Bronx Senior Storytellers - D Lee Ezell - part 4 of 4
Edryan: Um so after you left Georgia, ok after you left Georgia you enlisted in the army, correct?
D Lee Ezell: Mm hm.
Edryan: And, how did...
D Lee Ezell: I enlisted in Georgia, to leave Georgia.
Edryan: Um did you go through that same type of discrimination in the army because you were one of the first women you know, one of the only first black women?
D Lee Ezell: Um... there were some, probably not as much as you would think. The problem we had as you know black women in the military was when left the military installation and went into the town you know where we were located. Quick story, when I was in basic training, this was in Alabama, which was more segregated than Georgia, if that’s possible, but on the day that we were allowed to go into the town to a store and buy high heel shoes to go with our dress uniforms, everything else has been supplied to us by the military: shoes, boots, sneakers, I mean everything we needed, except the dress shoes. They didn't make pumps. You know so on this Saturday we were very excited, first time we were able to leave the base of the installation.
Edryan: Like going into the actual town.
D Lee Ezell: Right. Heaven forbid when we get off the bus we see a pizza shop. I had never been into a pizza shop. I had never tasted pizza!
Edryan: Before that?
D Lee Ezell: Before - before that? No, no
D Lee Ezell: And it's true *laughs* but um, so I convinced everybody. There were two, two black people, and four, I think one was from Hawaii and the others were Caucasians. Okay so we were this clique you know, we did things together. So we're gonna go to the pizza shop and we get to the door and the waitress meets us at the door, and says "This one and this one can’t come in! The rest of you can be seated." They didn't recognize the Hawaiian person as not being, you know the *stutters* but... I was so crushed. I was so crushed! And what made it worse was, two of the people went in and had pizza. And the rest of us left and, I don't remember what we had, we found some other place and we had something. That's how devastated I was, I didn't even remember what it was. But that was my first opportunity to taste pizza and now every time I pass a pizza shop I want a slice.
Edryan: You went through that at a certain time in your life, discrimination etc, etc. Do you feel like it's improved now? Do you feel it's as common to be, um, I don't know how to put this. How should I put this? You know, seeing... I don't know, some people.. categorize you, you know, because of your skin color, you're more likely to do this, this and this. Do you feel like it's still as common? I don't think so, but do you think so?
D Lee Ezell: Well how we see that is based on our own experiences, is it not? The journey, the journey I took... took me to places where, that was… almost like a part of my past and um when I arrived at the door, I was welcomed in cause they needed me to come in. I think today of course things are not as extreme as they were when you know, when I was growing up um... I think a great deal of progress. I think the progress between all people by the way, all people, because from very you know early days of civilization, people saw themselves as you know, as that’s them and this is us, that’s them and this is us, so we have progressed a great deal, again, as human beings.
Edryan: As human beings, yeah.
D Lee Ezell: As human beings. And, and it's a good thing, now, that doesn't say the best... there's still some work to be done but, I think we are in a good place because change is difficult for anybody and it takes time. It takes time, it takes education, and understanding and it takes love, love for your fellow man, whatever he looks like.
Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, Grand Concourse