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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Diane English, May 19, 2006. Interview U-0183. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

English's involvement with neighborhood activism

English describes her neighborhood activism. She explains how she discovered the neighborhood association after the group's participants called the police on her. She then joined the group and helped form a neighborhood crime watch program, in partnership with the police department. English describes how she learned to sustain neighborhood activism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Diane English, May 19, 2006. Interview U-0183. 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

DIANE ENGLISH:
After the police department raided my house. It really pissed me—excuse the language. It really irritated me because the association people were the people who sent them to my house. I didn't know there was such things as an association. Nobody informed me. Nobody went to the meetings that I knew of. They would always ride past here and they would see me in the yard. I asked them one day. When do you all have meetings and whatever? We have them blah, blah, blah but anybody can't come at that particular time. I'm like okay, whatever. They didn't know me. They used to think it was a bunch of girls live here. It was me and my two daughters. They would always see me in my yard. I would always be in the yard messing with flowers or something in the yard. That just really irritated me when the police raided my house for no reason. Then on top of that they didn't raid my house. They had this guy's name on a warrant. They were calling him my sons which they know I don't have sons. I have two daughters. They kept saying we want your sons. We want your sons. I'm like I don't have any sons. That really irritated me. I started going to these community meetings with my uniform on. It really—It's like everybody—. It threw a wrench in their mouths or whatever. When I would walk in they would go—. They used to talk about my house all the time in the meeting, so I heard. This was all they talked about was Kennon Street, 1401 Kennon Street. When I would walk in the police officers' mouth would be. Then the ladies—. I used to get a kick out of there just to see what they talking about. Then everybody stopped talking. I'm like, okay you all have a nice day. Then from there I went to—. If you're not going to do anything about the crime, the least we can do—. I formed a crime watch program.
SARAH THUESEN:
On this street or the neighborhood in general?
DIANE ENGLISH:
The neighborhood. That was in 2000.
SARAH THUESEN:
How did you go about that? Did you knock on doors?
DIANE ENGLISH:
We had to go through the police departments program they have where you can get the training to start it. They come out and show you how to set up the community watch, tell you what you have to do. We had to go street to street. We had to get eighty percent of signatures. Then we had to have the police officers go with us to knock on these peoples' doors because that was a rule. I think it was to irritate the people that was living in the houses. It really made us stick out like sore thumbs, you know, with the police, walking with the police officer. We got 433 signatures. It took us—. We started in November of '99, I believe, during the holidays and stuff but we finished it up. We started it. We used to have monthly meetings. Our association at that time was running on two people which they never involved nobody. I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know how it functioned. I wanted to know how everything about the neighborhood became how it is. I was really irritated because people living in a neighborhood and it so run down. That's what really irritated me. Why don't y'all do something? Why don't you all do this? Why can't you find something to do? Why can't you make somebody come in and help you clean the neighborhood up? Why do we have to hide behind our doors for gunfire? Why can't we sit on our porches when it get dark? We should be able to do these things. Our kids should be able to play without seeing people getting shot to death and stuff of that nature. The crime watch was a start.
SARAH THUESEN:
In the process of doing the crime watch you must have talked with a lot of residents.
DIANE ENGLISH:
A lot of people.
SARAH THUESEN:
Did you get a better sense than you had before of what some of their concerns and needs were?
DIANE ENGLISH:
Yeah. It was—. Well, I still do. They are afraid. A lot of them were afraid because you call the police and they don't come. You call the police and then they come to your house. This was mainly what I was hearing. The police would come and knock on the door and let the drug house right next door—. You call the police on them they go and bang on the drug house and then they come over and talk to you which would actually make the people feel unsafe. It was a lot of concerns. A lot of people really want—had a lot—. We had a lot going on back then. People was coming to the crime watch meeting. Our association wasn't really functioning at that time. Basically we would have crime watch with all these people every month. I would have to come up—. I would have to learn how to actually do it. I had never done it before. We had a person at neighborhood development named Jennifer Price. She's not there anymore. She left. She basically taught me everything I needed to know as far as doing active work in a neighborhood; how to perform certain duties, how to set up your by-laws. She didn't actually do it. She would refer me to books to read and place where I could go and meet people and talk to them. I started going to community meetings in other neighborhoods and downtown city [unclear] , city council. After I had to go to city council—. I had to go to city council first of all to get my house off the demolishing order. That was my first time ever hearing about city council, well being at city council. Myself and Mrs. Perry had to go before city council and actually ask for them not to tear our house down. That was my first big speech.