James Madison University
Shenandoah Valley Oral History Project
Oral History Interview With: Monica Robinson
Interviewer: Nicole Snyder
Place: Massanutten Regional Library
Date: March 23, 2006
Return to Finding Aid | Interview Guide | Interview Journal
General topic of interview: Life in Harrisonburg in the NE section of town
NARRATOR: Monica Robinson
DATE: March 23, 2006
INTERVIEWER: Nicole Snyder
PLACE: Massanutten Regional Library
Monica Robinson moved to Harrisonburg from Connecticut at a young age. Her mother was originally from Harrisonburg. She grew up in the NE section of town where she still lives today. She attended JMU for her degrees and now teaches a Special Education type program at Spotswood High School. Monica has a seventeen year old son who attends Harrisonburg High School. She is very active in the community and involved in many organizations such as Cop Watch and the NAACP.
Although Monica was not around for the R-4 project, the urban renewal project, she was able to talk about it from what her mother has told her. She was not clear on all of the details of what happened, but she definitely felt like the project negatively impacted the African American community in Harrisonburg. She also talked a lot about the loss of community in Harrisonburg, which she seems to be mainly as a result of the rate of growth of JMU, commercialization and sprawl of the city itself, and the aftermath of the R-4 project. Monica’s involvement with Cop Watch, a group dedicated to witnessing and documenting police over-activity in her neighborhood is also highlighted here as well as the relationship between the JMU community and the Harrisonburg community.
Nicole: I’d like to start out with just some background life history stuff.
Nicole: How long have you lived in Harrisonburg?
M: We moved here when I was in the first grade… I’m trying to think that has been a long time ago. That makes me seven. So, probably thirty years ago.
N: okay, where did you live before?
M: I was born in Waterberry? Connecticut.
N: Okay, and why did you move here?
M: Well, my mother was originally from Harrisonburg and my father was from Waterberry, and we lived there initially and it was more inner city more fast paced environment and when we reached the age where we started going to school my mom just thought that the public schools in Virginia had a lot more offer so we decided to move here. And, I had a brother who was very asthmatic and the climate there just wasn’t really helping him out at all so, you know, we ended up moving back to Virginia, to Harrisonburg.
N: So, your whole family was from Connecticut previously?
M: No, just my father’ side of the family and it’s really odd because my mother’s brothers and sisters eventually all moved to Connecticut. So, there’s not very many of us left here [laughs]. For some reason they all moved there and got married and stuff, just three of her siblings lived here?
N: Okay, and what was your parents’ work experience?
M: My mother is a nurse. She works at Camelot which is Harrisonburg Health and Rehab. They just recently changed the name. And my father was a mechanic.
N: Okay, and what was their level of education?
M: My father… and mother completed community college.
N: And, are you now or have you ever been married?
M: No, I’m single, never been married.
N: Do you have any children?
M: Yes, I have one child who is seventeen, his last year of high school in Harrisonburg, will be eighteen in May.
N: Okay, What is he going to do when he graduates?
M: He wants to leave this summer and go to UTI which is a technical institute in Pennsylvania, so, we’ll see. [Nicole laughs] He’s saying that now he wants to go. And I’m pushing for that, but we’ll kind of just take it a little at a time.
N: Okay, and what is your work experience and school experience?
M: Okay, I graduated from Blue Ridge Community College, transferred to JMU, got a Bachelor’s from JMU in 1999 in History, went back and got my initial teaching certificate, licensure rather, then went back and finished the Master’s program probably about a year, year and a half ago, Master’s in Education. Now I am studying for my Doctorate in Special Education.
N: Okay, that’s exciting. So, you work at a high school now?
M: Yeah I work at Spotswood High School which is down on Route 33 East in Harrisonburg. It is a more rural high school, it is not as diverse as what they have here in the city. I was in Harrisonburg High School last year I did an internship there and also taught an Alternative Ed program which is… Have you heard of that?
M: Alternative Ed is a program where children who have been kicked out of school for various reasons truancy, pregnancy, behavioral issues, undiagnosed SPED kids. They are in the Alternative Ed program which is similar to what we called Adult Ed when I was in school. They go to school from 3:00 to 5:30 in the afternoon. I taught science in that program.
N: Okay, and what are you teaching now?
M: Right now I am self-contained learning disabled teacher, Special Education teacher. What that means, the self-contained portion, is that the kids that are with me are with me for 100 percent of the day. And, a lot of my kids have, you know, more than one, they’re dual labeled, more than one disability, and a lot of behavioral issues. So, they stay with me for all subjects. So, we do everything that they need. We have a couple that do leave and go to the Massanuttten technical center for different things and then my seniors release early do the ICT work program. And, they get credit for working out in the community and get job experience and training for life after high school.
N: Okay, what kind of jobs do they end up..?
M: This year I have a variety. I have a couple that are actually at Donnelly, which is a book binding company here in Harrisonburg. I have two that are going to be leaving probably within the next year after they graduate, and they want tot go and pursue something further in technical education. But most of them have completed programs at NTCS. They’re certified diesel mechanics, certified electricians, carpentry, robotics, collision repair, masonry. It’s a lot of variety but it’s basically their program of study is geared toward what they need as an individual in order to be successful in school.
N: Okay, I’d like to move into just some of your perception of Harrisonburg’s history…
N: What was Harrisonburg like when you first moved here, when you were growing up?
M: Oh man, it was awesome. It’s changed so much, not all in a negative way but when we first moved here it was so different. Moving from a very large city with very little landscape and scenery and mountains and coming here to the Shenandoah Valley, it was just totally different. And, the school that I went to in Connecticut, it was just opposite in diversity and the majority of the students there were minorities, very few white students. And then we moved here to a community that was completely opposite. I can remember being, me and maybe one or two others, another girl and another boy, being the only African American students in our grade level, in the whole fourth grade. We did not have very many Hispanic students at the time. It was not diverse. Very few Asian students. It was a very neat place to live. A good place to raise your children. We could leave our doors open. We could play outside. That whole concept of the community helping to raise the child was still in effect. And the crime rate was still really low. And, JMU was here but it wasn’t, it didn’t sum up the majority of the city, college kids and everything. It’s changed a lot.
N: Okay, so as JMU is growing do you see that as sort of having a negative in the Harrisonburg community that is already here?
M: Well, for business purposes I would say that it had a positive effect because we have more people to choose from for the work force, a lot of people decide to stay here and open up businesses here. But, also with the growth of the college, and the town itself, we’ve lost that big sense of community that we once had. You know, there was a time when you knew everyone. You know, you could feel real safe about your kids being here and there. As the town grows, as with any town, so does the amount of crime that we have and you know, unknown people will move into your community who aren’t lifetime residents who don’t have roots here. So, we lose a little bit of that sense of community. But then again, we gain… new friends, new perspectives on life, more diversity. So, it’s kind of two-fold there…
N: Okay, We can move into… I was going to ask you about the relationship between JMU students, and faculty, and other residents of Harrisonburg. Do you have much interaction with JMU students?
M: Actually, I do. I do several different groups that I am involved in. You, know in school we have a lot of kids who come through for internships, who do student-teaching and I would say that my interaction has been a positive one. I know for a fact that JMU is working on a lot of diversity initiatives and they’ve made a lot of effort in pulling together people from the community and then people from JMU and getting them together on equal grounds and doing some different things together. For instance, we went out to the greens, I believe it was probably two years ago. They had a series of cookouts. We got to go out, you know, meet new people, and really get to fellowship with them and also even in church. A lot of the JMU students become an integral part of the community so we are really used to having them here.
N: … So, you have a lot of different types of interactions here… So what is your perception of the relationship between like the JMU community as a whole and the Harrisonburg community as whole, are they sort of at odds or…?
M: Sometimes I feel like they are at odds and sometimes I’m at odds with them as well [both laugh]. I think overall people have been here for years and generations and their families have been here and they see the college as taking away from there home place, kind of turning into a college town. Sometimes I look at them and think how many more buildings do you need to build? And then I forget, oh yeah you went to school there and there was a purpose in them expanding. I think that the relationship between the community and JMU still has a lot of work we have a lot of issues that we need to work out. I still feel that whole, you know, when I was on campus I would hear people talking someone in the community and they would refer to them as “townies” and I’d be like well that would be me… And they’d be like that doesn’t apply to you and I’d be like yes it does. There’s just a lot of stuff that there and I think a lot of it is fear of the unknown, they don’t know us and they think that we don’t want them here. We really don’t know them and we feel like they are taking over our town. So, I think it is a lot of negative stuff going on but I think that eventually we’ll see less and less of that.
N: Do you know much about the… high school that JMU is using the building?
M: Yes, I actually graduated from Harrisonburg high school.
N: In that building?
M: Yes, when I went to the high school. And it’s changed a little bit because when I initially went there it was Thomas Harrison Junior High, which was the front portion. You went there for seventh and eighth grade and then you went to the high school in the ninth grade. As the town grew, of course, we needed to build a new middle school and they changed that building and kind of, did some minor changes and made it just one high school. So, I was not thrilled at the thought of JMU taking over that building, but I would not have been thrilled with anybody taking over that building because if we have high school reunions and things of that nature it just seems odd. It doesn’t have the same… you know, I don’t what you would call it but if I go to the new high school I don’t feel like that’s Harrisonburg High school. I was just kind of hoping that the city would not lease it to JMU and that they would find some use for it keeping it as the fifth grade or sixth grade or whatever they were planning on doing. I know there were a couple different options there, but I was hoping that JMU would not get the high school.
N: Okay, What do you think can be done to better the relationship between the residents of Harrisonburg and the JMU students?
M: I think one of the things that we can probably do is have more functions that are combined functions, like I am working with the Harrisonburg Rockingham County African American Festival Committee and that is a long name. It’s just an African American festival that we’ve had; this will be our thirteenth year. We’ve had that festival here and then JMU has had Madison Days or other different activities on campus. This year the committee has changed a little bit and when I went to the first meeting I was kind of shocked because I am thinking, you know, wait a minute this is a community event, and we have all of these people..we have Zeb Davenport from JMU, you know we have Melody Pannell From EMU and I was kind of like, “Whoa wait a minute. This is a community event.” Then after I went home and thought about it, it kind of was like we had moved to another level. No longer are we planning all of these individual events. We are now gathering on the same boards to plan events for the community. So Harrisonburg is beginning to be looked at as one big community, other than we have EMU here, then JMU, then the people that live in town, all of these separate events going on and no one was intermingling at all. So, I think that if we have more things on that level and more interaction and more working together because a lot of the people that are on that committee for instance, they are residents here. They work here, they plan on staying here, they have children who are in public schools. I just think the residents haven’t embraced them, like they’re permanent fixtures. We kind of say, “Yeah we know you, but you’re visitors so step back a little bit.” But, I see that we are moving beyond that.
N: You mentioned that you go to church here in Harrisonburg?
N: Could you tell me a little bit about your religious background?
M: I was brought up in a Baptist church. I attended New Hope Baptist Church in McGaheysville forever. It was our family church. It was small church and I kind of outgrew the church a little bit so I’ve been searching around for a new home, something that suited more of what I was looking for: more outreach, missions type work, more children’s activities, something that I could be more involved in. So, I began to look around and basically now what I’m looking for is a non-denominational church type setting, we have a lot of those in town. So, I’ve been visiting different churches and I haven’t really found the one yet. I visited one that I liked very much, Mercy and Joy Ministries. We met at Shakespearean theatre down around Court Square. We weren’t able to continue meeting in that building so now we’re all kind of visiting. I’ve been going back to New Hope a little bit just until we can figure out where we can find a building that we can afford and use for the things that we want.
N: Okay, neat. Is your son involved in church groups too?
M: Not in the church groups. He’s a teenager now, so you know… [Both laugh] So, if I say let’s do this there’s always ten reasons why that’s not feasible. But, he was brought up in the church and went every Sunday and attended, you know, how they always say your parents drag you to every ridiculous meeting and this meeting, and this fundraiser and that, so… yes. He was brought up in the church.
N: Okay, Let’s see, so have you always lived in this same area of Harrisonburg?
M: Actually I have moved out. I live in the NE area of town which is traditionally a black area. My mother grew up on Johnson Street, which was the main road which led right up to Simms school and that was the main black street when they were youth. And Simms School was the all black school before we desegregated. When we moved here, we moved one street over, which is Kelly Street, which is the main street now. So, I’ve always lived in the NE area of town. One time I did move out closer to the park when my son was younger, but then when it was time for him to go to school I kind of wanted him to go to a school that was more diverse and he could be around different people. So, we moved back to that area of town. I bought a house there eight years ago. So, the NE section is definitely like the area that I feel safest in just personally, and I think it is because I knew so many people that are there. That was a big issue for me being a single parent, if I’m buying a house, you know, it has all of these features, but where do I feel most safe at and I felt most safe in that area of town.
N: That’s because you know the people living there?
M: I knew my neighbors, my neighbors knew me, we kind of watch out for each other. What is so odd about that is that a lot of times Kelly Street is portrayed in the media as a high crime area. A lot of people when I tell them that I live on Kelly Street they’re like, “Aren’t you afraid to live on Kelly Street?” And I’m like that’s really funny because when I went to buy a house that was the one area that I looked at that I felt really safe in. It is just that it is home – home for me.
N: Do you know why is it that the media is portraying that street as sort of a high crime area?
M: Well, I mean there has been a lot of crime in the area, but I think in comparison to other areas in the city it is not the street with the highest crime. I think that historically… the media and even with, you know, police and different things that’s been going on in this city, it’s kind of been targeted as the area where the majority of the stuff occurs. So, I think a lot of times with the media, they don’t actually speak to the residents that live there who’ve been there for a long time and maybe what they’re hearing from different people that they are interviewing is inaccurate. I’m not saying that nothing ever occurs on that street, but the amount of coverage we get is unreal. My mother lives two streets or three streets over and, you know, same area, still considered the NE area of town and she’s single, my father passed away years ago, and she feels real safe there as well.
N: She’s on Johnson Street?
M: No, actually she is on Wolfe Street now which is several streets over, about three or four streets over from Kelly.
N: You mentioned earlier that Johnson Street like in the past had been the main street and now it’s Kelly street, why is the transition?
M: I’m not really sure, just when my mom and I don’t know, it was the main street then because… that’s where all.I know why! I know exactly why, because what happened years ago, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the R-4 project, when they did the re-zoning. When they did that what they did was they moved a lot of the African American people to a different area of town just until they redid and rezoned and did away with a lot of housing and did away with a lot of Federal Alley, a couple of the streets, and they did away with a lot of the black community. What they did was when they brought the people back they brought them to the top of Kelly Street which is now owned and operated by the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority so they moved them back in and the new spot – main spot – was at the top of Kelly street.
N: Were you here during that project?
M: No, I’m not that old. [Both laugh]
N: Was you mom here?
M: My mother was here for that. And what is so neat about is that they tell all of these stories. I want to very much know what it used to look like and they tell stories of the areas in town that were the rougher areas where there were bars and where old churches used to be, and where this family grew up in this house, which is now on the lot of for instance, Kline’s Dairy Bar. Just the structures that replaced what was their community when they were growing up. So, it’s changed a lot for them?
N: So, this whole R-4 Project, I only know a little bit about it, but it was basically in that area by like Rose’s and Kline’s..?
M: Exactly and it went down through what my aunt and mother referred to as Federal Alley, are you familiar with where the parking deck is at at the Catholic Church? That street runs all the way down and Federal Alley comes down all the way past here, past the library. So, it’s all over in that area. Like I said, I was not here for it. I’m hearing it second hand and we do see some photos and different snapshots of what it used to look like.
N: From what you’ve heard what was the purpose of the project supposedly?
M: I’m not really sure what the purpose of the project was? I think they were trying to put people in what they thought was adequate housing, but from what I am hearing from people who lived there is that at the time their housing was adequate. They had nice homes, homes that they owned that, you know, I guess they were forced to sell or the city just moved them out of. And, then they moved them into rental property. So a lot of people who used to own homes in that area that they rezoned were moved up into renting so they lost their property. So, I’m not sure what the purpose was. The purpose was to make the neighborhood better, but I don’t know if anyone would agree with that but I wasn’t there at the time?
N: Do you know who was behind the whole project?
M: Actually I don’t. They did a wonderful article in the magazine Eighty-one and then a friend of mine Peter Gelerloos and Patrick Lincoln, they did a small study on it and produced a little thing and had it on air at JMU. There’s some people who have been looking into the project and saying what was the purpose of this. What the city actually did was they segregated the black community even more so because the area of land that they lived in probably went to maybe a fourth or a half of the size and when they did that they moved all of the black people into the neighborhood here. And if I understand correctly the property value in that neighborhood and the assessment was at a lower rate then what it was in the rest of the city. So, one of the things that Cheryl Talley, who is a professor at JMU, is working on is trying to get this property assessed at the same rate that it is assessed in other areas of town. So that whole project I think did a horrible horrible number on this theme of the black people who were living in that area, and I think instead of moving them forward, which may have been the initial plan, it kind of set us back a little bit. It’s kind of been hard ever since then to get people out.
N: What is your sense of what the community looked like before the project and afterwards?
M: See, I’m not really sure, but when we first moved here there were still some of the houses and there still are some there today on Johnson Street, like the house that the Washington family lived in. They had a couple of predominate families that I hear my mother and her brothers and sisters talk about. There was an Effergen [?] Street school, which was a smaller school where Lucy F. Simms taught at before they moved up to Lucy F. Simms. So I think that it was smaller scale houses, but still they said it was nice. But they still said that there was a certain part, just like any community, that you don’t go in. That’s where you hang out, like there was a juke joint, or whatever they call it, and stuff like that. She said it was just like a regular community.
N: Were there like a lot of African American businesses in that area?
M: I think that there were. Yeah. I would like to know more about that because I didn’t even think about that.
N: So, other than that, how has the city as a whole changed over the years like big changes that you’ve seen?
M: I can remember when we were in high school when we first got the Valley Mall. So, some of the big things that I remember is the Valley Mall coming and all of the land behind the mall was just farmland. All of that has been developed now. We’ve had to lose more property as we built the Convocation Center and all of the student housing that is in various areas of town. We have a lot more shopping plazas that are going up and one of the bad things in my opinion is the number of stores that have moved. We’ll get one shopping plaza going, and then we’ll get something new and then three or four stores will move to that. And then we have this empty store front that no one is really using. So, that’s changed a lot. We’ve got the new middle school. A lot, a lot of student housing and a lot of subdivisions, single family homes have been built. Downtown has really lost, you know, big time in this whole changing of Harrisonburg because years ago we would walk up and down downtown to go Christmas shopping and the streets were just loaded. You’d go to Jessie’s lunch to get something to eat. We had the Woolworth’s counter, five and dime stores. We had a lot of activity which centered around downtown which we don’t have now. I know we have organizations downtown which are trying to revive downtown, and get people to do stuff more in this area and renting space in the area. But, I think that’s basically just been lost because everything has moved out. You can’t walk to places anymore. There used to always be a grocery store nearby that you could walk to get a loaf of bread or milk. But now every place you have to go you have to get in your car or catch the bus. We didn’t have any transit buses when I was growing up. I don’t even remember when they started. I must have been in high school. Now we have tons of transit buses. Nothing like a big city, but I mean a lot for Harrisonburg. It’s changed quite a bit?
N: What to do you think this sort of sprawling out and commercialization has had on this sort of sense of community? Do you think that’s…?
M: I think it’s had a horrible impact on community. People ask that question all the time and I’m always like ummm ummm umm well [Nicole laughs]. It’s bad. I just think that close knit community feeling that you have of knowing who your neighbors are and when people would move into the community you made a an effort to get to know who those people were. You wanted to make them feel welcome. You wanted them to know that if they needed anything, if they had to go out of town you could watch out for their place. We don’t have that anymore. People move in and we don’t want to know them. We don’t make that effort to be friendly. Everything is so fast paced now. Everybody is trying to develop more and get more. It’s all about the dollar; it’s not about the people anymore. We don’t care as much about our neighbors or respecting property or making sure that we patronize businesses that are locally owned. We don’t see any of that anymore. It’s like wherever I can go and get it for the cheapest is where I’m going. It doesn’t matter that so and so has a business here and has supported us. And helped us out when jobs were really scarce and said okay I’ll give you store credit or whatever. People lose that and it’s changed completely. We just get so spread out that there is no home. Our kids don’t know what a home is, because we move from here to here to here. I don’t know it just has done a number on the city.
N: … How do you see the city changing in the future? What do you think it will be like when your son is your age?
M: I think that definitely with the rate of growth that we will begin to see unfortunately more of the overpasses because it takes forever to get here out to the post office. I think we’re going to start seeing all of this easier ways to get here and there. I think we are going to see more congestion in the city, more empty buildings, more office space that they can’t get rented out because they are constantly building something new and better – in a better location. I think we are definitely going to have to expand to another high school eventually. That is going to take away from community to because when you are in high school here in Harrisonburg you know everyone in the city because you may go to different elementary schools, but in middle school we all come together. We have four or five elementary schools and then we come together for middle school and then we come together for high school…As we expand, we’re going to have Harrisonburg High School here and another high school here, another high school there, and then we’ll have that intra-city rivalry, which is good in sports competition [Nicole laughs] but still you won’t get to know who your neighbors are; you won’t know the town. Those are some of the things I see coming in the near future.
N: You mentioned earlier that when you moved here you were one of only a few African Americans in your class? What is the ratio like now in the high school?
M: Oh, Harrisonburg is very, very diverse, they have and please I don’t know if this is the correct number but they probably have close to twenty languages. They have every type of student that you could possibly think of from every background, which is good because I know for me and a lot of people don’t like to say this: but when I go to an area or a school it’s nice to see someone that looks like me. If I am new to an area and there’s only a few people that look like you, it’s not quite the same. You go in the school and you see Hispanic students from all different places: Mexico, South America, Spain. We have Asian students, Arabic students, people from Jordan, African students. It’s just wonderful to see that wide variety. The school that I teach at now isn’t as diverse. When I compare some of my students’ views on the world and people with my son’s views who attends Harrisonburg High School, his views on the world and people are a world apart. It’s like driving through a time warp every day. They haven’t been exposed to something that is different, they’re afraid of it. And they are un-accepting of it. Whereas in Harrisonburg you learn at an early age that there are all different people here and they speak all different languages but we’re all here for the same purpose, to get an education. So, Harrisonburg is definitely better with the diversity that they have in the school system.
N: Was this a slow change, the diversity level, or something that happened recently?
M: I think recently that there has been an explosion of it, but to me I think that gradually over the years I’ve seen with the number of Kurdish people increasing, more Hispanic people, more Africans coming here and deciding to stay through EMU. To me, it has been a gradual change but as of lately within the lat five years, I think that those populations have increased dramatically. I don’t know what is pulling them to the valley. A lot of people say it is all the plants: poultry, Dupont, the distribution center. People flock here because Coors is close by, and they have a better chance at gainful employment. In the last ten years there has definitely been an increase.
N: You want to move into some stuff about the police in your area [both laugh]?
N: What has your involvement with the police been? Have you ever been arrested?
M: No, haven’t been arrested… What my involvement has been is basically in the NE area working in a group called Cop Watch. Cop Watch is a group that started about a year and a half ago here. We started it in response to police harassment and profiling in target areas. So, most of the interactions that I’ve had with the police have been positive. I make sure that working with an organization like Cop Watch, you have to make absolutely sure that what you’re doing at all times is to the letter of the law as well. You don’t want to compromise your standing with the group because you don’t want to be out there promoting certain things but be in trouble with the law. So, I’ve had a few negative interactions with them because I’m very vocal in what I think is right and what I think they should or should not be doing. But, it hasn’t formed a big rift between like me and the cops. I’m just very vocal in letting them know that you’re not going to infringe on my rights or what you’re doing at this particular time in this neighborhood is uncalled for and you need to stop.
N: Was there a specific incident… were you involved in the beginning formation of the group?
M: Yes, actually I was. Me and two of the guys that I mentioned earlier, Peter Gelderloos and Patrick Lincoln actually formed the group. We met… actually they were invited to NAACP meeting, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. I was President for two years. We met when they came and presented some information from the Rising Up Collective, a group that they are involved in. They were kind of looking for different ways that we could work together in the community on some other social issues. We had some common ground where we could work for the betterment and do some different things for people. We began talking and decided to meet. We looked into Cop Watch, and we felt that it was something we needed to have in the community and that it was something doable for us and willing to dedicate a certain amount of time to doing this and getting it off the ground. We’ve been together for about a year and half now and we’ve had some excellent feedback from the community members. It’s a great group.
N: Peter and was it Megan that you said?
M: Peter and Patrick
N: Okay, did they grow up in Harrisonburg?
M: Actually Patrick is from here. Peter is not from here. Peter came here through JMU, and they’re just activists and they really work hard at fighting against abuse in prison systems and I believe they came together because of that. They work together to help, you know, feed the hungry and to fight against war and some other things that they felt that they needed to speak on. So, that’s how they got together and then they found me.
N: Do you meet regularly?
M: Yes, we do. We try to meet… Cop Watch tries to meet at least once a week and sometimes that gets to be a bit much so we try to break it up a bit. During the winter months when it is colder outside we generally have more informational planning strategic type meetings. We do some stuff on the street but most of the things we’ve done over the winter have been just getting to know the community residents and trying to figure out what they want from the organization and then as the weather gets better and more people start to be outside, we actually go on the street and start monitoring police activity.
N: Okay, and how do you go about doing that?
M: Well when we first started, it’s changed a lot, we actually started by walking the streets. We picked the NE section of town because that was the current Weed and Seed target area. Are you familiar with Weed and Seed?
M: Weed and Seed is a federally funded program that the Department of Justice puts together. It has a two prong approach: it goes into high crime activity neighborhood and weeds out the bad elements, then the seeding portions seeds in safe havens, tries to fix up the neighborhood, training for parents, different workshops. So, the weeding part has a lot to do with law enforcement. The seeding part has a lot to do with different social groups in the area. They have been doing a lot of what they call community policing and that was an area where we had the largest amount of complaints. Because some of the members, like I who live in the northeast section of town, and then we had some members join our group, they lived in that area of town. So, we felt that it would be better for us to start there because we knew the neighborhood, we knew the people, we had roots there and we could really set up a good organization and train people before we moved on to another area. We’ve decided the Weed and Seed area into five smaller areas with the Kelly Street area being the largest. What we plan on doing is staying in an area, training people, get them to the point where they are able to document some of the harassment that is going on, where they’re able to advocate for themselves, where there are able to hold their own Know Your Rights Training Workshop where they are teaching people what their rights are and after we see that they are self sufficient we wouldn’t leave them on their own but have that group working in its own community and move on to another area within the Weed and Seed target area and begin to form another group in another section of town.
N: So that is your plan right now and you’re just working on the core group?
M: Oh yeah! That’s a really big area. We were thinking oh man we’re spending a lot of time in this area. Then when I broke it down on the map and actually outlined the streets I saw that the area we picked is three times the size of the other areas. I guess we were just gung ho, ready to go, so. But it’s working out real well. We have people now that are coming forward. I got a call last night from a young guy last night who does police logs for us. I’m having them give that information to me on a weekly basis, and to some of the other Cop Watchers as well. What our plan is that I would meet with the Chief of Police and the Sheriff probably once a month and really give them some of this hardcore evidence of what is going on in the streets. We’re really moving right where we should be. It’s working out real well.
N: Who’s involved with Cop Watch, is it mainly people living in the area that you are targeting?
M: It’s a nice mixture. There’s some people who live in the NE area of town, the majority of the people involved in it are not African American, most are white. We have several students from JMU. It’s just a nice mix and a nice age group too. We have some kids who are like nineteen years old and are full of energy and we’re like whoa, whoa, whoa slow down. And then we have some people who are in their fifties who are very dedicated. We all work every well together. We compliment each other. We can tell them to calm down a little bit and they can tell us to speed up a little bit. It works out real well.
N: Okay, How is the group organized? I mean do you have like leaders or…?
M: No, we don’t have any of that hierarchy that you see going on in groups. What we basically do is come together, set up and agenda for the meeting, we all try to take an equal part in the meeting. We try to give everyone opportunity to talk. We’re very diplomatic about the way we do things. We always split up tasks evenly. If we see that someone is overwhelmed or has been doing a larger amount of the assignments, then someone else will speak up. We compliment each other. We are all so involved with other activities. People are real quick to speak up and say, I would love to do that this week but I have three meetings, I have girl scouts, and whatever and I just can’t do it. Someone else will come up and help pick up some of the load. We don’t have anyone that is considered the boss or the President and it works out real well.
N: What kind of tasks do you have people doing?
M: Some of the things that we have is after each meeting we have someone who will type up the notes and post them, and send them out over email to everyone. We have had to have different people who will be willing to post flyers, print flyers, make flyers, distribute flyers door to door, go out in the streets and talk with people, people who are more out, it gets broken down a little bit more because when we go out we have a driver. We go in the car now instead of on foot because we have a scanner. That helps us out because before we would be walking three blocks to get to whatever was going on and it would be over by the time we get there. So, when we go out we split up. We have someone with a video camera, someone who takes down witnesses names. We have somebody who will document the time, someone who takes pictures, someone stays in the car and listens to the scanner. WE really break it down but we get all of those duties defined before we leave. Each time we assume a different role. So, if you’re on the scanner tonight when we go out than tomorrow you’ll do the video camera and I’ll do the scanner. We also have a newsletter, we take turns editing, we take turns writing articles, we take turns producing the newsletter, printing it out. We switch duties so that if someone leaves the group we’re not at a loss. Someone knows how to get the newsletter together, we’ve all had an opportunity to work in all the different areas. If someone has to leave or graduate or whatever, then we don’t have to try to replace somebody or the group doesn’t fall behind schedule.
N: That’s really smart organizing.
M: Yeah, it works really good.
N: Where do you get money, like fundraising, for the scanner or like newsletter?
M: For the scanner we each donated ten bucks and kept searching on Ebay until we found something that suited our needs and we could afford. We’ve had some donations made to us. A lot of people that are members would ask instead of receiving a present for Christmas if they would make a donation to several organizations. So we made some money that way. We get quite a few copies donated from different organizations. We do speaking events and different things on campus. That’s how we generate our money.
N: Okay, and you mentioned the newsletter, is there a place that you can get that?
M: We usually have it available at the public library, Massanutten Regional Library. We distributed probably about hundred, hundred and fifty, newsletters out and we took those specifically to the area we are working in. We also make them available at local barber shops, hair salons, The Little Grill, The Little Store, JMU campus, the [Daily] Grind, different places in town. As we did with our Cop Watch survey that we did you can find all of that at the library or at JMU’s library in the reference area.
N: What was the survey that you did?
M: What we did was we took a survey. We started in September, six months ago, in 2005. We compiled a list of questions and they fell under different categories, like your perception of police harassment, interactions with police, how often you see police, and a lot of know your rights information. We split the streets up in the area that we were in, the NE area, the Kelly Street area. We went out and collected the hundred and twenty one surveys and then compiled the survey and the answers and made charts and presented a report which I presented to the Harrisonburg Police Chief and the Sheriff. Then also the NAACP and the Latino organizations in town. Why we did that mainly was that we felt that everything had been kind of just like talk, you know, it is very easy for people to say you know what, you know they’re harassing me, I just don’t know what to do. I’d be going down the street and someone would flag me down and say the cops were here last night and they infringed on my rights. We actually wanted to have some tangible evidence that we could show to the police department and say, “This is what’s happening. A pattern definitely exists in this area of town. We didn’t go through skipping doors, trying to make sure we had a certain number of white people, and a certain number of black people. We just went through that area and went door to door knocking and stopping people in the street and asking them. What that helped us to do is say, these are the problems that the citizens in that area have said exist. This is level of interaction they have with police. This is the type of interaction they have; it’s negative. These things have happened in the last year. This is how often they see police in their community. This is the number of people who say that they have been harassed based on their color or by where they live. This is what the residents say is occurring in this area of town. Now, what we want to do is see what we can do together to alleviate the problem. You know, we’re out there and we’re monitoring this activity and we’re collecting reports but we want to see that a pattern exists before we go to an official and say so and so said the other day that they were on the corner and a cop car did such and such or a police officer did such and such. We want to really be able to back up what we stand for. We don’t want to just be blowing smoke. We want to be able to say this is what is happening. We have three reports, these are the badge numbers of the officers, this is the time it happened, and these are the locations. Okay? Now a pattern has been formed and we are proving to you that a pattern exists. Now we want you to tell us what you are going to do to stop this kind of behavior. That was the purpose of our survey and we’ve had some excellent, excellent feedback from the police captain and it’s kind of moving forward from there. Once we got the survey in place a lot of the residents who were kind of supportive of us but supportive of us kind of quietly came forward and said man you guys have done all this work, I see that you’re serious about what you are doing, How can we help?
N: How was, have you, you have presented this to the police officials?
M: Yes, we did. We met the Virginia Organizing Project, the NAACP, some people from the Kurdish community, from the Latino community, and Cop Watch, there was a couple of other groups there as well. We met with the chief of police, the Sheriff and the head of the Virginia State Police and it was here at the Massanutten Regional Library. It was in a very neutral form, round table. We went around and introduced ourselves, and I had met with them previously. We discussed the findings of the survey; we talked about the type of diversity training that was taking place; we talked about statistics about who was in jail, reasons for stopping people, the correct way to file complaints at the police office and at the jail at the Sheriff’s department. So, a lot was accomplished and it really laid the ground work for future meetings because the Police Chief actually asked that I meet with him along with NAACP on a regular basis to make sure that those communication lines stay open, that if something is going on in the street that he doesn’t know about because he can’t be in every patrol car. He doesn’t know what’s being said, he just knows what they’re trained to say. So, he wants to hear from the people directly. And so, you know, the survey did exactly what we wanted it to do.
N: How have your meetings with him now affected the policing strategies in your area?
M: We haven’t met yet.
N: Oh, you haven’t met.
M: No we just presented to him about a month ago.
M: And actually I need to go ahead and set up our first meeting, because we have some other documentation that we want to present to him. Since the meeting we decided to do was try to get someone on just about every block or every couple of blocks in the target area to keep what we call a police log, because we can’t be there every single day, we have jobs, we have families. What I wanted to do was to take the police logs to him when we met. And, I just got a feeling that it is going to be a good meeting because he seems like a really nice fella, and he seems like he’s really open to trying to resolve any issues or any negativity that exists between the officers and the residents. So, I think that it is going to be good. So, I’ll let you know.
N: Okay, let’s see… can you give me an idea of how many people are involved with Cop Watch?
M: We probably have about fifteen people that are involved, some of them on a deeper level than others. People that are more committed probably about ten, but the others we can call on at any time to post flyers, to walk the streets, you know, they’re not saying that we can attend meeting but when you need us to do something, when you call us we come, then the number jumps up to about 20. So we’re hoping that if we can get that amount of people in each target area within that Weed and Seed jurisdiction, we’ll be doing really well.
N. Okay, can you give me any examples of what was going on that made you feel like there was a need for Cop Watch.
M: Oh, definitely. Last summer, I came out in front – my son was calling for me to come out front . What was happening was, they had some police officers who were on bike patrols and they were telling the kids, and by kids I mean teenagers, sixteen, seventeen years old, that they needed to search them and they needed to consent to being searched, because they were there representing the Weed and Seed office, and because they were there representing the Weed and Seed, we felt under certain guidelines and restrictions that didn’t apply to other citizens in the city of Harrisonburg – which we later found out to be not true. So when I came out and began to ask them about Weed and Seed, they couldn’t answer the questions that I was asking them, so I knew immediately that maybe they might have just been throwing that word around, you know, “We’re here for Weed and Seed, because of this we can search you.” You know, you’re just not allowed to walk up and search people for no reason, you know you can’t just demand that we do things like produce ID for no reason – so thinks like that was happening in the community. We had an incident that occurred last summer that was very troubling. We had some kids, about a block down, from where I live and I live on the 400 block of Kelly Street, who were jumping on the trampoline and they were being video taped by the cops. So, when they asked the cops why they were video taping them, they told them, “Well we have a half and hour before we get off and we’re bored, so we need something to do.” So the kids began to feel like they couldn’t go outside and do the things that they normally did because the cops were constantly stopping them and questioning them, “Do you know about this going on? Do you know whose selling drugs? Do you know this?” Just things that kids, you know, they don’t want to have to deal with, you know, and then we have a few complaints where normal police encounters moved over into that area where it was, you know, not very pleasant into the aggressive area. Just normal everyday interactions where you might have a conversation with them, and it just very easily got over into the point where people felt like they were harassing them because of the color of their skin. We’ve had people who have been driving up the street and have been stopped because of the type of car that they drive. The car, you know, the windows, you know, the car looks like a drug dealer’s car. You know, “Why would you stop on the street and say, you know, stop on the street for twenty seconds? What were you doing?” You know, just a lot of things that they said that, kind of just didn’t rub them the right way. So it was those type of things. A lot of police observing, that was one of the things I really had a problem with. You could stand outside at night and you could look over and you could see the police watching in night goggles. And then one time there was an incident where there was a fight, like, probably four or five blocks down the street. And everyone knew there was a fight or something going on. So when the police were called, they were in the area of the street where I live at, and they were questioning like younger kids. So I said, well, if you were called that there was a fight, say for instance in the 200 block of Kelly Street, shouldn’t you be at the 200 block of Kelly Street, instead of up here, asking, bothering the kids – “Oh were you in the fight? What do you know about the fight?” No, go down to where the complaint was at and deal with it there. So the residents who live there, feel like they’re being harassed because they live on this street. A lot of the activity that goes on in that area, you know, is brought there by people who don’t live there, who aren’t residents. And we feel like if they had cops who were in the area enough, who knew who the residents were – they would know who to target, but that relationship hasn’t been built. So when they come in, they’re treating us all as if, you know, we’re drug dealers or criminals, or up to no good, because they don’t know who the residents are and they don’t know who the people are that shouldn’t be there. So, one of the things that I ask, and they said they would do this once they got up to – staffing was adequate, you know, that we would see some of the same cops in the area, cops that would know I live here and this person lives here and if they see something, like, something suspicious, they would know that it’s not me, because I live here. I’m parked here because I’m unloading groceries, or whatever – so hopefully we’ll see that.
N: Okay, what were the people that were coming in from outside that area doing that…
M: A lot of it was just plain hanging out.
N: Oh, okay.
M: Yeah. Earlier, years ago, when we were younger and we didn’t have anything to do in the evening times, we went to Simm’s School. Simm’s School was run like the recreation department is run, so it was like a place to go in the evenings, kids who didn’t have anything to do – they didn’t have to hang out on the street. You could go inside, there was a full gym, there were video games, there was TV, get homework help, you could just hang out with your friends and just do whatever you wanted to do, but you had a place to go. We don’t have that anymore. They’ve just recently redone Simm’s, but it’s not… it’s not the same as what it was. So what we’re seeing is a lot of kids that are hanging out and congregating on corners, you know, some that live here, some of their friends. The ones that don’t live here, you know, over there, are congregating because they have no place else to go. But on the other hand, we also have some people that are over there that are, you know, that are doing things that they shouldn’t be doing. You know, we don’t want to try make them like there’s nothing at all going on over there – we know that there’s probably some drug activity going on, but we want the police to target that and not target the kids who have nothing to do because they’re bored and are just hanging out. So we’re kind of hoping that Simm’s will get to the point that it was when we were growing up. And that will be an avenue, we could have some different things in the afternoon. We were thinking about maybe some book clubs, you know, some different things, they could come there for homework help, SOL tutoring, just to get them off of the street… basketball leagues, you know, whatever. They could come in a play checkers, we don’t care. Just give them some place to go so that they’re not on the street, you know, possibly even watching activity that they shouldn’t be watching and getting [ideas] we want them off the streets. We have some place for them to go, that is kind of going to be – kind of going to be like, well you know, what are you guys staying in here – the remaining people, do you live here, no… Well, what are you doing? Then we’ll be able to say, this is what the problem is.
N: So, do you think that some of this profiling stuff could be part of the war on drugs just gone awry or…?
M: Yeah, that and then this increase with the gang activity in the area is another reason that they said they were patrolling a little bit more. They said that they’re having a lot of gangs coming down from Staunton who are coming to Harrisonburg looking for other gangs to kind of like tangle with and then they just kind of end up in certain areas of town… The thing with the War on Gangs and the War on Drugs and street violence and stuff like that, we know that those type of things have to exist, but what we’re saying that you can’t say that every drug deal or gang member lives within the three mile radius so, we’re going to patrol on this area of town ten times more than over here when probably there are more drugs being sold over here than over here. That’s what our commitment is, you know, it’s just like we just can’t justify why we would have to be subject to such intense police profiling when obviously six streets over, you know, this is where you need to be on Friday night, you know. So, we just want to make sure that they treat people fairly. We’re not saying that we don’t want them in the neighborhood. We’re not saying that there’s not anything going on in the neighborhood that shouldn’t be going on. We’re just saying that when you’re there you need to stay within the legal limits of the law, that you need to treat people fairly, not to harass, not to profile people. And the same things that were getting in this section of town, I’d like for you to do it also in a predominately white section of town.
N: Have you seen evidence or heard of a lot of gang activity in Harrisonburg recently?
M: I’ve heard, we’ve done a lot of stuff at schools with gang activities and training and stuff. I’ve seen an increase in the amount of students who claim to be in a gang. To me, it looks a lot like a lot of copy cat type gang stuff, you know, where they’re seeing stuff and hearing stuff. I know there is a definite rise in the number of Latino gangs here in the area. I’ve heard that a lot of minority black students and also white students are involved with gangs. There is more graffiti than there has been in Harrisonburg, a lot of tagging at Krogers, on different walls and buildings and stuff. So, I see where we are growing in that area. I don’t think that we have the problem that they have in California, but I think that with what they’ve done so far to deter that gang activity and the gang task force work that they’ve done, hopefully it won’t get any bigger than that. It won’t get any bigger than the couple of kids saying oh yeah, we’re going to form a gang. I don’t want to get to that point where we have drive-bys and stuff like that. I think they’ve got on it at a good time. We still probably will see that because kids will be kids. I’m hoping that it won’t reach the level that it was in other states.
N: What do you think is drawing kids into wanting to get involved in gangs?
M: What I’ve been hearing in schools, and this is Harrisonburg and Spotswood, most of them say that they just want to belong to something. You know, you’ve got to be accepted, what they’re doing is really cool so I want to be a part of what they’re doing. And a lot of kids, they don’t have the family structure that we had when we were growing up. Things have changed, you have parents that are working two jobs, working opposite shifts. They don’t have that sense of family, with a gang they get that sense of family. That seems like it couldn’t be so, because it seems that gangs concentrate on all of these violent activities but also there is this brotherhood, this bonding that goes on. A lot of kids that don’t have that, a lot of troubled kids will gravitate towards something of that nature. So, I’m just hoping that we can pull them back.
N: Do you think that maybe that has something to do with the sort of loss of community we were talking about earlier?
M: Definitely, definitely, another thing that I have noticed is that when we were younger, and I know this can’t happen forever, but when we were younger, if you saw, or if my neighbor saw me doing something while my mother was at work she would call me on it. She’d be like you’re not supposed to be doing that. You need to stop that right then and there and we’d be like, “Okay.” We’d get scolded immediately from her, but we were still going to get it from our parents because she was going to make sure she told them that we weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing. But now it’s like if you see a kid out there who’s doing something and you say something to them to try and deter them from doing that, the parents often times will get mad at you or want to fight with you about it and you’re like I’m just trying to help you. It’s because they don’t know each other. Everyone is more offensive and we don’t know who you are and I don’t know that you have my child’s best interest at heart. So we lost that as a community grows. We don’t know each other. So, we don’t feel safe in saying you need to stop that or I’m calling your mom at work.
N: Okay, let’s see, I think we’re about done… So, the current relationship between the police and the… residents of your area, the NE area, has that improved since Cop Watch? Or do you think that it’s heading in that direction? Have you seen anything yet?
M: I really feel like now that we’re on the streets and they know that we’re on the streets, and we’re really talking and communicating, I feel like I’m going to see less of that. And when they are in the neighborhood, and we’re in the neighborhood, they’re really conscious that we’re watching what they’re doing to make sure that they’re not infringing upon people’s rights. So, they’re real careful about how they approach a situation, and they do it by the book because they know if they don’t we are going to document it. And I know every now and then things get a little out of hand and they may have to act in a nature, you know, that’s a little beyond, and things happen, but if it’s a consistent pattern that occurs then there is a problem and I see in the future that it is getting to be where we want it to be.
N: You mentioned earlier that there were a few instances that because you’re very vocal [Monica laughs] you had a negative experience, could you talk a little bit about one of those?
M: You know, I’m very vocal and when I see something going on that’s wrong I let them know. And the cops’ll be like step back, step back. And I’m like I have a right to be here, and I’m going to tell them that they don’t have to consent to a search. You know, I’ve got into a couple of words back and forth with the cops, nothing where I’ve gone to jail. I just don’t think that they are used to people speaking out, and speaking out and knowing what they are talking about. It’s different than saying, “I don’t have to be searched, get off my property.” I’m telling them which amendment protects you and what they are and are not allowed to do. When they know that you know what the law is, they make sure they don’t step outside of it. So, you know, it gets a little wild there sometimes, but I don’t back down, I just go ahead and let them have it. I’m not disrespectful. I let them know that this is something that we are not going to tolerate.
N: And part of your outreach in Cop Watch is talking to people about their rights?
N: How often do you have those sessions?
M: We try to have a Know Your Rights training in English and in Spanish. We have a couple of bilingual people in our group. We try to do that probably about every two, three months. We’d do it more often if people would request it. We usually advertise through flyers and door to door and through the news and any avenues that you can get for free to let people know that we are having a training session. We try to have it in a neutral location, a church that people can walk to. We come in and do a lot of role-playing. We feed them while they’re there. We do a round table discussion. We do a contact list. We try to hand out materials including a Cop Watch pocket card. It’s a tri-fold card that tells you what your rights are, briefly discusses them, with lawyer contacts and our contact information on the back, a number to call in case they need us.
N: And you have a good turn out?
M: Yeah, we have a really good turn out. We’d like to see 150 people at each meeting, but we’ve been getting around twenty-five, thirty, people. It’s a nice turnout.
N: Okay, that’s significant in a small town.
N: What kind of effect has Cop Watch has had on your personal life? Do you feel like you are sort of overextending yourself?
M: No, no, no, no, no no! I’m very involved in a lot of different things, and am continuing to look for other avenues. I just feel like each of us has a certain amount that we need to give back to the community. We decide in what form we are going to give back. I have certain things that appeal to me, but when I begin to work with the group I want to make sure that not only that group is suited for me, but that I’m suited for that group. If I’m overextended or not able to meet the obligations of the group, or can’t go to meeting or whatever, I’m very quick to say this is one step too many. Or I will tell them what my level of involvement in the organization can be. Most groups will work with you. “Okay, if that’s what you can do, just put stamps on envelopes, we’ll take it.” So I don’t feel like it has overextended me in any way. I am a very, very friendly person and I know a lot of people in the community. And actually this group has really helped me to reach out to a lot of kids in the neighborhood. The kids feel real comfortable confiding in me and telling me things. I feel comfortable telling them what exactly I feel about what they just told me and what they need to do to get out of a situation or better a situation or where to go for help. Cop Watch has really opened a lot of doors for me. I really appreciate being in the group.
N: Okay, and what kind of reaction do you get from people when you first tell them what Cop Watch is about?
M: What’s funny is that when we say Cop Watch, they’re like Cop Watch?! I don’t know I guess they think we are watching for the cops. It was not a good thing and one of our concerns was when we first started we had a lot of people who didn’t live in the neighborhood, who were white and all of the interaction that they have had with white males, you know, hadn’t been a good one, a lot of people in the neighborhood. So, we were really afraid that they wouldn’t be accepting of some of the people in our group. When we first started out everywhere we went as a group. And I said to the community, “This is [names of members of Cop Watch]. They are members of Cop Watch, so if you see them in the community patrolling in the streets or watching, you know this is what they are doing.” I didn’t want them to think that they were like detectives or something. We worked a lot on that aspect. What’s so great about is that like two months ago I came home on a Sunday and my son goes are you having a meeting tonight? And I said no why? And he said I saw some of those Cop Watchers walking around. People in the neighborhood know who they are and they respect them for what they are doing and they really appreciate it. But it took them a while to get to know them. Now that they understand what Cop Watch is and they want to know more, but once they see us out in the street doing it, it means a whole lot more than telling them what it is. They get it now. They get it now.
N: Do you think that the organization itself has helped with the relationship between the different aspects of the Harrisonburg community?
M: Oh yeah, I can see a big difference. I think that it is important for people to see that just because we live in the northeast area, that is predominately minorities, that other people see that this is a problem. It’s not that just black people can help black people and only Hispanic people can help Hispanic people. It’s nice to see all of us coming together saying yes this is an issue. “No I have not been harassed. I don’t know what it feels like to be profiled because of the color of your skin or where you live, but I know that the problem exists and I don’t think it’s right so I’m here to offer my support. You know, to put an end to it.” A lot of people are becoming open to different types of people being in the community and really appreciating that other people see what the plight is. A lot of times we’re like we’re being harassed and no one gets it but us, but when you see other people come in, JMU students coming in saying, “Hey, this needs to stop,” you know I think it has opened up communication and improved relationships quite a bit.
N: And you have, I guess, student housing is moving out from JMU, more and more, I mean I’m going to be living on Elizabeth Street next year…
M: Yeah, that’s Weed and Seed, you’re going to be over there with me honey.
N: Yeah, I won’t be very far from you. What sort of impact has students moving out there had?
M: I don’t think it’s been anything bad but what I’ve noticed that I have a problem with is that a lot of the homes that are like, were single family homes are now college homes. You got five, six people living in there. I’m just like oh, it’d be really nice to see some kids running around. I don’t know if that’s just me. I don’t have a problem with the college kids. We haven’t had any that’s been like crazy wild parties like you would think. I hear people say that they have these wild parties. They’re very respectful, a lot are graduate students, they have to get their studies done. It’s a nice mixture in the community. I just don’t want to see all of the houses over there taken up by college kids. You guys just watch out. [Both laugh].
N: Do you have any closing, anything, that you wanted to say that you didn’t?
M: I would just say that I think your project is great, it sounds very interesting, it’s nice that people are still doing oral history projects.
N: I’m excited about it.
M: When I read that on your email I was like, “0h wow,” because oral history is everything.
N: Yeah, and just being able to do something in the community, I was getting sick of just reading textbooks, and just writing papers, it’s like what impact does that have on anything?
M: None, I mean we don’t want to read them so…
M: I mean they have their purpose but it’s still nice to be able to go out and talk to people and, you know, and get a feel for what it’s been like here, and that someone actually cares to talk about it is nice.
N: And do you have any ideas what you would like see done with this project?
M: And you are going to get a lot more interviews, right?
N: Uh huh.
M: I don’t know. I just think it would be nice to have it, like you said in your paper, filed at JMU and if people are doing the history of Harrisonburg, to be able to pull from that. Like you said if you wanted to do documentaries. It just seems like there is a lot of things you can do with it. But I would be open for anything as long as it is something that helps with the community or gets people to understand more about our community or want to be a part of our community. I think anything that you choose to do with it would be fine.
N: This just occurred to me today. But do you think putting it here in the archives at Massanutten..
M: That would be excellent. We already have our Cop Watch survey on file here. And when I was at JMU doing some history research I used this library a lot. And there are a lot of people who come here for documentaries who are looking for people to interview. And they might find something like this and try and get in touch with you and use your sources. I think that would be an excellent idea.
N: Well thank you very much.
M: You’re welcome.