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Interview with Janice Inabinett

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  • Inabinett 1 Janice Inabinett Interview Interviewee: Lucy McRae Interview Attendee: Elizabeth McRae Interview Date: July 14, 2018 Location: Bryson City, NC Length: 1:19:22 Lucy McRae: So just for the record this is Lucy McRae interviewing Miss Inabinett. Do I have your permission to record this interview? Janice Inabinett: You do Lucy. LM: Thank you. JI: And you can call me Janice. That would be much easier on you. Just don’t call me late for supper. (laughter) LM: For just basic questions for background. When were you born? JI: I was born October 30th, 1941. Which was thirty-nine days before Pearl Harbor. LM: What are your parents’ names? JI: My daddy’s name, and I didn’t find out this, that Hilda was a girl’s name. My daddy’s name was Hilda Inabinett and my mother was Lilly Coleman. She was a local. Born in Birdtown and Daddy came in here from South Carolina and found her. LM: Ok. So, what were their jobs? JI: My father was a high fancy restaurant waiter. My mother was a domestic. She worked right up on the hill. LM: Ok. Were you born in Bryson City? JI: Yeah. I was born up on the hill. LM: Do you have any siblings? JI: I am the oldest girl of girls however my younger sister died at age fourteen months, so while I’m not an only child I was raised as an only child. LM: Ok. So, in your bio I read that your mom was part Indian. Could you tell me about her? JI: Well I was lucky to have her because I’m very head strong and whatever and so I guess I chose the right way to come in… to be here. She believed in, number one she didn’t want to have any children. She wasn’t that crazy about the whole idea because she was the oldest girl of nine children and had seven brothers that she had to participate in the raising of. Right? So, she probably did have enough child rearing. But she had ended up with me and she very much believed that she did not have a child to keep it. She had it to free it and so very early on she gave me a watch and a key and told me that I was, when the hands on the… I couldn’t even tell time at that point, when the hands of the watch get to this point, you’re supposed to be home and here’s your key to get in. I probably won’t be here, but you need to get Inabinett 2 in and be home at that time. So that was kind of underlying, early on principles. She also believed that I should experience things. For example, she and a couple of brothers did what I call child swap. They would send a child to Mom and Daddy and my parents would send me to go live with them for two weeks or whatever. So that I would get experience in being around people that were different so she, that was early on. So that was kind of a… I remember her asking me when I was going to movies, “Does a woman have a starring role in it?” This was in the forties. So, does that give you some idea of her? LM: Yes. And then, so your parents met in Bryson City, correct? JI: Yeah. Mm hmm. LM: Ok. So, what made your dad move from South Carolina to Swain County? JI: He was a waiter and he worked in the winters in Roper Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. And in the summers, he had found out about the tourist trade up in the… as soon as you cross over from South Carolina into North Carolina along that ridge behind Brevard and along in there are a lot of country clubs. And he was a waiter and he had found out about a country club over there, or two or whatever. He was twenty-one years old. This woman had moved to Bryson City to restart up a hotel that had been built in the 1800s and now it’s 1927. Ok. So, it’s already come up and gone down. And so, she was lamenting to a traveling salesman how she was having trouble finding a good waiter. A head waiter, she wanted to have a fancy hotel. And the man remembered that in his travels he had talked to this man or young boy, young twenty-one-year-old over at this country club. This man delivered meat and he had talked to my dad and evidently something Daddy had said led him to think that Daddy was not that particularly happy there. And so, he said, “I think I know somebody that might be interested.” So, when he came back, he came back he talked to Daddy and somehow worked it out so that Daddy and Miss Brooks got together. Daddy says that Miss Brooks came over to the little town of Etowah and interviewed him and he told her that he would come out to work for her as soon as he was sure that the garden would make. Do you know what that means? LM: No. JI: If you put the seed in and you water, it and you hoe it and you weed it and whatever. There comes a time when you know it’s going to flourish. Before then you’re out there looking and whatever so as soon as he was sure… because restaurants in those days had their own garden. And so, he said as soon as he was sure that the garden was secure, stable, that it would make, that he would come out and take a look at her… what she wanted to do. So that’s how he got here to work for her in 1927. LM: Wow. So how did your family celebrate African-American and Cherokee heritage? JI: I don’t recall that we did. I remember my mother, my mother was a domestic… my father… they worked seven days a week. He was gone before I got up in the morning and came home after I went to bed at night. My mother worked from maybe nine until one. I don’t remember for example Christmas trees. I remember going to school and they had Christmas trees and I came home, and I wanted one and so my mother had a hatchet and so she gave me her hatchet and told me that if I thought I wanted one go get me one. And so, I finally I guess I chopped… got a limb and drug it home. And so now what do you do with it? Well the one at school stood up. What do I do? So, we had a coal and wood stove so she said well we’ll put in the coal bucket and put the pieces of coal around it and make it stand up. I guess after playing with it all afternoon and it falling over I finally just pitched the whole thing and that was the end Inabinett 3 of Christmas trees for me. I might have had over my seventy-six years, I might have put up ten Christmas trees in my house. I doubt it. That would just be a sort of American or Christian tradition. It just wasn’t. I don’t remember having a sit down meal at my house with all three of us present at the same time until I was in my thirties because they were working parents and I had a babysitter that I spent a great deal of time with. And so I had good sit down meals there, but as far as our house it was a working, two working people. And they worked, so traditions, it wasn’t something that I have a memory of… Oh we’ve got to do this because it’s something in that’s in our heritage. No. LM: Ok. So now I’m going to talk about school. So, what school did you go to as a child? JI: The first through the seventh grade in something called Bryson City Colored Elementary School. Swain County had two separate schools and my school was a one room school house. I shared my teacher at the most in any particular year with fifteen other children. So that was elementary. I rode the school bus one year, my eighth-grade year to Sylva because Swain County had a contract with the school system in Jackson County evidently that they could… Swain County could send its negro children to Jackson County and so we went right by the schools in Swain County to get there, but this was the fifties. Ask me the question again. Did you say high school or just elementary? LM: I said as a child. So, you said the school… so it wasn’t a big school? JI: My one room school house? LM: Yes. JI: No. It was big enough for us. It was, here’s something for you to research, it was a… um… I think it was Rothwell… r-o-t-h-w-e-l-l. No… Rosenwald. It was a Rosenwald School. It was a man named Rosenwald. I’ll let you research that. Write that down. Rosenw- LM: I have it. JI: You do? Oh! LM: I do. My next question was what did your Rosenwald School look like? JI: Oh Ok. One big room. Something that stands out in my mind is the ABCs across the top of the blackboard. I remember that and of course the desk. Seems like the front of my desk was attached to the back of the person’s in front of me chair. There was wooden floors. Teacher had a big old bell. We had a beautiful schoolyard that we played ball in every day. We had outside toilets. You know the boys went down that way to the toilet and the girls went down that way to the toilet. What did it look like? White. It was white, and I don’t know that there’s a picture of it. I have tried to find that. Now, in my sixth-grade year because someone had bought the property that abutted the school property and was putting in a manufacturing company, in the meantime the county built a new school for the black citizens. And it was not only the school, but it was the rec- it was our community center. We had… I can remember having fish fries and chicken suppers. It was sort of like a community center of today. I remember doing the cake walk because the teacher could play the piano and she’d stop and ever who was in the circle won the cake. So that was a brick building and it’s still standing. So that was elementary school. And then Sylva was high school. And that was, I believe that was a Rosenwald building too. LM: Ok. So, for high school did you go… did you say you went to Sylva for high school? Inabinett 4 JI: No. I cried every day in eighth grade to ride that school bus. I hated the school bus. And so, my mother wanted to send me to boarding school. And I had heard that the boarding school that she wanted to send me to was real strict and I was bad. And I figured I’d get sent home because it put the… what they did was they gave you I think twenty-five points at the beginning of the year and things that you would do you’d lose points. And I just figured, “Hey, I’d just lose all my points and I’ll be embarrassed. So, I didn’t want to go. Well the… In 1954 also going on was the Brown vs. the Board of Education and so there was chatter in the community. Some of the black families were talking about the injustices that they saw in general and then the bullying and the kinds of things that was allowed to go on in the school and so they weren’t sure. So that had the meeting with the superintendent of schools to talk about how was he willing to do something about the bullying and the things they had observed that was going on in the white school system. And they were, you know, the black people were saying integration is fine but until you fix it, we’re not sure. There’s something wrong. In the midst of all that chatter and unrest in the community, because there were white people saying we don’t want the integration so its chatter and racket. And so, my aunt lived in Ohio. And she came home that summer, she had two children and she was wanting to go back to work. In the discussion of just things in general I guess she mentioned that she would like to go back to work, but her oldest child was going to be in the first grade and the youngest child was now old enough to go to a babysitter and so I guess somebody got the bright idea that I could be a mother’s helper. And so off I went at age twelve going to be thirteen in the fall to live with her and that way I could get the first grader off to school and drop the little boy off at the babysitter on my way to school. So, I ended up doing the ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade in a little town called Medina, Ohio which is right out of Cleveland. Cold weather. LM: OK. So, you came back to Bryson City after eleventh grade? JI: Came back and now my mother said you’re going to boarding school. So, I did do one year in boarding school. LM: Was it at Allen’s School? JI: Yeah. Allen’s. At that point it was at Allen High School in Asheville. LM: Ok. Was that the one you didn’t want to go to at first? JI: Yes. And the woman who had been the… which would have meted out the points she… that… my first year or my only year, was her first year in retirement. But we met later on in life and she says she was always wanted to meet me because she’d done my paperwork that summer but she wasn’t going to be in school that fall that I was entering. And so, she had never seen me or anything and when we finally met, she said, “Well I heard about you coming but I never got to meet you.” And I said, “Yeah. I heard about you being there and I never got to meet you either.” (laughter) LM: So, when you came back to Bryson City had things changed really or were they more similar? JI: Well which time? You mean when I came back fifty years after I left really? Because I left at age twelve and came back at age sixty-two, so I was gone fifty years to live. LM: Yes. JI: Changed, but… changed… I don’t know. The names of the streets are the same. Inabinett 5 LM: But so, would you say like there were more things, like there were more buildings that had popped up, or were there different people, like more people come to Bryson City or was it still pretty small? JI: Remember my world was… my age zero to twelve-year-old world was in a very connected black community. We had everything. We had our school. We had our church. We had our friends, our family, our playground, our whatever. And very peaceful. So, we didn’t really have to, we didn’t have to associate with the rest of the county other than, but by choice. So that’s the view. You know I had a little job. I would come home in the summers even from Ohio, even from college and be in the community but I was too busy looking at the little boys or whatever it is that fourteen to twenty-one years-olds do to be paying attention to a lot of stuff. Politic wise I wasn’t, you know, I wasn’t that observant that much. Had it changed? Like I said the street names were the same. My eye, I had changed. So, I was looking at it from, with a different perspective. I had grown. I had… you know I was never… I never liked history. I hated dadgum history class. The book was so thick and heavy. I had to carry the book. And I had the opportunity in my twenties to run into this guy as a date. And a person to live with even that was a history major in college. And I see us date after date, I mean our time together a lot of time was history. Atlases and you know. So he sparked for me an interest in history. So, I came back with a whole nother head to look at how people interacted and why and what was the basis for and that kind of thing. Plus, I’d lived through the sixties so yes, I changed. So how I looked at my little village was different than how I looked at it then. But I still love it. LM: Ok. So, I read that your father was a deacon at Morningstar Baptist Church of Bryson City, but that you grew up growing to African Methodist Episcopal Church, so you were raised in… so what were kind of the differences between those two? JI: Ok, if that’s what you read. But here’s, here is the situation. Daddy was raised in Methodist and he came to Bryson City and there was no Black Methodist church so that’s how he ended up going to the Baptist church. And it was remarkable because when I got old enough to come into my head and went home with him to South Carolina and we’re in this Methodist congregation where his sister was you know just boiling over with it. So her demands were that we be there because she was the lady of the church and there were things that she had to do on certain Sundays and she expected not only me, not only her ten children but Daddy and me and every family member, because she’s the lady of the church and she’s got responsibilities. And so to see the passion that I saw in his community church. I often asked him how in the world did you put up… because the Baptists were so staid and stiff. And I often asked him, and he said, “Well, it’s all I had. You know. It’s all I had.” So that’s what I did. But, they didn’t push me into any kind of isms or stuff like that at all. LM: Mm hmm. Ok. So, we’ve kind of skipped around. So, after high school did you say that you just got a job, or did you do more education or what was it that you did after high school? JI: I didn’t want to go to college. My mother made me. Thank goodness for my mama. I went to Winston Salem Teachers College and took a degree in elementary education and when I went out to do my practice teaching it was like I’m not prepared to do this. What am I going to do with my life? I’ve invested four years here and I can’t do this. And so, I have a couple friends that said they didn’t want to do it either and so we agreed that we would take our stuff home and pack ourselves down from trunk loads of stuff to one suitcase and we would meet in New York City. Four days after graduation. So not only did I continue my education in an academic setting out in a classroom in college but I continued my Inabinett 6 education by getting aboard that train in Asheville and meeting my girlfriends in New York City at age twenty. Did that answer your question? LM: Yes, ma’am. JI: What did I do after high school? I went to college, got some basic stuff but then I began to study. And I’m still doing that. LM: So on to your storytelling. So, was your first job as a social worker or were you a social worker? JI: Mm hmm. LM: Yes. So, did you have this job before you were a storyteller? JI: My answer is that I told my first story at age four. Somewhere between age four and five. And I’ll tell you that story. I had a friend that did silk screening for t-shirts. I’m hanging out at his house one day and he has this stack of t-shirts all stacked in different stacks. And his contract was to do the face of, um, a black person and then words about them on the back. You know. You’ve seen those kind of shirts. And so, he had them all stacked, and he was trying to get his order ready to whatever. And I’m looking and I say, “Oh. You don’t have my favorite black person… my shero here.” And he said, “Who is that?” I said, “Sojourner Truth.” He said, “I like her too but no I don’t. I don’t have any information about her. If I had some information about her I would include her in this collection.” I said, “I’ll get you some information.” And this was the day when… I don’t even know what year it was, but I remember that I went up… the library had a reference desk. So, I went to the reference desk in my local library and said, “Help me I need to get some information and a good picture of Sojourner Truth and blah, blah, blah.” And, they helped me. And I put together a package and I made two copies of everything. One for him and one for me. So, I took him his and he did whatever he did with his and I took mine home. Well, you can see by looking here that paper grows. There’s a paper elf that comes at my house at night. It does. And brings in stuff. And so that paper got to the bottom of the stack and one day, I didn’t have it anymore. I looked for it and it wasn’t there, so I went back to the library and got myself a second set. So, at the time that I did the second set I was taking a pottery course at night and this woman only took two pottery students. And, so, me and my pottery partner were forming our pots. She said, “what did you do this week?” And I said, “Oh, I had to go to the library to get this material because I lost it and it didn’t ever float back to the top and I wanted to learn about this woman. So, I’ve been studying Sojourner Truth.” And, I didn’t know that the teacher was listening. Well the pottery teacher was listening and so later she said, “You know. My real job when I’m not doing this in my studio is that I am at the media center at the middle school. And would you come and talk to my kids about how you did your research on Sojourner Truth.” And I said, “Yeah.” I figured she wanted an afternoon off or something. So, I went and talked about it and I went in and did it for her and as I was leaving, I think I did three classes for her that day. And as I was leaving, she said, “You know. You should be a storyteller.” I said, “What’s a storyteller?” Back to the library. And so, in the process of doing that research, I found out that one version is that a good storyteller should know folktales, should know classical stories. Classical stories you know every word that the author wrote, you can say it. You don’t change anything. Whereas a folktale you can embellish and whatever. A good storyteller would have those two tools but also would have a tool in their toolbox called personal stories. So personal stories. So, I’m in the process of trying to become a storyteller. So, I got to have personal stories. So, I had this really great story that I wanted to include as a personal story in my repertoire. So, I thought oh but there’s a person in that story that Inabinett 7 doesn’t look real good and her children are still living, and they may get mad at me if I make fun of her. And the story… because she makes the story funny. And so, I said, “What can I do? She’s dead.” I know. I’ll call the oldest member of the family and run it by her and see what she thinks. So, I called this aunt and I told her, I said, “I need to tell you this story and I want you to give me some feedback.” So long distance. So, I tell her the story and she says, “It’s a funny story. What are you doing anyway?” I said, “Well I’m getting ready to become a storyteller.” She said, “Become a storyteller. You have always been a storyteller.” And at that point she told me the first story I ever told her. And it was when my mother was pregnant with my little sister that didn’t live a long time and I wasn’t but four years, or four going on five. So, I’ve always been a storyteller. So, in answer to your question of what did you ask me? Was I a social worker first or a storyteller first? A storyteller. I think that my whole world. My whole work is story. If I’m going to go and work as a social worker with a non-profit organization that’s doing strategic planning I’m going to go in there and have them tell me the story of the organization. And we’ll use that to build on where they’ve been because they’re going to tell me what they’ve seen and done and heard and we’ll use that to build on where they want to go. So, I think that story is a powerful tool and so I use it in my social work practice. LM: Ok. JI: Did I answer your question? LM: Yes ma’am. Ok. So, I have a few more questions about you being a social worker and then I’m going to go into storyteller. So how long were you a social worker? JI: I graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1976. (Phone rings) In 1976. I don’t think you ever stop. It just comes out in different ways. LM: Ok. So, what made you want to be a social worker? JI: I took a job and they said that I had to… they took me on the condition that I would go to school and get a degree because everybody else had a degree in social work. And so, they took me on the condition that I’d do that. So, I agreed to that to get the job and then I have to go take the degree. That’s how I became a social worker. I didn’t come out of the barn. I didn’t have no social worker in my life as a child that I wanted to grow up and be like. No. As a matter of fact, you can probably go pull my application to the university to find out what I said is that, “Why do you want to be a social worker?” And I said, “Because I’m the only one of the job that doesn’t have a degree and its expected of me.” (laughter) What a reason? It was the truth. LM: Ok. So, I know that you’ve been all sorts of storytelling groups and projects. So, what inspired you? So, I know you started at four years old but was there any inspiration? JI: I think it’s a… I think we all have the inclination it’s just a matter of cultivating it. Are you a good storyteller? LM: I’m not sure. JI: You will be. I think we all have it. The biggest thing is to have a safe platform to perform it and to decide in my opinion the route you want to go with it. I started out as, well I started out telling a story to my mama and her sister about where babies came from. Because the story they were telling me I didn’t believe that story. And so, they told… they always laughed about the story that I told them where babies Inabinett 8 came from. That was my first story. But I think that there is the gig. Somebody calls you up and says we’ll give you x numbers of dollars come and tell us a story. Entertain at this funeral. I’ve been called to do funerals. I’ve been called to do birthday parties and wedding showers. So, gigs, those are gigs. But I think that you can incorporate stories in almost any work. Your mother I see incorporates story in her work. She did that the other night. She’s telling stories. So, we all do it in some degree or another. LM: Ok. So. Why do you think it’s important? Why do you think the art of storytelling is important? JI: It allows you to empathize with your audience, but it also allows the audience, the people in the audience are wanting you to do a good job. They want you to be successful. And you can feel it. You can also feel that audience. But you know what I mean? It’s important number one I think for the audience to be able to have that release and to be able to show love and affection and compassion to the person who is doing ever what they can to do what they’re doing. So, it’s an important… It’s an art form that allows you to give to, allows the storyteller to give to the audience but it also allows the audience to give back to me as the teller. Whether it’s in a gig type setting or some other setting. It’s still a… you have no idea. I once asked a group of women to tell me their story and it was tremendous. I will never forget that. It was an epiphany for me. Ask me the question again? LM: Why do you think storytelling is important? JI: And so, it’s human. It’s a human… Storytelling… Tell me when we didn’t do it. We drew a line to say that with a little arrow pointing to the way we went. We drew a picture on a cave wall to show an animal that we had seen in the forest. It’s, I mean, wWe’ve always told stories. We chanted a song or yelled across a valley about something was going on over here that they needed to know about over there. Tell me when we didn’t do story. It’s as old as we are. LM: Mm hmm. Ok. So, you were a part of the One Dozen Who Care Incorporation, correct? JI: Mm. I did some work for them. LM: Ok. So, did you incorporate your storytelling into… JI: The biggest work that I did, well I did two big project. Well really, the biggest project I guess I did for that organization. They had wanted to establish a storytelling troupe. And they had me come in and work with a group of people who wanted to improve their skills. I guess I stayed with that group three or four months. We met like one Saturday or two Saturdays a month. And so I have done gigs there for them, gig work. But I’ve also done some work with them regarding… They wanted to have a strong, tell the story of their organization. Tell the story of their work group of people. Sort of like for their community, for their public relations. So I worked with a group of them for that. I really, if you ask me what is One Dozen Who Care? I guess it’s about… they do a yearly conference and seems like one time they had some kind of an incubator for people who either wanted to go into business could come in and learn skills and things like that. But I… I really haven’t been that much, other than doing that project around storytelling or being a storyteller for them, I really haven’t had that much involvement with them. LM: Ok. So, another organization that you were a part of was the Martin Luther King Jr. Storytellers Guild. So how was that created? JI: That was the one that I worked with for the One Dozen Who Care. Inabinett 9 LM: Ok. JI: Evidently, they got some kind of a grant and they wanted to do that. LM: Ok. So, what was its kind of purpose in the community? JI: Like I said, I think that they wanted some of the principles of Martin Luther King. They wanted the people to be able to talk about those principles out in the community. Now that you’re making me think back about it, I remember something about… They were concerned that every year the same people… there’s this myth, there is this myth in this planet that people of color, especially black people, only can do something during black history month. So, if you can do something it’s full employment month. Somebody’s going to ring your phone and want you to do something because it’s black history month. We’ve got to have a black person. Ok. And so, they were concerned that, one of their concerns they had I think was that they wanted to be able to do black history information sharing not just in February. And so, part of I think that what they wanted to do there was to get some people ready to talk about whatever needed to be talked about year-round with confidence. And by being able to say this guild exist then people can call upon it year-round. So, I think that was one of their underlying things. LM: Ok. So why do you think it is important, this is kind of a sum up question, to like spread and teach culture and heritage because do some of your stories relate to culture or of the women community or the African American community. Do your stories promote like kind of a message? JI: And why do I think that’s important? LM: Yes. JI: Well, I come from the philosophy of common good. And that we are earth… we are spiritual beings here getting an earth experience and I suppose that getting along together while we’re getting that experience can make it much more pleasant. So, there’s that kind of thing. But I just find it fascinating, the more people I can meet and talk too. The more fun I have. Right? So, ask me the question again? I’m into pleasure. LM: So why do you think it is important to spread and teach culture and heritage and your message through your stories? JI: I think it’s important just for the sake of pleasure in the first place. But many times, people don’t cross each other’s paths in a social setting where they feel safe and can just find out about the other person. And sometimes… but also story, story is a way to teach, I think, in a subtle way, points, you can make points about things with story that you just couldn’t say out loud. Anyway, but if you can frame it in a story people go, “Oh Yeah.” LM: OK. So, you were also a part of the Asheville Storytelling Guild and the Western North Carolina Storytelling Conference and the Swain County MLK Jr. Commission correct? JI: Yeah. I get my little self in a lot of stuff, right? (laughter) LM: So, were those separate guilds used for different things or were they kind of similar just in different places? Inabinett 10 JI: I guess they all have to do with humanness, humanity. Men’s inhumanity or humanity to man. It’s probably how I got involved in all of them but back in the days when I was learning to be a storyteller and really a working woman, I’m not a working woman anymore, I belonged to the National Storytelling Association or whatever that’s over in Jonesborough. And I belong to the Black Storytelling Association. And so a girlfriend and I use to go to these conferences and conventions and festivals. There’s enough storytelling festivals and concerts that if you went to them all it would be a fulltime job. There’s storytelling everywhere. Once your antenna goes up. And so, we were concerned that Buncombe County and Asheville didn’t have any kind of a storytelling guild and so we got some other people together that like to tell stories and started to have meetings and finally established a storytelling guild. I’m not involved with it anymore. I haven’t been involved with that in twenty years or more. But I do, periodically there’s a person that’s on my Facebook feed that is involved with it, so I know it still goes on. The Martin Luther King Jr. Commission was a fluke. This woman called me lamenting that she had moved here to Swain County and that where she had come from, there had always been a Martin Luther King Commission in the month of January. There were always things that she could do to celebrate this national hero and here there was nothing to do and she always had to go up to Sylva to the college to do something. And she called me in November, I’ll never forget. And I said, “Well you know don’t call me if you want something get it done. Make something happen.” I said, “This is already November you’re not going to make anything happen in January, but you’ve got a whole year and two months till January again, so you make it happen.” She said, “Me?” I said, “You’re the one complaining.” She said, “Well, how do I do that?” I said, “Well, you pull together five people that you know that feel the same way you do and call me up. Set a time and a date that they’ll get together with you and call me up and I’ll meet you and help you plan an agenda.” She did. So, there I am having her plan her agenda for her first meeting and then she was homeschooling her child at the time and it called for her child to have some experience that was going to take her away we thought for four or five weeks out west. And she ended up being gone four months, but she called me and asked me would I meet with her fledgling little Martin Luther King Jr. Commission while she was gone for four weeks. And I said sure if you’ll introduce me to them and tell me in front of them what you want us to accomplish while you’re gone, I’ll be there for them to try to help them accomplish that. So, she did and off she went. And here I am stuck with her group. And so, we muddled along and when she finally came back to town, I said, they had bonded to me because she was gone four months, and I said I’ve got to get them back over to her, so she was really… her project. I just was sort of involved because she had pulled me in and then I had been with them as a group during the time that she was out of town and so we had a very strong little, for one year or for one, that one January and it sort of petered out and I kept telling her that one of the things I saw her doing was she wasn’t building an organization that would exist after she no longer wanted to take the leadership. And that was my social work stuff coming out. But people have to know that they have constantly got to be identifying a replacement for themselves. Otherwise you have this wonderful idea like this house and if I don’t find somebody to take this house over, I’d just die. Nobody care about this place. See what I’m saying. So, you’ve got to, if it means enough then you need to think about that. Do you want it to survive after you no longer want to play with it or can play with it? LM: Ok. And so, you’re a member of the National Storytelling Network? Which… JI: Not anymore. I haven’t kept up my memberships in those things. LM: So how long were you a member of it for? Inabinett 11 JI: Oh, I don’t know, years. And remember that when you start getting at the national level on a lot of these organizations all you’re doing is paying dues, getting a magazine. Member kind of sounds like oh I’d go to the meetings and we talk about this or that. Yeah. If you’re willing to take a leadership role and be on a committee and whatever and travel. But I’ve never participated at that level on those kinds of things. LM: Ok. So. JI: It’s sort of like being a member of the rifle association. The NRA. You think, some people have a little sticker on their truck, but they might own one gun. LM: Is there anything else that you’d like to add about your storytelling? JK: Huh? LM: I’m going to go on to the next questions but if there is anything else, you’d like to add about that kind of topic about the storytelling organization. JI: No. I’m serving you babe. LM: Ok. So, I’ve learned that you attended Woodstock in 1969. So what made you go to Woodstock? JI: My friends. We’d just… wasn’t that what we were supposed to do? Remember that Woodstock wasn’t unusual until it happened. So, there were concerts all over the place. I mean you could go to a concert every weekend. Remember I’m living in New York City. I have access to the whole northeast corridor, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York. And so, at that point and time in this country there were outdoor festivals every weekend somewhere, you just went. I mean there was magazines and publications where you could find out what was going on. And the ticket for the three days at Woodstock was $39, $13 a day. They had a fence. I guess they were expecting 30,000-40,000 people, maybe. When I got there, we got there about 4:00 in the afternoon, fence was flat on the ground. Ok. They had never in their wildest, wildest, wildest dreams expecting what they got. So, Woodstock was not one of those things where why did you go? The week before I’d been in another concert that just didn’t happen to turn out that big. So, we went just because it was something to do for a weekend. Thank God we didn’t plan to camp. You know. We did have, we had reserved a motel down the road. But we went just because of, for entertainment and hang out. It was the sixties and the sixties was, hang out. LM: Can you tell me about it kind of like the experience with all those people? JI: Oh my god. Just as far as you could see. Just as far as you could see. The stage was up there. They had to… there was so many people that they got to the point where they had to bring the performers across the crowd by helicopter and drop them down on the stage. It was probably 700,000 of us there. It rained. It was muddy. When we would be out walking in, walking like you were going to the bathroom. You definitely stayed with whoever you were with. Because there was no, there wasn’t no cell phones. Wasn’t no finding nobody. But if you wanted to go for food… we had, let’s see, we always carried, I was with three other people that we did things together and we always carried dried fruit nuts for anything. We always had something that could keep us from starving. So, we had food but there were things that we might have wanted. I can see us walking or you just might want to go… it was not only the stage at that point, but it also was the, just the event, just the experience. Just seeing so many people and no Inabinett 12 fighting, no fussing, no discord, just there. And so, you would be walking maybe twenty-five wide that way and they would be walking maybe twenty-five wide that way. I can’t, I can’t tell you what it’s like to be in that kind of a crowd. You’ve probably seen TV where they will show how many people were on the mall in Washington for such and such. Just multiply that by two or three or four. LM: A lot of people (laughter). JI: Yeah. But no discord. Everybody just there stopping to talk or whatever. LM: So, was it, you had three days. Would you stay there all day and go to the motel and then come back the next day? JI: You had to walk in. And the farmers along the way, the walk in was probably three miles from as close as you could get with a car. And then the farmers were… it’s hot. It’s August. The farmers along the way had hoses run out to the edge of their property. Like I would have a hose out there on the edge of my property. So the people could just wash, get wet or get a drink. No cell phones. No bottle water. This is a pre all the things that you take for granted. LM: I couldn’t imagine you’d even be able to find someone if they had a cell phone if there was 700,000 people. JI: You couldn’t find somebody if you even had a cell phone. (laughter) Right. Can you see me? (laughter). But yeah. Now remember I lived in a town with nine million people at the time, so we were kind of used to crowds. Have you ever been to New York? LM: I have not. JI: Nine million people live there. LM: That’s a lot of people. JI: Nine million people live there. Huh? LM: All stacked up on each other. JI: Yeah, but they don’t get in each other’s way. LM: So, wait. Did you live with your friends in New York? Is that what you said? JI: Well all three of… ok. One girl had a sister that lived in Newark which is a stone’s throw. I had an aunt that lived in Brooklyn. And so the other girl lived with. the other girl lived with the two of them lived over with her sister and I lived over in Brooklyn and maybe the first week or two we kept in contact looking for jobs, filling out applications and whatever. We all four, all three had just finished college. Ink wasn’t even dry on our diploma and there were no jobs. So, it’s 1962. And so now I’m living over here. My aunt and uncle had… in New York they call them candy stores. The closest equivalent I can tell you what a candy store is here is like a convenience store not having any gas pumps outside. Has everything you need like soda, magazines, toys, milkshake, ice cream, cigarettes. It’s called a candy store in New York. It’s on every corner. Every corner has a candy store. So, my aunt and uncle had a candy store and so they weren’t too crazy about me going out and finding a job because here’s this twenty-year-old body. You know it’s a lot of work in a candy store. But I ran into another girl that had been in our graduation class. I don’t know how we found each other and so me and her started going out maybe Inabinett 13 once a week job hunting. And she heard about this thing called … New York was hiring some welfare workers and you had to fill out an application and take a test. And so, we took the test, but you had to wait until you know, they took the highest people and then they took the next level. So, wherever you scored they went through that before they did the test again. So everywhere we scored we weren’t in that first group. So, in the meantime, and I lost contact with her before my number came up. Because in the meantime I heard about the Shell Oil Company hiring and I went and applied for a job with them as a file clerk and got the job. So, I had a job. So, I finished college in May, and I think by the first of September I was working for Shell. I was so glad to get out of that candy store. They were working me to death. I was ready to get me a nine to five not a, that was twenty-four seven. New York Times has thirty-two sections and it comes all week. You have to build it till Sunday, Sunday New York Times. So I had a special room that had a table maybe as long as this area and I had to collate that thirty-two-section New York Times and get it ready to put it out on the street Sunday morning so when people buy it on the street Sunday morning they don’t know it’s been written for a week except the front page. God, so, living, so yeah my girlfriends we got separated. Shelva… Gloria got married to a man that was a military man that got killed in Vietnam. He was a dentist. His helicopter was shot down during Vietnam. She met another guy and remarried another career veteran, person in the military. I don’t know if Gloria is still living or not. Shelva became a teacher eventually in the New Jersey school system. I may have seen her maybe fifteen, twenty years ago at a school reunion. We have, we did not keep together at all. I think I’m in touch right now with one college classmate. As a matter of fact, I got something from him today. I pretty much am in this village. LM: Ok. So, I know you’re politically active so what made you become kind of interested in political activism? JI: I guess I… I made a comment back in maybe ’64 in front of this guy. I can see where we were and I said, “But I just don’t see why we don’t just drop a bomb on them and bring our boys home.” And he said, “Janice, you’re talking about real people, you’re talking about dropping a bomb on real people. Those are real people.” So that was the, I think that was an epiphany moment for me of getting a little awake. That these are real people. And so, then the next question is why are we fighting? Why are we in Vietnam but I’m still, I’m still young. 1964, I’m twenty-two years old, twenty-three years old. But at least I started to ask myself why were we there? Can we just come home? And then I added the word meddling into my vocabulary in other people’s affairs and whatever it was that we were meddling in halfway around the world, why? And then I guess in New York I ran into people who talked about the draft and people being drafted and why? And then the burning of the bra. Why did women burn their bra? I can’t remember what that was all about. So, I guess it just little bit here and a little bit there. How’d you get interested? LM: Well, I have to think about that. Well, I guess my mom’s pretty interested in politics and my family has very different politics from each other so like me and my mom and my dad are very different from my granddad. So, there’s always been kind of opposition there which I recognize so I guess that kind of… JI: So, his thought is drop a bomb. Kill them. LM: Well I don’t know. He’s a little more on the right side. JI: Yeah. Inabinett 14 LM: So, I don’t know. He has different ideas about how things should work. So, I guess, interactions between my mom and him and all that kind of stuff. JI: How old a man is he? LM: He’s, I think he’s eighty, eighty-one maybe? JI: Just a little bit older than me. Ok. LM: So, I guess, I don’t know. JI: He didn’t pull out the history. Nobody told him they are real people out there that we’re dropping bombs. But that was my first epiphany to begin to know that… and I went back and took a look at what was Pearl Harbor about, you know? Because you know we’re taught that Pearl Harbor… Did y’all study Pearl Harbor? Your generation? So, what did you learn? LM: Well… JI: That the Japanese bombed… that’s the common phrase. That the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. What did we do to the Japanese that made them bomb Pearl Harbor? Had to be, people just didn’t… Somebody just didn’t wake up one morning and said there’s this little place right over there. I’m going to send those bombs over there and bomb them. Right? So, what’s going on? That was the kind of question I began to ask myself, “What’s the other? Why? Why did it happen?” Because we were just taught to say the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Japanese. And that’s all we were taught. Were you taught why? Did anybody lay any framework for you? What went on the day before or the month before? Or the year before? LM: Well. Possibly, but I can’t remember it so it must not have been... JI: Right. But you do remember that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor? LM: Yes. JI: They got that part into here right? But picture, my generation, we didn’t have the resources that y’all have that y’all can go and find things out. I never owned a set of encyclopedias. They don’t have sets of encyclopedias, anymore do they? LM: They have them in libraries. JI: Do they? But y’all do this. What’s your favorite social media? LM: I don’t particularly like social media that much. JI: You don’t communicate that way? LM: Not really. I’m, that’s too much. JI: Too much for you? So, how old are you now? LM: I’m sixteen. JI: So, you’ll be seventeen before school starts this year? Inabinett 15 LM: No. I’ll turn seventeen in January. JI: So, you’re just going into the tenth grade? LM: Eleventh grade. JI: And when will you turn eighteen? Will you be able to vote for the next president? What year were you born? LM: 2002. JI: January of ‘02 which means you’ll be eighteen in January of ’20 so you will be able to vote for the President of the United States. How’s that feel? LM: Hopefully we’ll choose a good one. Maybe? JI: Say what now? LM: I said hopefully we’ll be able to choose a good one. JI: What kinds of things are you going to look for? To make him be good. You don’t know yet because you’re just sixteen, but by the time you’re eighteen you’ll have more stuff that you’ll want right? For your future. Have you thought about that? Your future? LM: Not very often. (laughter) JI: You do know it’s coming? LM: I do know it’s coming but… JI: Yeah. Y’all will be the people selecting that. Ok. We can have, it’s 12:37, we can have ten more minutes of interview. What’s the most important question you’ve still got? LM: I’ll ask you one more question and then you can tell me anything you want to tell me. All right. So what, in your opinion what are the most important issues or conflicts that need to be solved today? JI: In my opinion. You talking about in the United States or on the planet? Corporate control. Do you know about that? LM: Yes ma’am. JI: What do you know about that? LM: What do you mean like? JI: How corporate… corporations are in control… LM: The money JI: And the decision making. I have it getting ready to happen right here in my town. We have something called the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad and they are already influencing our local elections. It’s hard to pin down because locally who pays attention to local elections how much money, who their backers are, how many signs somebody put up for them or whatever. Because it’s, you know, it ain’t national it’s just a little old village of 1400 people, but you can already… it happens even in a little village of some Inabinett 16 1400 people. For something like this big railroad is maneuvering and acting in such a way that the people that get on the city council make decisions that would put the railroad before the citizenry. And it’s so subtle. So when I think, when we think about corporations, we think about great old big… Duke, but it happens at the local level. So, I would say that… Ask me the question again? LM: What’s your opinion on the most important issues and conflicts that need to be solved, today, worldwide? JI: Trying to present information in such a way so that people can get it. Storytelling. Everybody doesn’t learn the same way. Some people have to hear it. Some people have to read it. Some people have to go to a lecture and some people have to go to a play. Some people have to act it out. So, we all have different learning styles and how to present information in such a way that people get it. People don’t always get it. If we just present it one way. Everybody doesn’t like a song so you just can’t put the information in the song and sing. Some people like to read a book. Some people have to go through a skit and play a part. Roleplay. So, we all have different learning styles and I think that we are not yet, as humans, appreciative of all the learning styles so that when we want to share information with our fellow man, we are diverse in choosing the methodology we use. LM: Ok. JI: That’s the biggest, I think that is one of the biggest issues I see especially in the people who are in the common good kind of politics. The people who, the elite billionaires have come up with fear. They use fear mongering. They make people afraid that somethings going to get them. And so, they don’t ask any questions. They’re just afraid and therefore somebody appeals to their level of fear in a way and I think fear is easier to be appealed to than love. We are more apt to hear a church say we’re going to teach you the Ten Commandments than we are, and don’t get me wrong, I ain’t no big shot Christian. But we are more apt to hear a Christian church say we’re going to teach you the Ten Commandments than to hear a Christian church say that we’re going to teach you the Beatitudes. The Ten Commandments is “though shalt not…” The Beatitudes are “blessed are they who…” I think there’s a difference between that. You like that? LM: Yes. JI: Have you thought about it? LM: No. JI: Think about that. And you’ll see Ten Commandments spoken here today. We’re going to put it on the front lawn. You ever seen anybody put up blessed are they who? Love their neighbors or treat people, right? Why is that? LM: I don’t know. So, is there anything else you’d like to add? JI: That’s it.

Object’s are ‘parent’ level descriptions to ‘children’ items, (e.g. a book with pages).