African American Studies


Kim Hewitt and Joe Nobile are principals in elementary schools in the New York Public School System. Kim Hewitt was raised in the projects of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, the daughter of Brooklyn-raised parents of Southern stock. At the time she grew up, New York was not yet beset by all the problems of gangland violence and the crack era, so Hewitt remembers her upbringing as almost entirely positive, safe, and nurturing. The community was very close-knit, families and friends looked out for one another, and there was a vibrant sense of community in the projects. Hewitt was raised when hip-hop was just gaining popularity, but she also was a fan of R&B. In addition to being embedded in hip-hop culture, Hewitt remembers the message of the Black Panthers, and she claims that this message had a powerful effect on her thinking and her upbringing. She attended elementary school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, at PS 335, and she eventually attended Bay Ridge High School. Although she was shy, she was a bright student, and she did well in both academics and in social and recreational activities. Because her experience of school was so positive, she decided to become a teacher, and then eventually became an assistant principal, and then a full-time principal.

Joe Nobile’s grandparents are from Italy, making him a third-generation Italian. He grew up in the Northeast Bronx, in the West Farm neighborhood. His working-class parents were very serious about Joe’s education. He was also a good student, and he took school seriously. He began learning the trumpet as an elementary school student, and kept playing until he was 30 years old. He was in several bands during his high school years. Nobile vividly remembers the assassination of JFK, and he says that this was the world event that had the greatest impact on him in his youth. He was talented in mathematics, but he had no real interest in the subject. However, mathematics came so naturally to him that he decided to go into business. He soon discovered that business was not fulfilling, however, and he set about becoming a teacher. Like Hewitt, he eventually became an assistant principal and then head principal.

Much of the transcript consists of each interviewee’s memories about growing up and the kinds of family lives that they had—they cover topics such as what kind of food they ate at home, what their experience of school was like, what games they played, what kinds of clothes they wore, etc. This information provides some background about the kinds of upbringings that each principal had.

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Nobile, Joe and Kim Hewitt.mp3 (75762 kB)