"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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JUAN RAMOS

Occupation: City Councilman.

Age: 52.

Education: Murrell Dobbins High School, 1970; B.A., George Meany Center for Labor Studies, 2002.

Public housing project: Lived in a PHA-redeveloped house in Kensington.

Years he lived there: 1965-1970.

How he remembers it: "We lived in scattered housing--a three-story pink house. Pink! It was my parents and me and my five brothers and sisters. Everybody knew the pink house. We were working poor--one of the first Puerto Rican families in the neighborhood. My father was a janitor for the Catholic Archdiocese. Our family was working through the classic American dream. You leave the island, bring your kids up, get them an education, gather up strong principles and you make your way. It was just the road you travel. The block we lived in was racially integrated, and there were other public housing homes on the block. But there were lots of places you just didn't go. You'd walk up a certain block and just know not to go a step further. I can't say I felt stigmatized by living in public housing, but as I got older I realized being poor helped me become a tough individual--not tough like bully tough, but tough in a very determined way. I was elected in large part by people who live in public housing. It's made me very determined to stand up for the poor. After living five or six years in that pink house, my father's salary went up $24 a week. That made us ineligible to live in there. I remember my father turned around, told us we had to leave, and then he told us we had to leave it exactly as we got it. He got paintbrushes and we went to work. We worked that house over and gave it back to PHA the same way they gave it to us. My father then went out and bought a home on the American Street corridor, the first house he ever owned. I still go by the old house. It's still pink."

Tim Whitaker (twhitaker@philadelphiaweekly.com) is PW's editor.

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

“Read about RAP!!!”

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