I: Okay, let’s see…

CB: That’s original.

I: Oh amazing…

CB: That is it. And these are the people that basically functioned all through the period you’re interested in. So it’s just no me, I’m just the clerk writing everything down… and uh… that’s the bunch, that’s the gang. Well Father Weston, you’ll hear from me about Father Weston. He had a… he was… He was odd because he um… we come from similar backgrounds. His father and grandfather are from Barbados and my family is from Barbados and I remember… but you’ll get, we’ll get into that. But I remember one time since you mentioned Johnny Hewitt, Johnny was… he represented a different school of thought about the church. And where Weston was in his thinking, Johnny wasn’t there. Um… Weston knew of my work… I had worked with Urban Leagues, street… blah, blah, blah, blah… and uh… even though Johnny we were friends and we went to high school together, but you’d have to see Johnny – Johnny was very… And that’s one of the problems you’re going to find at St. Philip’s – the color of your skin and your hair. And Weston was familiar with that, but anybody, who looks at the lifestyles of… they have take into that – take that into consideration. If not, you’ll never pierce through that veil… um, so I said well when you come here, I was going to show you that here it is, it’s not just me. You know? And uh, the dominant force of the vestry there are people of Caribbean background – their parents are, but that was the change in the-in the, I… well St. Philip’s. They had been left out – if you didn’t say you were from Virginia or North Carolina or South Carolina – which you’ve seen that in your early beginnings – um – it was a whole, but we eventually – cause I was the clerk for 21 years of St. Philip’s so. …

I: Do you remember when you first started there?

CB: I grew up… yea… that was my Sunday school.

I: Okay

CB: And um so I knew Father Bishop very well. Yea, I knew him very well. And um… um… Bishop was a strange man – I-I used to tease him, he looked like George Washington.

I: [Giggles]

CB: No, I’m serious. And um… he um… when I first started teaching Sunday School – and I’ll tell you about Father Harrison in a minute – um… the Church was made up of the movers and shakers of St. Philip’s… were people who were out of the old Harlem Renaissance period. It is very important to – that you understand St. Philip’s and Father Weston. If we break with the tradition of the Harlem Renaissance and um – there were two of us – myself and Archibald Murray, who was a lawyer – but his people were also from Barbados. And the other thing about Weston, which I hope you… um… when we had problems – and Johnny was one of the… no, he was a problem always – I don’t want you to… um, um…and the only reason we got along was because we went to the same high school cause he came from an upper class background. I went to Dewitt Clinton High School, but I started off at the Bronx High School of Science where you pass the exams and blah, blah, blah, blah… and… and um… there were very few of us at the Bronx High School of Science so I want to be with the fellows to help - and the girls didn’t get off, you know they got off further. I ended up going to Dewitt Clinton… well I transferred from the Bronx High School of Science to Dewitt Clinton. And the reason I’m giving you that background – uh – I met Johnny again in Dewitt Clinton, but he didn’t come through the Bronx High School of Science, but that… uhhh… Johnny you’d have to see him, he was very fair… um… and when were in Sunday School he tried to be a basketball player… and I was pretty good at playing basketball. And I to remind Johnny that he didn’t make the basketball team at St. Philip’s. I did, he didn’t. And Johnny would come with his socks and shoes [CB rolls his eyes]…

JB: [Giggles]

CB: Uh, But um, Johnny, I don’t know, he … he respected me cause he knew we went through the same… but um… if you look up at the vestry there, um, I’m the clerk. Cranston – he’s Caribbean background – he went to Stuyvesant High School, which is the same… then Henri A. Le Gendre [pronounces the name in French] – he’s from - we call him Henry – he’s from – he’s background is Haiti, but he’s Caribbean. You come down, Irving Lyons – he went to Dewitt Clinton. Then there’s Archibald Murray – to conservatives he’s a Republican [laughs]. That’s very real, um, but we were very close. We were fraternity brothers, Omega Psi Phi, which is down at Howard University blah, blah, blah blah – I’ll get into that. Florence Richards… um… is Caribbean background. She’s a teacher, she’s a chemist, she was…Uh, Ann Russell was Southern, but she came from more of a working class background in the South… you know she worked at a post office. She wasn’t you know so-called glam of… she’s one of the folks. Then you’ve got Connie Wright – who is, that is very key because… her son is now the um – well he’s an assemblyman and uh… but he’s also a leader of the Democratic party for New York State and I was his Sunday School teacher. I can’t leave these things out…

I: You had a good impression…

CB: Oh yea, I taught Sunday School – that is key, we’ll get to that. Joe Wyke – he’s Caribbean – his parents were from Trinidad….um, but Joe was one of the more conservative guys, he-he uh… but he would go along with the program, that’s what I’m saying. Um… Weston… his background is very important to understand… um… he grew up in North Carolina. Uh, I know you have that. He went to St. Augustine’s and from there to Columbia. Well I went to a little raggedy school across town from St. Augustine’s, it’s called Shaw, which is a Baptist school with all kinds of traditions going back to slavery blah, blah, blah. It was the school to train Baptist ministers. It was supported by the Southern Baptists and the Northern Baptists and – you know, it had a reputation all over – it trained Baptist ministers. I got there because I went on a basketball scholarship. Okay?

I: Were you born and raised in North Carolina?

CB: I’m sorry?

I: Were your born and raised in North Carolina?

CB: No, No.. Was a born?

I: Where were you born?

CB: Right here in New York City. Well – I’m a New Yorker. Oh, no, the reason why the Caribbean thing runs through my story… um… no, I’m born at Bellevue Hospital. And my parents we were a part of the early West Indian community, which was in Hell’s Kitchen. I grew up on 35th Street. Born on 36th, and we moved to 35th. And the only reason we moved uptown was that you know, Manhattan was… you know. And my original Church uh was St. Andrew’s, which is all West Indian, Barbadian. But all the pretty girls went to St. Philip’s so I left St. Andrew’s. You know the pretty girls were at St. Philip’s so they had dances. So that was more in tune with where kids really were. You know, St. Andrew’s was a classical, high Episcopal Church ringing bells and swinging incense. My parents went there – my father… but um… I went to St. Philip’s cause the girl I was going around my little – she was going to St. Philip’s so it’s obvious I followed her to St. Philip’s. And it was there that uh Father Harrison, who was my Sunday School teacher – he really was my-my inspiration or whatever you want to call it. Uh, I sat in his Sunday School classes so uh…uh…uh…

I: Do you remember -

CB: I can’t hear you…

I: Do you remember when you were in Sunday School if they taught you Episcopalian doctrine or if it was more community…?

CB: Oh no, it was classical… classical. I mean confirmation, yea, I went through all of that, oh yea… but all that I did at St. Andrew’s, which was classical you know was Sunday School and, but I when I got to so called adolescence that was at St. Philip’s. And Father, well uh, Weston had not gotten there yet… um and um… Father Harrison, who really is a real influence in my life. He was born out on Long Island, or somewhere I-I never was clear on where, but he’s from um… Suffolk County, Long Island. Um, and he’s – well he was quite an influence. He had this discussion group for adolescence so that’s one of the reasons I stuck with St. Philip’s and uh… and I made the same seat playing basket… you’d never think I was a basketball player.

I: I believe you. [laughs]

CB: I made the team and um even when I finished high school, I went to – I first enrolled at City College at night and worked during the day. And, I’ll never forget um – walking down 7th Avenue… um… somebody hollered out at me – my nickname as a kid was Runt…

I: Runt?

CB: Yea, I was small. “Runt! Runt!” It was a very dear friend his name was Kenny Anderson. He said, “Man I got a scholarship for you!” I’m just right there on 7th Avenue… I don’t remember, it was probably uh….123rd – 124th, but it was on 7th Avenue. And I knew you were coming, I was trying to recollect these things. I said “Yea, I’ll go,” and I said “but we got to take somebody else.” Um and um…his name was Dave King. He is also Caribbean background. You got to understand this Caribbean, American, black thing you know – I’m not, you know - most people don’t realize that especially here in New York City - this is important to understand… uh, uh, uh… and it will help you understand because I remember Weston… it was some discussion came up… and you know Johnny was always... I don’t know how to describe Johnny. He was my friend, but we just never could sit horses cause he’s from the old black community. They trace their roots back to the American Revolutionary War. Uh, some of his family, uh I think his original family, his slave family was Dutch – he was into that kind of thing. Me – coming out of West Indian background –um… I’m more attuned to Marcus Garvey… You know… uh. And that’s important to understand as part of my makeup [laughs]… why I uh…when we get into the program side, but I’m trying to get you to see the dynamic… um and Dave King, his people were from Trinidad, but we then went to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is steeped in tradition.. I don’t even want to…uh…

I: You went to Shaw on a basketball scholarship?

CB: Yes, I wasn’t a GI. You see, a heart murmur kept me out of the service so uh… no, I was fair on the basketball court. Kenny [laughs] - I’ll never forget says - “Man I got a scholarship…” but they were looking for ball players. You got to realize that the ball players… they would come up from the southern black schools to Harlem or New York or whatever you want to call it and try to recruit to bring them south and um.... The schools we used to revel uh you know… so some of the guys I knew went to North Carolina College, Durham, but they all came out of Harlem. We were all good ball players – it will all depends on how you won a scholarship. But anyway, um, it’s there that – and I’m trying to give you that kind of background to why I dovetailed with Moran… and Moran thought of me, you know as – he’d call me at six o’ clock in the morning… no I’m serious he would. Moran is a strange guy, but the-his tragedy was… uh… or his anger, either word… um I don’t think people realize he was a social genius. That’s the word I use to describe him, a social genius. He um… he had his bout with Marxism. Um, there was a um - well the Communist party made a big effort to so called infiltrate some of the um-um so-called bright stars um… and Moran at one time was a Marxist um, but uh… it was strange, but anyway, it was at Shaw that I met a big influence in my life. He was a historian… had the Roman name – Cott Augustus Jones – Caesar - he was, he was my real inspiration. And he was the one who got the scholarship for me at Howard – I’ll tell you about that.

Rosalind Brown: [Interrupts with a plate of chocolate chip cookies]. Here are some cookies,but where can I put it that’s the thing?

I: Do you want a cookie? [Offers a cookie to CB]

RB: No, he doesn’t want one.

I: Is it okay if I close the window? I’m afraid the street noise may be picking up our mics… Thank you so much, you’re so sweet.

RB: It’s hot in here. I can close it.

I: Here, let me, I can close it.

RB: I can close it too. Go ahead, talk… [closes the window]

I: Thank you so much, I’m just worried that the um all of honking and stuff might be picking up...

RB: Can I get you tea or coffee?

I: No, I’m great thank you.

RB: You’re so pretty.

I: Thank you.

RB: How old are you?

I: 26.

RB: So cute. Where are you from?

I: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

RB: Okay [exits]

I: Before, we move forward can you - you were mentioning something before about Reverend Weston….

CB: Marxist.

I: And you said he was a social genius, but there was…

CB: Right. Well when I said he’s a social genius, what he was able to do um when he became – it’s a long story about how he becomes uh the rector of St. Philip’s Church… um um. He, in the beginning, he was a real estate – came here as a real estate seller blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and going to Columbia and getting his doctorate. Um… he has in – I would so call –with a very strong …uh…group um of “Marxists.” I went to the Jefferson School myself, but–what stands out in my memory going to the Jefferson School is that there was… after classes on Marxism and philosophy, dialectic, etc. going to get the subway… there was white girls would follow us up and invite us up to the campus they had… no, that’s very real. Uh uh… Weston went through the same experience, but uh he rejected it because he had that strong… being born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina there were certain things you didn’t forget like a Klu Klux Klan, etc. But um…

I: Did you… Did you -

CB: I’m sorry…

I: What was your experience with Marxism?

CB: Uh… It was interesting – I-I uh… even my idol in college… um… felt that I should go there um. Corbitt was an intellectual extraordinaire back then. But um, he just felt that if I was going to grow, you’d have to go through this because a lot of so called leading whites in the black intellectual community had toyed with communism or Marxism whatever word… we had developed a whole black model concept, which is in its roots is from here [Harlem]. But um Marxism, you know, was an interesting study. Um, when I was in college, I was known as the Karl Marx…you know I… uh, the only way that I could talk about uh – all of this is verbalized to date, but um… I began to learn early about politics and um… um… but moving on as I said uh, I came back – I went - cause I went to Howard – I spent the whole year on a Masters in History. And my influence there is John Hope Franklin From Slavery to Freedom – so he gave me my scholarship. Um, and I finished Shaw in 3 years – double major and all that kind because I never wanted to come back home.

I: Why?

CB: Well of all the pretty girls… [laughs] that’s why. You know, I got no teeth, bite and all that, but forget it. Uh, I never came home – I was uh, Shaw is like a home you know? I worked during the summer, I went to summer school. I made it - you know I was a hustler. You know um – I cleaned tennis courts…uh you know, whatever had to be done, hey, what’s come back home for? For what? My parents – my father’s a porter, my mother was sickly, but… she used to work, but my father stopped her. My brother was an undercover narcotics detective so you know uh. He would give me his clothes and then I was looking sharp at school. Uh, my brother is far smarter than me, but he never got over the service. He uh was in the Navy and he was in the invasion of the Philippines – he got wounded – he was in Japan. He’s a funny guy – he just uh - I think he wanted to be a doc. He used to draw… He also went to Dewitt Clinton. His drawings of molecules and all that kind of stuff – used to – the teachers who had him, they’d hang his stuff up. He was very good. Oh yea… I think he was a frustrated artist, but I don’t want to get into that. He never – as I said, he never got over the-the uh… invasion. No, he uh… Hawaii was not a pleasant experience for him and the Navy wasn’t pleasant, but…but he didn’t become insane, he just sort of dropped out of the so-called Church scene…he um… to become a detective. You know he walked. We had a first cousin who was born in Barbados, but quickly understood politics when he came to this country. When I tell you how he got into the police department you’ll crack up laughing. Um… there was an Irish kid, I’ll never forget his name, Charles Nuthickle – that was his name Nuthickle. To make the story short, his father was the district leader for Tammany Hall. I want to get very real with you… and whatever happened between um… Nuthickle and my cousin, uh my cousin beat him up. Uh, his name was Corbis Caldwell – you see Eric Caldwell the attorney general – it’s that family. There’s a lot of those – that’s those island families – I’m just trying to show you how these things work. His father carried him to Tammany Hall, which is down by City - City Hall. And uh…whatever the deal was, my cousin became a policeman. [Laughs] I – I – I – I am always amused at how things have changed. Um, but Corbis was tall and handsome… uh, strange guy, but he was like our big brother… three older brothers….and uh…

I: So you said that your brother stopped going to Church and that your parents…

CB: He would pay his dues, he would put his envelopes in, but he, he had all mixed feelings about the Church – not his belief in God – but the Church. Um, you know, he had been through the war, and you know looked at death you know, and then to come back to this nonsense of separate, but equal, he couldn’t buy it. He just uh – he wondered how I could buy it. See I’m in Clinton… I’m in North Carolina before the March on Washington. I’m trying to give you all the background so you understand your direct inquiries uh how all of us were shaped. So uh…it’s only in later years that I understood Weston, but we were a part of Weston’s grand design that bunch there… because we all had our own networks and Weston knew how to manipulate them – whatever that was. Uh, uh, he uh, is really the key… uh… in terms of understanding a lot of the things that took place in Harlem. And I don’t think I could – I guess somebody is going to write his – well write a biography, because to me, he was the leading light in Harlem in terms of being an intellectual. Um, um, he um, started off with the whole idea that St. Philip’s needed a new building. Um, and, the thing that he was pushing was to really have our own school and you know, that really appealed to me.. not me… but I’m just saying. Um, so he had a um…fund - a fundraising group to help us raise money cause it’ll explain how Weston helped build Carver Bank, which is one of the largest… It’s Weston. And um, um, extraordinary man, I mean. He could be a pain in the ass, but he was really a frustrated genius. He – you know… there were so many things he wanted to do.. uh…uh… but uh…

I: In your experience -

CB: I can’t hear you…

I: In your experience, um, how did the community and yourself perceive him?

CB: Weston?

I: Yes

CB: Uh… Weston was… he functioned on 2-3 levels. The key to Weston’s success, which was having a breakfast in the morning. And he would invite all the so-called lights of Harlem. And they call came. Percy, I’m talking well Percy – I knew him extremely well, I met him through Weston - Percy’s brother, and Charlie Rangel, you know? So we had a gal cook a breakfast. Um…

I: Every week?

CB: At the church.

I: At the church…

CB: Oh, no down home, do understand? You know Weston understood this. I didn’t understand, I just. Now, that I’ve gotten older I have a much deeper appreciation for Weston. So…oh, in the breakfast, he um - he’d always have all the lights of Harlem. Um, and um, I’m trying to recall the cook’s name, I can’t remember the name right now, but she’d made a mean breakfast… sausage cakes, you know… eggs, and the whole nine yards… pancakes… Uh, oh, cause the only, I mean… there were very few people of standing that ignored Weston’s…uh… you know invitation. Everybody knew he was smart, but at St. Philip’s he had a bigger forum and he quickly out grew that so-called left, Marxist group. And, um, we’re not talking about – we’re talking Langston Hughes, Richard… these are folks you know… um um, and um, to understand what we did, you’d have to understand the role of the breakfast.

I: Was it weekly?

CB: No, um. He tried to, I don’t remember… I - know it was not weekly. He was – they would ask to meet again and we…you know, we had Ed Koch – that’s how we got so many influential – I’ll tell you about Koch. Uh…

I: And what would you talk about at the meetings?

CB: Well the plans for Harlem. No, we’d really just talk about it. Um, we’d always have some speaker. Um, that’s how Carver Bank came into being. Um… um, Weston never bought the idea that blacks shouldn’t have their own blank and he felt that was cheating. He thought he was a real estate person – he knew real things. I didn’t know. I didn’t really understand, but I’m there, you know, I’m the clerk of the Vestry, blah, blah, blah, blah. Um, but the breakfastes, um, are key in understanding anything you want to talk about. Because by that time, the word had gotten out in the Amsterdam News told there was a bunch of us at St. Philip’s and so and so was the speaker. Um…

I: So it was open to the public?

CB: No, no, no, no, only on invitation. Uh… and uh… the editor of the Amsterdam, which I think is very key to understand, his name is Jimmy Hicks. And, the reason I got along with Jimmy Hicks is that we were frat brothers at Howard University… I’m just giving you these kind of networks. Um, cause Jimmy used to tease me…he said, “goddamn you…” I’m sort of following Weston’s lead. No, I had access to the Amsterdam – and that was key.

I: You had access to what?

CB: To The Amsterdam News…

I: Oh, okay, I see.

CB: That’s the biggie. It was through the breakfasts that St. Philip’s begins to move into the center pass Adam Clayton Powell. You’ve got to understand that – I know that’s quick, but uh uh… Powell got bogged down in his personal life, and so therefore, Abyssinia, you know, uh and St. Philip’s used to get the Amsterdam stories, you know, uh. Weston was very clever at this – he- he knew where he was going. I didn’t know. I’m following – I’m a follower. Um, he um…so in building the community center – it really – our dream was it should be a school…uh. But life has a funny way of uh…happening. When we started to break ground for the new community center, the goddamn river. And we took us a year to pump the water out. If not, we would have proudly been further ahead with all of things we’re talking about. Um… Father Harrison realized there were a whole lot of us coming to St. Philip’s, who had finished…we had every degree you could think about: doctorate, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Uh, and the group that was functioning there was called Entheos. And, we became Father Weston’s brain group or whatever. I mean, we had Ph. – we had that kind of stuff. Um…um…

I: And…

CB: Um… and you’re gonna ask me? Yea, I was one of the presidents of Entheos. And um… so we touched bases with the political spectrum… uh… to this date Charlie is my dear. I mean, he saved my ass when I was in… [chuckles]. Uh, I guess you know I worked for over 43 years with the Division of Human Rights, I was the Regional Director blah, blah, blah, blah….

I: Did you – did you bring that experience into the church?

CB: Uh, yes and no. Um, the Schomburg Collection was saved by cause I knew Jean and the folks on 42nd street tried to get rid of her. We had this collection that was left of the Schomburg in the basement of the library. They brought in a new guy from second- third, I mean uh… a librarian from Pittsburgh and…nice little guy, but they didn’t want to give Jean the job, they thought she was too radical. And um, so Jean filed a complaint and who was the Regional Director? Me. I just gave her… And who was her lawyer? My frat brother. Uh, you know I mean, I said… and they came and we gave the New York Public Library a whopping, you know. They run the big law firm, but I’m the guy that calls the shots because I’m the Regional Director. And uh… uh…that was I think one the important things we did – saving the Schomburg, bringing the collection from the basement, keeping Jean there. Um…to me, that’s one of our um… but Weston was um… not satisfied with just a community center, you know? Cause it increased our income. We had - there was a very gifted person they called Lorraine Younger. She was not an MSW, but she – she was terribly skilled so she ran the quote St. Philip’s Community Center uh and she kept that job as long as we could get funding, but then to get funding the person in charge had the MSW and Lorraine didn’t have it. So uh… I had it, I had an MSW. But, we built the community center and uh… we then went to the whole idea of uh housing. Uh, the critical piece was senior citizen and if you go there you can see I’m still on the board, but [laughs] …uh and that’s a long story, but uh… from there we talked about St. Philip’s on the Park. And that was Weston’s dream, you know, he uh, uh, so I sat on both boards, uh, uh…

I: When you.. um… when you were securing housing for people, um… it was for people who were mentally…

CB: No, the community.

I: Mentally unstable?

CB: No, the community, the community. St. Philip’s on the Park had about 200 apartments. That was an awful block, I mean um... We also wanted to uh… go a little further in terms of, but Arch Mur being the conservative was a little more cautious and Weston understood that so he.. uh.. today they built that area that Weston wanted. Nowadays, it is a big co-op right there on 134th Street. Uh, but I think that um the breakfastses that we’re talking about…uh… led to the formation of Carver Bank and then the idea was to get churches and groups that were receiving funds from government to bank in Jefferson and you know Carver rather than the Rockefeller bank up the block. Okay? Uh. Though we were identified you know during the – you got to realize I write ministry notes for 21 years that’s why I want you to see this yourself so I’m not making up a fantasy. I’m doing the damn - I don’t need no, but I just trusted Weston and I-I never forgot he - our first clash in the so-called vestry blah, blah, blah, blah and you mentioned Johnny Hewitt blah, blah, blah, blah… and Father Weston at the-the uh… at a meeting of the so-called vestry quote, un quote - he said “Court let me talk to you…” I never forgot that. He took me over to the side and said “What makes you think you’re the only Basian in the place?”

I: The only what?

CB: Basian – Barbadian. We say Basian, see? And that’s the first time I began to understand, he knew from my family background in terms of Barbados. Uh, Arch Murray was also. You follow what I’m saying? Freddie Cranston asked me – and Freddie used to be our critic – we put him on the vestry to shut him up – all these things uh..uh… and that kept Freddie quiet cause he has a responsibility. Bitching about the money and blah, blah, blah – “you the Treasurer.” And I was a Sunday School teacher for his kids and also Father Weston’s kids, I was their Sunday School teacher. But uh…those were things that just happened. I think we were influencing a lot of people in terms of the church has a social obligation… you know… part of it, yes is worship, but also there’s an agenda the – you know - to know the poor. We have an obligation and uh, uh I think that uh if anything uh you know the years that mentioned, uh we built our reputation, uh… that we were not just a church to come for wafers and wine, we believed in the social gospel that the church should be an active force. And um, the Bishop, uh he quickly understood it… uh….

I: And supported?

CB: Well I was a trustee of the Cathedral. You know all of these things, I don’t – I understand them now - you follow what I’m saying? But I didn’t understand Weston’s, but he’s got a little loud mouth… went to black schools, the black fraternity, you follow what I’m saying? Understood the dynamics of the black community because I was there in Raleigh, North Carolina. And then at Howard University – that was the Harvard. And uh, - well – he knew it, but I didn’t know, but I saw the point in it, but uh… go ahead, honey…

I: You mentioned something about inspiring the community – do you think that St. Philip’s initiatives influenced what other churches were doing?

CB: Oh sure. Yes – we had a big camping program. You know uh… we were locked into camp you know - kids going away for the summer and through our community center um I can’t tell you how many…

I: Did it matter if they were members of the church or not? Could they come from…

CB: No we - camp. Families came through our center and signed up for camp. We used to charge you tutoring also, but there are certain things, you - it comes to a point that you can’t – you can overstretch yourself. Cause I-I used to tu-tutor history, but there’s only so much you can do um. The other thing that we brought it in was a theater group, which is still functioning today. Uh, we put them in the basement, gave them a home. So they continued the Harlem Renaissance thing. And the theater group – they even had their – their theater was Sunday, and uh…they sold their tickets. They were self-supporting, they paid us rent. [laughs] Weston was very practical.

I: Do you remember um when you said the community center was originally geared towards education?

CB: Yes.

I: Um, so what kind of… you said, you mentioned tutoring, theater, Sunday school…

CB: Well, the kids had a place to go – that’s what I really meant. Rather than be on the street or standing on the stoop. In the center it was like your home – you played basketball, um… you could come and ask for help, you know that kind of thing. But basically, it was a home away from home. And Lorriane’s brothers…uh…were not picnics you know? [laughs] when you came into the center you learned how to behave yourself… [interviewer laughs]. No, you got the…There’s a joke [chuckles] when you tell a kid I’ll whoop you upside your head they understand that – so um…it was a quiet male fist, but it was understood when you come into the center you understand, you take care of business. We knew how to deal with a thug.

I: Did you have a fair amount of boys and girls that came? Or more boys than girls?

CB: Oh the girls would come because they were safe. And the boys would follow the girls. And the girls had a program – you know they had uh… um…dance classes um. I know one time I directed A Raisin in the Sun for uh the church… but that was… it was busy… that’s what I’m saying… and the kids understood that, you know? We didn’t try to save all of Harlem, but kids from 133rd and 134th – around the church - were the ones that came and if you and if you weren’t around that you couldn’t come….

I: Why?

CB: Because we made the rules.

I: So only kids within…

CB: Basically, we appealed to the kids – the blacks - where our church was. Anything outside of that, brother we got to get down.

I: So do you – can you remember anything about those blocks?

CB: Which blocks?

I: Those blocks that surrounded the church at the time?

CB: 133rd and 134th that was it. Uh, we were very real about that. Uh, and uh, one of the kids I adopted as my godchild – on no very real so. And one, she passed – with a brilliant knowledge, we got her a scholarship to NYU. We finished high school, we tried to get – we got some to go south to school. Um… um… We had – well –uh… it was the whole encouragement thing, but we had a… every now and then you’ve got to show these kids you’re serious. I don’t want you to think that I’m a dictator. But every now and then you have to be – but that’s what those kids – they liked the father figure – I’d grab a kid in a minute – ain’t no conversation. So one thing understood you knew the street and that you’d give your respect. That’s street. That’s Mr. Brown is from the street, man. I didn’t use bad language.

I: But you were familiar with the neighborhood?

CB: I’m from the street and I made something out of my life…And I’d hold that out on the hood for them… And I didn’t back off that, you know, so they knew I was serious.

I: Did their parents -

CB: I’m sorry?

I: Did their parents come to the community center or…

CB: I really don’t know…we focused basically on the kids. We did have a parents group and etc. and I don’t want to say I know anything. But, Lorraine ran the center and the church supported Lorraine. Um, my - I don’t know, I was there because of my beliefs – my church beliefs. And I realized that this to me was Christianity in action – would Jesus do the same kind of thing? And he did. So um – we created, there was a group called Entheos – which I think I told you about – which is of doctors, and you know, lawyers. Have you ever heard of Bruce Wright? The cunningness Bruce, the judge? That is his wife Connie Wright… And uh, so anyway, we were locked into politics of Harlem – We had a district leader – Mark Walpole… Percy Sutton’s brother was on the Vestry. He only came because he married somebody that was schoolteacher – you follow me? - and she married him and she made him join the church. I’m trying to think of Charlie’s last name from the National Urban League, he was another member of the church… So uh uh that was the way it went um… we made an effort uh but the idea of St. Philip’s on the Park, which has over 200 units of housing, St. Philip’s Senior Center… we sold the property on 135th street –um, I don’t know, I guess in your reading… St. Philip’s well we sold- got rid of that um and um, we supported… um…I’m trying to think of Jean’s last name, but she was the librarian, she was member of the church. And we like to feel in the back of that we gave forth to the Schomburg Collection… um…

I: It’s a great collection…

CB: Yea cause I went to City College and I was a part of the kids that took the stuff out of the basement to the top floor of the Schomburg. Because I was heavily - I knew all of these things – not that I was doing it.

I: You knew it needed to be saved.

CB: I’m sorry?

I: You knew what needed to be saved.

CB: Yea yea. So, what can I say? But I - that’s been my life so uh....

I: Can I -

CB: That was an important part of my life that period. There’s so much to do, you know, and you just had to be very selective about it, if not you could burn yourself out…um but that’s pretty much…plus we had a big camping program at you know... People would started signing up with us to send their kids to camp so we sent quite a few kids to camp. And um…um…

I: I remember reading that the church gave scholarships to…

CB: Which one?

I: St. Philip’s gave scholarships to students at public schools…to go to…

CB: No, we – this is - the charter schools is later now…um no we, the church was sort of. Well there were two populations: one population was the mulatto Harlem Renaissance southern, okay um… they were the ones who bought the property on 135th in 1909 built St. Philip’s, they came uptown that kind of thing. So they like to trace their roots back um to downtown blah, blah, blah, blah – that’s – that’s Johnny Hewitt. My stuff is – so what? We’re here and this is a different ball game. And that the church has to adapt and we have to deal with the problems that are right in front of us… And uh…

I: Was there um support from the Episcopal denomination at large?

CB: Oh yea. Oh yea. They felt we helped them be Christian. We - well I told you I was… I was a trustee in the Cathedral uh. So uh I think you’ve been around me long enough – I’d open up my mouth.

I: Yea

CB: I was on the Episcopal Mission Society, which is the camping and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So we got a couple scholarships. And the people from Trinity we’d grab them and so we get some scholarships for kids, but uh…

I: So there wasn’t – that wasn’t necessarily a big challenge?

CB: No, no, no. That was just another thing we were doing so. We was doing a lot of things. But at the core of it, we didn’t realize that the gymnasts moved around Weston – he knew everything going. He was an absolute genius – that’s why I used the word social genius, absolute. Arrogant son of a bitch, but he uh, he was quite... he was a theologian. He uh… we got along because I had dropped off into studying metaphysics and uh early influence by reading Mary Baker Eddy Christian Science that kind of thing um, which helped me develop a greater faith because I didn’t understand so I think reading Mary Baker that gave me a deeper understanding of what it was to be a Christian and all that kind of nonsense. Uh uh Weston used the Parish luncheon as the jump off thing so we would get newspaper coverage, which would be the Amsterdam News etc. and we’d call Jimmy Hicks and he was the editor so we would get our coverage in the Amsterdam so you know… the keynote speaker or speakers for our luncheons were all prominent, but Weston knew them and um um so that you know um we knew how to the play the game, we understood that. Um but, the idea of playing the game our framework was the social gospel… uh, and uh Weston helped us – or it helped him – I don’t know which way even to this day. Um Um he grew and uh – I think uh – he kept growing and then he had to retire and… He had a tremendous ego… you can imagine what we were dealing with. Ego or no ego the guy was just… it didn’t bother me… I-I…

I: Do you think though that’s why maybe the black community criticized him more so than…

CB: Not really. Not, not…the movers and shakers who were the politicians always wanted to come to our luncheons cause these are the people that vote – I mean, he quickly understood that.

I: Was –

CB: That was the purpose of the luncheon to get all the people of the church, bring all of their friends and then let’s go down to the big hotel so you get all dressed up on a Saturday, you follow me? And the place would be jammed – I’m telling, we went to all the big hotels and…

I: With all of Harlem’s leaders?

CB: Those who were important and you know – the speaker – the introducer blah, blah, blah, blah was me…

I: That’s a good job to have…

CB: Yea, yea yea, so I knew a lot of the guests and that kind of stuff.

I: And what would happen at the luncheon… they would just speak about Harlem -

CB: You come to eat, you’d hear a speech and you’d go home, but the way of getting out of Harlem, get downtown, wear your best clothes on a Saturday – it was a social event, but the undertones were political.

I: How so?

CB: Hmm?

I: How were the undertones political?

CB: We’d always have a speaker of some… note. We – you know, uh – we’d sit on top…uh think you know what helped us. Jimmy Hicks was the editor, he was a friend um, but uh…

I: Was he a member of the church or just a friend?

CB: No, I’d say… His wife, I think, Jimmy’s… yes, Daisy Hicks was a member of the church. But Jimmy was uh – he went to Howard University. And I said “oh you went to Howard?” – you know one of those kind of things. You “Omega?” Yea! It’s one of those kind of things you know. He’s Omega so am I. How? The… One knows it… So it’s not a question of not understanding the levels in the black community – Weston was clear about that. He just wanted to energize the-the-the-the literate -whatever word you want to use - that the things they can do in this environment. You know -the south will take care of itself. Yea I - we went to the March on Washington carried 5 buses. He was clear on that. We went to the Poor People’s March, the ERA, you know, we – that was one of the ways that we a lot – we kept a lot of people in our congregation. We tried… you know…we-we-we. And this group Entheos, even though it was a small, but they had an interesting agenda. And so you’d go to plays, you’d buy-buy out blocks of tickets um and it would be written up in the Amsterdam you know… and so we would go to some of the big plays downtown…

I: What do you think their agenda was… just to bring?

CB: Who?

I: You said that they had an agenda…

CB: Who is this?

I: The group, Entheos…

CB: Oh, it was always a social agenda. Yea, Entheos now… whatever the group, you know, so they developed a reputation so it wasn’t hard to invite some intellecutalites and all the kind of thing. The invitation came from Entheos and St. Philip’s. People knew who – oh they understood what was going on- everybody had – we had all kinds of degrees. They were medical, doctors, lawyers, but they were frustrated and they wanted some kind of group meeting that the center ideological is the social gospel. And they didn’t want you – what did you do for the black community, you know? So that was the…

I: Um…

CB: [Laughs]

I: I have so many questions. Um, I know this was a little bit later in your career, but I was wondering if… I know you spoke that St. Philip’s had housing for the community… um and you also were very active in securing HUD [Housing and Urban Development].

CB: HU – what?

I: The housing plan – um I think it was a little bit later in the 1970s or 80s… um…you convinced the state to build housing in Harlem.

CB: Well we were the first church to get into house - building housing and um…

I: Do you remember um… how you convinced them that this should be supported?

CB: Well, it was bold move. I mean, Weston understood real estate um… that whole block 133rd and 134th from 8th over to and uh… St. Nicholas… um… we um were a member of the community board that you know… and the representative from St. Philip’s to the community board was a lawyer and when we began to – you know in terms of being on the board – blah, blah, blah, blah – he became the vice chairman or whoever that is and it just came and we were given the quote rights or whatever that is. And ironically um, the reason we succeeded with St. Philip’s on the Park is the boy who owns a printing press - used to print up all the bulletins and all that… he had uh a broken down piece of space… and we said well he could come into our building and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And uh, St. Philip’s on the Park was a real… but uh…

I: Was it affordable?

CB: Huh?

I: Was the housing affordable? Like inexpensive for people to live there or was it… Like how much -

CB: No, we were in the area. Uh, we joined the St. Nicho - St. Nicholas Urban Development Core so we snatched a piece you know [laughs] for ourselves, uh hoping that – you know all of members ain’t so called upper middle class blah, blah, blah, blah. The problem we found that a lot of our congregation didn’t live in Harlem anymore. You know they moved out to suburbia so [laughs]. Uh one of the things that Father Weston developed, which I think kept all us um…that various neighborhoods developed St. Philip’s counseling, councils, and Father Weston or Father Harrison would meet and bring holy communion because a lot of the folks couldn’t get to the church on Sunday anymore, you know. So that was the way we did the outreach, I mean. Uh, it was unusual [ laughs]. The reason I can talk about that - that Father Harrison started going blind um and I became his chauffeur… so we – if the – the Long Island, blah, blah, blah, blah… uh then I’d – you know -drive out there and he’d service and communion and...So we did that – so that – cause you gotta realize that after World War II, the GIs coming back, they got mortgages and they moved out of Harlem so the problem we had is - who you going to fill in the wholes with? And we felt that the congregations are right around us, and one of the - which was our theme – because the social gospel applied to everyone – and the church is for worship, to give praise to God. It had nothing to do with the social amenities , you know, and so we developed some very strong folks from the community. So what happened –what I’m saying is that the
So what I’m saying is that the strength or leadership of the church shifted away from this high –class, mulatto dominant group to the folks and there were some of us who helped in that transition.

I: To the immediate community in Harlem?

CB: Yea, yea, yea. I mean I taught Sunday school for 25 years so that’s that’s… that’s not… A lot my kids became doctors and lawyers and dentists. Um…

I: What would –

CB: One I adopted as my goddaughter and uh… I’m sorry?

I: Um, what would a normal Sunday school class for you – like what would you do during that time with the kids?

CB: You mean my normal coming to church?

I: Well - for when you taught the class?

CB: When I did…?

I: When you taught Sunday school…

CB: Yea, oh everything.

I: Everything?

CB: Oh yea. The idea is Jesus didn’t have a sex or... you know…What caught the kids off guard – they didn’t realize there was Africa in the Bible so how you gonna talk about Egypt and not talk about Africa or Ethiopia? So this blew the minds of the these kids who came from middle class, mulatto type families you know um… who had disdain for black people or if you didn’t look a certain way. And Africa had – was not free. The only person who talked about Africa was Marcus Garvey movement. So my point? [laughs] Um… I never forgot um, um…Terrence went to uh Father Bishop and said, “Where the hell did you get this guy from he talks about Africa?” Yea, I’m serious they – I wasn’t popular in the beginning, but uh I was a problem teaching the – I taught the senior discussion group, which was for seniors in college. And I’d have room full on Sundays so I wasn’t afraid to deal with their issues – um you know - sex, dating – you know that’s very real and you can’t just move past that… people don’t get it. What the kids heard, I’d - we’d talk about it.

I: When you said that a lot of the original members ended up moving into the suburbs –

CB: Yea – they would – they got the G - you gotta realize because before they couldn’t get any mortgages. And they came back home as GIs – they could get SHA [State Housing Authority] mortgages, you have Carver Bank and bam…

I: Did you notice over the 25 years that you taught that your students changed from coming from the upper class to then coming from the immediate community?

CB: No – basically uh uh… the kids were coming out of the community center. Um…

I: Not necessarily from middle to upper class backgrounds–

CB: No, no, no, no. You come into Brown’s class, that’s it, period. – I didn’t really – that was not the issue. The kids that were talk about these things. And uh, you know Africa to them was like a no man’s land. Um, I was quite comfortable talking about how Nkrumah [Kwame – leader of Ghana, 1951 - 1966] had been to our church, you know? A number of Africans that visited… I could tell them I took Nkrumah to my house and met my mother and father. “Ohhh” - kids are like that, you know? Uh… uh… we-we, I think… St. Philip’s is - has been a historical – well, I would – a real spiritual force during that period. One, we did have the growth of a large black middle-class congregation, who because of the war got jobs and blah, blah, blah, blah. Um you got Civil Rights legislation, you know, so they were able, so so…yea. I’m just saying we were a vital force during that period.

I: Right.

CB: And, we are not the only ones, I’m just saying. Uh-uh, we influenced Wyatt T. Walker who was on 160th Street, he built, but he came – I know Wyatt from uh… they would come to see what had done. Abyssinia you know they would come and the first thing I would tell both of them – I would say, you must have lawyers in your congregation to develop non-profit corporations so you can ask for public funds, run public programs– “ohhh” you know these are things that we did. And um, I knew Wyatt very well – he used to come to see Father Weston, but he went to a black school in West Virginia. They were sister schools so I can vouch for Wyatt, I mean he might be a Baptist preacher. But he’d say, well Courtney went to a Baptist school. This guy was Episcopalian, but he I went to a Baptist school, but hey what difference does it make? In school, I was still a rebel, I would just close the campus down now. No I did that. I would just close it down.

I: What do you mean?

CB: Well, you know, they had some crazy rules. Um… uh… and…. the fellow was from Richmond, Virginia, his name - J. Henry Jasper III. And the school wasn’t, I think uh we had a problem with the food and blah, blah, blah, blah. We worked out something between Jasper and myself and another fellow… and we called for a campus wide meeting and we had you know – uh and we demanded blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we demanded – you know - why couldn’t we go to the movies downtown? Why couldn’t we go the hotels, Sir Walter Raleigh? Kids go, “Yayyy!” That’s when Dr. Daniels – he needs some of that money from the people for the day-to day expenses of the school. And here he’s got this crazy New York kid uh… talking about a sit in. So I picketed hotels and stood out front of movie houses telling folks we were tired of going around to the side, we want to go through the front door. I was able to bring that to the kids at Sunday school. They’d say, “Do you know he did so and so? So and so? And so and so? Cause kids judge you by what you do. You know? And they’d say “well he’s just bull shitting.” And I’d say “hey, I’m for real. I did this –what did you do?”

I: You were inspiring them to be active…

CB: Oh yea, well I was trained as a teacher so I’d be an Episcopal teacher if I couldn’t… but um, you know the period that you picked, I think that under Weston has an impact um and um Weston helped the Bishop to move out that crazy upper-class Yale, Harvard whatever the hell that was and the Bishop became our friend, so he would call… Trinity was sitting on bags of money and they’d help us. So then after Weston left, the priest we got, Father [Chester Lovelle] Dalton, or Bishop Talton used to work for Trinity. So uh, I was on the search committee for a new rector and I said what’s wrong with Talton? Father Talton? So Talton came in – he was a little different than Weston – he wasn’t that…You see Weston was an old pro on that. Uh and uh, but we had the good fortune of having that kind of leadership – we had Talton, we had uh Moran, now how do you duplicate these guys? You know people of that stature… you know… there not going through the ministry. And we had, listening to the new group, we had a female, who was the ‘it’ – she wanted to be a lifestyle. I said, I don’t care about your lifestyle – that’s irrelevant. But uh, she became a problem for us. And uh, the congregation said, “Mr. Brown what are we going to do?” And said, “We go and get her that’s all. You know, she’s not going to hide behind the church and not officially...and this is your lifestyle? Okay.” The black community ain’t that hip and sophisticated on that level of orientation. And this is our culture. It’s not that we didn’t know who sang in the choir, who the organist was and all that, but the folks went along with it. That’s your life and people never said a word about it. But now, when you’re going to bring on Mother’s Day somebody to talk about how they adopted children, you know, uh much too much. And uh, then for you to bring your friend, who happens to be white with an adopted child you know, that was too much for the people – way too much. And I told her, I said, “you ain’t gonna win here baby. Oh no.” And see I knew her father. You know…Here’s a guy that was practicing medicine on 117th street and Lenox Avenue – gut bucket – you understand? Yea he went to Howard and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I said to her, “look at your father.” But uh, uh, he moved his family to Fl-Florida and all that so they didn’t have to grow up in the…he didn’t want to go to Long Island. I knew all about that. But uh, I grew up with her, I just and uh. We got her. And I told her you’ve got to baby. I don’t give a damn about what your lifestyle is – you’ve got a right to that. Ain’t nobody said a word to you about your lifestyle.

I: It just didn’t fit.

CB: It doesn’t fit here. Now, You, this is what we are – this is St. Philip’s Church. You know, we’ve played a role in the black community, you know, since the founding of this country so we’re not rookies. And um, we had…as the congregation changes, you know, you’ve got to respect that and… But they accepted her uh and her friend and the baby, but we didn’t renew her contract. That… is business now. And she would send –[laughs] that’s, I was still working there – she would send her whatever she would - she would come… and said, “Brown” and I said “Look my man, she had a - don’t bring the bullshit because you’re working on your doctorate. I don’t want to hear all that. Let’s get down to business. This is an institution, man. We’ve done so much, you know, in our role in this community, you know. And you a jive, you know you just got here, you ain’t pay no dues, brother. We’ve got to get down on our knees, you know, we’ve helped kids, families, you know…um…

I: When you go… do you still go up to the church?

CB: Physically, I can’t get there as often so I just… um… you know the busses and all that. I-I go on main holidays or… but I keep my envelopes and send them money, yea. No, St. Philip’s has been the light… and uh…

I: Does the neighborhood look very different to you…?

CB: I’m sorry…?

I: Does the neighborhood look very different to you now?

CB: No, it doesn’t. I mean, frankly I don’t talk to anyone in this building anyways. They’re not my kind of people, but…

I: Where were you when you – when you were growing up, where you lived after you lived in Hell’s Kitchen? You moved to Harlem?

CB: Oh I had my mother and father, yea.

I: Do you know when they came from Barbados? When they immigrated?

CB: Uh, the 1920s. My mother tried to get here during the war and um the boat she was on was hit by torpedoes she had to go back to Barbados um and then she came back again. My father – they never explained, but they had their own plan – he came up through the um – the fruit lines with the boats – and he-he hip hopped, but he spent time in Cuba, but he would never use Spanish – never. And I only realized in later years when Castro came to power. He says, “Ahhh,” He says, “Apagado.” I looked at him - I had no sense of this, and then he just let me know. He said he walked around Havana with no shoes and he had whole thing about Spanish culture. You don’t get anywhere, they just as dead as the South um… and he would never discuss Cuba – he said, I don’t want to discuss it… the Spanish have the same problem as these southern characters. They’ll be on the sidelines, but they make all these goddamn babies, but they have no power. And he was - he was very strong on that. I’m not that way, I just… Spanish speaking doesn’t bother me. You know –um - elementary school – I was half –as smart so they sent me down to school to uh PS 11 on 21st Street, I was going with kids from strictly middle class backgrounds blah, blah, blah blah, blah. And uh, my two friends was, one was Cuban and one was Puerto Rican, but we were the only 3 spots, you know [laughs] and we bonded on that. And then Hector forget - forgot he was a Cuban – them Irishmen put a whooping on him.

I: Oh no.

CB: Oh yea. I got along with the Irishmen uh because– his name was Sullivan - but I used to help him with the homework, you know, and he protected my back so they didn’t bother me. Uh, Frankie, you know, Frankie was a little uh, but my father made it quite clear so… uh… you know… you talk about Irishman and I knew I had to get out, there ain’t no conversation. But that’s what I learned in Hell’s Kitchen before we moved to Harlem so uh, but I have high respect for Irishmen…if you got an Irishman on your side, you’ll be alright cause they gonna run with you. But we’re now facing – we’ve got this new guy and um, but he’s a brilliant man. Um, um. I don’t know how far…. um …he’s going to go….um… He’s married to a white woman with – he’s got a family. One of the – one of the girls – or one of them has a learning disability…uh and um his ministry was in Florida, you know, but he hasn’t had a ministry like a big, urban northern city and uh, he’s reached out to me and you know, I’ve said well you have to – and he now has that in the newsletter - to talk to his congregation through his newsletter that blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And people will forget your sermon, but you’ve got something, they’ve got, they’ll read and before they throw it they’ll read it again. And I said, “This got to be basic for your ministry.” He’s – he’s – he’s – he’s doing alright. Because the congregation is changing. We have a big Caribbean group um and I don’t know what we’re gonna do – I just don’t know. Uh… uh… it’s even difficult for me to deal um to deal with the new Caribbean, the attitude. I said I can’t – I said whoa, whoa, whoa. And uh, it is still people who have been in the church for a while, but we’ve got a new wave coming in, but they leave me alone you know I’m a Basian. But what I went to as a Barbadian with you all I’m not gonna get into that. I went to so I don’t get into that I just uh – I just stay away from it. I think the church will – it has a funny way of renewing itself. I say, this is the history of St. Philip’s, but they keep the social gospel in front of them so they’ll be alright. Every now and then I still get phone calls… Mr. Brown what do you think about the new…? He’s struggling, he’s a southern boy and decided to be Episcopalian. I said, you’ve got see his mindset… he didn’t grow up in Sunday school. He found this met his needs, you know so… through the backdoor that’s what I’ve been getting people to understand. Wait a minute, whoa let’s back up a minute. One, he didn’t grow up in the Sunday school, you know, you did. He grew up in the southern black church and for a lot of you it is based on call/ response, which is what Jesus did. Ya’ll not into that, you’re more into, you know… I had a few phone calls. People said thank you, they really, you know… And he’s called, he’s been here. He’s an interesting guy – bright, very bright, um… I can see by his weight – you know, you know weight to me is a problem that is psychological, but uh he’s um he’s going to this whole new thing, yoga, and I can’t. You know it’s real, I can’t ignore it, but uh… I just have a problem with it [laughs] I have a problem with it – I have a problem with that. I’m just a contemporary and I remember when I went through my Marcus Garvey stage and you know, we all grow and some things we outgrow. Yoga is something, you know, but uh…I just… you know, having been to Africa, and both East Africa and West Africa…. I’ve been to Egypt and all that kind of thing. Been to – well my folks are in Barbados…. Brazil… My thing with…You’ve got people of Africa descent everywhere and they adapt they’re in different cultures. So I think this new wave will adapt and learn something about the history and blah, blah, blah. I guess because I’m a trained historian I think that way and uh, the social work was a gig you know. The dean came to me and said I can’t keep you here unless you get your MSW. So I got my MSW, blah, blah, blah, blah. Ah uh…

I: You did that for quite some time…

CB: What’s that?

I: You were a social worker for quite some time.

CB: Oh yea. Yea. Uh, the Dean, he was my buddy, he uh – when he got hired….well I was hired by a black acting Dean, who I knew – she was – it’s a long story, but uh she uh they were looking somebody or students that called a strike at the school and closed it down and… and… she called around – we gotta find somebody to talk to them. Uh, we gotta find somebody to talk to them. So somebody knew what about that crazy Courtney Brown. I got a license to teach high school and all that kind of stuff. And that’s how I got to Hunter and then when I required um that students had to walk through the community, they were shocked. I said, no this is a requirement. You’ve got to come with me on a Sund…Saturday and walk through the marketplace. You went to Africa, Africa is the marketplace. And that is when the people come out of community and you’ve got to see the marketplace.

I: So where would you take them?

CB: Walks through Harlem.

I: Harlem… like a walking tour?

CB: All through Harlem, well I showed them the high life of Harlem, which is still there, you know? Well when they walk through Strivers’ Row on 138th and 139th, they faint. I said it’s been there all the time. Then when they see, you know, black churches. They said, the congregation built that – like we built St. Philip’s.

I: What was – what was your goal in-in taking them on the walking tour?

CB: The what?
I: What was your goal when you decided to start taking them on walking tours of Harlem? Like what did you -

CB: Give them the sense that it’s history –everybody has a history. And I’m heavily influenced by WEB Dubois, you know, so I interviewed him. And he said one of the problems we have for persons of African descent is that we’re left out of history. So when you see the socialization and the educational process you come up as a non-being because you have no historical roots. And until you establish historical roots, which means you’re a part of mankind or humankind, you’re going to be seen as outside. I had a long talk with him. That’s one of the greatest things that ever happened in my life. I interviewed WEB Dubois. I spent the whole morning. I can’t describe it to you. I think he felt sorry for me, you know, I was this so-called rebel. But I’ll never forget. The interview was at the NAACP headquarters on 40th Street, they had moved uptown. My-my professor said, “I think you should meet Dubois.” And I said, “me?” “Yea, he said, why don’t you…” I think he did for a reason. And I made an appointment, I remember saying it wouldn’t be 10 o’clock.. And he closed the door and we talked for about, well two hours. He said, “well young man, I’m very glad to have met you?” And said, “I’m glad you gave me, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And we both left the NAACP headquarters and walked up 5th Avenue, he went 10th and I walked this way. That’s one of the highlights of my life.

I: What kind of questions did you ask him – if you can remember?

CB: Well I was interested in this historical thing and he suggested in a lot of his writings, uh that why are people surprised at the behavior when people are forced to live in two different cultures at the same time? It’s got to affect them. And um, the very nature of-of black folks at that time was schizophrenic, you know, you’d zip back and forth. And, yes, it produces bizarre behavior, but who the hell is gonna listen to Dubois, you know, I mean, come on. They’d say, stay in your field – this is not your field. And um, he felt very strongly, you know eventually he retired and died in Ghana, his attitude was “I’m going home.” And uh, you know they wanted him to write the Encyclopedia, but he never got a chance to finish it. But he was a - he was a little guy though – dressed very European – Spats and the whole nine yards. But yea, I think felt sorry for me. I’m talking this whole nonsense. And he’s lived it – he’s gone through all that, you know. I guess he felt sorry for me, but he was very gracious...very gracious. The other influence, you see him on the wall, Whitney Young. Oh yea. That’s when I did my street work up in Yonkers….going to jail… demonstrations… getting locked up and asking the district – no, I’m serious - to come up to Getty’s Square and give his holy communion. Oh yea. [laughs] And when all these things made the newspapers, Whitney came to see me in uh Yonkers and said, “man what’re you doing?” And I said, “hey, somebody has got to do it.” And we became just like that. And politically, he um just like Earl Grey is who with Black Enterprise I mean, black, his name, what black, oh boy, black-black-black-black-black. It’s a business magazine – I don’t know why I can’t. Anyways, he was Whitney, he was uh-uh, he was – he was with the treasury department, but Bobby Kennedy, he was assigned to take care of Bobby Kennedy. And, I met him because Bobby was looking for somebody to do his street thing - I was so-called good at that. And uh, Earl became we found out he was from a so-called West Indian background, he goes to St. Philip’s in Brooklyn, you know we were both Omegas and uh, he uh, when I had some political problems, I’d call him, you know. I remember one time he called me from Paris. [laughs] “Hi, Courtney, what’s up man? He said the white folks are still here.” [laughs] And I told him my little political problem that and whatever happened – whatever the problem I was facing just disappeared. No I’m very close to Earl, I-I you know, he’s a different league, but I’ve been around Bobby Kennedy like I’m talking to you so. You know, Kennedy when the Kennedy thing came up – I said man I don’t know –the Kennedy I know had a steel brace man so all this potency about sex is – I don’t know what you can do with a bad back, you know. Bobby was a funny –he had a non-photogenic side and we had to carry suits and shirts and go and get the colored TV and he had a… but he was a funny guy, Bobby, a nice fellow, uh, but uh… He had a whole problem about his brother – you know he was the smallest guy – and he had that’s why he’s … you know all of his brothers are tall… And he was – it’s a sad - I was supposed to go – when he was running for the Senate – um, I was supposed to go meet them in California, and then Buddy called me and said he’s dead man and I said, “oh shit.” But he was funny guy. And the thing that bothered him was Lelia Farr. I’m serious! She’s gorgeous, oh my God. And he just couldn’t just – I don’t understand it, you know. I said well uh. She grew up in Bed-Stuy you know and um, but that affected him. There was a whole movement of folks of so-called Harlem to Bed-Stuy to own their private house and that kind of thing. She got exposed to the whole Caribbean thing and you know, Marcus Garvey. And anybody whose going through that period of history, um, you couldn’t ignore the Garveyites that I’m talking about it because it was non-intellectual, it was more of an emotional thing. Um… and um…But Earl, I don’t call him that, he’s Earl Grey. I remember he called me at the office and um I was a guest of Jimmy Carter when he got elected and all that stuff. And uh, we were very close, but life is a strange experience so um… but it’s a lot of pleasant memories, but what can I tell you? I know, I’ve been running my mouth – you didn’t get a chance…

I: It’s all, it is all very interesting. I guess um… the last question that I have for you is really more about um like your overall experience living in Harlem and having been involved in a church that was so socially active and also had a career in activism -

CB: Yea… I think Harlem has changed though. The Harlem that is there now is new for me. Um… um. Which to me, represents one of the new things that’s happening in American life – um - urban living has changed so um I really, you know. We had a few Caucasians or whatever word one wants to use who have joined St. Philip’s so you know uh. Um, one of the reasons I say the Kennedy’s - we had a priest um who grew up with the Kennedy’s. His name was Coughlin, Father Coughlin. And um [laughs] he came to help us at St. Philip’s, good force… and he was a late Irishmen not a Shanty Irishman and he wanted us – he understood that every inner-city has some culture or… That’s how they were able to survive and handle the hostility and blah, blah, blah, blah. You know and um… um… I guess that’s what we taught the two bishops of this diocese. We went on a retreat and one of the bishops said [laughs] I’ll never forget it. And um, um. I said whatever it was I said, what emerges we call black theology and the man almost fainted. I’m serious. I mean his family is so-called some of the founders of Harvard – he had all the credentials and he went on a retreat with us because in South America you had liberation theology and he uh. I-I have - I said well I’m a broken down historian so I went to Howard University, John Hope Franklin. I said have you ever seen the Negro Bible? No, but that’s what it’s called. It was the religious school at Howard these guys wrote the Bible, you know, based upon what the history of the Bible was. And the first thing, I told the Bishop – I said well the folks who were chased out of Asia Minor crossed over and they lived in the African civilization called Egypt and I don’t know whether he gurgles or what [laughs]. And I said uh- whatever it is, it came down to he Greeks cause the Greeks used to go and study. Well I - I had a great professor at Howard named [Frank M.] Snowden and his dissertation at Yale was- was called Blacks in Antiquity and he talked about the presence of people from Africa, and German, I mean in the Roman armies and the Greek and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. He uh – in 11 years before he retired, he had made the rounds. He realized that the voices come from everywhere if you have a listening ear, that’s-that’s what it’s all about and uh… But this present group at the Cathedral, I-I don’t know about. I just I haven’t been a Trustee of the cathedral... I was on the dio- the diocese, uh…Board of St. Luke’s Hospital and all that kind of crap. I just have limits to myself.

I: Do you have you vestry notes?

CB: I’m sorry…

I: Do you still have your vestry notes?

CB: No they’re in the Schomburg Collection. All my handwritten about 20 years of writing on yellow sheets. They are there, they’re at the Schomburg. That’s a whole other thing- uh. And uh, I checked my notes. And uh… Gail, who is the church secretary, she would be about the only one who know where the Collection is saved. So I don’t know what they’ve done at the Schomburg. I know they’re there, my papers and…Have you had a chance to look at that?

I: I have -

CB: Okay…

I: it’s a pretty extensive collection. It’s great. I actually –

CB: What’s that?

I: …recall your name from looking…

CB: Oh yea, yea, yea. I mean St Philip’s I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I’m glad for that because uh…uh… it influenced my life, you know, and then uh you know, with the chief [his wife], folks didn’t understand… she went through the same experience with her family. They don’t come here or nothing. She suffered more from our relations than I did, but uh she’s quite a lot, you know. The folks in the building, you know, they were… this building was once, oh basically - was rental blah, blah, blah. But he major holders of stock were Jewish and she doesn’t deal with religion. She just –she said, no, let’s get out. But here we are… I mean she’s the one who hangs up all the stuff.

I: She made it your home.

CB: This is it. So we’ve been here most of the time during the summers we’d be in Europe, you know? She’d carry me – in order to get away from the cutting-edge, you know, sensitivity. And I – uh - we had our problems overseas…

I: Um…

CB: But she would tell me – you’re in an American, you’re not in America. And that’s why I call her the chief.

I: [laughs]

CB: No, she’s a brilliant women, - extraordinary, she’s got a... She’s paid a price for the relationship, but it doesn’t bother her, you know, she’s- um she’s very concerned for my health. You know, my next birthday I’ll be 90.

I: Wow.

CB: 90 years of age.

I: That’s great…

CB: I’m 89.

I: I would never have guessed that…

CB: You know, but that’s what I’m saying. God has been good, you know, I can’t. I think it’s the social gospel, you know, I’m about business… and um… in philosophy I’m the person that admires Paul so a lot of my views are very Paulinneal. You know I’ve - we’ve been to Turkey and that whole area…

I: That’s um – you seem…

CB: The Islands in the North… We’ve done the whole nine yards because I just wanted to see these places…Athens too. I went to Athens.

I: Wow, you’re very –

CB: This is the way that John wrote the… Paul, I’ve been to Masters Row and this is real [laughs]. So, you know, uh you know we stopped off at the Byzantine Empire and all that stuff and we spent time in Turkey so –

I: That’s incredible.

CB: We got around Turkey. So that’s me – I don’t know if that bored you or…?

I: This was wonderful. I just want to make a note – it’s November 8, 2013. I’m in Dr. Courtney Brown’s apartment and he’s agreed to an oral history interview. Thank you so much…

Original Format

Digital audio recording, .wav

Duration

2:23:38

Bit Rate/Frequency

24-bit/96kHz

Time Summary

PART 1 OF 7 (20 minutes)
Discussion of the following: St. Philip's Vestry during Reverend M. Moran Weston's rectorship; West Indian immigration; growing up in Hell's Kitchen and moving to Harlem; the difference between St. Andrew's & St. Philip's

PART 2 OF 7 (19 minutes, 59 seconds)
Discussion of the following: basketball scholarship and experience at Shaw University; political beliefs, including Marxism & Communism; introduces parents and older brother; Weston's character; Carver Bank; importance of St. Philip's breakfast with leaders from community

PART 3 OF 7 (19 minutes and 59 seconds)
Discussion of the following: St. Philip's breakfasts for Harlem's leaders; the church's connection with The Amsterdam News' Editor Jimmy Hicks; the role of Entheos; establishing St. Philip's Church Records at the Schomburg; Caribbean immigrant community at the church; social obligation of the church; camp programs sponsored by the church; theater group at the church

PART 4 OF 7 (20 minutes and 59 seconds)
Discussion of the following: St. Philip's Community Center; St. Philip's on the Park; the church's collection at the Schomburg; changing population of church; church luncheons

PART 5 OF 7 (19 minutes and 59 seconds)
Discussion of the following: St. Philip's on the Park and housing initiatives; suburbanization; Sunday School at St. Philip's taught by Brown; activism at Shaw University

PART 6 OF 7 (19 minutes and 59 seconds)
Discussion of the following: Father/Bishop Talton and other rectors of St. Philip's post-Weston; parents immigration experience from Barbados; social work experience

PART 7 OF 7 (22 minutes and 37 seconds)
Discussion of the following: interviewing WEB Dubois; activism in Yonkers; relationships with Earl Grey, Whitney Young and Bobby Kennedy; living on Madison and 96th Street; his wife, Rosalind; his world travels

Added by

Boyle, Jennifer

Date added

2013-12-11