Black United Front Oral History Project

Interview with Richard Brown

In his oral history, Brown discusses his childhood and adolescence in Harlem and how the community there shaped him. Recalling the respect and unity between adults and children, he has taken these experiences and brought them to his work in Portland.

Sometimes when it got close to time to get home, my father, we lived on the sixth floor, he'd open the window and he'd whistle. He had this whistle and I could be a couple blocks away and somebody would come and say, "Your dad was whistling for you." People looked out for each other. I guess that's piece I wanted to say. The neighborhoods had all the craziness going on, but adults weren't intimidated by kids. When an adult came up to you, it was no "get lost." And that for me fostered that notion about, before I'd ever heard of a village raising a child, that's what I grew up in. 

During his career with the United States Air Force, Brown experienced racism where it often interfered with his work. An outspoken person, he fought against the prejudices in the military.

And one year, now this was in Texas also, one year there was a black who was named Airman of the Month. Well, they have this luncheon for him at one of the big restaurants downtown. So he goes downtown to the restaurant and they make him go in the back door. Now when that got back to the base we decided we were going to have a demonstration, we were going to go to the restaurant and were gonna go on a Sunday when they're busy.

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