"The Projects Made You Tough"

By Tim Whitaker

By Tim Whitaker
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Feb. 4, 2004

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VERONICA J. JOYNER

Occupation: Founder and CEO, Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School of Philadelphia.

Age: 53.

Education: Kensington High School for Girls, 1968; B.A., Temple University, 1976; M.A., Arcadia University, 2002.

Public housing project: Schuylkill Falls Projects, Abbottsford Homes.

Years she lived there: 1970-1976.

How she remembers it: "I landed in the projects late--at the age of 20 after my marriage broke up. Life was very difficult. I remember walking up eight flights of steps in total darkness and being very scared. Rich people can live in a high-rise and a kind of respect prevails. But here you had people who had no money and a number of people with low self-esteem. Everybody's packed in together. I was a single parent. I got welfare and worked a lot of part-time jobs. Hard as it was, public housing was a savior for me. I remember the day I went to the caseworker and told her I didn't need welfare payments anymore. She told me she never had anyone say that to her. I worked hard and got a full scholarship to Temple University. And that was nice, because when I was a little girl my mother would send me to Columbia Avenue to buy fish, and I remember seeing all the Temple kids and thinking how much I wanted to be one of them. And now here it happened for me. I think of that whenever I hear people screaming for reparations. I tell them I just went out and got mine. My mom cleaned floors and bathrooms to make money. Now I'm an educator and in charge of a charter school. Say what you want, but you can make it, and that's what's great about this country."


JOHN BLUNT

Occupation: News anchor, NBC-10.

Age: 62.

Education: Olney High School, 1959; B.A., University of North Carolina, Charlotte, 1972; M.A., Columbia University, 1973.

Public housing project: Johnson Homes.

Years he lived there: 1941-1953.

How he remembers it: "I had heat, hot water, a playground--we even had a gardener, Mr. Cubberdale. He planted flowers around our building. What more could you want? We didn't know we were poor. I have no recollection of crime. There were lots of mom-and-pop stores in our neighborhood. There was also an A&P and Jaffe's Drug Store. I always worked. I worked in the A&P and at Jaffe's. I remember the lady next door to us, Bertha Cooper, got a new 12-and-a-half-inch TV. It was the first TV I ever saw. I went nearly blind watching it. Our projects were two- and three-story buildings. We lived on the second and third floors. Five of us lived there--my brother, two sisters, my mother. My parents separated when I was 6. I couldn't afford college, so right out of high school I went into the military. I took a bit of the long way around to get to where I am. I live in Lafayette Hill now. I have a two-car garage, four bedrooms, a study, a nice size house, all the trappings of Middle America. What I worried about most back then was the next meal--not so much whether I'd get one, but what it would be. We depended on 'commodities'--government supplied food. We'd get cheese, and this margarine, which was really a 1-pound tub of lard. It had a big orange center. There were guys a lot smarter than me who stayed in the project mentality. The idea of public housing should be to use it for a time, get a lift and move on. Thanks to my mother, we were taught to make a living and do the family proud. I always knew I'd leave the projects someday and go to college--the big trick was figuring out how. Our building is still standing there. I still drive by and take a look. It can be sobering."


MARK SHERMAN

Occupation: President, Sherman Properties.

Age: 45.

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1. Anonymous said... on Sep 28, 2013 at 09:17PM

“Read about RAP!!!”

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