African American Studies


Interviewers: Mark Naison and Natasha Lightfoot

Interviewee: Patricia David

Summarized by Leigh Waterbury

Patricia David was born inBirmingham,Englandin 1959. Her parents were both born inDominicain the French West Indies and immigrated toEngland. After Patricia was born her father came alone to theUnited Statesand lived inQueens. He then became a superintendent of a building in theSouth Bronxand then Patricia and her siblings moved along with their mother into the ground floor apartment onTremont Avenue. Her mother basically took over superintendent duties so that her father could work to provide extra income. Many of the other apartments in the building were occupied by other family members because both her mother and father had large families who also moved to theBronx. As a result, she had many cousins her age to play with growing up and did not make any friends outside of the family until the age of 16 when her family had moved into a house at3913 De Reimer AvenuenearBaychester Avenue.

Growing up, Patricia identified mostly with her Dominican & West Indian roots. She never encountered any race issues since she spent most of her time with family. In grade school she was asked to fill out a form indicating race and had to bring it home to ask because she never had to answer that question before. Her mother refused to call herself black because of the negative connotations that were associated with American blacks. She told Patricia to write in that she was British West Indian American. Her mother thought very little of black Americans, that they did not dress properly, were uneducated, used foul language and had generally unsavory habits, so her mother did not wish to categorize herself or any of her family in that way. David says her mother was very protective and sheltered her and her siblings while growing up. They grew up in the Tremont area of theBronxwhen hip-hop was emerging, but she was completely unaware of this going on. The only music that was listened to in their household wasCaribbeanmusic. Similarly, any TV watched was whatever her mother or father wanted to watch.

While still living on Tremont she and her family experienced the blackout and the looting and confusion that resulted. Tremont was hit hard and she says she no longer felt as safe as she previously had. The neighborhood began to look different than before and people began moving out. She says they moved out just in time or else they would not have been able to get out. It had felt safe previously mainly because she was surrounded by family all the time.

Religion and family were the most important elements of her life growing up. She attended Catholic schools from kindergarten on up because of the strong religious element of Catholic schools. She attended Saint Thomas Aquinas and then laterCardinalSpellmanHigh Schoolbefore attendingFordhamUniversity. She was the first in her family to graduate from college. Spellman was not very racially diverse but she never experienced a sense of division or felt that she stuck out at all. She was a twirler on the color guard and felt that helped her to fit in. This was the first school activity she had joined since beginning schooling. At Fordham she was very busy working as a manager at Burger King onBaychester Avenuein order to pay for schooling and was uninvolved on campus. She also experienced two robberies while employed at Burger King. It was not until looking for her first job after college that she really experienced racism. When interviewing for jobs she was immediately offered one after entering the interview and was told that she was an affirmative action hire. She rejected the position because she did not want to be hired based on the color of her skin. She instead took a position at the cigarette company Phillip Morris where she stayed for 10 years before going to Merrill Lynch and then finally to CitiGroup. She now lives inNew Jerseywith her husband and two children.

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