African American Studies


Interviewee: Mr. Ray Allen

Interviewer: Dr. Mark Naison

Date: June 29, 2004

Summarized by: Estevan Román

Mr. Ray Allen is (was) an actor, singer and an organizer of theater and education programs in the Bronx. He is an African American of Caribbean descent, born on the island of Curacao, which is a part of the Netherland Antilles. His mother, Evelyn, was from the island of Anguilla. He moved to the Bronx on December 9th, 1968 at the age of 14. He came after his father had passed away from a heart attack and Ray and his second sister were sent to live with his aunt Mayetai and his uncles John and Victor Richardson at 1225 Boston Road by 168th Street in the Bronx, while his mother and older sister stayed behind at first for a few years to tie up some loose business end. The reason Ray states that they came to live at that residence is that the family had history in the building residing at 1225 Boston Road. His great aunt and uncle were the first African Americans to have an apartment in that residence were all the other tenants were only Jewish which was at the early part of the 20th century, in the early 1920’s. His aunt Mayetai was and is still is in apartment 22, she is now also the building manager at the residence.

In the late 70’s, around ’79, ’79, Ray talks about the whole burnout situation and the tenants formed an association and took over the building. He was treasurer of the building until 1994 when he married while he was living there. The association wanted him to be president at first, but he settled for treasurer due to his busy schedule. Being the only male of the association and even though he was not the president, he was forced to confront the drug elements of this building, in which he and his family received life threats. At the time his wife was taking a Master’s degree course at Columbia University and would come home very late at night. Because of this he purchased a house located at 1575 East 172nd Street, near his old high school, James Monroe on block away. After 15 years away he moved right back to the same building after him and his wife divorced, to apartment 19 after leaving apartment 20.

Ray talks about his family from Anguilla, his aunt Elise in Brooklyn, whom he calls the researcher of the family. His uncle John Richardson being president of the Anguillan Association. Ray talks about how the prime minister of Anguilla has for the last 4 years come to the Association’s dinner dance and how he even say down and spoke to him about Anguilla and doing some things down on the island.

Ray goes on to speak about the area surrounding Crotona all the way to Concourse Village containing many Anguillans and the occupations that they were involved in, which includes the railroad or MTA for men and nursing for the women. Many of these migrants were well educated folks, including his cousin Dr. Milton Gumbos, who was the VP of Bronx Lebanon and head surgeon. Ray’s cousin Canon Franklin Reid took over a ministry in 1985

Ray had been singing all his life and came from a musical family, but he was shy. He started singing in a chorus teacher Michael Don noticed his voice and recommended him. Eventually this led to him becoming a member of the All-City High School Chorus, and this was a very elegant and prestigious position to have at that time, in which he participated in for four years.

The High School he attended was very multi-ethnic, with African Americans being the majority and Latinos being next, but with a decent amount of white students according to Ray. The African Americans were mostly from the Caribbean. He makes mention of lots of Hondurans as his ex-wife was Honduran. He was very quiet and did not associate or participate unless called upon in class. His music teacher recommended he take some acting class at the Double Image Theater at the back of Lincoln Center with Helem Mayor, the artistic direct of the Double Image at the time.

That summer he got involved in the teenage performing arts at the Manhattan School of Music with the Board of Education and Mayor John B. Lindsay having them over a Gracie Mansion. They were considered youth ambassadors of NYC.

Ray talks about how the community started to deteriorate in the 60’s and 70’s, but due to his attending the further away James Monroe and always being occupied he never got pulled into the bad elements. This was also a political charged time and the Black Panthers were influencing the arts, especially in his Involvement in the production that was based on the Angela Davis and Panther Party trial called Passion of Justice.

He had attended Hunter College for a semester before going on the road with the experimental company in the village, as well as involving himself in the community arts at the Claremont Neighborhood center before he then started at Fordham University due to its strong arts components.

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