Oral History Transcript

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Oral History Transcript




Transcript of an oral history with Bobby Sanabria


Nathalia Sanchez


Bobby Sanabria, Nathalia Sanchez

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Interviewer: Nathalia Sanchez
Interviewee: Bobby Sanabria
Date of Interview: April 5, 2017
Location of Interview: 1303 Louis Nine Blvd, Bronx, NY 10459
Transcriber: Nathalia Sanchez

Bobby Sanabria is a multi-Grammy nominated musician. He moved to the Melrose Projects when he was about 4 or 5 years old. His parents are from Puerto Rico and he considers himself a Nuyorican. In this interview, Bobby reflects on how the musical culture of the South Bronx kept the community united through periods of social unrest, racial tensions, detrimental policy changes, and widespread drug use. He describes the way that school music programs instilled artistic appreciation among students and the impact of decreased funding for music education. He also recalls how influential it was to see live performances with famous Latin musicians such as Tito Puente, Machito and the Afro-Cubans, Ricardo Ray and Bobby Cruz within his own neighborhood. He describes how these neighborhood concerts inspired him to become a professional musician. Currently, through his work as co-Artistic Director at the Bronx Music Heritage Center he hopes to once again make live performance and culture accessible to the youth and to reconnect the community with its own history.

NS: So, this is Nathalia Sanchez. I’m interviewing Bobby Sanabria. Today is April, 5. 2017. This is for (Dis)placed Urban Histories, NYU Gallatin, Spring 2017. Okay.

NS: So, before we get to talking about how the neighborhood has changed. Um... I’d like to hear a little bit about you. Tell me about your childhood, um, where you grew up and what it was like.

BS: Okay. Well, first I’ll you when I was born. June 2nd, 1957, which was an important year. Uh, well, every year is important but that year there was a lot of things going on in the world - Sputnik went up into space and um, the Mambo and Cuban music in general was at its high point in New York City. Uh... Rock and Roll was also taking over as the main music of mainstream America. So, this is a little bit of what was happening then but also the Bronx at that time was basically a paradise for working class and lower middle class uh residents and middle class residents. Uh... it was a lot of housing. Many people from the Harlem community, blacks and Puerto Ricans were moving up to the South Bronx ‘cuz uh, houses were cheap. There was uh certain sections in the South Bronx, which were and still are residential. Housing projects were completed and uh, to live in a housing project at that time was looked up as a step up. Was like moving into a big ho- a fancy high rise except it was public housing. The community was very diverse. There was a big Jewish community. An Irish community. An Italian community. Puerto Rican community. Some remnants of a German community still and obviously, an African American community. Now that didn’t mean that we all got along all the time. But the one thing that united us was the music. There were many dancehalls. We had between 60 to 75 nightclubs that featured jazz and Latin music for dancing. There were beer halls, dance halls, catering halls, etc. Then, obviously, church dances. Every church, particularly, Catholic churches, people would rent them out to have dances on the weekends or they themselves- the church would throw dances and that meant hiring musicians. There was no such thing as DJs back then. A lot of well-known musicians lived in the South Bronx at that time, Jazz and Latin musicians. Practically every musician in the Salsa scene that made any impact in the 1970s, which was the high point of the salsa scene in New York lived or came from the South Bronx. We’re talking about people like Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Orlando Marin, Manny Oquendo. I could go on and on and on. In terms of jazz musicians, people like Joe Newman, the great trumpet player from the Count Basie orchestra. Maxine Sullivan, the great Jazz singer had a house here. Thelonious Monk, who I told you a little bit about he was living in the South Bronx at the time in the Morrisania section, which is the section we’re in right now, where you’re conducting this interview with me, which was basically an African American enclave and uh, the Bronx at the time, like I said, was a haven for upwardly mobile working class people and we had all these different ethnic communities and uh, the sound of- you would hear the- you’d be walking down the street and you hear the sound of Yiddish, Italian, German, maybe some Gaelic language. Uh, so it was a very interesting time period. Unfortunately, what happened was that the Cross Bronx Expressway was built and the Bruckner expressway was built and that displaced thousands upon thousands of thousands of people from those communities and all that factory work that existed in the South Bronx that supplied work for all these working class people disappeared. The banks redlined the South Bronx. You couldn’t get loans and uh, the Vietnam War was starting to go into full swing and many of the G.I.’s that came back from Vietnam that might have been wounded or whatever they were treated with painkillers, mostly heroine-based painkillers and they were addicts- they became addicts and the mafia in East Harlem flooded the South Bronx with heroine, and uh, that was like a plague. So all these- plus the city went bankrupt at the time, by 1970 the city was virtually bankrupt. And that finally- so I saw the Bronx deteriorating right before my eyes little by little. I experienced the fires. We were lucky that we grew up in the projects. I grew up in the 681 Courtlandt Avenue, which was on East 153rd Street - the Melrose Projects. We first lived on 281, that building. When I was about 4 or 5 we moved up to 681. But before that my parents are from Puerto Rico. They met here in New York. And they had an apartment on Fox Street when I born. And then I think we- they told me that we moved to Beck Street and then finally to the projects. And uh... So I saw that whole transition of the Bronx slowly deteriorating and then people locking their doors and not going out at night and sitting on the park benches talking and- because it was dangerous. If you’re a junkie and you have a $300 day habit, which was a lot of money back then you’d do anything- steal from your parents, your siblings, any- you know. You had no qualm about knocking somebody over the head to get your fix- get the money to get your fix. That meant stealing anything- your watch, chain around your neck. Uh, if you had a leather jacket- do anything just to make that nut. So, um...it was a very interesting time peri-[laughing] to say the least. But the one thing that I do remember and I always say this is that what kept us alive was the musical culture. It was just an amazing time period in music.

NS: Right. Could you say more about like... how exactly that musical culture um, kept you guys alive? Like, what kind of strength and fortitude did it provide, in what ways?

BS: Well, it was very common in those days to invite family members over to have a house party. And it was always usually to celebrate a birthday of a family member or just to get together with uh, family members. My pa- my father came- my mother came from a family of 15 brothers and sisters and my father came from a family of 12 or 13 brothers and sisters, 8 of who were here in New York City so, whenever one of them had a birthday a party would happen or when one of their children would have a birthday a party would happen. So I remember that distinctly when I was a kid and of course, you danced. My- I’m 59 years old so I’m the last generation that danced- that learned how to dance. It was a rite of passage to learn how to cha cha cha, mambo, merengue, um. Of course, my parents’ generation also learned how to swing dance. So, um, when you- when you dance it unites the community and it also teaches you in a very uh, subtle and overt way to uh, the paradigms of courtship [laughing] and love and romance and all that. And respect for women. You know, so. You had to dress up in those days and look good. And uh, it wasn’t a thing of uh... looking like a thug, like today. Uh, you wanted to look elegant and most people- and everybody went to church on Sunday. That was always neutral ground in the neighborhood, no matter if you were a racist or prejudice or whatever against a certain ethnic or racial group. Church was the place that was neutral. The candy store was also a neutral place. The barber shop, uh, so- the pizza shop, the pizza place was a neutral place. So uh, and, uh, if you had some type of athletic skill you could prove yourself playing stickball, or any of the street games like skelzies or chinese box ball or things like that. So, these kinds of things kept the community together despite the fact that you might hear a racial slur from an Italian person against a Puerto Rican or against a black or vice versa. And of course, these dances drew people together too because no matter how- and I witnessed it first hand- that no matter how much somebody from another ethnic group or racial group disliked you if you saw a beautiful woman you wanted to dance with her no matter what ethnic or racial group she was from. So the music brought us together and you got to see live music ‘cuz there were no DJs, like there was always live musicians. So, you got to respect art and culture without even knowing it. And then at that time too, I must say, TV- was the last time period where you saw live musicians on TV. All the variety shows. All the TV talks shows had bands and they were all jazz bands. All the cartoons had jazz in them and uh, and every situation comedy at that time uh, featured some type of jazz-oriented music whether it was McHale’s Navy or The Mary Tyler Moore show or whatever. So- and, a lot of these variety shows featured great performers that you would have to pay exorbitant amount- an exorbitant amount of money to see them live in Las Vegas or in a top-tiered New York night- Manhattan nightclub. But you turn on the TV and all of a sudden you see Sammy Davis on TV or Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra or Nancy Wilson or Nina Simone or whatever. So, uh, it was a different time period. And I’m a reflection of that. I kind of feel sorry for this generation of young people because uh, they don’t have any- they have basically no reference points today. Like, in hip-hop you’re not gonna, you know, like, you can’t ask a young [laughing] - if you had a cypher or whatever, you’re not gonna ask a girl “Hey, you wanna spin on your head [laughing] with me?” But when, in those days, there’s a good Latin band playing or a good jazz group, you go up to a girl and “Hey, would you like to dance this cha cha cha with me?” and you’re instantaneously touching each other and if she said to you ‘yes’ on a bolero, which is a slow romantic form of music whatever man, it’s like forget it, you know. So, you had to learn the parameters of chivalry. Whether you knew them or not. And I always joke, I say that if you didn’t learn how to dance in those days you probably never would get in a serious relationship, get married. So it’s just a different uh, time period. I mean, I remember distinctly looking at my parents getting dressed to go out dancing on a Friday or Saturday night and me and my sister as little kids were looking at them going “Wow, my parents look completely different than what they look like normally in their work clothes or everyday clothes. They really look elegant.” And uh, that has an effect on you. You want- you aspire to the same things. These- the community in that time period they were working class but they had middle class aspirations.

NS: Can you des- like um, elaborate more on middle class aspirations? What does-

BS: Oh! Owning a house. Your kids going to college. Uh, putting aways nest eggs so you could have a decent retirement. Those kinds of things. And traveling. I mean, uh, if you were Puerto Rican you had a destination right away to go to. You know, oh, save some money to go back to Puerto Rico and visit the family at least. If you have kids you gotta save even more money ‘cuz if you have 2 or 3 kids and Puerto Ricans you know, Latinos, African American families we, we have big families. My mother was kinda progressive in that way because she said “I’m not gonna have more than 2 kids.” She had come from a family of 15 like I said, my father from a family 12 or 13. So, for uh, a person to say that at that time period - my mother, was a very progressive kind of a thing. Because it was not a normal thing to say, “Oh, I’m just gonna have 2 kids, that’s it.” You know. So uh, in my own way, my mother was kind of, very enlightened in terms of uh... being a progressive woman at that time and my father had, you know, every man- it’s an ego thing- wants to have more children but my father was down with that so, he was kind of in his own way progressive whether he knew it or not. So, ‘cuz all my friends, they were all like, you know had multiple brothers and sisters and I was like always tellin’ my mother things like how come I don’t- can we have another- why don’t we have more- why don’t we- it’s just me and Joanne, how come it can’t be more and she’s tryna, she’s laughing and one day she goes to me “Because they cost money.” And it’s true, so uh, but, it was a good time period. I mean, it’s just that by the 1970s man, it just became like a madhouse around here.

NS: Um, Could you talk a little bit-

BS: Oh and the other thing I must say to you then, we were sustained also by the radio. The ra- there were great stations playing Latin music and also Jazz and R&B, Soul music, the Motown sound, all that of- Rock. So, radio in New York City was at its zenith in terms of variety and everybody was hip because AM radio- there were songs on the ra- on AM radio at that time on Pop Top 44 that came from Jazz musicians like Watermelon Man, which is a song by Herbie Hancock, Mongo Santamaría who lived in the South Bronx at one time made it a big hit. Or uh, songs like Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes in Brazil, 66. That was a million selling hit on the- on AM Radio. And you had the Beatles, the British Invasion and all that kind of thing and jazz - like I said, it was still accessible to people through mainstream TV and the nightclub life that existed here in the Bronx. It’s an interesting time period.

NS: How would you say it stopped being accessible or like, after that time period how would people get access to Jazz and live performances?

BS: Well, because of the fires clubs started closing. People started moving out. And uh, instead of people- before in the 1950s and early 60s said, “Hey, you know” aspiring to go- move into the South Bronx particularly, they would say, “Man, we gotta get out of the South Bronx.” The reverse was true. But the radio still sustained us. And, you- it was funny because at that time period- during that time period you still heard people playing rumbas um, in the parks. Rumba is a style of Cuban music and there’s three styles - yambú, guaguancó, and rumba columbia. So, you have to understand, can you imag- I’ll demonstrate for you. Can you imagine, everybody is finished eating dinner in the neighborhood and then around, you know, 7:30 at night you start hearing...you start hearing- you start hearing this [playing music]. You know. That’s like the soundtrack of my life [laughing]. Can you imagine that? So people would come around and it’s like Africa but in the urban setting of the South Bronx but it was happening in South Brooklyn, in East Harlem and people are all gathering around the drums just like in Africa, just like in Cuba, just like in Puerto Rico, just like in Brazil, just like in New Orleans, just like anywhere that the African diaspora has flourished and it was flourishing big time-

NS: How did that-

BS: In the South Bronx.

NS: Oh, sorry.

BS: Yeah.

NS: How did that have an impact on your sense of community and like...the way you interacted with people?

BS: Everybody- because at the- you know, we have a saying in Spanish, “El tambor llama,” the drum calls so everybody was together, you know. We had uh, you know- but I must tell you there’s a subtext to that because there still is, you know, people with their ethnic racism and prejudices, etcetera. “Oh, those fucking spics, oh those fucking guinea bastards, those black motherfuckers.” You know like they, you know. I mean, you would hear that shit. All the time. You know. And people would openly talk like that in school, you know. “Hey, you spic. What the hell?” You know? “Listen, shut up you Wop bastard.” You know, like that’s the way people talked, Okay. But, you respected each other enough to look at it as good-natured ribbing. Um, but, what really brought the community too like I said was the music. You know. I mean, ‘cuz what I just did, that’s cool, man. You know. Everybody’s like, coño. You know. Whatever you- group- you know, you’re fascinated by it and it’s cool. And, and uh, you have to understand too the- every New York City public school at that time had music. Dave Valentin, who just passed away, the great Jazz and flute- Latin flute player. He’s Nuyorican like myself. He told me at the junior high school that he went to he had 6 music teachers. Can you imagine? You’re lucky if you have 1 today in the public school. So they had 1 for the orchestra. They had a symphony orchestra. They had one for the concert band, right. They had one person that would teach the string players. One person that would teach the woodwind players, saxophones, clarinets, and flutes and the other person would teach the brass players and another person would percussion. Six teachers in one school. I mean. It was a very common thing for me to see kids growing up with musical- carrying musical instruments in the streets. Violins, trumpets, whatever. And you could- I think it was at that time you paid 5 bucks a month or something and that would go to- you could own the instrument after you paid it off. Um, when you have a musical instrument you have to take care of it. It’s a mechanical device. A trumpet has all these moving parts to it. A saxophone, you have to shine it. You have to maintain it. You have to, you- it becomes part of you. And it becomes like a second voice. It is a voice. So- plus, all that great music that’s happening on the radio, you aspire to become possibly a musician. Um, and if you didn’t take a musical instrument in public school at that time you had to be part of the chorus. So you learned how to sing harmony. So you have a respect for good melodies and harmony. It’s a very powerful thing. It’s very empowering. That’s why we had great doo-wop groups coming out of New York and rock and roll groups and R&B groups and just jazz groups. If you don’t become a professional musician, if that’s not your vocation you still grow up with an artistic sense of what good music is. So, I mean, unfortunately the current generation of young people doesn't have that and it’s not their fault. They just haven’t been exposed to it. They have a great poetic sense because hip hop is all about the verbiage but musical sense I- they don’t know what harmony, melody is, or- like you take- that’s why the Beatles were so important because they were young people but they had grown up in the 50s so they had grown up listening to great American music and all the great Valadiers, songwriters, and of course, people who were stars in their country, Great Britain. They brought that sensibility to rock and roll and they became great, fantastic songwriters and the songwriter is just a storyteller. And uh, even to this day some of their songs have become part of our repertoire of the jazz world. We’re always- jazz musicians are always looking for vehicles for improvisation. So, what is an attractive song for a jazz musician to interpret? It has to have a great melody and a great melody generates great harmony. So, that’s what we look for as jazz improvisers and the Beatles provided some of that. Of course, music is a reflection of its time period. The Vietnam War, Woodstock, all that changed. And then technology changed everything too. Once you get the invention of the drum machine and sampling and combined with the taking away of all the music programs, hip hop and rap was inevitable. If you talk to the early pioneers of hip hop like Grandmaster Flash, Rakim, Caz, Charlie Chase, all of these guys were influenced by jazz. Rakim wanted to be a jazz musician but they cut all the music programs at his school but his parents listened to jazz all the time so he wanted to- that aesthetic he brought to his lyricism and rap, hip hop. And they- if you listen to the way those people mix today when they do DJ sets they think like jazz musicians. So, it’s a very interesting time period, the one I grew up in. I just was- I always say, man I was just lucky. It as just luck. Cuz you just- your birth is a victim- you’re just a victim of circumstance, when you’re born and who you’re born to, what neighborhood you grow up in and you’re a reflection of that and as a musician that’s what I am, a reflection of all of that. I’m so glad that I had all that. I have a- I’m a trained musician. I have a degree in music but I got my PhD- my masters and my PhD in the streets of the South Bronx.

NS: I want to go back to the use of public space because-

BS: Right, right.

NS: How do you think that has changed throughout and, like are there those opportunities for people to unite on the street at all or-

BS: No. I mean, very few and far between. One of the things that the city did, which was very wise at the time, that they saw that there was so much social unrest in the streets. You know, the Harlem riots, the Brooklyn riots that they started uh- through the New York City parks department channeling funds to have musicians play in the streets and that was important because one event happened that changed my life at twelve years old. I saw Tito Puento play in my neighborhood right in front of the projects on that corner, East 153rd street. If you walk down from where the Bronx Documentary Center is and you walk to- down the block to East 153rd street right on the left side, on the corner there is a bodega. Right on the side of the wall of that bodega they set up a stage. Tito Puente played there. Machito and the Afro-Cubans played there. Ricardo Ray and Bobby Cruz played there. That was an amazing, life-changing event for me. That’s when I decided to become a professional musician. It was just an amazing event. And, when does that happen now? You have parks concerts like at places like Marcus Garvey Park, Central Park, things like that but you have to actually take a train and go there. These were concerts that were brought to you in the neighborhoods because the logic was man, these people are gonna burn down the neighborhood if we don’t do anything. We gotta do something to control them or give them some degree of hope or whatever. And these park- these concerts they would roll up with a trailer or set up a stage and do these free events for the community. It was very- it was very smart of them but they should’ve been doing that before. We have remnants of that now and we ourselves here at the BMHC [Bronx Music Heritage Center] have done things like that. Street fairs and things like that but it’s few and far between, few and far between.

NS: Um, and growing up um... did you have access to-

BS: Oh- like, like before I finish-

NS: Yeah.

BS: The, the visual representation of that today is things like celebrate Brooklyn and Lincoln Center Out of Doors.

NS: And do you feel like people have the same response to them, like the same emotional, spiritual response?

BS: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

NS: Yeah?

BS: Most definitely. Like for example, we did a concert. I’ve done concerts with my own multi-Grammy nominated Big Band like in Central Park and at the- man, people go nuts. And I did a big- we did- a few years ago we did a big concert celebrating at Lincoln Center Out of Doors with this famous, uh, salsa musician, pianist Larry Harlow and we did this uh, this piece that he wrote called “La Raza Latina,” which traces the Cuban music’s roots in Africa- from Africa to Cuba and then to New York City. And it was an album that he had done in the early 70s but he had never performed it live. So, we did it at Lincoln Center Out of Doors and he used my Big Band as the main group to back the music up and it was- man. I think there were like 18,000 people there. People going nuts. And Rubén Blades- it helped that Rubén Blades was part of it. He was one of the vocalists. But it was, you know, just amazing. Man, I remember that day because I told my mother get there early, like, she goes how early? Like 3 hours early ‘cuz you’re not gonna be able to get in. Luckily, after the soundcheck I walked toward the- out to get a bite to eat or something and I hear my mother screaming “Bobby” and I talked to- cajoled the security to let them in- let her in and then a bunch of people that were there, “Bobby” and I said, “Hey, this is my cousin, let ‘em in. This is my cousin.” And then, the guard goes I can’t let any more of your family in bro, you know, winking at me. But there were people outside, thousands of people that couldn’t get in. It was an outdoor concert but it was court off. The main area was 5,000 people and the rest surrounding was another like, 10,000. We broke the attendance record at Lincoln Center.

NS: And was it um-

BS: And you know what that means, the people are hungry for that. Hungry for the culture and the music. They just hungry, man. It’s like there’s a human need for music. You cannot- it’s been proven by science you need- just like you need stimulation, people talking to you when you’re a kid, etcetera, you need artistic stimulation, too, which is obviously- that’s manifested through dancing but you need music for dancing, rhythm at least. And uh, singing. All of that stuff. So, the pulse of New York City is latin music, particularly what we call salsa today. Afro-Cuban-based dance music. And when events like that happen man, the people come out in mass. So, it’s- but uh, I miss those neighborhood concerts that used to happen on a regular basis. I mean- listen. In that day when I was 12 you saw Machito who that band was the first band to fuse jazz arranging technique with Cuban rhythms back in 1939. So you see this legendary band leader and his band, it’s a Big Band with saxophones, trumpets, trombones and same thing with Tito, who used to play in that band, who started his career as a teenager in that band and then Ricardo Ray and Bobby Cruz, who Ricardo was from Brooklyn. He was a Juilliard-trained Nuyorican pianist and Bobby Cruz, the vocalist. They had the hottest salsa band at that time. So it was like well how- you had to pay good money to go see them at a top ballroom. And here they were in your neighborhood just playing for free. And, uh- it was just amazing, but that was a common occurrence back when I was growing up.

NS: Why do you think musicians nowadays, that’s not so much of an option. Like do you- you don’t see a lot of those like neighborhood block concerts. Do you think-

BS: Money.

NS: Money? Yeah.

BS: It’s always money. There’s no money for it. Or you have to have a sympathetic local politician that looks for funds for that because you gotta pay the musicians. You gotta pay a soundcrew, etcetera. Like I said now that those things are done at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, uh, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and you know, celebrate Brooklyn, you know, Central Park at the Bandshell, things like that, you have to actually go there. It’s not a thing where it comes to you. So, um- and there’s a different scene now, you know like because when I was growing up there was still the remnants of those clubs. You saw them little by little disappearing. The coup de grâce, the final death blow was 1990. When uh, the Happy Land tragedy happened. It was a disco tech, night club that was run by the Garifuna Honduran community in the South Bronx, off Crotona Parkway. You know what a Marielito is? A Marielito- in 19- was it 1985...or 80- I forgot. But you could look it up. But, Castro when they said, you know, because Cuba was going through what they call el Período Especial, the Special Period. They were bankrupt. Russia had pulled out. The economic help that they got from Russia, they just pulled out. And Cuba was left to its own devices. So, there were- people were starving, you know, etcetera. People were like, killing stray dogs and cooking them. Things like that. So, to alleviate some of that situation Castro opened up all the prisons and he said, anybody that wants to leave Cuba, leave now. In Havana, they all crowded onto the U.S. embassy. And that’s when they left out of the Mariel Bay to the United States. They were processed in Miami and then, started being assigned to different cities, etcetera. They would ask, do you have family here? “Yeah, I got family in Union City” or “I got family in the Bronx,” whatever. So, they communicated with them, you know. “Hey, there’s a guy here named Carlos Sanchez who says you’re a relative” “Oh, sí, sí, Carlos.” You know. Anyway, so they sponsored you to go up there. So, but, most of these people were criminals. Some of them were mentally ill, sociopaths, psychopaths. Others were in prison in Cuba for minor offenses. They cur- they said something disparaging about the Cuban government or Castro or whatever. Or they were caught stealing something because they were just hungry. But, they were undesirables. And that’s when in Miami, the drug- the whole cocaine scene exploded with the Cocaine Cowboys killings and this and that. That’s what the movie Scarface with Al Pacino, you know, depicts a lot of that. So, one of these Marie- they became known as Marielitos. One of them was a guy he came to the Bronx. His girlfriend- he had a fight with her. She went to that club, the Happy Land. He went and got- filled a container with gasoline. It was only one entrance. In and out. And he threw the gasoline on the stairwell, lit it and I think it was like 78 people died. And they were all lined up on the sidewalk. The next day, I think David Dinkins was the mayor, he closed every nightclub that was unlicensed. And that killed the salsa scene in New York City. That was the death blow. Before that 1977, the uh, the uh, the black out. So those two years. 1977 was the blackout, when the Bronx was completely destroyed, the South Bronx. And then, 1990 the Happy Land fire. That killed the whole infrastructure of the salsa scene because there were many nightclubs- Manhattan had well-known nightclubs like The Corso, La Maganette, etcetera. Legit clubs. But the Bronx had many like, social clubs, nightclubs. So this- that devastated the Honduran Garifuna community, that Happy Land fire. But it devastated the salsa scene, too because all of a sudden boom, boom, boom. All these places that hired musicians no more. Before the, before the 9/11 tragedy that was the biggest mass murder in New York City caused by one person. You gotta see it, the next day on the- every newspaper they had the pic- the famous picture of all the bodies lined up on the sidewalk. And there’s a memorial right there on Crotona Parkway for those people with all their names and everything. And there was another degree of uh, complexity to it because the owner of the building was a guy named Jay Weiss who was married to the then famous actress Kathleen Turner if you’ve seen that movie Body Heat. She was very- see that movie, it’s one of those must-see movies. Body Heat. Kathleen Turner. She was then the star ingénue of the day. And so, forget it, man. You know. She had to do press conf- interviews, and everything and you know. They found- you know. First of all, the club had only one exit and entrance. So, you know, that was illegal. So they closed all the clubs that were like that. And uh. People died a horrific death.

NS: So, now that these places for, for salsa and these social clubs are no longer in the picture how does the music and the spirit of that survive and continue to thrive?

BS: It’s- man, it’s surviving on a thread. It’s surviving on a thread. Dizzy Gillespie once said, “As long as there's one black person left on planet Earth singing the blues, jazz will never die.” So as long as there’s one Puerto Rican, Cuban, you know with an album in their house of salsa the music still is alive in some way. But it’s completely different now. Plus, the demographics of the city have changed. Where you would do a salsa gig and all the musicians would be Puerto Rican, Cuban, and white. And what I mean white, anglos because we- there weren’t enough musicians. There were so many bands. There weren’t enough musicians. There were about 100 nightclubs and 200 bands. So, you had to get horn players and they had to be a baritist. A lot of them came from the jazz world. Young, white horn players. If you meet a guy my age who’s white and played trumpet, saxophone, or trombone and you tell them, hey did- and you ask them, “You ever play in a salsa band?” They go- they start laughing. “Man, that’s all I did back in the 1970s.” So the demographic’s changed. You had a big migration of Colombians, Dominicans, and they started opening up places for dancing, particularly, Dominicans. But that was all fueled, you know, it was all fueled by organized crime because all of them were cocaine dealers. The drug of choice in the 70s was cocaine before that it was heroine. Cocaine became easily accessible from Colombia. And many of those people, to watch the money opened up nightclubs. And you have increased nightclubs, you need more bands to play in those nightclubs. And it caused an explosion in the salsa scene of bands. You had established bands and guys would be quitting from those bands to form other bands. And those guys would be quitting from that band- secondary band, to form a tertiary band. Things like- I mean, it was ridiculous man. So, in those days it was very common for a band to play 3 gigs in one night. I remember doing it. And to fuel that unfortunately, many people became- many musicians became cocaine addicts because they had to stay awake. But uh, what happened with that was besides the Happy Land fire that happened, the- during the Reagan administration the RICO laws were put into place. It called Racketeering Interstate Commerce something, I forgot what it stands for, the acronym but you can look it up. But that law states that if you were arrested selling drugs and you owned- any of your property- if you ran an establishment, right? And you were caught in that establishment selling drugs or doing any illegal activities, the government could confiscate all your property and that’s what they did. They closed a lot nightclubs like that. Particularly The Corso, C-O-R-S-O, that was the main nightclub in Manhattan for salsa. It was on like 86th, on Lex, I think it was. That was- before The Corso, the main nightclub in Manhattan for dancing, what we call salsa today was the Palladium, which lasted from 1940 to 1966. The Corso used to be a restaurant and then it became- little by little it started booking salsa bands to play there for dancing. They found they could make more money doing that. Remember the first band that played there was the Pete Bonet And His Orchestra. And um, it was like the house band. And then, little by little they started booking other bands. So that became the main club. I remember it well because when you walk a narrow set of stairs- you walk to- and you look up to the ceiling and you could see yourself because it was a glass ceiling. And you walked into the bathroom and all you hear is [imitating sniffing sound] people sniffing coke.

NS: How did that, like that influx of drugs effect the sense of community? Was there, like-

BS: It became decadent. It became decadent. Because you gotta understand there was no aids. Women had become empowered with the pill. So they wanted to- feminism and the, you know, the feminist mystique and Gloria Steinem and all that, you know. They wanted to- they said, “Look, we want to get paid the same. You motherfuckers- you guys can have as many girlfriends as you want so we could have as many boyfriends as we want, do whatever.” And drug culture became part of mainstream America through Woodstock and everything else. There was a caveat with that though. The caveat was that for mainstream white America, those white kids in the suburbs and everything it was just like a diversion but for our communities, it devastated us. It devastated our communities. It always does that to the people on the lower socioeconomic ladder. So, so um, um- this- God, I remember this club, the Tapestry, here in the Bronx. On- White- is it? [snapping] On Westchester Avenue and Hugh Grant Circle, like down the block. It was a club Tapestry there. And there was a VD clinic, like across the street on the corner- the next corner. So they used to call that the herpes triangle [laughing]. Because people would, you know, get there have a one-night stand, you know at the cl- you know. Hook up with somebody at the club and then you see them on Monday morning at the clinic getting a shot of penicillin or whatever. I mean, I- I’m just telling you the reality of things. It just became very decadent. Okay. So with famil- you know, with Latinos, you know, we marry young and we have families and this, that and the other, it destroyed families, marriages and everything else. And just like in rock you had groupies where say a famous rock band plays and there's 30 girls waiting to go to bed with the guys in the rock band. Same thing in a salsa gig. And we dressed, we dressed elegantly. The women- all women are beautiful and you know, they dress elegantly, too. You finish a set and there’s 5, 10 girls waiting for you, you know to give you, giving you their number. Or whatever. So it was just part of the reality of that time period. Now, like I said there’s a caveat to everything. Women wanted to become empowered and you know, “Oh, okay. You guys can have all the freedom you want, well we want all that freedom too.” But it comes with a price. When men stop- if men disrespected women before, they really disrespected afterwards during that time period. You know there was like, so- it was tough. From all those levels. But there was a sense of community because you have to understand Latin music, even though it has influenced everything in United States culturally was still under the radar just like Latinos are still under the radar today. We’re not recognized as part of the mainstream. We’re a footnote in society. And that subculture in New York City of the salsa scene and then later on in the Cumbia scene, Colombians and Ecuadorians and Peruvians and the merengue scene with Dominicans, that’s all a subculture. Nobody outside of New York knew what the hell was going on in New York City. And the proof of that was when I was a freshman at the Berklee College of Music in 1975, my roommates looking at my records, Tito Puente, Típica 73, Héctor Lavoe - they go “what is- what kind of music is this, man?” “Oh, man, this is salsa. You it know, man. Tito Puente, you know who Tito Puente is” “Nah, who’s that, man?” You know. I was in for a culture shock.

NS: So how- where was the college located?

BS: Boston.

NS: Boston. Um-

BS: One of the most racist places on planet Earth. You know. And uh, and me being the first Puerto Rican there, forget it. I was like a stranger in a strange land. But I started realizing, holy shit we live in a bubble in New York City. It’s like Charlie Palmieri, Eddie Palmieri’s older brother. Eddie Palmieri is a nine-time Grammy award-winning National NEA jazz master. He’s a famous salsa pianist. His older brother, Charlie was a very famous salsa pianist, too. And he goes to me, “Listen, kid.” ‘Cuz I told him- I had lunch with him one time, “Maestro, people don’t know who the hell you are, boss,” I said. “Listen, kid. You don’t understand. Once you drive up I-95 and get past New Haven, Connecticut people start going, Tito who?” [Laughing] And you know what the sad thing is now? A Puerto Rican kid in the South Bronx, who’s 16 years old is going to you, Tito who? That’s the sad thing. Everybody knew who Tito Puente was when I was growing up. Everybody. The black community, the white community, the Latino community. Everybody. Heads of state, every reporter in New York City, every writer in the New York Times. That’s all gone. So for me, I look at everything through- through a sense of loss. And this place, the Bronx Music Heritage Center is about that. Getting that- regaining that sense of loss and shedding light on this great history that kept us together in the neighborhoods. You see that little cut-out right there of the people dancing? That’s what kept us alive. Can you imagine, you know like, how the typical iconic view of like, two white boys listening to Led Zeppelin in their college dorm and playing air guitar. When you see two tecatos, junkies on a street corner in front of a bodega and the bodega has a Willie Colón record on and it’s blasting out the speaker and the two junkies are doing air trombone to that. That’s like- that was us. That was the opposite end of the spectrum. You know, so sense of community is what kept us together through the music, through the music.

NS: And throughout the years with um, the loss of like...these social clubs did you sense a change in race relations because you mentioned how people- it was like, uh-

BS: Yeah because- because people weren’t coming together anymore. You have to imagine like an Italian guy at a dance talking to you, “Hey, man. Did you get Willie Colón’s latest record?” You know, I mean, those conversations would happen or a black person, you know, talking about the Joe Cuba Sextet. Saying like, “Oh, man. Do you hear Joe’s new latest album?” That doesn’t happen anymore. It all switched- just as heroine was the drug of choice in the 50s and 60s, then cocaine became the drug of choice, then crack came in and all that shit changed. And then, the rise of rap culture where musicianship is now taken away and the music is technologically produced through first sampling records and then finally just computer programming. So people become desensitized and the glorification of thuggery. When I was a kid the- there was a sense like I told you of adults saying, “Wow, I can’t wait” you know, “My dream is for my kid to go to college, graduate.” Now, you can’t get kids to freaking graduate high school, man. And most of the Latinos that are college students are from other parts of Latin America. Not all the children of people from other parts of Latin America because in Latin America education is highly prized. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who’s Panamanian and she was a school teacher in New York City. Now she lives in San Diego. She goes, she goes, the level of ignorance here of kids, I don’t understand. They don’t- nothing of history, nothing. You know. Nothing. Nothing. I mean, the kids in Panama know more about American history than these kids do. So it’s an interesting space we’re in now. And the highest rate of dropout- the highest rate of dropout is- if dropout isn’t a word or a term is amongst the Puerto Rican community and we’re citizens of the United States. Here- at least in New York City the highest dropout rate is Puerto Rican kids. How could that be? So with the- that whole thing- getting back to that word decadence and the family structure being destroyed and all that and then the rise of teenage pregnancies and all that, you know. You got kids raising- trying to raise kids and all this. The lack of respect for society, the drug culture and all that. It’s like, where we’re at a today. And the lack of- see when you, when you have a- see we had a sense of pride when we were growing up because we had a sense of self-worth. Because we got it- obtained it from our parents and also the music. You looked up to somebody like Tito Puente, “Wow, this guy went to Juilliard and he served in World War II and he went on the G.I. Bill, he went to school and the whole thing.” Or Machito, “Man, he came from Cuba, you know, in 1937 and man, he became this great band leader.” Or whatever. Ricardo Ray, “Man, wow. Pianist. Wow, he went to Juilliard, too.” You know. This, that and the other. All that went out the window, man. And so you have this- and I’m just looking from my perspective so looking at this from my perspective, so you see of these kids growing up now they have no self-worth. They have nobody to look up to. They don’t know jack shit about their culture and that- when you’re, when you’re in that state and plus, you’re ignorant- you have no education- you’re set up for failure. And the only thing you can turn to is crime or what we call in the hood, the ‘get over it’ mentality, which is like, get over anyway you can, applying for welfare, stealing ch- uh, WIC checks, or whatever, you know. Anything. I mean, it’s sad. It’s sad. What I see from the new immigrants coming from Latin America, particularly the Central and South American communities they value education. Just like my parents did and everything. So, it remains to be seen what’s gonna happen. But somebody’s- you know, in terms of our community we better get our shit together because we’re gonna inherit this country in about 20 years we’re gonna be the majority population wise. So if we have a bunch of ignorant- if we have an ignorant population and we got nobody to blame but ourselves ‘cuz we can certainly come up with our own version of Donald Trump, you know. I mean- [coughing] excuse me. And he went to school [laughing]. Okay. So, the, the, the- that’s- we’re doing here is part of our contribution to try to combat that. But we’re doing it, you know, obviously through the strongest thing that we have, which is our culture.

NS: Right. Could you talk more about your involvement with the Bronx Music Heritage Center, why that’s important and what type of value you hope- what kind of impact you hope to have with this um- with this center to the community?

BS: Well, to give them a sense of self-worth. That there’s a majestic history here and they should be proud, they should know about it. So that when their kids walk down the street they’re not going like, “Aw man, this place sucks. I can’t wait to get out of here” but “Oh, man, look, Al Pacino grew up over there. Wow, Jimmy Owens, NEA jazz master grew up over here. Wow, Herbie Hancock, won like 28 Grammys, he used to live in this neighborhood down the block. Ray Barretto grew up over here, another NEA jazz master,” etcetera, etcetera. Nancy Wilson, the great jazz singer was discovered here. Where the supermarket is there used to be a place called the Blue Morocco. “Wow, she used to sing here.” You know, things like that. I mean, I can go down- go down the line. I mean, Anne Bancroft, the famous Oscar-winning actress grew up in the Bronx. Eydie Gormé, the famous vocalist grew up- went to Taft High School. I mean, just go on and on and on. Not just in the Bronx, in every borough in New York City but, this borough because of the image it has from the- it became the image- the posterchild for urban blight in the 70s. Nobody associates that greatness with the South Bronx. All they say is, “Oh, hip hop and rap was born here.” But there was a lot of other things that were happening here.

NS: And what do you- what would you like to see happen to the South Bronx? What kind of changes and what do you think will happen?

BS: Well, I mean. Again, we’re living in an interesting time period because that word gentrification gets thrown around a lot and it’s pluses and minuses to it. Anybody can, that has the economic means should be able to live anywhere they want to but the problem with gentrification- the negative aspect of it is that the people that move in tend to like, just move in because, “Oh, I need a place to live that’s affordable. I can afford this area.” And they come in like gangbusters and they don’t know jackshit about the community and they don’t respect the community at all. They look at the community- the people that are in the community as like, people they don’t even want to interact with. And what they should do is do some research and learn about- it could the simplest thing as like, looking up the street that they live in and go, “I wonder what what happened in this street, what it used to look like or if there was anybody famous that lived in this neighborhood” or just going into local vendor, whatever. And that could- that usually starts with the bodega. You know. And really interacting with the community and becoming part of the community, Okay. You know. Especially if they have kids and not just like, uh okay, “We live here but in the summertime we’re gonna go off to a little enclave in Connecticut or Long Island or Europe” or whatever. And you know, escape from this place. They need to become an integral part of the community. And that starts with them, you know, they could here to the BMHC to our events and learn about, you know, talking to me, Elena, Malin or anybody that’s here. Seeing what we do here. Or reading that book that I recommended to you [Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930s to the 1960s by Mark Naison and Bob Gumbs]. You know. So, uh- because let’s face it a community has to be sustained with some kind of economic growth and that means money, Okay, but it shouldn’t be that at the expense of the people that have grown up here already and laid the groundwork for that economic regrowth. There’s a lot of people in this neighborhood that remember the fires, that survived the fires and all that incredible entropy that happened here in the South Bronx. And they should be respected and looked up to as sages, as survivors. And I think a good way of doing that is what we’re doing here and other places like the Bronx Documentary Center, Casita Maria and other places. So my hope is that besides the economic rebirth of the South Bronx, the cultural rebirth of the South Bronx. You can’t have one without the other and that was Nancy Biberman, the founder of WHEDco, that was her, I think her genius in terms of coming up with that idea.

NS: So now that we’re towards the end of the interview is there any...any other stories or details that you would like to share with regards to-

BS: I got a million stories. I mean, forget it, man. We could be here all day, man, talking about sad shit, funny shit, you know. But, listen man, things got so bad in the South Bronx at one time there was a get whitey day in the South Bronx. Then they did get whitey week so anybody that was light skin or whatever - Hi [towards someone who walks in] - anybody was light skinned or whatever was like, get the shit kicked out of them so a person like me had to watch out. So we- you know, I remember during get whitey week I made sure I spoke Spanish all the time [laughing]. You know, that kind of a thing. So um- that’s like a sad and funny thing that happened during that time period because people couldn’t take it anymore. See, everybody was socially conscious to a certain extent back then. Why? Because of the Vietnam War. Because the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. I think it was yesterday or today, the anniversary of that. The assassination of Bobby Kennedy, John Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X. Everybody. And the Vietnam War, everybody was somewhat socially conscious back then. Even if you were a teenager. You had- and fuck, when Nixon- you know, they busted him for Watergate. That was like- it’s funny how history is repeating itself. So by that time- you know, that was- you know, some people ask me, “Why would people do that, get whitey?” Because man, people couldn’t take it anymore, man. You know. It’s like you push- you know. The first step in revolution is getting angry and then you take action. And that was like the only way we could at that time. You’re disempowered if you’re poor, hispanic, black, at that time. You know. And people- that was the genius of our parents, they realized, you want power, get an education. And that’s what most kids don’t realize now. But it’s hard to tell a kid that when their mother is 7- 16 years old, 17 years old, they don’t have a father figure and they’re living on welfare. It’s hard to tell a kid that ‘cuz right away they got several strikes against them and they go, “Ah, fuck this.” You know, whatever. I’m not saying that everybody’s like that but that’s hard to overcome, you know, very hard. Um...and I saw a lot of people go that way when I was young. I just- see, I was lucky. You know why? I fell in love with reading when I was a kid. And if you can read when you’re- as a kid and fall in love with books, forget it [clapping hands]. You can fantasize about and dream about things that you never thought- that outside of your sphere of existence and the conditions that you’re in. So- and then you wa- at that time, like I said, watching on TV all these great entertainers and musicians and you go, “Wow, man, I’d like to do that. I’d like- I know I can do that. I can.” You know. And um- I’m reading about all these great historical figures and learning, you know. If you can- I think reading is the most important thing. If you can get a kid to read and fall in love with books in the beginning they’ll find a way. And great examples of that are- they’re all over the place. Sonia Sotomayor. Of course, people like Dr. Martin Luther King and many others. You know. So, if you get- one day hopefully you’ll have children, make- try to instill that in them. I used to see my father reading all the time. He loved to read. He read- he bought 3 newspapers a day. He was always reading and listening to music. And I said, “Wow,” you know, your dad’s your hero. You know, “I wanna read.” First grade I was reading. And when- See John Run and all that stuff, you know, I was like, this is baby shit. Give me something like, you know, like- so one day the teachers and the nun saw- I went to Catholic- she saw me with a newspaper, “What are you doing with a newspaper?” I go, “Oh, I can read some of it.” And she goes get out- she goes, “Read for me” and I started going- reading- you know, slow but I’m- she goes, “Oh my God, this kid” - you know. So um, I’m glad I said that because you know, hopefully you’ll pass that on. It’s very important. You don’t know how important that is. When you have a 16 year old kid that can’t even read on a 5th grade level you go, “Man, how the freak is this person gonna even survive, man? Can’t even read a contract. They can’t even read a lease.” They can’t even- you know. They can’t add, multiply, subtract, whatever, you know. And the sad thing is- but they get bullshit on their cell phone. You know, so...so that’s- you know- that’s part of our mission. We try- we wanna- we are- you ever heard of Bill Graham?

NS: Nope.

BS: Write his name down. Bill Graham. G-R-A-H-A-M. Bill Graham was the rock impresario. He was- he survived the Nazi death camps and at 10 years old he was sent to the Bronx to be adopted. He grew up in the Bronx, went to DeWitt Clinton High School, became an actor, became part of this mime troupe, studied acting in New York, moved to San Francisco, became part of this theatre group. Anyway, he- him and another guy- him and a few others bought this placed called the Fillmore theatre. And they formed Fillmore West and they became the rock impresarios of- they discovered the Grateful Dead, Santana, all these groups. Fleetwood Mac. All these groups. Right across the street from that theatre that has Stomp in lower Manhattan, where that bank is, that used to be Filmore East. They formed that club. But he loved jazz, he loved Latin music. He worked in the Catskills as a waiter, as a busboy when he was a teenager and he used to go to the Palladium Ballroom to dance and he used to say- if you read his biography he goes, “The greatest accomplishment I have ever done is winning the mambo dance contest at the Palladium Ballroom. Now if you wanna see him dance mambo he’s in a movie called uh...Bugsy about Bugsy Malone the famous gangster with Warren Beatty stars it. And in the movie he plays Lucky Luciano the famous mafioso. And when they have the scene in Havana, Cuba where all the heads of the mob are like, meeting Warren Beatty as Bugsy goes to this guy Joey Adonis, who was another famous gangster. Joey Adonis had made a disparaging remark about his girlfriend, Virginia Hill and he goes, “Hey, I heard that you said something disparaging about Virginia. I’d like to you know, you know...give you a chance to apologize.” He goes, why don’t you- he goes, why don’t- he goes, “Why don’t you suck my dick?” He goes, “Really?” He goes, “No, Joey. Why don’t you suck mine. Here. I’ll take it out for you. Why don’t you-” you know. “Here look, you could see it.” He pulls down his head and when Joey looks he gives him an uppercut and beats the shit out of him and while that’s going on the Machito orchestra record of a tune called “Tanga” is playing. And you see Bill Graham playing Lucky Luciano dancing mambo. You could see how good he dances. So you could look up that scene on Youtube. Bugsy beats up Joey Adonis. So that’s the scene. So Bill, he loved Latin music and when he built both clubs he modeled them after the Palladium Ballroom. They had a big globe thing hanging from the ceiling. You know, it was a rock club. He had- he left room for the people to dance in front of the stage, etcetera. Very fascinating guy but modern rock promotion, these big concerts that you see all came from him. And he helped the guys at Woodstock. I forgot his name- Michael Lang. He was the head of- he was the guy that came up with the idea of Woodstock. He needed help because he didn’t really know what- how to do this. So he gets- calls up Bill Graham. Graham meets with him. He goes, “You don’t know what the fuck you’re doing.” He goes, “I’ll help you under one condition.” He goes, “Sure. What’s that?” He goes, “You gotta put my band Santana. I represent them.” He goes, “Who’s Santana?” And he goes, “It’s this band, they combine rock with Latin.” And he goes, “Ok. Send me a tape” So Michael Lang’s father owned a Latin nightclub in Manhattan called the Spotlight and he grew up listening to Puente and Machito so when he heard Santana it reminded him of that. And he goes, “Oh, man. This is just like Puente’s music except with rock and blues.” So he hired them and Santana plays in the Woodstock movie. You in the Wo- and then they didn’t even have a record contract that’s the highlight of the- and that’s when they got signed to Columbia Records. Bill Graham- that was- he hooked that all up. You know. You see him in part of the movie walking around. But he was a force of nature. Unfortunately, he died in a helicopter crash. Who knows what he would do now. But his philosophy is the same philosophy we use here, which is give the people what they want but give them something that they need. You wanna see hip hop here? Okay. We’ll give you some hip hop but we’re gonna have a panel discussion on it. So you can learn it. Wanna salsa? Great. But we’re gonna show you a documentary about salsa or this, that- you know. That’s what we do. So check him out. Read his book. If you look up his name you’ll find his book. He talks about the Bronx and all that stuff. You know. But he’s a fascina- I mean, this guy he survived the Nazi death camp. Basically all his family was killed. His real name was Wolfgang Grajonca, something, you know. Russian-Jew. His family was originally from Russia. They moved to Germany. You know. So- but from that- see in those days man- oh, he went to DeWitt Clinton and then when he went to City College got a degree in business. And City College at that time was what? Free. You gotta pay for City College now. In those days, that’s the whole thing you had these avenues in the old days from being uneducated to become educated because things were available to you. So a lot of Jews, Italians, Puerto Ricans, blacks they went to City College and they became doctors, lawyers, etcetera. Professors. That’s not in existence anymore. I remember when City College- you know what happened? When the city went bankrupt- you know what uh, the president of the United States of- oh, Ronald Reagen. He said, “You want help from the government, New York, ‘cuz you’re bankrupt? Ok. Well you gotta take away free tuition.” And there was a big uproar over that but that’s the deal that they had to make with the devil. Once you take away the free tuition less and less people from the minority communities can get into college, which is a form of racism. Right? Because now you don’t have the opportunity to pick yourself up. So, fucking again you know, thrown into the basket of crabs. You know. So there’s a lot- that’s why gotta study history ‘cuz they’ll fuck with you any way they can in overt ways and subtle ways. Now they wanna take away this debt forgiveness for college students, forget it. I got students at- ‘cuz I teach at the Manhattan School of Music- I got students that owe like, $100,000, $150,000. How they gonna pay that back? You know. It’s ridiculous. So college now is becoming more unaffordable for people from our community. So these are questions that have- that have to be asked by your generation and you have to fight to correct these injustices and you gotta big ass fight now ‘cuz you don’t have a person that’s not- you have a person that is not sympathetic to your cause in the White House. You know. So, it’s like, when all these protests were happening after he got elected I said, “Where the fuck were you? Why didn’t you vote?” You know. So that’s alright. You live and learn. You know. You make mistakes, too. So hopefully, you know like uh, your generation will learn from our mistakes but learn from the good things we did too. So they’re gonna have the guitar class now. Is there anything else you need to ask me?

NS: That is all.

BS: Alright.

NS: Thank you so much.

BS: I hope you got [laughing]

NS: I got plenty of great stories.





Nathalia Sanchez, “Oral History Transcript,” (Dis)Placed Urban Histories: Melrose, accessed May 23, 2024, https://www.melrosestories.org/items/show/49.