African American Studies
Wayne Wattly was born January 5, 1974 in St. Kitts in the West Indies. As a kid, his family would visit an aunt in New York almost every summer. Wayne and his sister always enjoyed their visits to New York and he says he thought of New York as a grand place that he just had to get to. In the summer of 1989 the Wattley family moved to New York permanently. They moved to the South Bronx between Castle Hill and Soundview. His parents left behind careers they had both had for over 20 years to give their children a better education in the US than they could have received in St. Kitts. Wayne describes how the move to New York was a fantasy come true, and he felt very safe in the neighborhood. Once school began at Stevenson High School on Lafayette Ave, his perspective on the neighborhood and the Bronx in general began to change. Stevenson serviced students from various areas of the Bronx and this created rivalries between the various neighborhoods.
While attending high school, Wayne felt pressure to assimilate to American or African American way of life, mostly in terms of the way he dressed. Coming from St. Kitts he was wearing Bugle Boys while everyone else was wearing Cross Colors and fresh sneakers. He says he was able to retain his Caribbean identity fairly easily though the church. He and his family, as well as many other families of Caribbean descent attended St. Andrews Episcopal in the Bronx, where he was also a member of the church youth group. The group participated in many activities and he says he could identify easily with others in the group, easier than many of his peers in school who were not involved in the church. He also talks about how playing soccer helped him retain his Caribbean identity because many of his teammates were of Caribbean descent as well. He also credits his involvement in athletics to not being aware of the drugs and drug violence that was going on in the communities at the time. Since he was a part of more positive activities, none of that ever affected him directly.
After graduating from Stevenson, Wayne attended NYU which he describes as an education inside the classroom and outside the classroom due to the gay bashing that was prevalent in the Greenwich Village neighborhood at the time. He was also a part of the Caribbean Students Association while at NYU. It was at NYU that he experienced his first encounters with racism and prejudice due to his skin color and ethnicity. He says he grew up around many different ethnicities and never felt a difference between himself and them. He went on to study law at New York Law School and is now part of a two man firm located in the Bronx, with one office on Grand Concourse across from the Supreme Court, and another on East Tremont Ave. It is a civil litigation firm focusing on personal injury. He also discusses the changes he has seen in the Bronx and thinks that the community has deteriorated in the past 6-8 years due to people moving away as well as things going on in the community as well as the state. He also briefly discusses assumptions that he has encountered about people of African descent, of Caribbean descent, and the Bronx. Since the Bronx has been his home for as long as St. Kitts was, he feels an allegiance to the borough and would like to keep a home here.
Wattly, Wayne. 18 October 2004. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
Click below to download supplemental content.Wattly, Wayne pt 1.mp3 (49573 kB)
Wattly, Wayne pt 2.mp3 (6893 kB)