Page 21


JAMIE STURTEVANT Julian Bond and Rosa Parks at the Montgomery monument killed or run over.” She was a teenager when she heard Dr. King speak on the radio. She never heard him in person, but she noted, “He meant a lot to me. When he talked about how he had to go back to the valley, I felt he was talking directly to me. “When he said black people in the South can’t vote and black people in New York feel like they don’t have anything to vote for, I looked at the generation coming up. They be shut out. And it made me feel like I’m a human being.” Mrs. Lofton is thankful that she is surviving as the head of a household, but she is angry that she can’t get better maintenance on her apartment, that bugs infest her home. She hired an exterminator who told her he’d spray but warned the bugs were coming from an adjacent apartment. The local housing authority seems to feel “a tenant is supposed to be a maggot,” she said. She is angry at the crack dealers and the hookers who openly do business in the project. “I’m not afraid of the Klan,” she said. “I’m afraid of black people out here.” She added, “My 6-year-old daughter comes into the house one Saturday and says, `Mama, I just saw a man with gun.’ ” Lofton acknowledged that police have stepped up patrols in recent months. But even now, she noted, “White people would get better service.” While she faced blatant racism when she was growing up in Montgomery at the center of the early civil rights struggle, Mrs. Lofton said her children endure their own struggles. “When I was growing up, I had a mother and father in the household. We had no money, but they were there. Today you have mostly black, single mothers. You have babies raising babies. A lot of these children 13, 14, 15 years old they should have had somebody with a bus to take them up there to see that memorial, to take them to see the museum of art.” Mrs. Lofton said she planned to make her own private pilgrimage to the civil rights memorial as soon as the hoopla died down, perhaps within the next week. She would walk the few blocks from her job at the hospital, and she would dip her fingers in the cool water at the memorial, and she would think about the black women who, tired from a day’s work, were beaten when they didn’t give up their seats on buses to white folks. “I can’t put all the glory on her,” she said of Rosa Parks. “Let the real story be told. You look at the sisters who didn’t have nothing. You’ve got to think about them, too.” DEBRA DUMAS lives with her teenage son in Apartment 634. It’s the apartment that once belonged to Rosa Parks. There’s no plaque outside, although some residents have said they want to clean up their neighborhood, get rid of the drug pushers, and change the name of the project to honor Mrs. Parks. Maybe then they’ll put up a plaque. For now, the first impression you get of Apartment 634 is the holes in the screen door. But go beyond the door and you find a neat, spotless apartment in bright colors of blue and green. There are hanging plants, a ceiling fan, a microwave oven, and a small color TV in the kitchen. Ms. Dumas, 34, president of the Cleveland Court residents association, recalled that when she moved in her mother told her Rosa Parks once lived on this particular row of the project. But it wasn’t until later that she learned Mrs. Parks had lived within these walls. “It’s a privilege to live in a historic site,” she said. But Ms. Dumas admitted she wouldn’t know Mrs. Parks if she walked up to her door and asked to come in. “If my son was here, he could tell you all about Mrs. Parks,” she said. Ms. Dumas, a housekeeper at a downtown motel, said she wasn’t aware the civil rights memorial was being dedicated a few miles from her home on that Sunday afternoon. She’d been too busy at her work all week to keep up with the news. She is proud of the home she has made here for her son. “All this is me,” she said, gesturing at her surroundings, a cigarette held delicately in her fingers. Asked why her apartment is so well-kept while so many of her neighbors have rundown interiors, she said she takes care of her place and doesn’t merely complain about things like roaches and water bugs. “Spray your apartment, just don’t look at the bugs crawl,” she said. MATTIE GLEN was pushing a small, red grocery cart down the sidewalk at Cleveland Court not far from a concrete basketball court where a 16-year-old girl was gunned down several months earlier. She lives near a huge oak that residents call “the crack tree” because it’s a popular spot for drug deals. Mrs. Glen is 63, a retired dishwasher with three grown children. She was reluctant to talk about the violence that has invaded her neighborhood. “It takes me six months to tend to my business and six months to leave the other person’s business alone,” she said. She had heard a gunshot the night before, but she didn’t investigate. “When I get inside at night, I’m afraid to go out ’cause a bullet don’t know anybody.” Rosa Smith, 71, was sitting on her porch and leaning on a cane. “I don’t sit out here too late,” she said. Mrs. Smith described how a bullet once shattered a window in a nearby apartment and how she cowered under her bed until it was safe to come out. In the first six months of this year, robberies THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31