African American Studies
Cheryl Harper was born on April 12, 1977 in the South Bronx. She grew up in the Patterson Projects. She is one of 9 children, with ages ranging from 6 to 42. The siblings are all related through their father. She attended grade school at PS 70, middle school at Diana Sands, and high school at IS 83. Her mother was very abusive and she was in custody of her father. She was an alcoholic and addicted to crack. She describes memories of her mother when she was intoxicated. Her father made jewelry on Fordham Road and was an alcoholic. He later became swept up in the crack cocaine epidemic of the 80’s. Her father was more in control of his alcoholism and was a good parent. She did not have a lot of friends when she was growing up, aside from her cousins who were also abused. Many of her cousins became addicted to drugs when they grew up.
Her father is what she claims prevented her from ever falling into the drug scene. She did however get involved with prescription drugs with the intention of committing suicide. As a child, she felt as though she did not know how to be a little girl and therefore could not relate to the other girls around her or her teachers. Her father pushed her to create a portfolio and because of that she was initially attended a high school for the arts, but was kicked out after 2 years. After that she attended Morris High School, but eventually dropped out and got her GED. She did terrible in school, but was able to advance in grades because her father taught her to read by the New York Times.
After she got her GED she worked as an orthodontists assistant at the Dakota in Manhattan. But she had some problems adjusting and did not get a long well with the patients. She then attended Catherine Gibbs Business School for a graduate program, but she did not complete the program.
She had a hard time fitting in with people her own age and began to hang out with “ghetto” people, as she calls them. Her first boyfriend was 20 years her senior and he was not a good guy.
In 2002 she began working on her book. She details about her sister’s academic and musical successes. Her sister persuaded her to go to school for aeronautics in Florida and had a good experience but left after a month. She returned to the Bronx on September 11, 2001 to be committed in an institution. She began working on her book in order to show that she had accomplished something with her life.
Harper, Cheryl. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
Click below to download supplemental content.Harper, Cheryl.mp3 (32906 kB)