Tag Archives: samuel proctor oral history program

History and the people who make it: Dezeray Lyn

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler.This is the 30th in a series of transcript excerpts from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program collection at the University of Florida.

Dezeray Lyn was interviewed by Jessica Taylor [T] and Lara Alqasem [A] in 2009.

T: Where were you born?

L: In Hollywood, Florida [in 1978]. I had a lot of siblings and we had financial difficulties so we moved a lot and had a house foreclosed on. It was just difficult.

When I was in school and Desert Storm was going on was the first that I heard about war and conflict. But I wasn’t in the proper mental state to pursue any knowledge about the specifics. I felt very removed from what was happening.

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History and the people who make it: Hernan Vera

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the 29th in a series of transcript excerpts from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program collection at the University of Florida. 

Hernan Vera was interviewed by Diana Gonzalez-Tennant [G] in 2009.

V: I was born on February 16th, 1937 – seventy-two years ago – in Santiago, Chile. I went to several schools. By age 16 or 17 I was fluent in both Spanish and English and had a limited fluency in French. My second school was St. Georges College—Colegió San Jorge. I started there around 1946 and graduated in 1954. Then I went into Law School of Universidad de Chile, became a lawyer in 1962, got married in 1963 to Maria Inez Concha Gutierrez, my wife of today, and we had three children. I am retired, after 33 years of teaching sociology at the University of Florida.

I was getting ready to return to Chile, after getting a PhD in sociology, when a military coup on 9-11-1973 took place, and it was advisable in the view of all of our families and friends that we should stay in the US. We had come here in 1968 with a residence visa so we could work and stay without any problems.

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History and the people who make it: David Barsamian

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler.This is the 28th in a series of transcript excerpts from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program collection at the University of Florida, continuing last issue’s Barsamian interview.David Barsamian was interviewed by Paul Ortiz [O] and Matthew Simmons [S] in 2014.The first part of this interview ran in the June 2015 issue of The Gainesville Iguana.

B: I was a terrible student. I hated school. I was a model student through elementary school and from 7th, 8th grade on, I went down the tubes. I barely graduated from high school. I had to go to summer school and make up classes so I could get the lowest possible graduation diploma that New York City schools give.

I managed to get into San Francisco State for a year, but I hated that too and dropped out. Then I went to Asia and that’s really where my second life begins.

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History and the people who make it: David Barsamian

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the 27th in a series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

David Barsamian was interviewed by Paul Ortiz [O] and Matthew Simmons [S] in 2014.

B: I was born in Manhattan in 1945. My parents were from Turkish Armenia. They came to the United States in 1921. They were refugees from one of the major genocides of the twentieth century: the Turkish massacre of the Armenians, which began in 1915.

So growing up in New York, I was bilingual, bicultural, very much part of a different culture while being at the same time a hundred percent American, whatever that means: eating hot dogs, playing stickball in the street, punch ball, basketball, off the point, all these street games, box ball.

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June 2015 Gainesville Iguana

june 15 iguana coverThe June 2015 issue of the Gainesville Iguana is now available online, and it’s got lots of good stuff (Bernie Sanders, an oral history interview with David Barsamian, a Florida Legislative update from FL NOW, a Sleep Creek Lands/Adena Springs report, and more!). You can also pick the issue up at any of our distribution spots, which you can find here.

History and the People Who Make it: Medea Benjamin (Part 2)

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the 26th in a series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Medea Benjamin was interviewed by Derick Gomez [G] in 2014; the first part of this transcript was featured in the March 2015 Iguana.

B: I moved to Washington, D.C. about five years ago after my children finished college. I put most of my focus onto issues of war and peace. But I also am involved in local things, like gentrification, where so many black families that have been there for decades are getting priced out of their own city.

Just this week, people came to town from around the country who were involved in fracking, and I went out at 7 [AM] to their demonstrations to say, right on!  It was a lot of young people, and it made me cry to see them blocking the entrances of the Federal Energy Commission, locking arms and getting arrested.  I think, that’s our future.

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History and the people who make it: Medea Benjamin (Part 1)

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the 25th in a series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida. Part 2 of this interview will follow in the next issue of the Iguana out April 8.

Medea Benjamin was interviewed by Derick Gomez [G] in 2014.

G: You’ve been an activist for several decades now, and it’s impossible not to admire your strong code of morality, your strong code of ethics. Can you tell me a little bit about where that came from?

B: It’s funny, just coming into here, I saw the students outside with the ROTC, and they were practicing their different maneuvers with guns. It made me very sad to see, and I just kind of flashed back to many decades ago when I was in school and there was a draft, and people didn’t have a choice.  They were forced to go into the military and to be sent over to Vietnam to fight. My older sister had a boyfriend who was drafted into the military.  And he would write her letters. The letters got more and more disturbing as the months went by.  And then maybe six months into his deployment in Vietnam, he sent her back an ear of a Viet Cong, and he said that this was a souvenir that she could put around her neck and wear as a necklace. I was just so shocked by it, just the whole concept that this nice boy who six months earlier was just one of us, had suddenly turned into kind of a monster, who would think that another human being’s body part would be a souvenir.

I got involved then, started an anti-war group in my high school, started looking out to connect with tother grops. Got involved in politics ‘cause there was a acongressperson who was running for office on an anti-war ticket and I started volunteering on his campaign.  So at the age of 16, I was suddenly an activist, and I guess I’ve been an activist ever since.

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History and the people who make it: Marie Jose François

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the 23rd in a series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Marie François was interviewed by Rebecca Minardi [M] in 2013.

F: Marie Jose Francois

M: Jose like Ho-sea?

F: Like Ho-sea.

I was born in Haiti, in 1953, Port-Au-Prince.

In 1983, after medical school—I came in the U.S. because the political area was not really the way I would like to see it. Freedom of speech—you cannot say what you want—and I look at healthcare in Haiti. It wasn’t really living up to the standard of me studying medicine. So my husband and I, we decided to come in the U.S.

M: What kind of medicine did you study?

F: General practitioner of medicine. When I came here, I did not pass the board. But, I did not let that stop me. I did a Master Degree in Public Health. And that give me another view. Medicine has two parts. Prevention and Treatment. In the U.S., the focus was on treatment, not prevention.

I received my Degree through Loma Linda, California—but I did it at Florida Hospital. My focus switched. I said, if I equip community with knowledge about what’s wrong with them, they will have a better control of their sickness.

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History and the people who make it: Fred Pratt

This is the 22nd in a series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida. This is Part 1 of 2.

Fred Pratt was interviewed by Jessica Clawson [C] in 2012.

P: I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1956.

C: When did you move to Florida?

P: 1967 or ’68. I have a disability, and there was no education for children with disabilities in Pennsylvania at that time, at least our part of Pennsylvania. And there was in St. Pete, where my grandparents were, so we moved down there so I could have an education. Stayed for college, stayed for the whole thing.

I’m a gay man. I’ve been gay, I’ve always known it, felt since I was little, for as long as I could remember, that I’ve been attracted to guys.

C: You went to undergrad at USF, University of South Florida?

P: Yes. From ’77-’80. It was closest, and I was living with my grandmother and she wasn’t doing very well, and I didn’t want to move her anywhere. And they had a political science program, which I was interested in.

I worked for 16 years as a public assistance specialist for the state of Florida, including food stamps, Medicaid, food, AFDC. I do a lot of phone banking for local candidates. Some state and national candidates, too.

Now I’m on disability retirement, and have been for the last 11-12 years.

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History and the People Who Make It: Rosa B. Williams

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the fourteenth in a continuing series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Rosa B. Williams, long-time Gainesville community organizer, was interviewed by Joel Buchanan [B] in 1996.

B: Where were you born, Rosa?

In Starke, Florida. My mother was a housewife. When I was small I can remember her working out … taking in laundry at her house. But she never worked out after I got bigger. My father, … Roosevelt, first he was cutting cross ties, then he worked at a sawmill and then when he came here to live, he worked two jobs, Alachua General Hospital and the University of Florida.

B: Did you have a responsibility on the farm?

Yeah feeding the pigs, cows, chickens, doing everything else. We planted peanuts and all but we did have to go out and cut okras and potatoes. We used to make about 25 cents for a little basket.

B: What was your first job?

Working at Alachua General Hospital running the elevator, for about five years.

B: What did you make a week?

$13.50. That always stuck in my mind. I went to work as a maid [for] Deborah and Jane Stearic, until the beginning of the ’70s. She’s the one that really started pushing me out there. She used to go to the library and pick up my books for me. She said one day that she wasn’t going to, and I was going to go myself. And when I say “push,” if it had not been for her I wouldn’t have went to the library and insist that I get a library card, which I was the first black person which finally got one. It took us about two or three months.

Then when the Democrat Club was home around here, she was insistent that I go to their lunches and things and I was the only black person, you know.

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“Rebels and Runaways: Slave Resistance in Nineteenth-Century Florida” with Dr. Larry Rivers – Nov. 14

by samuel proctor oral history program

On the evening of Wednesday, November 14, the University of Florida hosts Dr. Larry Rivers, President of Fort Valley State University, for a public program at Pugh Hall at 6 pm on his new book, “Rebels and Runaways: Slave Resistance in Nineteenth-Century Florida.” President Rivers will also be signing copies of his books “Rebels and Runaways” and “Slavery in Florida.”

Dr. Rivers is an award-winning author of numerous books and essays on African American history, including “Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation.” Under his leadership, Fort Valley State University has risen to become one of the top-ranked Black Colleges in the United States and was recently ranked 9th among the top regional public colleges in the South by U.S. News and World Report.

Larry Rivers earned his PhD at Carnegie-Mellon University in 1977. For more than twenty years, Dr. Rivers taught history at Florida A & M University, ultimately receiving the rank of Distinguished University Professor. During that time, he held a series of administrative appointments, leading to his selection in 2002 as Dean of the FAMU College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Rivers is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the Fort Valley State University National Alumni Association, Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Sigma Pi Phi (The Grand Boule) Fraternity, the Urban League and Prince Hall Masonic Lodge.

Parking for the event at Pugh Hall is free. For those who cannot attend, the event will also be Live Streamed by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service on November 14th at 6 pm eastern standard time, and available on their homepage: http://www.bobgrahamcenter.ufl.edu/

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History and the People Who Make It: John DeGrove

transcript edited by pierce butler

This is the tenth in a continuing series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

John DeGrove, “the father of growth management law in Florida,” was interviewed by Cynthia Barnett [B] on December 1, 2001.

B:    You were in the infantry from 1942-1946?

Yes. We went over right after D-Day [June 6, 1944]. We landed at Cherbourg, in France, got on cattle cars, went across France, and into the front lines in Holland, Germany, Belgium. I got into leading patrols out behind the enemy lines and doing things like that. Pretty soon, our platoon  [was] down to a handful of people who were still alive. That’s how I became a sergeant and then I got a battlefield commission.

We were doing a counter-attack, I guess and some Germans were surrendering. Somebody in the back threw a grenade. Big mistake on their part. Knocked me out just for an instant. That apparently did some damage [to my lungs that showed up] later. Didn’t stop me right then at all. [After] that concussion [grenade], we went on and those guys were wiped out.

After the war, I went in to the hospital because I had a case of viral pneumonia. It developed into tuberculosis and they always said that the concussion grenade had weakened the structure of that lung, so that when I got the viral pneumonia, which [I] should have been able to shake off, it evolved into tuberculosis after I got in the hospital.

I [was sent] out to Colorado, a special place for tuberculosis types. I decided, I’ll be damned if I’m going to die out here in Colorado. I was [determined] to die in Florida, as close to home as I could get. They went along with all that. I went to the tuberculosis sanitarium. They had several of these, and they were ahead of their time. I was in the hospital for almost four years. I missed the marvelous streptomycin and the TB drugs, the ones that would have kept me in the hospital for a month or two, just by a few months.

I became president of the student body at Rollins. I led a revolt at Rollins against the president. We threw him out.

Well, he was a bad guy. We went into an enrollment decline. In the process of cutting back, he was firing the best people. His concept of how to get Rollins straightened out and going right was just wrong. I had some board of trustee members who agreed with me. His name was Wagner. We did every kind of thing to force this guy out.

I finished my master’s in nine months at Emory [University in 1954]. My thesis looked at the Swamp and Overflow Lands Act. That really got me into realizing how badly it’s possible to manage resources. Swamp and Overflow Lands Act of 1849, I think it was, granted to Florida twenty million acres of land. Turned out that a lot of it wasn’t swamp and overflow at all.

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History and the People Who Make It: Sonja Diaz

transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the ninth in a continuing series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Community organizer Sonja Diaz was interviewed by Prof. Paul Ortiz [O] on June 3, 2010.

I am a third/fourth generation Chicana. My dad’s side of the family was born and raised in Southern California back to my great grandparents. My mom is sixth generation Tejana. My mother was a farm worker and my father grew up in East L.A., a construction worker with my grandpa. Both of my parents were the first in their families to go to college. My mom was active in the UFW and my father in the East L.A. Walkouts. I grew up in East L.A. in a family that was very socially conscious. Every weekend we’d go to an art event, a protest, a march. For instance, the César Chávez marches in East L.A.; protesting Prop. 187, to take away social services for undocumented people; Prop. 209 which ended affirmative action. We called it “Radio Fire activism” ‘cause my brother and I would get in our red Radio Fire and our parents would drag us along. So, activism was spurred through our family: my father, being an urban planner and advocating on behalf of urban communities of color; my mother, working in social services and for empowerment of blacks and Latinos. It just was natural at UC Santa Cruz to continue activism along racial/ethnic lines. So, definitely East Los Angeles, El Sereno, and my parents shaped who I am today. It gave me that community education that was so lacking in LAUSD public schools. They taught me in a way where I felt proud of not only being a Chicana, but also of where I grew up and of the people and community that supported me.

My mom started working the fields at age five. She talked about not having water, not having bathroom breaks, not getting paid. She told me about my grandpa, who was born in Mexico and didn’t have formal education, taking notes about all the hours that his compadres worked because they weren’t getting paid for everything.

On my dad’s end, both my grandparents were very vigilant that they went to Catholic schools. If you had more than three kids, after the third it was free, so it was a deal for them. But it was very racist and he would talk about discrimination based on skin, based on class.  His counselors refused to give him a college application. And to this day, I look at that story as something—wow, you know—that’s what used to happen, but it’s still happening.

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