African American Studies


Kenneth Mincy grew up in the Patterson Houses in the late 1950’s. He felt very safe and loved. His mother was a nurse’s aid at a local hospital and while she was working a woman from their building would come up and watch him. Although there were many ethnicities in the building he lived in, everyone helped each other in taking care of the children.

He tells an interesting story about riding and studying subway maps at 4 years old. By this time, he was already and avid reader and feeling bored with his education in kindergarten. Because of this, he would frequently skip school and explore the city instead. In spite this, however, he was still doing excellent on tests and homework assignments and he kept moving up in the school system. He was even in the highest tracks for his grade, until the 6th grade when he dropped from track 1 to 2. He became aware at a very early age of the underground world on the streets. For example, he would befriend pimps and do errands for them.

By the time he was 10 years old, he realized the severity of the drug epidemic that was hitting the Bronx and Harlem at the time. He remembers people nodding off in the Paterson houses and hearing about people who had overdosed. He saw a lot of talent wasted because of drugs. Many of the people who succumbed to drugs could have been basketball players, musicians, or dancers and all lost their opportunities because of their addictions.

After P.S 18, he attended Clark Junior High School. The only reason he went to middle school was so he could be with his friends. He was still completely uninterested in his schoolwork. He was just there to have fun. One of his teachers did get through to him and was like a father figure to him.

For high school, he attended Theodore Roosevelt. Just before he started high school though, his mother moved the family out of the Patterson Houses. She felt that other housing projects were better and safer. Although he was threatened with not being able to graduate, he still did not attend classes regularly or do his schoolwork. During this time, he also began selling drugs. In April of his senior year, he dropped out. He then began selling drugs and hanging out on the streets full time. His brothers were not very aware of his behavior because one was in the air force and the other was at Harvard.

Shortly after this, he got a job selling NYC memorabilia to tourists. One day when he was preparing some boxes to sell in the building he worked at, he heard a low humming. He went to investigate and saw it was a second-generation computer. A supervisor saw him and asked if he was interested in working with a computer and instantly hired him. When he was 22 he enlisted into the army. He was in the army for about 2 years then went AWOL. After a year of that, he turned himself in and accepted his punishment. He then ended up in Washington State and completed his GED and then went to Evergreen State College in Olympia.

He remembers in the 70’s, everything began to decline. Drugs had taken over and gangs were becoming increasingly dangerous. He remembers The Black Spades practically took over the Patterson Houses.