Biography of Daniel Barber

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Biography of Daniel Barber

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Daniel Barber


Rahni: (0:00-0:11) Hello, my name is Rahni Davis from NYU Gallatin, Spring 2017 of (Dis) Placed Urban Histories. Uhm today I am introducing Daniel Barber. Would you prefer to be called anything else?

Danny: (0:12-0:13) Danny, cool.

Rahni: (0:14-0:37) Danny… Barber. Uhm, and so we can begin. Thank you for coming today, again. I really do appreciate you taking time out, uhm and so my first question is just… tell me about your life?
Where does it start? I mean we can go backwards, into where you are today, and how that led you here, or… we could *laughs* we can start from the beginning?

Danny: (0:40-16:56) Uhm, like you said, my name is Daniel Barber. Uhm, I grew up everybody calling me Danny. Uhm, I was born July 17, 1969. Uhm my mother, Jamie Barber Walker, uhm my dad Dan Walker, uhm they had a total of 5 children: Gale Massey, Keith Massey, uhm… Laura Massey, Sandra Massey, and myself Daniel Barber Walker. Uhm… my siblings they weren’t my dad’s biological children, but he raised them. He was the only dad that they ever knew. So, uhm… we lived on Morris Avenue and 151st, that's where I was, I was born in Columbia Presbyterian and that's where they brought me home to. We call that home, well they were living there for a long time, but I called that home for the first 3 years of my life. Until the city had us move and we got placed here at Andrew Jackson houses, which we moved into August of 73’. Uhm… *chuckles* little story, I remember growing up as a kid in 1973 when Pope John Paul came to the Bronx, and he blessed the ground on Morris Avenue where now the Christopher Court development sits and, I remember this man patting me on my head, and I smacked his hand off of my head, and they said “that's the holy father,” and I had a mouth like a sailor as a kid, I cursed everybody out. I said “He’s not my effing father! That’s not my father!! Don’t touch me white man!” And it was the pope that literally touched my head, and I freaked out. Uhm, we came here, like I said we came here in August in 1973, and we been here ever since. Forty four years, in the same apartment. Uhm, same community. Growing up, for the first say, three, four years of my life, I was stuck underneath my mom, I had friends in the building, in the development, we hung out periodically, we played, we got into trouble, and at the age of six years old I started attending the salvation army. Uhm, we would go there and mom put us into different programs there; and we liked it, me and my sisters. And I couldn’t go outside or they couldn’t go outside unless they had me with them. And they used to hate taking me with them cus’ if they would talk to boys I would tell, or if they… my mom would give them money, “Make sure you spend the money on him!” and they didn’t spend it on me I would tell, they would beat me up, I would come home and tell, they would get in trouble, they’d get whoopings. As a young black kid growing up, we didn’t get beatings we got whoopings. And a whooping is consist of whatever your mother could grab to chastise you at the time. Mines was the old black broom sticks with the straws, with the straws for the uhm, for the broom. And I remember one day telling her, she was like “Get up you’re getting ready to go to church” “I aint going to no church,” she said “Whatchu said?” I said “I said aint going to church” and my dad heard it. And I was six or seven… seven, and my dad heard it. And my moms… no, he started laughing and said “Repeat… Tell me again what you said.” I said “I told that lady I ain’t going to no damn church!” And he started laughing and said “See, he’s adding stuff” and he said… “say it…” By this time, he done got out the bed, I did put two and two together. So he said, he walks into the kitchen, uhm…. I remember uhm… Him making it to the kitchen and said “Tell me one more time what you said.” I said “I said I ain’t going to no damn…” And by the time I got damn out my mouth, this man hit me. I flew through the closet door and the back of my shirt got hooked on the coat hook in the closet and my little fat feet was dangling. He said what are you getting ready to do? I said, “Go to church.” *laughs* I tell that story to everybody, I’ll never forget that. And that was like one of the first and only times my dad hit me, and my mom felt so bad because… I mean… he created the monster. He thought it was cute that I would cuss his friends out, and then when I did it to him, he flipped out and she didn’t like it. Even though I was being rude and disrespectful at the time, she could control it. I mean… I knew how far to go, I knew I couldn’t hurt her feelings, and come out bad to her cus at the end of the day, that was mom. Uhm… I started helping everybody out at the Salvation Army at seven, eight years old. Uhm.. my mom and my aunt, they both volunteered over there. They were in charge of uhh, feeding the community, the homeless feeding. Then after I got older, I started like volunteering going out on the disaster truck. So, that consist of going to fires, police emergencies, uhm, whenever a situation aroused and like a fire, third alarm fire or something, they would call, Salvation Army would come supply coffee, donuts, uhm, maybe a cup of soup or something to that effect. And I loved, it. I fell in love with it. Once I got like six… fifteen… fourteen years old, I got my first job there...  PAID job. We used to get little stipends for helping out, and volunteering but it was nothing like doing your first paid position and that was through the SYEP program, and I was the maintenance worker. So I would clean up, some program ended, by the time, I was, I came back for like two, three more years and the Salvation Army would keep hiring us, we were their kids, so they would take us, so that they could pay us. Then, once I got like sixteen, I started volunteering on the canteen, the mobile truck to go around doing the mobile feeding in the Bronx and Manhattan. Uhm, it was cool, we enjoyed it, we got to help people uhm, we extended the program, we went into Hunts Point, we did the Bronx Terminal Market, we were going to Manhattan on 12th avenue, uhm, from, *sucks teeth* from 17th street, like, 30, like 27th, 30th, and 12th ave, all the way down to 17th street. You had the ladies of the night, the working girls walking the streets, so we would give them condoms, we would give them dental bans, we give them, uhm, the lubricants, uhm, then at one point, we helped, we had Salvation Army got from the health department the little, the works kit, with the bleach and stuff to clean the works, so that they didn’t share the needles, cus by that time we were introduced to AIDS and stuff like that. Uhm, *sucks teeth,* that's like 18, *whew*, by like 19 years old, 20, I became, 20, 21, I became, I got a higher position where I was working with the kids doing homework, and... I became like an assistant to the director for the after school program. So, my boss was training me, but not letting me know he was training me to take over. So, the next year, I became the community center director, or afterschool director, uhm, I ran the summer program, I still did the mobile feeding, uhm, and I was just open up for the community. Uhm, got sick in 1998, had a little mild heart attack, stopped working for the Salvation Army, my boss and I, we were so much alike, we couldn’t take each other. Two stubborn, pig headed… egos and attitudes, uhm, I wound up suing the Salvation Army in one, got classified as disabled in 2000 totally. Uhm, my dad used to work used to work for NYCHA. He was the Tenant Patrol Supervisor, and in this room here, was the alternative high school. He started this. HE would beg me, ya know, “Why don’t you run for TA President so you can bring change?” and I was like “Dad, I don’t want to even be bothered with that.” We used to call him buddy, that was his nickname. So I said “Buddy! I don’t want to bothered with that. I got my own problems.” He said “but I want you to do it.” So I ran, I put my name in the race, I lost the election cause at the time the President, that was Ms. Helen Harris, she had her little crew. She had her flunkies, her team, whatever you want to call em’ that supported her. So I won the vice Presidency. Ms. Harris, couldn’t stand my guts cause’ she really didn’t like my dad, but I was connected and had connected and she can use me to get to the connections. So, she had a feeding program, and I would donate Salvation Army cases of food. If we had the food, and it was there for like 3 weeks, and we new we were doing a big ordering soon, I would empty out the pantry and tell her to “Send your truck driver and two helpers,” and I would empty everything out of the pantry and give it all to her and we order all new stuff to help the community. Uhm, she… like I said she went into the nursing home in a hospital, NYCHA, New York City Housing Authority deemed her incapacitated and I moved up. So, I figured since 2002 since present date, I’ve been President of Andrew Jackson Houses. I mean I love it. At times, it becomes overwhelming, it gets very stressful a lot, but it’s home. If I don’t do it, who will? And if, I… If I didn’t step up, who would have? And… nobody can fight for home like the people who live there. So uhm…. Now, I am currently am the President of Andrew Jackson Houses, I am the Vice Chair for the South Bronx Councilor  Presidents, uhm, Title of City Wide Youth Chair for the Citywide Councilor Presidents, I hold the title sitting on Board Member Community Plan Board I, uhm… President of the Bronx Works Classic Center Advisory Board, I sit on several other different committees, uhm… anybody that lives in New York City and lives in public housing, and you need help, Danny Barber will help you. If it’s wrong, I’m going to say something, if it’s not right, I’m going to try to fix it. Uhm… Life it what you make it. So, I push the residents to be empowered so that they can sustain better positions for employment; their not being stagnated working McDonald’s jobs, where everything is below minimum wage, and they can barely pay the rent, and got three or four children at home. So I just try to like… well not try.. Cause to try is to fail. So, I push the residents do what they need to be able to sustain higher education, better employment, uhm… to be classier people, better pillars of society, better role models for those who are watching. People always say I didn’t choose to be a role model, but you.. You may have not personally made the choice, but there is always someone watching… that sees how you move, how you respond and react to things, and in their eyes, you’re that role model. Whether you asked for it or not. So be it. It’s there. My thing is, just take it, and run with it, and do the best that you can do, and you run into a position where you can’t do your best… then you just move forward and you take it from there. But, I’m just… me, personally, Danny Barber? Danny Barber loves a challenge. Danny Barber loves a fight. Uhm… and it’s not to say that I fight with NYCHA, well… that's the acronym for New York City Housing Authority, it’s not to say that I fight with NYCHA to be… combative, to be… [what’s the word I’m looking for?] to be like…

Rahni: (17:01) “a problem…”

DB: (17:02-20:20) yeah… Basically yeah, a problem. To be an outright problem. But, this is my home. My home doesn’t start behind my apartment door, my home starts outside, the grounds that my building sits on, my apartment starts in front of the building when I walk up them 5 steps, my apartment starts when I walk into my lobby and I have to walk over the urine that a guest that came into my home, decided, either a guest or someone else that lives in the same building that we all call home decide that they want to deface the place by using as a public toilet. Or… they want to deface the place and use it as a social club for gathering of them and their friends. It’s… The New York City Housing Authority does a job for 8 hours, it’s the residents place to do a job for 24 hours, because no one can fight for you the way that you can fight for you. Everyone can assume what you want or what you need, but no one knows what you want or what you need better than you. So.. to.. To say that, I honestly feel that our destiny is totally controlled by us, the outcome and the outcome and the life that we live is totally controlled by us. I give people an analogy. Life is a card game. It’s a hand, that dealt, and it may not be the hand that you wanted to play, but at the end of the day, play the hand, let the hand play out, once it done played out, that hand is over. You get dealt another set of cards, and you continue to play on. And that’s just basic life. You handle situations as they come. You either resolve the situation or the situation , it stays the same, uncompleted, unresolved, and it becomes a burden. You do the best that you can do, and you solve what you can solve, tomorrow’s another day, and if the problem can’t get solved the next day, then maybe it’s not for you to solve that problem. Every fight, every battle doesn’t deserve a to be fought. And every war, isn’t created to go to a battle. You understood that?

Rahni: (20:01) “Say it again…”

DB: (20:03-21:49)I said every fight, every war, isn’t meant to be fought. And every battle that turns to wars weren’t meant to be fought. We have to better pick and choose our fights and our battles. Just because something arises and we may not like that it arose, or the outcome, or the way that it turning, that may not be the fight for us to fight. Coming into the work that I do, and to be all volunteer, no pay, no deduction in rent, no favor, the only favor you get is… you meet people, you network, you get, you build relationships to better the life of your people. You do favors for others to assist them, and.. And in return they do favors to assist you, it becomes a barter system. Uhm.. it becomes a one hand washes the other and together they clean the face type scenario. It’s up to you, the individual. And I tell them that all the time, it’s up to you. You control the outcome of your destiny and where you go from there.

Rahni: (21:51-22:24) That was deep. *chuckles* Thank you. Uhm, so I think my next question, going off of that, uhm you spoke about, a lot about, you know, having agency in your own destiny, you being the controller of, ya know, where you end up. And so, my next question for you is: Why do you personally stay in housing? I am sure you got offered other jobs, or ya know, always are open to look at other places....

DB: (21:25-27:24) I’m here… because… several reasons. I left, I had to come back become my mom got sick. Uhm.. my mom got sick, she couldn’t take care of my cousin, which she adopted, made him my little brother, who was born with multiple ailments. He was born with Bell’s Palsy, that later turned into Scoliosis, uhm, Mobis syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, uhm… Seizure disorder, he’s legally blind, partially deaf, nonverbal, and she gave up working to take care of him. So, I came back, because she got sick, she couldn’t really give her all for him. So I stepped in. I took care of him. My mom died, September the 21st, 2013, and that was the day that I became a man. You always say I’m grown, when a grown up tell you something, and you feel it’s a disrespect, a violation, you just simply don’t want to hear it. But a grown up does grown up things. And a grown up has no place in their life to be a child, or childish. When you grow up, you move away from your childish ways. You can’t do both, be grown and still be a child. It’s either, or. I had no opportunity to choose which one I wanted to continue to be. It was forced upon me. “Grow up” and everything that you’re taught that child to become that man, it begins to start to kick in and little things like, “Wait till’ you have your child, you’ll see for yourself” or “Respect your elders because we ain’t raise you to be different than respectful…” “Don’t take nothing from nobody if you ain’t willing to give it back.” Little things like that, structure, foundation, love, uhm… caring, support, being admirable, being humble, these were all traits that were instilled from birth. Uhm… giving back, if you got on two shirts and it’s cold outside, with a coat on top, you take off one of the shirts and you give up the shirt. If you can endure coming home in the two shirts, then you give up the coat. My parents were very religious, my dad was a little… *chuckles* My mom would call him a ‘boot-leg’ preacher. *chuckles* And my mom believed in God, and she raised her children that way. We went to church every Sunday. It wasn’t no you went outside Monday through Saturday, and you could get up and go to church on Sunday. If you didn’t go to church on… and her favorite line was… “If you gonna live in my house or you gonna serve my God,” and it  wasn’t a question... from a kid, me telling her I wasn’t going to church, seeing the severityness of her saying “you’re going to serve the Lord, you have no choice” and then having to go, and it sticks with you. Still until this day, as a grown man, I look forward to going to serve God. I look forward to getting up on a Sunday morning, to go to church to rejuvenate to thank him, for all that he’s done for me during the week. Thank you for waking me up, thank you for the pain in my back, had me crying, I got pain. Thank you for the headache. Thank you for the migraines that got my head feeling like it’s about to explode, because you didn’t have to wake me up this morning to be able to say Thank You, or to be able to experience that pain. Somebody had a lot more pain than me and they didn’t wake up. So I thank him for waking me up, and I thank him for all the ailments and everything I have, they’re mine… they’re mine. And at the end of the day, I can close my eyes and wake up and still have them… I’m good. Cause’ if that’s all I have to deal with, there’s somebody out there living a lot worse off than I am. So we have to be more mindful to what others go through, and not just make it about you, or yourself.

Rahni: (27:26-27:41)You’re speaking a lot about, uhm… ya know, the teachings that your parents passed down and even stuff that you’ve learned from your neighborhood and your community. What does education look like for you? I mean… is it a building? Is it desks? Is it children, is it your mentees…

DB: (27:42-39:44) Education is everything. It’s all that you named. It’s the building, it’s the mentee. It’s the mentee, it’s all of that. Uhm… I went to junior high.. I went to elementary school in P.S. 156, Benjamin Banneker. It’s over there on concourse Village West. The school is now fazed out. Uhm… I went to junior high school 183, Paul Robison, across the street from the Patterson Houses, on Morris Ave and I believe that's 1...4...1st and 140th and 142nd street, and Morris Avenue. School still there, several other schools in the building, but Paul Robison 183 got fazed out. Uhm, left there in 1983, went to D.Wood Clinton High School. Uhm… loved high school. High school was the last teachings before I got pushed into the world. I remember going into, as a freshman, going to gym, and at that time when you went into high school, you had to take gymnastics. And I had this teacher, gym teacher name Mr. Rictor. And Mr. Rictor was the gymnastics coach for D.Wood Clinton High School. And Mr. Rictor told me “Hey! Get over here and do a front roll.” And I said “Just because everything is big doesn’t mean it can roll.” And he said “You being a smart behind?” And I said “No, I’m not being a smart… *hesitates* donkey.” And he says “Do the roll for I tuck your fat ass and roll!” And I was like “Old man, I’ll take ya glasses and you can’t see,” so he kicked me out his class and sent me to the assistant principal's office. Now, in high school, you have the athletic director, he’s the assistant principal for the whole athletics department and his name was Joseph Prezioso. He was the head football coach. And this man had this annoying voice. It was raspy, it was deep, and when he talked it sound like he was yelling at you, and it went like this... *Mocks voice* “HEYYYYY… HOW ARE YOU DOING?!” and that's how Coach Prez talked. This man was phenomenal. When I first met him, I hated him. I couldn’t stand him, and my mother raised her children to say “You never say you hate something cause hate is a strong word, you dislike it, you don’t appreciate it, but you never say you hate it.” I hated Coach Prez when I first met him because he Mr. Rictor sent me there and he says “Coach! This fat piece of trash don’t want to participate!” So he told me “Everyday you come here, you’re sitting here, and you do what I tell you to do!” And this old man yelling at me. So one day I got mad, and I was having a bad day, and I stood up to Prezi Oso... not realizing he was the football coach, and he yelled at me and I yelled back at him. He cursed at me, I cursed back at him. He told me he was going to smack the crap out of me, and I told him I was going to knock his old ass dead. And then one thing let to another, and we kept going back and forth. His daughter worked at the school. Madeline Prezioso. She did… she was a special ed teacher, she walked in and she said “Coach, who are you yelling at?” “I’m yelling at piece of shit!” And she said “Coach, don’t talk to him like that!” And he was like, “Maddie, You’re my daughter! Get out of my office” and she says “Not until you apologize to Danny,” and she asked me my name, I told her ‘Danny.’  And she says I’m Madeline, I’m his daughter, and he’s rude. So after he kicked her out, and we finished yelling, a couple of members of the football team starting coming into the office. And I’m like, why is everyone bringing this old man Litman’s Oatmeal Raisin cookies? He loves oatmeal cookies. He would have at least three hundred packs of cookies a week brought to him by the players… *imitating coach prez* “When you come to my office, bring some cookies!” So we loved the man, and I fell in love with him. Everyday, for… my whole freshman year I had to sit in his office because Mr. Rictor would let me in his gym class. And he wound up giving me a hundred, and we got close, and he said come try out. I tried out for the football team, I made it, I got hurt cutting class, and he yelled at me. I fell off the wall and messed up my hip and he yelled at me. So, I couldn’t play football so I said I wanted to do sports medicine. So I was the student trainer for the football team for D.Wood Clinton. I was trained by Mike Saunders, at the time, who was the trainer for the NEw York Knicks, who had traveled with the United States soccer team with ‘Pelle’ and was the trainer on that team. So, I was good at what I did. They had a program startup at lehman college… which was down the block from D.Wood Clinton, and I would go to Lehman two days out of the week for about four hours and learn sports med there. I learned how to do R.I.C.E: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate, R.I.C.E.S: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate, Support. I learned how to dod the basic wrap for your knee, for the ankle, the stirrups, put them up, wrap around, figure eight, lock it, pop it, its done. Uhmm, I knew how to set a fracture, a sprain, strain, fracture, contusion, abrasion. I can handle all of that. Uhmm, I got, I applied for college, I got accepted to Chowan University, I got accepted to Temple, I got accepted to, uhmmm, University of Tennessee, I got accepted to… North Carolina State. I had.. Prezioso gave me a full scholarship to go to school and he was paying for it. He started a memorial fund for his parents, and he was going to pay for my ride for four years of college. School wasn’t for everybody. I chose the street corner. So, while everyone else was going to get an educational degree, I got a street degree. So, I learned how to be a pharmacist, I learned how to be an engineer, I learned how to be a dictator, I learned how to run a democracy, I learned a lot. I learned how to survive, I learned basic survival 101 through 150, I learned basic life… being on the street. And it was either defend yourself or get punked for the rest of your life. So eventually I defend myself. I was known as the kid to pick up something and knock you upside the head, and then haul butt home. I was a little short fat kid; could run up at least seven, eight flights of steps without getting tired. And people would chase me, but I would make it. So, education… I’ve thought about it, but doing what I do is so much… where do I get the time to go to school? I mean… they say, “You can do online classes,” where do I get the time to go to school? Cause’ the first time that I get home, and I get to sit down and relax, the next thing I know I could be watching TV, the TV is watching me. I’m content with my education. I didn’t graduate with a regular high school diploma, I graduated with a regents diploma. *puts emphasis* Uhmm, very bright. I know I’m smart. I can sit with some of the best of em’. I’ve ran a branch of the Salvation Army with an 350,000 dollar  a year budget. I had over 200 volunteers working for me about 60 staff members. I know how to make a budget, implement the budget, I know how to how to go through an audit, and all of that. So basic business, operating a business, I’ve done it. Do I think, probably, education could make me go further? Sure. Uhmm, do I wish to go any further? Sure. I’ve always had aspirations on moving a political career to another level, and being one of the true, honest politicians, and what not. But God’s speaks to us and he tells us our callings, and our moves that we need to make. And, that's not my move. I know, it leaves much room to be tainted, and for me… to leave, now, here...who’s going to take care of my home? I leave now, and move out, what about my family? Are they going to have…  be afforded the same care? Love, compassion, admiration? Will somebody fight hard for them as I do for everybody? So those all things… and then my little brother. To be here, is accessible to everything for him. Uhm, other than Charlotte, North Carolina, Boston, Massachusetts, or Canada any place else in the United States, health care is not sufficient for him. And… the process that we would have to go through is grueling to start all over to have people to try to get to understand him. I made a promise to my mom that I wouldn’t let anybody else cut, poke stick, prone anything else to him, and I’ve kept that.

Rahni: (39:45- 39:55)Thank you for sharing. Uhm, so kind of switching gears a little bit.. Are there any new programs or anything that you wish to implement in Andrew Jackson Housing?

DB: (39:56-46:08) I want to put a computer, I’m going to put a computer lab… Not that I want. Everything that I’m going to tell you, everything I say to you, I’m going to do it. We’re going to put a computer lab in this room. Whether NYCHA helps us to get computers, or if I have to do it myself, we’re going to make this a computer lab for the residents. It will be open during the day hours,of nine until about one-ish, two-ish, to give the residents opportunity to do resumes, to do job search, to have access to a computer. Those who don’t know how to use a computer, to take a couple days out of the week to teach computers. I have so many people that I meet that ask me what do I see doing for my residents, and then I throw out the computer thing. I have about eight people that want to volunteer to teach. You say… somebody said, that’s too many people. It’s never too many people to teach, because I can have one person do beginners, I can have somebody do intermediate, then I can have somebody do advanced, then I can have somebody working with just the senior, I can put somebody that is great with kids just working with the youth, and the computers. So it becomes a great thing, it becomes an avenue to have alternatives, instead of just one. To say “Oh, Mr.Barber is going to teach you everything that he knows, and it might be limited, whereas you have 6,7,8 people that has so much knowledge about the computers and they’re willing to share it, so I hop on it. Uhmm, we want to do a program like movie nights. We’re ordering an outdoor movie screen, inflatable, so we can set it up and do movie nights. We did last program last year with the NYPD, uh, PSA7, and they made… literally had bought a movie screen up, and they had a BYOC, ‘Bring your own Chair” event, where they provided the chairs. It was just the community to come out, the kids sit, watch movies, stuff like that and… refreshments. It could be a fundraiser, but me, I don’t the residents for anything, I give everything away. Uhm, we want to do, like, multiple health fairs in the summer time. So, it gives different partners a chance to come through and do recruitment as well as give information. And I am not talking about having a table, where somebody is giving out, taking names, and sign you up to get you join MetroPlus, or HealthFirst, or Affinity… or any of those providers… I’m talking about literally having people come out, and I give up this space to them where they can do HIV testing, swabs, and stuff like that. Or, we can have a van pull up, and they do mammograms. Or, we get the dentist van pull up. I mean, I work… I partnered with VIP Health Services, I’ve partnered with, uhm, we actually have a program Thursday with Well Care - we partner with, we partner with Metro Plus, we’ve partnered with Health First, uhmm, I’m about to reach out to Lincoln Hospital and do some work them. So, we just, we don’t discriminate. Just as long as we can get like information dealing with the different health care providers and changes with the systems and everybody wants to cut ObamaCare and all of that, residents are scared. So you give them, you afford them, a little comfort. You give them a little bit of relief and say, ‘Don’t worry about that, let me worry about that. You just go and make sure you go to the doctor and when you go to the doctor, if you have a problem seeing the doctor, call me. Let me deal with working out your situation.” So, You’ve learned to make the littlest issue that someone might have to stress them out, your issue, so that they don’t have to be stressed out. I mean.. You have to have skin, tough skin. You have to be willing to go outside of the box. And you have to be compassionate. You have to have care for people. You have to be a people person. You have to have excellent customer service skills. Uhmm, you have to know how to put others before yourself. You have to be able to say, it’s not about me, it’s about you, how can I help you, what do you want, what do you need? You have to show others that, how they feel and what they’re going through means a lot, and it’s not just what you’re going through and what you’re feeling. I mean… if all those before us thought the way that we came to think, where would be… literally be now.

Rahni: (46:07-46:17) It’s true… it’s true. So what is a day to day schedule for Mr. Barber? When he makes up in the morning, where is he going? What is he doing? *laughs*

DB: (46:18-55:26) Well… I wake up every morning about 3:30, 4 o’ clock. I lay there and listen to the news till’ about 4:30. Then I get up, go to the bathroom, fin… come out, go to the kitchen and start the pan, breakfast for my brother, that's about 5 in the morning, so now I am making his breakfast. Uhmm, I go in the room, I’ll feed him, give him is medication, wash him up, get him dressed, get him situated, it’s now 5:45 - 10 minutes to 6. So, I’m back in the bathroom, taking my shower, brushing my teeth, getting myself situated, come out, go in my room, get dressed, so by quarter to 7, I can be downstairs with him to put him on the bus for his day program. Now, by 10 minutes to 7, I done made it to the grocery store, got me some breakfast, I go into the senior center with the ladies in the office, I’ll have breakfast in the morning, we’ll talk. Uhmmmm, from there, uhmm, I’ll hang around the senior center, or if I walk the development I’ll see what is out of place from the night before, maybe walk a couple of buildings to see what is out of place, what the caretakers need to correct, what they need to clean, what they haven’t been cleaning, what they’ve been “laxing” on. I’ll come back to the senior center, I’ll write an email, send it to the manager or the super, *coughs,* [excuse me], tell them I’ll give them anywhere from seven to fourteen days to correct the issues, go back to the building and walk it again in another week for fourteen days later, and if it’s corrected, fine, if not, I let them know as well. Uhmm, it’s probably now about, let’s see, nine o’ clock, the seniors what eight o clock, the seniors start going into the center, they sign for breakfast, they go to different activities. Breakfast starts at nine. So, I’ll sit there, I’ll help whatever seniors have problems with NYCHA issues. Get repairs done. Speed them up to get them done quicker. Uhmm, I may walk around if I don’t have a doctor’s appointment or something, I’ll come out into the community and just hang out. Kids are going to school, I wish the kids well for the day. People are going to work, “Have a great day,” “God bless you.” Uhmmm, might have a meeting or two. I do a lot of meetings during the week. Everything, I rather do it in the day time to get it done cause’ I don’t know what the afternoon is going to be and I have to try to basically, pretty much, keep myself free and available cause’ of my brother. But uhmm, my day normally winds down about three-ish, four-ish. I would try to like cut it low, and it may stop right there, and I run upstairs and I’ll go watch Steve Harvey and Ellyn. I am an Ellen Degeneres fan to the ‘T.’ I don’t care where I’m at, what state, I have to see Ellen. And then I do it on my phone. I done wrote her a total of 5 or 6 letters. If you know anybody that like writing letters, please, I really wanna meet her. I don’t want her to know that… what I do, and whatnot. I really don’t want nothing from her, I just want to meet her. She rocks! Love her totally. And then the second one, is Steve Harvey. I watch his show. Love him, and I think his wife Marjorie has changed his life so much, and how he’s become a greater man, and how his family is everything. And that's a trait that I snatched from him, because to me, family is all. Being a young black male, I know what I am, endangered. I know that my life expectancy as a black man… I outlived it, because I wasn’t supposed to live this long, coming from here. Uhmmm, its either… you always hear: “It’s either two things going to happen to you. Either you’re going to do what you gotta do or you gonna die or go to jail.” That's like, three or four things right there. How are you going to say that's two things that’s going to happen? “Oh shut up, you know what I mean!” No, I don’t know what you mean, tell me. I mean, it’s… cause’ people get the wrong idea cause’ you live in the projects, that your mentality is that way. Like I said, I grew up in the Salvation Army. I grew up around white people. I didn’t … I just lived here. I thought I was too good for here. And, when my mom would let me, and my boss, like he raised me, helped to raise me, cause I spent more nights in Dobbs Ferry in Ardsley, NY as many as I did here on Courlandt Avenue and the Andrew Jackson Houses, in apartment 15B. I spent… and I love… I love Ardsley, NY. I hated in the winter time. You had to walk up them hills. I loved Dobbs Ferry. I think it’s cool. I mean… Salvation Army had a camp in Jersey called “Starling Camp.” We would go out there, we got to get away. I got to experience stuff. I’ve been to every city in Canada… as a kid. We had a singing company. We used to travel the United States, singing at different Salvation Armies, doing programs as kids. And, that gave me an insight to know people, to experience different people, different cultures, to taste different foods, to see how other people live, and then come back home… and then you see at home, homelessness in Canada is nothing like homeless here. Homelessness in Canada is basically in some aspects, they have what we have, but in the majority, homelessness is… you’re living in like a shelter… that's homeless. It’s completely different than what we got. Homeless is living on the street, eating out of the garbage can, you don’t know where your meal is coming from. Bathed? You haven’t done that in God knows how long. If water was to touch your skin, either two things are gonna happen. Either you’re gonna get clean or you’re gonna go into shock because you don’t know what water is! That's homelessness! I’ve done that! At no choice of my own did I have to ever sleep in an abandoned building, did I ever have eat anything somebody else threw out, and when you’re homeless, and you experience things, your pride gets in the way… food’s pride gets in the way. And you tend… cause’ me… I didn’t have to experience the street, but I chose to. I didn’t have to indulge, and get high with different drugs and stuff, but I chose to. And, it was a choice, all of mine. I wouldn’t come home for weeks, and so I could come back home to how she saw me last, because I didn’t want her to say “Boy what are you doing? You’re doing something you know you ain’t supposed to be doing!” You didn’t want always get a chestation. You didn’t always want to hear that speech, it wasn’t always about getting yelled at. Dag… stop yelling! Talk to me… don’t yell at me! It was.. It was warranted.

Rahni: (55:28-55:54) I totally understand and resonate. Uhmmm, and so my last and final question Mr. Barber… what does your activism look like in the future? What are you future plans? Not… it doesn’t have to be specific, but where do you see yourself? Your family? Your community? Uhmm, your mentee, your mentors? And you can take a second to think about it.

DB: (55:54-58:03) I see myself in the future… somebody fighting to restructure New York City housing regarding.... To make public housing truly public for the people. There’s no such thing as affordable housing. Because… when you use the word affordable, it becomes a question… affordable for who? And I think that's a significant question. It’s a significant question that others so afraid to answer, because people now become… fingers pointed, you’re put on… on blast, to have to answer things that you may not publicly now how to answer, or can not answer, or may not just even know the answers to the question. So… *sucks teeth* I see myself, within the next five, let’s say five to ten years… I was hoping to be out of here to run for elected office. Uhmm, stay in the community. I love the community. Uhmm, I think the community is not gone, its vibrant, its upcoming. Uhmm, I don’t think the youth in the community are lost, I think that they’re just confused and... misunderstood. Uhmm, the seniors.. They can take a little more time to speak with the youth, and the youth can work with the seniors to get the understanding. So I am pushing this… senior youth initiative to get them together. I just took… Saturday we came back from Washington. We took 50… 50 something residents, young and old.. Down to the African African History Museum.

Rahni: (58:05) How was that?

DB: (58:06-1:01:03) It was gorgeous, and they loved it. They loved it! Uhmm, we had lunch together. I took them all to the Golden Corral. Some of them never even been outside of New York City. They said, “Where are we at?” We’re in Logan, Maryland. “I didn’t know Maryland was that big..” Some of them never been off of this block. This is all they know. And to be able to go to something like that… it’s like.. To them, it was a attractive, it was mind boggling. It blew their mind, cause’ you heard comments like “Thank you so much. I’ve never seen nothing like that” Somebody said, “Why you have to go to D.C.? You got the Schomburg Museum. Schomburg wouldn’t even meet up to what that is. [excuse me one second - he answers the phone call] … So, I mean, it’s… I see it. I mean… it’s either that or, I’m still here because nobody else wants to step up and do it. In all… I don’t see all the progress we made, just to give it up because you want to become a city council member.. Or what not. You’re able to to help your people more, but to an extent, because your hands are tied. Because now, instead of where I can focus on my development, I have to think about a broader area, and it’s called the district! Councilmatic District, that you’re responsible for, and it’s not just Andrew Jackson. So, where I may of helped Andrew Jackson this year… I might be able to do nothing for them for another two years, cause’ it has to go around, and everybody gotta get a piece of the pie, cause’ if you don’t, you’ll be… a one term, politician. People are tired of the politicians lying, and not doing what they say they’re gonna do on the platforms that they run on. And I’m training my residents, and I’m pushing my residents. If… even if I don’t stand up to everything I say I’m going to do, you give me a shot. And if I don’t correct it, you let me go, you kick me to the curb.

Rahni: (1:01:08-1:01:19) So, last and final, last last last and final question. Three words to describe Mr. Barber? From his self perception.

DB: (1:01:20) Passionate, loving, and caring.

Rahni (1:01:32-end.) Pasionate, loving, and caring… Okay! I like those. I think I got a gist of that throughout this whole interview. Uhm, I want to thank you again, for definitely sharing your life story, your life history, so inspiring. Uh, now I have more work to do… for myself, as a college student from the South Bronx. So, thank you, thank you, thank you.


1 hour, two minutes

Time Summary

Time Summary:

0:00-0:21 - Daniel's childhood and life, his connection to NYCHA, and foundational beliefs

0:21-0:28 - Passion for his work (Housing)

0:28-0:39 - Educational trajectory, and relationship to education in his community.

0:40-0:46 - New Programs, Innovations, Ideas for his job

0:46-0:55 - Daily Life of Daniel Barber

0:55-0:58 - Daniel's Future

0:58-1:01:01 - His trip to the African American Museum

Last Minute - His perception of himself/


Daniel Barber Final Interview .pdf


“Biography of Daniel Barber,” (Dis)Placed Urban Histories: Melrose, accessed May 23, 2024,