Oral History

Chelsea Alston - On the neighborhood and community changing (clip)

Interviewed by Alexander Stephens on April 11, 2012

Alexander Stephens: How have you seen it [the community] change?

Chelsea Alston: I’ve seen it change from—Well, like I was saying a lot of my friends live in close proximity of each other. It’s changing to where that it’ll be more of my friends living in the neighborhood than it is now. A lot of my friends have moved out to like apartments and stuff like that because they have not been able to afford their houses their families live in. Their families have not been able to afford their houses because of student renters coming in and taking over their home and raising the property tax. So, I’ve seen a lot of my friends being pushed out of this area and having to find other places to live.

AS: And then as far as places to hang out you mentioned Hargraves—you mentioned McDonald’s. Do you feel like there are other places for you and your friends to go? Or is that it?

CA: In Chapel Hill, that’s about it. [pause] Within reasonable walking distance, that’s about it.

AS: What do you think about that? What would you like to see? As far as young people, and in this town, particularly young people of color?

CA: I would just like to see more entertainment, or places we can go and just hang out. I mean, they do have the teen center but that’s kind of far from where a lot of people live, so—I know that when my mother said she was growing up, there used to be an arcade or something around that they could go to and play. But there’s not many places that we have to go to have fun and be safe. [pause]

AS: Do you think it’s different for high school students or younger students who are Black versus students who are white as far as where you feel comfortable?

CA: Yeah, as far as where I feel comfortable, I feel like Franklin Street is comfortable, more comfortable for us, African Americans, than for Caucasian people because of the homeless people that we see. A lot of people, a lot of us know those people so we’re not afraid of them but maybe—some of the Caucasian students may be afraid of them. So we may feel comfortable of Franklin Street because we have places to go and house that we can just walk to. It’s more comfortable for us.

AS: What do you think—is there a mixture of white, Black, Latino, and Asian at McDonald’s or is it predominantly one group?

CA: Well most of the time it’s mostly African Americans. Sometimes you do have Caucasians coming in and Asians coming in. But for the most part—just like sitting there plus just having a good time, and talking is mostly African American.

AS: So, where do you think other people go? Other youth?

CA: Carrburritos. Places that if you had a car you could go to. It’ll be easily accessible. But Black people don’t have cars and so they just choose to walk to those—walk to the places closer.

AS: I’ve heard Elaine Norwood, I don’t know if you know her, but she lives on [Masters] Street; she grew up there. She talks about how there used to be a lot of black owned businesses like on Graham Street and Midway and how now there aren’t and she said that it used to be more comfortable because you had places that were Black owned and you could feel comfortable to get a coffee or a piece of cake or whatever. And you don’t have that now except for maybe Mama Dips. I’m wondering if you think that it would be different if there were more Black owned businesses.

CA: I think that it would be definitely be different. Because—I’ve heard stories from people that were around when there were Black owned businesses and most people that owned those businesses were family members or they knew the kid’s parents. It was really easy for them to come in and just hang around and don’t have to worry about safety or anything. Or parents being worried about where they were at because they knew the person that owned the place so they knew they would be fine, their children would be fine. So if there were more Black owned businesses there would be more places for African Americans to go and hang out.

AS: You said you hear about how the neighborhood used to be, how the area used to be. What is your understanding of what it used to be like here?

CA: I think that it was more—it was definitely an African American community. Tightknit. Everybody knew each other. From what I heard you could leave your door open and not worry about someone coming in your house or leave your doors unlocked. It was very safe. Everybody knew each other so it was just like home even if you weren’t in your home exactly. You could just walk outside your door.

AS: What does home mean to you?

CA: Just some place you feel comfortable.

AS: How do you feel now about home? What’s your sense of home? Do you feel at home?

CA: Not everywhere is considered home. I feel like a lot of my friends’ houses can be considered home. But if I walk outside their door, that’s no longer home for me. I do not necessarily feel comfortable in the area—Just walking outside, I don’t know everybody who lives there.

AS: What do you think contributes to making you feel comfortable?

CA: Just the atmosphere—just very happy, talkative, everybody just in a relaxed mode. You don’t have to be on-guard—look behind your back. You can just watch TV, do something, play cards, do something to keep you entertained with your friends.

AS: Do you think that the idea—do you think the significance of home has changed from back in the day, like you were saying, when it was a more tight-knit community. So now do you feel like the home of people has changed, the place of home in people’s lives?

CA: The place definitely changed. I feel like home is where you feel comfortable. If you can walk in somebody else’s house or knock on the door and they just let you in, that’s considered home. You don’t have to exactly ask for permission to come, they just open their doors with open arms and they feed you or do something other than just sit around—walk outside.

Chelsea Alston - On the neighborhood and community changing (clip)


Oral history interview of Alston, Chelsea conducted by Stephens, Alexander on April 11, 2012 at St. Joseph CME Church, Chapel Hill, NC.

Citation: Marian Cheek Jackson Center, “Chelsea Alston - On the neighborhood and community changing (clip),” From the Rock Wall, accessed July 21, 2024, https://fromtherockwall.org/oral-histories/chelsea-alston-on-the-neighborhood-and-community-changing-clip.

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