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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martina Dunford, February 18, 1999. Interview K-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Developing a rapport between African American and Latino populations

Dunford continues to discuss some of the cultural differences that were complicating community coherence in Edgemont during the 1990s with the rapid growth of the Latino population. In stressing the importance of developing a rapport between seemingly disparate groups as the first step towards achieving community solidarity, Dunford points to some of the tensions that were making it difficult to bridge some of those gaps at that time.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martina Dunford, February 18, 1999. Interview K-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALICIA ROUVEROL:
And that's some of what I was talking with George Koontz about—this whole thing. How do you start to build links where you have cultural difference? Where you have language difference and that kind of thing? I wonder as you think about Edgemont Community Center and sort of what it's trying to do, how do you see the possibility for building connections there?
MARTINA DUNFORD:
Well, I think a lot of what Jackie is doing—there's an African American woman that has established a rapport with a Hispanic or Latino woman. More of that is going to have to happen, so that if we decide to have a community cross-cultural event—and a lot of places have food things where we introduce you to our foods and back and forth—where they'll start to mingle and pull people together, in addition to inviting them to the table; inviting them to projects and programs to be a part of it so that they can reach their people and bring them in. Rapport is always the first thing, because people are not trustworthy nowadays. This is the '90s. Before, you could probably go up to somebody and they would say—you have to establish a friendship sort of thing where they'll feel comfortable with what you are saying to them. And we don't trust them no more than they trust us. You're talking about a whole different culture that you want me to trust myself with. No, no, no, no. That's taking me out of my comfort zone first of all, and then you are asking me to do something I don't understand because I don't speak Spanish. That's different. To bridge those gaps is going to have to take people like Jackie and Mrs. Perez and—pockets of people—who are starting to meet each other and greet each other and keep up, be friends and invite them to different cultural events. And then they'll bring their children, and their cousins and their friends to an event because they know it's something that they need, and then you start interacting that way. It's going to be a process, and it's going to take a while because neither culture trusts each other. And that's just because over time it's been just us—just been the African American community, and now here comes this whole wave of people.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
Have you noticed these changes in the community over this nine year period?
MARTINA DUNFORD:
Well, the people themselves don't know because they don't really interact with the Hispanic community. But I've heard laws and views and things. Some of the things for instance, like granting them opportunities—more opportunities or better opportunities than the African American people have been able to—go into a bank and say Well, I've been, I need a loan. But because you're from a foreign country and there's certain rules and regulations that govern certain things about you—who you are—you are entitled. There are certain rights and entitlements to you. Now when we did it, it was fine for a period of time. And then all of a sudden it became, Well this is discriminating and you can't do that. And there were no provisions made for the African American community. Now we have to learn a second language because these people are here. I mean they're here. I speak to them as these people because I'm just saying generally we have to learn a second language in order to communicate. Ebonics is a language all of itself, but you're out of you mind or you're just stupid or whatever if you speak in a certain manner. None of this was taken into account. The European community needs to understand and adapt to some of the culture of the African American community. But still, when the Hispanic community showed up, okay. We've got to make a change here, and we've got to make a change. And some new things have got to happen because of this population of people.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
So have people felt that there were preferences—
MARTINA DUNFORD:
Yes.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
—Given to Latino residents that weren't given to African Americans? What are the other issues that come up for people in the community like Few Gardens and Edgemont generally—the long time residents? What are the, like you've mentioned preferences; you've—I'm just trying to think. Are there other issues that have come to the fore that have been expressed to you personally about the presence of Latino culture here?
MARTINA DUNFORD:
Well, just the work factor. They're getting the jobs. They're getting the jobs. I mean, like I said before, there are issues with that. Yes there are, and we could get those same jobs if those were the jobs that we chose to go after. But because we know that—we've been in the trenches for so long we don't want to stay there. It's time to grow. They don't expect us to grow; they expect us to stay in that same rut that we've always been in. If I'm due certain rights and opportunities I want them, and I don't want to settle for anything less. The older people in the community are really like, They come in, they get all the jobs. They get all the opportunities and what not. And what about us? We had to struggle so long to just get to where we are to this point, and still we'll walk in and be denied because of skin color or even limitations of funds. They don't have any money per se. But because they are who they are, they are getting opportunities. There are certain rules and regulations that will help them get what they need.