|All interviews were taped and documented. They are available through the Reference Department of the Teaneck Public Library. The Library is not responsible for the accuracy of the statements nor does it necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.|
|NARRATOR:||Dr. Edward F. Carpenter|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||September 9, 1985|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (12/1985)|
(I) Good afternoon Dr. Carpenter. You will be narrating and giving us facts about Teaneck from 1965 to the present date.
(N) Good afternoon. My family and I moved to Teaneck in 1965, the fall, and of course we came because of the publicity of its excellent schools, its very serious attempt at integrating the community and making is holistic and because, frankly, we had friends here who were very happy. When we came to Teaneck, we also wanted to have an opportunity for our daughter, Karen, to attend what was then known as some of the best schools in what we call northeastern United States.
We came here and immediately became involved in organizational and community work. For example, there was a group formed that was called the North East Community Organization (NECO) and the purpose of this organization was for a group of residents who were part of the four quadrants that Teaneck was divided into, north, south, east and west, the north-east part to get together for the purpose of keeping the community viable, knowing the people in the community, articulating with our city fathers, seeing that our children knew each other and got along well and I guess keep that rosiness of an integrated community that we wanted at the time. So it was a mixture of black and white citizens of Teaneck, New Jersey.
We did several things, for example, we were able to always avert that vicious tactic which is called blockbusting or the illegal steering away of one person to a community by an unscrupulous realtor or the I would say libelous statement that it was all going to be all black, all white, all Chinese, etc. Because of our active efforts, we were able to avoid that type of stampede. And some of our more famous citizens today were a part of that community. Mrs. Ann Mesereau of our school board, our mayor Mr. Bernard Brooks, the late Dr. Cope, Archie Lacey and Thomas Boyd and people of that type were involved with it along with, believe it or not, such people as the wife of the deputy mayor and also Miss Rita Hall was very active with the Urban League to name a few.
I became particularly interested in the youth in the area and along with several other people, we devised a scholarship informational board which was obtained through the efforts of everybody in the Northeast Community Organization (NECO) as well as our friends who didn't live in the area by giving us the names of unknown scholarship sources, this book became a thesaurus for young people who wanted to get scholarship help because as you know, when you move into a "middle class" or "upper middle class" mobile community, it is more difficult for people to get scholarships although I would consider them to be mortgaged poor along with myself.
It wasn't long after we had moved into Teaneck that I was put on other committees such as the Health Committee with (unclear) Wilkus who was director, through Dr. Somotus and its purpose of course was to act as advisory to the Health Department interns of those programs which would affect others, affect senior citizens, etc.
In 1966, we discovered that you had a wonderful BAHI community here which was located on Alicia Avenues and Forest Avenues in Teaneck and not being particularly affiliated with any orthodox religion, we explored this possibility and after attending several of the meetings, we became BAHIS. We are still today. My family. And I think the reason that we embraced this particular religion was because they openly put in their literature and the public view, their principles and one of the principles that was important to me was that as stated, "there will be no differences between races". That impressed me very greatly because although I'd seen a great deal and heard a great deal in terms of lip service from other sources, I'd never seen it in writing as a part of a religious movement. And this was not just started now. This was started in 1844 in a place called Persia which we know now as Iran having all of that trouble with the Homani. My wife was impressed with the principle of there will be equality among the sexes. Being a feminist at the time, I suppose this impressed her and for my daughter, we were concerned with this part, that the earth would be one country and all men its citizens and we wanted her to live in a universal world. And we thought that was a very important movement within the township and shall we say the nation and we became involved with that.
Later, I became very much interested in a volunteer paper which was called THE TORCHBEARER under the leadership or aegis of the late Dr. Walter Taylor. THE TORCHBEARER was a rather, I'd say, significant name and it was developed in order to bring information and thereby light to the eyes of Bergen County concerning incidents which affected minority citizens, the poorer elements of Bergen County who were not making large salaries, the aged which is growing in number and to focus on that type of information which would inspire the citizenry to become aware, become involved in problems that would affect us for one. We noticed that in Bergen County, people over 55 are leaving more than people under 55. And the reason is obvious. Their children are grown, the expensive taxation is typical and perhaps they want to move to a warmer clime, perhaps. Yet on the other hand, we are getting in younger people with children and they don't give us leadership roots that we need right away and we seem to be getting more of a younger population and I have no cry against young people but I think in order for a community or society to be viable, it has to have a representative from all age levels and I also feel that they should have the aged, I believe in veneration of the aged because they have so much to give to us.
The newspaper had all volunteers. There was not one paid or salaried person. We were housed in Englewood. We developed a rather large subscription I'd say, over 2,000 and we were published every week and we attracted the attention of more stable newspapers who in turn began to give us a certain amount of technical assistance such as THE RECORD and THE SUBURBANITE, etc. This was another venture where you had people of Englewood, Teaneck coming together for what purpose? To do something that would produce a paper that would not be involved with yellow journalism so to speak, that would try to be honest, that would try to be direct and because of the fact that we were not, I would say, connected directly to any particular money source, we were independent. That was exciting.
(I) Excuse me a moment. Here we'd like to establish the year that the paper came into existence.
(N) THE TORCHBEARER was created I would say in the basement of Galilee Church in Englewood in the fall of 1979 and it kept :its doors alive until the fall of 1983 you would say when many of us were no longer with them but the paper was still running. It was later then taken over by some private people and with the death of the first founder and editor, Dr. Walter Taylor, many of us who were still on the board of trustees saw that the paper could use a different name and they no longer use the name of THE TORCHBEARER.
As you recall in the 60s, it was turbulent, it was exciting, it was the era of the so called civil rights movement with Dr. King (inaudible) passive resistance. It also came to Teaneck. It had an interesting effect upon the black youth of Teaneck particularly in the northeast community. Not all of them became involved structurally or formally with the movement but they certainly became, I would say, affected and enamored with the utterances of a Stokley Carmichael then, a minister Malcolm X and the more you would say aggressive leadership than those of the Roy Wilkens and the Eugene Calendars, etc. that we ordinarily would look at The NAACP and the Urban League.
However, there was not the problem of serious dope addiction that we have today in the 80s but there was a very serious problem with students who were very bright leaving school before they should - the dropout problem. within the Teaneck community, now I believe he is a Lieut. Green but at that time he was a Sergeant Green with the Police Department working with the Youth Department. He got a storefront on Teaneck Road and West Forest Avenue and I don't really know how he did it because he didn't have that much money and the town didn't fund him that much but soon you saw a number of young black people going there, working on this shop and many of us wondered what they were doing. If you were to go into this store, you soon discovered that they had put in a central recycling fountain, all sorts of objects that many of them somehow or another had gotten from homes or families, etc., legally which were African artifacts, etc. and they had a beautiful sign up there and they called it PIECES OF EIGHT. I never knew the symbolic significance of the Pieces of Eight. I don't know whether it was related to the pirates or whatnot, etc. but it seemed to have some sort of spiritual significance with these young people and they would gather and after Sgt. Green at the time would speak with them about social behavior, positive behavior, remaining in school, etc. They would have outside speakers come in, outside artists who would teach them the African movement in dance, Swahili, this I think is very interesting because these were the children of parents who had in a sense come from the city and who were upward mobile professional people and who live in split levels and had high and many degrees, artists, etc. and their children was going in a different social direction but thanks to Sgt. Green, as far as Teaneck was concerned, he was able to save a great deal and push them in a more positive direction.
I came into play then because at that time, 1967, I was made the headmaster of an experimental school or alternative school called HARLEM PREP. It was the first of its kind and unlike the Freedom School in the south or the Freedom School which was developed by Jonathan Colzer in Roxbury, Massachusetts, this was a school whose sole purpose was to place students who had dropped out of high school into colleges and universities throughout the United States and the world.
The reason I mention it in the context of Teaneck is that many of the young people who felt that they were not doing well in the Teaneck High School system for whatever reason came to HARLEM PREP and I don't want to call them by names because perhaps they might find it embarrassing but it is interesting to say that several of them have moved back now to Teaneck, some with their parents, some are married, we have one young man who was with the United Appeals; we have another man whose a famous jazz musician and playing with one of our top bands in the nation. You have another one who is a lawyer and practicing in Hackensack although he lives in Teaneck. One might say why would they go across the river to New York City to Harlem, per se, to go to a school like HARLEM PREP when they live in Teaneck. I think it was because of the similar spirit that they saw expressed in this little group called the PIECES OF EIGHT. At a HARLEM PREP, the logo was, "UMOJO UNDUGO" which I learned later because I certainly do not speak Swahili, meant UNITY AND BROTHERHOOD and I developed the school where there was a great deal of input from faculty, from students, from parents, from community because that was the time in the 60s when people were feeling, were asking and demanding to be involved in decision making. I found that very easy to do and the school in terms of the structural or educational model followed that principle and that's why the youngsters from Teaneck came and fared well I would say. And that was part of the excitement of the connectiveness I would say of Teaneck with other parts of the northeast and making it once again a viable base of operation.
(I) Thank you Dr. Carpenter.
(N) There is one incident that still effects America I believe and it effects all of us, white and black, and that was a (inaudible) of the late Dr. Luther King, Jr. in the late and turbulent 60s.
The reason I mentioned it is because specific things happened in Teaneck at that time and during the following night after the bullets were fired into him. For example, the township fathers immediately rallied together and stated and made public that there would be a memorial service held at the Teaneck High School and that we would come there to more or less hold each other's hand and say, take my coward's hand and let's try to go on together. In New York City, it had a profound effect because my school, HARLEM PREP, was also involved and they were right in the center where rioting had taken place in Harlem when the news blasted forth from the microphones and the public address systems that Dr. King had been assassinated in Tennessee.
As I said before in this tape, we had many students from Teaneck attending HARLEM PREP but what we did was this - we came back to Teaneck, many of them went over to PIECES OF EIGHT, they were cheerful, they were emotional, they were bitter, they were quiet, they ran in teams of I would say depression but all of them, to a young man and to a young lady, came to Teaneck High school that night in order to give a more formal and public, you might say, expression of this deep hurt that they felt for Dr. King and this feeling of where were we going and what's going to happen if that could happen to him.
As a BAHI, I said, things seem to tie in so very neatly. Robert Hayden, who was then poet laureate and was at that time a consultant for the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and the professor at the University of Michigan was visiting Teaneck to speak to the BAHIs and we were going to have a meeting that night but we certainly couldn't have a meeting that night with the affair going on at Teaneck High School in the late 60s, spring of the late 60s. We called the program people at Teaneck High School to inform them that Robert Hayden, poet laureate, was a personal friend of Dr. King and he had written a poem for him and would they want him to appear on the program. They said not only would he appear on the program, he was the program. So amidst all of the pain, here was a man who came, like Dr. King, full with love and read his beautiful poem, BROTHER KING. Not only did he bring tears to the eyes of the audience but I think he dissolved the anger and the hostility of so many of us who were sitting in that audience because we were enraged and incensed. Those young people that I spoke of that lived in Teaneck who were part of Sgt. Green's group of people, that were members of the HARLEM PREP student body were there, acting as unofficial ushers, seating people, working peaceably. I think that is important.
(END OF TAPE)