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Gwen Booker, 67Current Tenant, Former Owner, Retired Elementary-School Teacher
Lives with: Her son Tushawn.
History: Four generations have lived here since her parents bought the house in 1959.
I’ll be here till I die, probably. I sit out here mostly. I taught for 25 years. Second, third, and fourth grade. When I used to teach they’d say to me, “Oh, Ms. Booker, you can’t do nothing to me ’cause you’ll lose your job.” And I’d say, “Let me tell you something: You do something to disrespect me and I’m going to bust your behind.”
The people are different now. When I was growing up, if you played hooky, they would tell your mother and you’d get a beating. Or they’d beat you. If they saw you do something you had no business doing, they’d tell your mother. Everybody cared about everybody. But now, if you get in trouble or do something wrong, nobody says nothing. That’s not how I was raised.
Tushawn Booker, 50Current Owner
Lives with: His mother, Gwen Booker
Moved from: Born on the block
History: Third-generation resident
When I first came on this block, there were more kids. We used to come out and play football, baseball, skully — these kids want to play PlayStation. Tushawn, he’s my son, I have to drag him out of the house. My mom used to say you have to come home when the streetlight comes on. I would be out from eight in the morning to seven at night, and by the time I got home my shirt would be filthy.
I started hanging out with the wrong guys, cutting school, and I started being bad. I started robbing people and stuff, and I got a taste of going to jail. I went to a juvenile place. And the judge told me: Either you can go to the military or you can go back to jail. I went into the military. I feel like he helped me out. He seen I wasn’t that kind of person and gave me a chance.
In the Navy, I’ve been around Chinese people, black, white. As long as you cool, that’s all that count. When you’re subjected to just one area, that’s when you say, “Oh, the white people are moving in.” That’s just because you’re only living on this block. The stereotypes between white and black, that’s because people don’t leave their area. I try to get Brother to go on cruises with me all the time. He won’t go!
The way I feel, if you’re moving on the block, you need to come say, “Hey,” because there’s going to be a day where I might need you or you might need me. Brother and them can tell you. There was people down the block and they never said nothing to you before, but now their house got broken into, and they ain’t stupid. They see Brother and them outside all the time. They go down there and ask them, “Did you see anybody?” Oh, now you want to talk to me? ’Cause you think I can help you out? That shouldn’t be a reason for you to talk to me.
The reason I stay here is ’cause this is my mom’s only home, the only home she knows. She still here, and it’s making her happy, so that’s why I’m still here. I have four more years until I retire. I can move anywhere I want. I want to move to a state where I can get more money out of my pension than living here. I don’t want to have to retire and be a security guard at Home Depot.