Ms. Ida James was born and raised in the Brooklyn community of Charlotte. She attended both Myers Street Elementary and Second Ward High Schools. She attended Friendship Missionary Baptist Church from an early age and became a member with her family at age eleven. Ms. James was a member of the Usher Board of the church where she was in close contact with Reverend Kerry. She maintained close friendships with this group. She feels the church’s move from Brooklyn allowed her to be appreciative of the things she has, and she tried to instill this in her children so that they would not overlook their many blessings. Ms. James participated in a group interview with other members of Friendship Baptist Church.
Tape Log: Oral History Interview with Ida James
Oral History Interview with Friendship Missionary Baptist Church
Ms. Ida James
Mr. James Yancey
Mrs. Ozena Yancey
Interviewed by Brian K. Alexander
|Description of Interview Contents
|Description of Interview Contents
|Tape picks up on second half of interview – Sister Ida James speaking. Sister James is discussing the changes from the “old” Church to the “new” Church – the impact of the size of the Church on the lack of closeness in contacts.
|Sister James: “Like I say, the only thing I miss is the closeness and I miss my people that I’m used to seeing, and when service is over, you stand and chat a few minutes…”
|Question: What things about the new Church today are better than what you had in Brooklyn? A list of things in conjunction with the new Church facility follows, including the nursery and daycare and library.
|Mr. Yancey remembers the pipe organ at the old Church in Brooklyn. Mrs. Yancey and Mrs. James join in the discussion and mention several names surrounding the old music ministry.
|Mr. Yancey discusses changes in the Deacon Board.
|Question: When you think back on Brooklyn, do you still think of it as a community even though it doesn’t exist as it did before? Or do you not think of it at all as a community?
|Sister Yancey and Sister James chime in together: “Oh, yes” Sister James Mr. Yancey: “I kind of look at it like you do people, you’re here today and you’re gone, and you don’t come back, so Brooklyn’s kind of like people…”
|Sister Yancey: “It’s almost like it never was, and only the people have it in their mind that were there.”
|Mr. Yancey discusses the connection to integration and its benefits. He remembers his time as a court counselor and its connection to integration. He continues to talk about Brooklyn and other communities and interacting with Second Ward High School.
|Question: What is your vision for the future of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church? Where do you see it going? All three individuals refer to the Church building plans focused on property across from the Church on Beatties Ford Road, which is approximately 104 acres adjacent to I-77.
|Question: Do you think this is going to change the Church?
|Question: What sorts of information have we missed? What things would you like to tell us that we may not have gotten to? If there is a question you think we should have asked or if there is a story you may have that we weren’t able to cover in the questions we asked?
|Sister James: “…as far as the move from Brooklyn to here, it taught me a lot. It taught me how to be appreciative of the things I have now, and to appreciate the things I have and not worry about the things I can’t have. Because, I think about the times when I didn’t have what I have now, so I value all that. That helped me to raise my four children. I taught them to appreciate what they have and don’t worry about what somebody else have. If your next door neighbor have more than you have, don’t worry about that, just thank God for what we have given you, and to put a value on that…”
|Mr. Yancey sees all of the churches standing together and talks of future growth.
March 23, 2004
LY: Leo Yakutis (Interviewer)
JY: James Yancey (Interviewee)
OY: Ozena Yancey (Interviewee)
UN: Unknown Speakers
LY: This is Leo Yakutis and the date is March 23rd, 2004. Today at 10:30 am at the Shoney’s on Steel CreekRoad we will be conducting a second interview with James and Ozena Yancey. James and Ozena Yanceywere first interviewed for the Oral History Project under Karen Flint and the University of North Carolinaat Charlotte in conjunction with the New South Voices Project at the Atkins Library by Kathy Wells. Theinterview today with James and Ozena Yancy will start of with questions that pertain to the relocation ofpeople from the Brooklyn neighborhood to other neighborhoods. Good morning James and Ozena Yancey.[pause]
LY: Do you remember how people had to go about bidding on their own properties during that particular time?
JY: I can relate, more or less [cough], with what happened with urban renewal while I was working inGreenville [cough].
JY: When the city bought the property, as I understand it, that is repossessed all the property, if the people, ifthe people wanted to buy the property back they just needed to contact the city planners. In Brooklyn[cough] it was a different situation. The city had different playing cards.
JY: In most instances if the people wanted to buy the property back they just couldn’t afford it. At the time ofBrooklyn I do not think [cough] the individuals could have probably bought the property back if theywanted too.
OY: [aside to friends speaking to her at the restaurant]
JY: The city had plans for it [cough]. It looks like Brooklyn [cough] it looks like in Brooklyn it was a differentarea from most things as it is mostly government, government buildings. One [pause] One thing I canremember was the [pause] and the only good bought, I can remember thing getting anything that was not agovernment entity was First Baptist Church. Yes, they bought some property in urban renewal and theywere in position to name the price. Now, I do not know if Friendship wanted to purchase property they hador what they decided. Maybe they couldn’t, as I recall they probably bought the church for about onehundred eighty five thousand dollars price. At the time in Brooklyn I do not think that would put a dent intobuying that property back.
JY: At public, basically.
LY: From your, how, how were people notified that their land was going? I mean that their homes were going[pauses] or was it by letter, or did people come by to tell them or did they just find out when the bulldozersshowed up? Yancey, James and Ozena 2
JY: Well, that was a different process.
JY: If people with families were renters that was one thing.
JY: And if they were owners they had to negotiate a lot of property as quickly as they could. If they could notreach them [cough] excuse me, if they could not reach a price then the city could think about condemningthe property.
LY: And then they would condemn the property?
JY: Yes, so [pause] and they were telling us what [pause] what urban renewal was at the time. They hadrelocation officers who assisted people with new living arrangements. They were not supposed to movethem into substandard housing. As a consequence a lot of people who had not had utilities over the yearsbecause they could not even afford the higher rent, and having worked with urban renewal myself I sawmany people who didn’t [pause] even had utilities in years. I believe that, I was a witness to see that. So, aspart of my job as a social worker things began to happen in Brooklyn that were to get them squared, withbasic means and things like that. When we ran into medial problems we tried figured, some of the thingswere beyond their means. So they tried they tried to use a humane element to that part. So, [8 words lostto background in the restaurant] Where I worked they were moved to almost totally new housingdevelopment.
LY: What years were you working in that capacity?
JY: Sixty [pause] seven, sixty nine.
LY: And you also worked with youths in the area that got in a little bit of a tangle [pause] I guess?
JY: Ah, yes. The only thing about it in my job at the time most of those kids were already in trouble.
JY: People on probation. We processed kids in big problems, what would be criminal acts if they were adults.
JY: A lot my clients lived in the Brooklyn area. Before it was , before it [background noise distorts threewords] live there. I spend a lot of time working with the kids in the Second Ward community. And, I wasthe probation officer.
JY: Many of my clients [pause] I remember one little boy who went though the grade school four times beforehe got a passing grade. So, that was some of the basis for the problems there. There were a lot of peoplereceiving public assistance, but of course, there were a lot of home owners too. And I think that whenpeople realized that urban renewal was taking place they didn’t keep the property up, they didn’t carebecause they knew it was going to be torn down.
LY: Now, the neighborhood that was Brooklyn, when you were working it, there were some very nice sectionsto it, some beautify sections to it and there were the alley homes, some would say shotgun homes?
JY: Oh, yeah.2Yancey, James and Ozena 3
LY: What caused such an extreme difference in the neighbor hood? I mean you are looking at a verycomfortable, affluent part of Brooklyn and you are looking at a very impoverished one, one that theCharlotte Observer liked to refer to as slums.
JY: I think one of the things from my standpoint is that they probably got no owners. It’s very difficult to getabsent owners to repair some stuff. And if you fix it up they are going to tear it down and if you don’t owna property people don’t tend to care for it like they do their own. I think that is one reason too. Once theysaw urban renewal they stopped making minor repairs. I don’t [pause]; I’m feeling now that they probablydidn’t enforce the housing code because everything was substandard. That is why they told it was time fordemolition because the housing so substandard and [pause]. The people who owned their property, ofcourse, the home owners in Brooklyn. As I recall the people living in Brooklyn, the whole community wastold, there was no new houses as I recall the housing very close together and but the people had some pridein it.
LY: We are really looking at a division was really about absentee landlords, somebody living somewhere elseowning the property and the actual homeowners keeping up what, what was theirs, and that’s thedifference. Would the same be true for businesses in the area? I mean most businesses from what Iunderstood were not locally owned. I mean like the grocery stores, the A&P down there?
JY: I didn’t have any, any personal relationship with business but I do go to some like restaurants but I diddevoted some time to restaurants and night clubs at times and went to theaters. I remember going to theSavoy many times.
JY: [laughing] I do recall, Lincoln merrily, at the time I did not know my wife but they used to have the girlieshow. [laughing] strip tease. [laughing]
OY: [gives her husband a “disapproving” look]
LY: You can talk about that to him after the interview.JY [laughing]
LY: OK. But.
JY: These would have been the business that I see, but I frequent.
LY: Now some of the businesses were locally owned, I think Bishop Dell owned service…
JY: His was right on the corner, right across from Friendship. Right across the street.
LY: And he had a service station I think?
JY: Really, damn.
OY: Yes, Bishop Dell owned…
JY: I think he owned lots of property come to think of it. He did well, he was wealthy, Bishop Dell wasconsidered wealthy, he was a well know a business man.
LY: Now [pause] Were you one of the ones from the Sunday School that would run over there for soda andsnacks during Sunday School?
JY: No, I never went over there, the kids did that but I didn’t.3Yancey, James and Ozena 4
LY: Now I know that Buck would sometimes take the children over there too and then take them back. Hehelped them get out and get back to Sunday School after they had a soda.
JY: Well I wasn’t involved in the church at this time because I met my wife in 51 and we got married in 52.
JY: [pause] I’m trying to think, between 52 and the time I went to work with urban renewal I don’t remember awhole lot about the church and what I did. But I probably, well I was gone 52 through 54 in service, and so,I’m trying to think and I think we joined right after we married [pause] but there are some gaps there in myinvolvement with the church because we didn’t have no children.
OY: You have to talk for yourself but.
LY: Excuse me?
OY: [Soft voice and background noise make it difficult to make understand Ozena Yancey who is speaking verysoftly about her involvement with Friendship Baptist Church. Ozena has been a long term member andnow is recounting the Play put on by the church when urban renewal was announced and that the churchwould have to relocate.]
LY: The thirty day service?
OY: Yes, for thirty days, every single day we prayed.
LY: And that was under revered Karrey? He seemed to have a pretty good plan moving forward once the move?
OY: Oh yes, yes he certainly did. But it was sad and [pause] the people stayed together.
JY: Well, we didn’t have any choice. Like the condemnation process.
OY: [Again, background noise makes it difficult to understand her on the tape but Ozena Yancey is recountingthe old Friendship Baptist Church in the Brooklyn neighborhood. The points of focus are the stained glasswindows from the old church that were not used in the new church. Each window had the names of thefamilies from the old church.]
LY: Do you know what happened to the old stained glass windows?
OY: No, no.
LY: Well, that’s something that I think I need to research then. That’s a little bit of history that hopefully hasnot been lost.
JY: That I did not know about myself.
OY: Those stained glasses were [pause] parish members of the church names on them. They did not use them atthe new church and I do not know where they have gone.
LY: Hum, we will have to look into that one. I learn something new every time.
JY: I didn’t know that either and I was involved with the church at the time.
LY: Now.4Yancey, James and Ozena 5
JY: Your probably have heard this before but back at that time urban renewal was not a very, very popularterminology because people saw it as black removal because it always effected the black people. So, to fixthis the city changed its policy of total demolition to rehabilitation [clears throat] it is possible that the citylearned from this.
UN: YANCEY!UN2: [speaking to OY] How ya doing?
JY: And I think the same thing could have happened in north Charlotte had it not be the change in philosophyfrom total demolition to rehabilitation.
LY: Now, the Greenville neighborhood organized or at least the Reverends and Pastors did, the Reverends andPastors organized to oppose demolition. Do you recall that?
JY: I went to a lot of meetings at the time but that might have occurred before I became part of the process. Ofthat, which, but when I was hired, I was hired as a social worker the process was already in place.
JY: So I don’t think, any, all, next plan was to probably make it work as smoothly as possible. But, thosethings might have affected the place before I came there. But as a social worker we butted heads with therelocation officer, sometimes we didn’t like their tactics.
LY: What were their tactics like?
JY: [pause] They, like could be, would call it warfare or not but these are some of the things that we picked upand talked among the clients that some them used some tactics that [pause] that we felt were too inhumane.Why you even get them to move. Once they try to have them move, some tactics we did not like them atall, and, so, we kinda got caught between the relocation and social services department.
LY: But you were acting as the advocate for the individual and they were acting as the arm of the city prettymuch?
JY: Yes, but we couldn’t stop the process of getting relocated but we tried to make it as smooth as possible justto help with means, to take care of [pause] we didn’t have no relocation officer listening sometimes wecould go back behind him to move preferences in family housing. When you have people who, we had arange, income range; we had people list their income as low as twenty five dollars a month. Where can youmove somebody with no income and some of them had not income, where can you move that person? Tohousing? That was a dilemma of urban renewal.
LY: What happened to those, those people on that end of the spectrum?
JY: More than likely they moved to public housing, that was the only thing, even the public housing [cough]strip have a certain expected income. I think some of them got lost in the process. They probably relocatedand moved in with relatives or disappeared.
JY: Supposedly we kept files on them. So, um, even within out of the whole process, social services processand relocation offices it was an every day event. We had a bunch of kids that, and I am pretty sure thesame thing took place in Brooklyn.
LY: I am going to bring up a question relating more to the, the younger members of the neighborhood again.You may have work with or not worked with this but I have heard that when Second Ward and West5Yancey, James and Ozena 6Charlotte would have a basketball or football game they would a fight on the field or the court and therewould be a rivalry right after the game to.
LY: They would have a rough time with each other.
JY: I heard about the rivalry. That was a very strong, rival, rivalry. I didn’t get directly involved.
JY: Because I was in college at the time.
JY: But I do recall, I remember one time that when um we were, I was getting initiated into a fraternity I had togo to Second Ward when they was playing West Charlotte. Games there cause [pause] being initiated wehad to sit out back, sit out back incase so we could see what was going on.
JY: By doing this kind of thing I learned about West Charlotte, Second Ward but was affected me most when Iwas going to Johnson C. Smith at that time there were athletes that came from Second Ward that better notget caught in the West Charlotte area, there were some guys on campus that were told by guys you betternot come off this campus [laughing] So, I remember a lot of that rivalry.UN3: [speaking to OY] [Conversation is not desirable on tape being too far from the microphone.]
LY: OK.UN4: How ya all doing? [Referencing JY and OY]
JY: I never realized the people that knew us.
LY: Well, you have been part of a community quite a long time.
JY: It’s something I always find amazing.
LY: I am going to ask you a couple questions because, this was brought up now, you have been married since1951?
LY: 1952. Where did you get married?
OY: At home.
LY: At home.
OY: By Reverend Kerry.
OY: And [pause] well, I just wanted to have a simple wedding.UN5: [Greeting to Ozena]6Yancey, James and Ozena 7
OY: And Pastor Kerry came.
LY: But it’s been quite a few years now. I am hoping for the same for myself with a little bit of blessing.
JY: Hum. [smiling]
OY: Is been 50 years, but.
JY: 51 last year.
OY: [blushing] I knew that, right.
JY: 51 last year, that was two years ago.
LY: You are allowed to have a little bit of pride in that. So many marriages now days not.
OY: Well, Young folks have their standards. That take it all, they need to take half and half. [Background noisecovers her soft voice for 19 seconds. The advice provided is that you need to give, not take to make amarriage work.] Our health has been good and just this past year I was 72.
OY: But I can still get up. I still get up in the morning, open my eyes another day, get myself up and get along.
LY: So are there any questions I haven’t asked or you would like to be part of the history or anything that wehaven’t covered that we should have covered in, in all this?
JY: You’ve assumed it in from the perspective of thing in Brooklyn but we’ve talked about those kind ofthings.
LY: Right, but they are all part of the story, So we were trying to keeps things focused for Mr. Holland when wewere at Friendship Baptist and then there were just so many interesting topics that were brought up that wedidn’t want to miss those. I really appreciate both of you helping as much as you have with this program. Ithas been a great blessing to us. I want to thank you both.
JY: Well, I’m glad somebody [pause] looking at the history because there are still a few people around whoknow a little bit about it, who lived through that period. So, I appreciate you all doing it.7