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WYSO, the Dayton Metro Library and local social service agency, Rebuilding Together Dayton, have come together for a very special project. We’ve gathered the memories and wise words of Dayton’s elders for Senior Voices, a new series that is airing throughout 2018.Along with Dayton Metro Library staff, we trained nearly three dozen area residents to use digital recording equipment to interview local elders. Interviews took place at branch libraries, at selected Lobby Stop locations (Lobby Stop is a sort of book mobile for seniors), community centers, and in the homes of seniors who participated in the Rebuilding Together Dayton Fixit Kit program.We held three trainings at the DML Northwest branch this summer, and shortly after the new main branch opened in August, the volunteers began gathering stories. The full interviews will be accessible for generations to come at the Dayton Metro Library. At WYSO, Community Voices producers have been editing the interviews for broadcast. We present them to you in honor of the life experiences and wisdom of Dayton elders.This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.Jocelyn Robinson coordinated this series for WYSO. Janine Kinnison is the Project Liaison for Dayton Metro Library.Editors include: Dave Barber, William Brown, Tess Cortes, Patti Gehred, Javis Heberling, Kateri Kosta, Zebedee Reichert, Jason Reynolds, David Seitz, Alan Staiger, Chris Welter. Interviewers include: Dana Kragick, Tess Cortes, Anna Omulo, Doug Bowers, Hadley Drodge, M. Alice Callier, Barbra Gerla, Jason Coatney Schuler, Linda Pitzer, Carol Jackson, Audrey Ingram, Susan Brenner, Nancy Messer, Christian Davell, Ken Standifer, Liz Anderson, Cynthia Wallace-King, Karen Maner, David Murphy Sr., Cynthia Rush, Alan Stagier, Debra Root, Pamela Waltrip, Jennifer Hicks, Brandon Ulman, Karah Power    

Senior Voices: Amatul Shafeek

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This week on Senior Voices, Amatul Shafeek remembers the vibrant west Dayton community of the 1950s and 60s. She grew up in Sacramento, California, but spent summers with her grandmother in Dayton before moving here as a young adult. Amatul spoke with Dayton Metro Library volunteer interviewer, Carol Jackson.

Transcription:

Amatul Shafeek (AS): Let’s go [to] the Fifth Street district, the West Fifth Street district, because that was the area of commerce. We had different clubs, like the Swat club. The Swat Club was for Black professionals, that’s where the hub was, where everybody mingled. My uncle, he was one of the co-founders of that club, and then Wesley Allen also had a barbershop and he ran the barbershop business around the city of Dayton. His property was also located on Fifth Street. My great aunty ran the kitchen for the YMCA down there on Fifth Street, and you also had the Palace and some different places that we would go, and all I saw was professional people, or people just moving, moving forward, you know, it was just busy with that kind of energy. So West Dayton, to me, was a place that felt, that I felt at home in.

Carol Jackson (CJ): It sounded like it was very alive, very culturally alive…

AS: Oh, my goodness, it was. People took pride in their property, in how they presented themselves, how they spoke, you know, I remember tipping hats to ladies, I remember that. I remember us having a block clubs, where each one would try and out do the next block, and it was just fantastic the way we did things, of course, we had you know, I didn’t realize this until I got older, but, the kitchen table was the place that we worked out our problems. And I didn’t realize that for years, and now I’m part of a group called Kitchen Theater where we read Black playwrights, but then it was reading the community, reading the interests of the community. So…

CJ: What period, what history, what dates would you give to this experience you had in Dayton?

AS:  Ok, my experience would have been during the 1960s, like later 60s, like 69, but they were having these table talks long before that period. And you have to also understand that on the West Third Street and West Fifth Street district, it was a proud moment to see us holding our own, ok?

Now we have the Wright Dunbar area that’s located right there on Fifth Street now, the Wright Interpretive Center, and it brings a light on that neighborhood as well.

There was a riot, there was a West Dayton riot here that really created confusion. I was in California talking to my brother on the phone, and my grandmother, and I’m hearing them taking about a riot, and I’m like “What is a riot?”

I mean I literally didn’t know. Ok, what is happening that people are on lockdown or they can’t be in the streets, and I had to learn about that, I had to grow up to that, I’m still a kid, you know, and I’m not feeling the impact of the separation that was actually occurring here in the city of Dayton, but the reason why I came back, ‘cause I needed to be home, I needed to know my home, I needed to know my history here, on both sides of the family. And I, my mother was getting older, and she’s 86 now, I’m 62 just turned 62.  I think one of the other reasons is that this was home for me. California, I have dual citizenship, let’s say that, I don’t mean, in Africa, I mean in California and in Ohio. I’ve traveled to North Carolina, I needed to know my history there, I’ve gone to, I’ve lived out of the country, and I wanted to put all of that into perspective, and I started, I don’t what you’d call that, it was like soul searching, it was like I was woke, I was woke to what was actually happening here in the city.

This interview was edited by Community Voices producer and Senior Voices project coordinator Jocelyn Robinson. Senior Voices is a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library, Rebuilding Together Dayton, and WYSO. This series is made possible by the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.