African American Studies
Victoria Simmons-Good grew up in the Patterson Houses. Her parents moved to the Bronx from Harlem for the affordable housing options offered in the Bronx. He earliest memory is from attending PS 18, which was located near her building. On her way to school, she and her friends would always stop at a Candy Store and eat sweets for breakfast. She also remembers attending a day camp during the summer with fellow children living in the Patterson Houses. She also remembers the music her parents listened to, which was mostly Motown and doo-wop.
She grew up in the Patterson houses in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. She remembers it as a very safe environment, with lots of adult supervision. Her parents were very strict with her, beginning when she was in Junior High School. The Patterson Houses were also a culturally divers project, consisting of both African Americans and Puerto Ricans. With all the cultural diversity in her building, she was exposed to Latin music and calls herself a “buddarican,” which is an African American person who speaks Spanish and can dance to Latin Music.
Her teachers at PS 18 were very strict. She believes that they really wanted their students to live up to their potential, which meant enforcing strict discipline and adhering to the lesson plan. However, the teachers were still very patient. This strict teaching style continued into Junior High, where she was reprimanded for coming to class late from lunch on a regular basis. She also remembers the social clubs, which she says was a fancy name for gang. She was part of a social club called the Socialettes. They would go around the city and do different activities in each of the boroughs. They would also go to dances and organize them in the Patterson houses, where she met her current husband when she was in high school. She also participated in the PAL track team operated by the 40th precinct. At this time PAL had a lot of sports programs for girls, ranging from track and field to Basketball. She and her friends tried to incorporate basketball to their high school gym curriculum, but it was unsuccessful.
Her current husband is a Vietnam veteran, which moves the conversation to a discussion of the way the draft and the Vietnam War in general affected residents in the Bronx. Many felt that they should not fight for a country that at that time still discriminated against African Americans and therefore talked about moving to Canada. She had lived in the Bronx her entire life, and did not know the discrimination present in the south until she attended Tennessee State University.
She remembers heroin coming into the Bronx as early as the middle of the 1960s. Her neighbor was one of the first people she came into contact with that was “strung out.” This was happening while she was in high school. It was about this time, she remembers, when the communal and pleasant feeling of the projects started to disappear. She began to feel afraid to be in her apartment because of the break-ins she was hearing about. She felt that at the time, the crack epidemic was hitting the Black community very hard. After her mother was mugged, the family moved to the west Bronx.
Simmons, Victoria. Date of Interview Unknown. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
Click below to download supplemental content.Simmons, Victoria Pt 1.mp3 (82724 kB)
Simmons, Victoria Pt 2.mp3 (59103 kB)