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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julia Peaks de-Heer, January 8, 1999. Interview K-0146. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Impact of rapidly growing Latino population

de-Heer situates the growing Latino population within broader changes in the Hopkins Street community in Durham, North Carolina, in the 1980s and 1990s. According to de-Heer, little effort had been made at that point to more fully incorporate Latinos into the larger community, but she believes it to be the responsibility of church groups to work towards bringing different groups of people together. In addition, she describes some of the different kinds of work her church did to help disadvantaged people living in the community.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julia Peaks de-Heer, January 8, 1999. Interview K-0146. 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

JILL HEMMING:
Now tell me about the changes in the neighborhood as a large number of Latinos have moved in.
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Oh boy. Oh. Well, it seems that whatever, all the trash. All the anything—they bring in, bring it in. Old wrecked cars. Old trash sitting out in the front of the yard. Broken bottles. I don't care. This is not mine. I'm just here visiting and I don't care what happened. It is really awful. It is really awful. There has to be a limit of how far, how much a neighborhood is supposed to accept, regardless of where. You want to be a good neighbor and love one another, and that's true. But they have to respect the neighborhood. It has to start here. Just because this one throws something on the ground doesn't mean that you have to do it. Say, "Hey, could you pick that up, please? Because we are trying to keep this neighborhood together." You don't have to just trash everything and just throw it and feel that it is all right, it's okay. And that's very unfair to the neighborhood. It's very unfair for them to be able to come and do this and get away with just piling—all of this brings mice, whatever, all kinds of junk. I don't think it is fair to the neighborhood because a lot of the trash that we had to get rid of raking, and bagging up is from there. They should be made to do this themselves. You put it here, you should clean it up.
JILL HEMMING:
Tell me the about the children.
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
All the children running up and down the street. It's a tear-jerker. It's really sad because the children are running around with no clothes, no shoes or anything. The church, we have soup kitchen once a week and a clothes drive, a clothes give-away to try to help some of the parents with the children, to feed. And I'm not sure whether they are going to school, and if they are, how they are looking. It is just too much over there.
JILL HEMMING:
Do you have a fair amount of Latino kids who come over for your clothes drives and soup kitchen?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Yes. We don't have any trouble with the food, saving any food, because we let them know and they come and get their food and little bags of clothes. Some of them have gotten boxes of shoes and clothes or bikes or whatever for the children. It's not just limited to the neighborhood, to help every one, but in turn everyone should help us try to keep the neighborhood together also.
JILL HEMMING:
How are interactions between people in the church when the Latinos come in?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Well, actually, people pretty much accept them. Pretty much so. As well as they know how, I guess. I believe they accept them pretty good, some of them. If you weigh it, I really don't know which way the scale would tip. But I believe that's everywhere, because when people are not ready to accept change, they are going to think they way that they want to think or they feel at that time. Even going to church they do have their little ways or thoughts. If they wasn't here I've heard that. But that don't stop, you're supposed to love your sisters and brothers. Like everybody is supposed to love one another. So we have to think about that, especially being part of the church. You just can't say I love mine and not love yours. What is that showing. God is love. He loves everybody.
JILL HEMMING:
Now the neighborhood had declined before they ever moved in?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Yes. Yes.
JILL HEMMING:
They just moved into that was already—
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
—that was already, yes.
JILL HEMMING:
Everybody has got to, if it's going to work out, everybody still has got to live there together. How do you think things can improve, or what do you think needs to happen?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
You know what, actually I believe, and I will stand on this, if they see people doing things to bring the neighborhood up, I actually believe that they will contribute also. It is just not, like I'm just doing this. Yes, I believe that everybody would come together. It would be a unity there. Because they see. Well, I'll help. Yes. I believe once we get started, full blast. Yes, there would be unity. And who knows, they'll probably go to one of the churches.
JILL HEMMING:
Do you think that, really, that they are such newcomers many of them have even had the opportunity to be part of the neighborhood association, or be part of a congregation that is working to clean things up. None of them have really—
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
No, no. The only time really, when we had that march in September. They came down and we had an interpreter. They were there. So, yes. You're right, bringing that in front. Because no one has really tried to relate. So they are just going with the flow of what is happening on Hopkins Street, really, at this time. This would be the first time except last fall. And it was a tremendous turnout, not just from Hopkins Street, but a tremendous turnout of different cultures.
JILL HEMMING:
How do you think that happened? How did that come to be there was such good involvement?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Well, good organization.
JILL HEMMING:
Who were the other folks involved to bring people out?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
We had Larissa Sibel, Terry Allebaugh. Larissa got some flyers. And we distributed flyers concerning it. And we she had an interpreter, someone who made sure that it was known that someone would be there to interpret. This is why the turnout, because it was advertised. And, of course, Barbara was going up and down the street to let them know, come to our march. Good organization.
JILL HEMMING:
Let's keep talking about the adult leaders that you remember in your neighborhood growing up. How can the neighborhood run well? Do you think your church could be a part of the process of educating the Latino newcomers on how to be part of the civic pride and community?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
You know what, really, yes. I'm not sure everyone. We had two members that spoke Spanish. The only thing we would need someone to interpret. I'm sure one went out. Well, they have their own ministry now. But I'm sure, if we get the right resources and show ourselves friendly, that a great response will. Because, one day, let me tell you something that happened. I had car trouble, and people were passing by, and it was, they didn't hardly speak English, but they knew that I was in distress and stopped and helped. And I tried to pay, and they said no. So, if you show yourself friendly, you'll get a friend. But if you show yourself otherwise—so yes, the church, that's the responsibility of the church, I feel, is to reach out to all people.