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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lawrence Ridgle, June 9, 1999. Interview K-0144. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of the church and politics in community building

Ridgle argues that the two key components for rebuilding the community in Durham would be the church and politics. Arguing that both were ultimately failing in terms of promoting community interests, Ridgle explains that he believes leading by example was the best chance for these institutions to benefit the community.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lawrence Ridgle, June 9, 1999. Interview K-0144. 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:
What would you think would be the way that communities could get back some more of what you're talking about? And I think we should wrap with that. Or if there's some other way in which you think communities could rebuild.
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
Ain't but two ways that they can build. Through the church. The church is first. And especially with black people. See all my life—like when we were [unclear] being oppressed by the whites on every side, my mama used to tell me to pray for them. Don't be angry with them, pray for them. And you've got some young rebels who say we're still on our knees too much. But the church asks us to forgive, you know. Things like, don't let the sun go down and come up until you try to reconcile with your adversary. Wait until the cool of the evening. Wait for a cooling off period then go back to them. And this is the kind of thing the church used to teach. There's not enough—the youth programs today in the church ain't what they used to be. When I was a kid we used to have a little group called the BYP. I forgot what those initials stand for, but it was something about the young people, some Bible group for young people or something. It was a must that you had to go to every Sunday. And the church [unclear] but doing the right thing, you know. And they don't do a lot of that now. They try to out dress each other with beautiful gowns and robes. And they're going to go to Niagra Falls. They want to go to Disneyworld. A whole lot of trips and things like that. And the community is dying. And they're going on excursions. The pastor doesn't even know half of the people that live over there. Hasn't even seen them. I've been—and my sister is a trustee up there. I went up to see him and he said, "Where do you live?" I said, "Right down there in that old house down there. I've been there since 1935. You haven't been down there?" Ministers used to visit and get to know the people in the community. They don't do that now. They're too busy sitting up in church all day. He goes in his office at eight thirty or nine o'clock. I don't know if he's there until four. He's supposed to be. What is he doing? He should be out in the community talking to people, [unclear] to people, giving good advice. My pastor, he talks just like a slick guy. The first time he spoke to me that was the first thing I told my sister. I said, "He sound like somebody in the streets." She was talking about how he was trying to identify with the guys in the street. I said, "He doesn't need to identify with them. He needs to set an example for them."
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
So the church is one way, you were saying. What's the other way?
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
Our courts.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
So the political system?
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
They've failed us. They let us see too much. Even our presidents, even our statesmen and stuff, their hands get caught too much in the cookie jar. I wish they'd have never had a Watergate. Then we learned how sorry the government is. And people in high places that allow themselves to be caught doing things that aren't conducive to their job, people say, "Well they ain't nothing." If our mother and father go one way and see they drink liquor. [unclear] I drink liquor, too.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
So examples get set.
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
Right.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
Yeah.
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
The trendsetters, the people who are supposed to set the trends, they ain't nothing. You've got police departments that got these young kids. And I know when a man commits a crime they need to be punished, you know. But he should be punished with dignity.