NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 78

The Workshop in Riverside si: How did you become involved in attempting to organize a branch of the Watts Writers Workshop in Riverside? kd: It was through the Watts Writers Workshop; actually, it was the Douglass House Foundation, an offshoot of the Workshop, through Talmadge Spratt and the Douglass Foundation. They were trying to open a branch of the Workshop in Riverside. They sent this nineteen year-old poet to go down there and do it. With the help of George Quant, we had acquired a storefront on Park Avenue. They made it sound like I was going to get some kind of salary doing this, but they ended up attaching me to Riverside City College. The pay that they were talking about was pretty much a Pell or some kind of grant that they give students. 76 For a while me and George Quant were sharing a space together and were trying to develop this space on Park Avenue. I was also taking classes at Riverside City College. Then because I was involved with the Ark, and George Quant was actually from Riverside and he knew that community well, had family there, he helped steer Horace Tapscott and the Arkestra out there to do stuff. It was really about spreading the Black Arts Movement. So, we had a relationship with City College. We had a relationship with the University of California at Riverside. There was another guy, who was out there already. His name was Toby Hopkins. Toby was from the Watts Writers Workshop as well, and he ended up teaching at both places. si: Promising beginning? kd: It never really came to fruition. The main block on Park Avenue was classic. There was a bar-be-cue joint, a barber shop, beauty salon, pool hall, liquor store, probably two churches, and a Panther office, all on this little block. It was classic. And there were some really, really deep characters out there. Man, it was crazy. We had some crazy experiences. si: What were some of the crazy experiences? kd: There was this personality in Riverside; his name was Leander. Leander was a very muscular man. His two front teeth were gone. He was bald-headed. He looked like Mister Clean, literally. He played hand drums. He didn’t play professionally or anything; he was just a community figure. One day, I don’t know how, Leander got in my Volkswagen. I’m sitting in the car, and I’m kind of scared of Leander because he’s a little off. He says, “You have to deal with him!” And I say, “Who?” He grabbed my rearview mirror, turned it towards himself, looked directly in it, “Him!” He’s so forceful in what he’s saying, and then he turned the rearview mirror towards me, so I could see myself, and he says, “You have to deal with him! Him!” I’m nineteen years old, and I’m looking at myself in the mirror, and here’s this big, strong, crazy ass man. And I’m trying to put it together. That was kind of deep for me at the time. Then he said, “You go down the road, and there are some people that don’t eat the cow. The cow is sacred.” He said, “You go down the road, and there are some people that eat nothing but vegetables. And then you go farther down the road, there’s a ninety-year-old woman that drinks whiskey and smokes cigarettes every day. All things are good, if taken with thanksgiving.” I remember one day, Leander came out of this bar, and we were on the streets, me and this guy named Bobo. He came out and had this Latino woman with him. He had her up in the air and threw her, but he didn’t let go of her hair. Bobo’s running around, laughing at the situation. And Leander turned around and looked at him and ran after him, around my Volkswagen. He’s drunk. Bobo is like a heroin addict. Just drama, and how insightful this man could be on one tip, and how mad he was on another tip. Just community stuff that happens every day in the world. I stayed at this guy Hoxie’s house. I didn’t know he was from Riverside, but we actually went to the same high school. But he was out in Riverside and his whole family was in Riverside. You got up in the morning, and the shower didn’t have hot water, because the hot water was cut off. So, you had to take these cold ass showers in the morning. It’s like when you’re a kid, and you’re kind of moving around. You’re crashing over here, and you’re crashing over there. I’m nineteen years old, and I’m supposed to be starting a branch of the Watts Writers Workshop. It was what it was, but it was interesting.