InterGenerational Blog

William Rhodes

Curriculum 2020

We are currently living through unprecedented times. Our world is exploding with innovations in technology and communications yet we are experiencing a rise in radicalism and isolation of communities. The Coronavirus pandemic has amplified this isolation. I, along with the world, am exploring new ways to foster interpersonal connections while adhering to shelter-in-place orders. This new challenge has given birth to projects which can marry technology with our ancient oral traditions. Students and seniors will be practicing the power of intergenerational storytelling. Students will be given a list of questions to ask a senior over the phone. Through these conversations built upon questions and answers, seniors will share their personal history. Every question asked and answered will allow the student and senior to explore a shared connection with each other as well as forging a connection between the past, present and future. Students and seniors will be encouraged to create art work inspired by this project. The conclusion of this project will result in an online blog which will document the seniors’ personal histories and related artworks.

To get involved with the Intergenerational program, please contact : William Rhodes, Program Coordinator 410-215-1994 1753 Carroll Ave San Francisco, CA 94124

Meet some of the Interviewers

Meet Some of the Interviewees

Interview with Diane Bennett
By Sol Bowden

SB: Can you tell me your name?
DB: Diane Bennett

SB: Do you know why your family gave you this name?
DB: Bennett is my married name.  I took his name when I got married.  My family name is Walker.

SB: Can you tell me where you were born? (If not San Francisco when did you move here?)
DB: San Francisco, CA. At San Francisco General Hospital

SB: What year were you born?
DB: 1950

SB: Did your family tell you anything about the day you were born?
DB: Not really. My mother didn’t speak a lot about that.  It’s just June 25th, not any special holiday.  

SB: How large was your family?
DB: My mom had 6 children, 4 girls and 2 boys.

SB: What was it like living in your house with all those people? 
DB: There was a lot of women in our family.  So we looked up to women.  Being part Indian descent we kept close, in a circle, because the men were out at work. 
SB: What was your favorite movie or book when you were young?
DB: The Christmas Carol 

 SB: What do you want your children and grandchildren (if you have them) to remember about you?
 DB: I do have children, grandchildren and I have great grandchildren.  I have an art ability around making jewelry and color coordination.  I would like to share that whatever you do, including going to college, cultivate the arts or a particular skill so that you may have something to fall back on.

SB: How are you doing today? 
DB: I’m good. I’m making masks for the seniors. The one for your face.  One of the ladies for the senior center helped with it by getting the fabric. 

SB: Do you have a sewing machine or do it by hand?
DB: I’m using a sewing machine. Both my grandmothers, mom, and aunts all knew how to sew.

SB: What life advice would you like to share with young people?
DB: To stay together, each one teaches one.  If you have a talent that your friend doesn’t have , teach them.  

SB: I would like to meet your class.  Thank you for  this interview. 
DB: You’re welcome.  Thank you for being present.

Interview with Ms. Sheron Romes
By Malia Morales

Do you know why your family gave you your name?

Her parents name her after a flower.

Can you tell me where you were born?

She was born in Chicago, IL, and moved to the Bay Area July 5, 1965.

When’s your birthday?

She was born on June 26, 1955.

How large is your family?

She has 4 bothers, and 2 sisters.

Are you the oldest?

She is the third oldest of seven children.

What was it like to have a lot of siblings?

They were always laughing and having a good time. They enjoyed having their siblings around to play with.

What was your favorite movie or book growing up?

Her favorite movie is the Sister Act. We both enjoy Whoopie Goldberg movies.

What were the most memorable events to you when you were growing up?

Her most memorable events were spending time with family and playing in the snow (back in Chicago). Every summer, her whole family would go to her auntie’s farm and pick apples. They also enjoyed watching her parents kill and pluck the chickens.

Do you have fun picking and harvesting?

Yeah, we had a fun time because her mom had seven kids and her aunt had eight, so there were seventeen children running around.

What did you do for fun when you were a teenager?

She was a nerdy teen. During high school, she joined BSU (Black Student Union), drill team, and continued to attend church every Sunday.                

What time did you have to be home at night?

She always had to be home before dark.

Did you ever get in trouble?

Yes. Her brother girlfriend bribed her with three scoops of ice cream to participate in pranking her mother. The girlfriend lied and said that Sheron had been injured and had been taken to the county hospital for treatment. While walking home with her ice cream, Sheron saw her mom and the community preparing to see her in the hospital, so she ran over and left her ice cream to splat on the sidewalk. She was later punished for participating in the lie.

How did you like to dress?

Her mother handmade their clothing, so they dressed cool in their original outfits.

What was the fashion back then? And did you ever wear them?

The fashion was hot pants and short skirts. She never wore them.

What were the dances back when you were growing up?

The dances were the mashed potatoes and the twist.

What was your first job?

Her first job was babysitting in San Mateo.

What was your favorite job?

Her favorite job was being a cashier at a retail store. Now, it’s helping the elderly.

Do you have any kids and grandkids?

She has four daughters, who gave her two granddaughters and two grandsons. She currently lives with one of her granddaughters.

Interview with Ms. Jean Wilson
By Axel Palms

I had a conversation with Miss Jean Wilson. “I’m blessed,” she says. “I have emphysema. Thanks to God I’m still here. I’m Miss Jean Wilson. Call me by my first name, Miss Jean. I’m from Texas. You have to call people by Mrs. or Mr.” Miss Jean only has one sibling, her sister Pamela. Pamela is a flight attendant for Delta Airlines. Miss Jean was the only child for 20 years until her sister was born. Miss Jean has first cousins with whom she is very close. They went to the store, movies and they loved each other so dearly. She said we need to get that love back. People need to be kind to each other. “People used to tease me because I was very tall. Children can be so mean to each other. I am a Christian. God made us all to love, love each other, strive for the best, and always hold your head high.” Miss Jean was born in Texas. She moved out to California. Her favorite movie was Imitation of Life, the original version. When she was little she always wished she could have a monkey. She told me to “be kind, be careful, be sweet, be safe.”

Interview with Mr. Ira Watkins
By D’Andrew Shupert-Nadig

Can you tell me your name?
Ira Watkins

First Mr. Watkins said that his family just picked the name out of the air. Then he did say that Ira was a relative’s name.

What year were you born?

Mr. Watkins was born in Waco, Texas.

When did you move to San Francisco?
He moved to San Francisco around 1957. He came here for an adventure and because it was cheaper to live here.

Did your family tell you anything about the day you were born?
He came from a large family and things about the day he was born never came up.

How large was your family?
I had a large family – 2 brothers and 5 sisters

Were they older or younger?
3 were older – 2 boys and 1 girl

Did you get along with them?
They all got along with each other. They were not a fighting sort of family. They had disagreements from time to time, but never any physical fighting. That is still true today.

Who were your heroes or people you looked up to when you were young?
Mr. Watkins looked up to his parents when he was young. He admired their strength. He admired other people as well who were strong and stood up for what was right.

What did you do for fun when you became a teenager?
When he was young, Mr. Watkins shined shoes for fun. He also shot pool.

What time did you have to be home at night?
He had to be home by 5pm.

What was your first job?
Mr. Watkins shined shoes when he was young. This was his first job. He also shot pool until he was 25. He made a living shooting pool. Of course, it costed a lot less to live back then and you could get by shooting pool

Do you have any children and grandchildren?
Mr. Watkins has 1 daughter. She is older and has 2 children. He also has 2 great grandchildren.

What life advice would you like to share with young people?
Mr. Watkins encouraged kids to get a good education. A good education will give a child more options when they get older.

Interview with Mr. Alonzo Waltker
By Alana Morales

Do you know why your family gave you your name?

He was named after his father’s friend. His full name is Mr. Alonzo Menelik Walker. Menelik was an emperor of Ethiopia.

Can you tell me where you were born?

San Francisco, California, General hospital.

When were you born?

October 9, 1948, he will be turning 72 this year.

Did your family tell you anything about the day you were born?

 Only that his birth was premature.

How big is your family?

One brother, two sisters, and Mr. Alonzo.

What is your favorite book/movie?

His favorite movie is Muhammad Ali and his favorite book is The Holy Quran.

What did you do for fun as a teenager?

He played sports like track and field and baseball.

Where did you hang out?

He lived in Bayview Hunters Point, so he hung out at the park, libraries, and at his Jr. High school (middle school).

What time would you have to be home at night?

When he was a kid, he had to be home before dark and as a teenager at 9 o’ clock.

Did you ever get in trouble?

Yes, due to peer pressure this made him end up in jail.

What were the slang phrases back then?

What’s up, what’s happening, going to the crib (also known as going home).

What were the outfits back then?

They were polo shirts, leather jackets, with afros and braids.

What was your favorite job?

He said “Working in the post office.’’

What did you do in the post office?

Sorted, stamped, and loaded mail for delivery.

Did you ever have any children or grandchildren?

No children, he has nieces and nephews only.

What kind of music do you like?

Motown, Smokey Robinson, Supremes and The Temptation!

What do you think about today’s music?

He’s not a big fan of gangster rap. He doesn’t like how it speaks of “the negatives.” Life should be about “the positive”, of a better human being. Music should inspire you when you’re young.

Who is your favorite president?

Mr. Barak Obama, President Obama is inspiring and encouraging.

What do you think about Michelle Obama? She is an excellent role model for ladies. 

Interview with Mr. Dennis Billups
By Darrow Feldstein

On April 13, 2020, I called up Mr. Dennis Billups to interview him and talk with him about his life. I had never met Dennis nor knew anything about him. When I called, he promptly asked if I knew who he was or anything about his story. I said no and he told me, “you have no ground to stand on. Go and watch the movie “Crip Camp” and call me back.” I was able to ask a few basic questions before we ended the call though. Dennis was born in 1952, the year of the dragon, in San Francisco. He’s lived in SF his entire life. Most of his family is from Texas but they’re now all on the west coast. There are 4 in his immediate family though his sister passed in 2011. She was also blind. Both Dennis and his sister were premature at birth. When they were put in incubators, they received too much oxygen and it burnt his and his sister’s corneas making them blind. Dennis has practiced meditation since being a young child and has put a lot of work and study into spiritual and contemplative study. He is well versed in astrology and numerology among many other schools of thought.
Dennis talked a bit about his work in the disability justice movement and the passage of 504—something I had no knowledge of. The day after our call, I watched the new “Crip Camp” movie and there was Dennis Billups being interviewed! And there was footage of him from the seventies occupying the federal building in San Francisco for 26 days! I realized I was talking with someone who had some real experience with leadership and justice movements.
I called him back the next day and we had a lovely and lively conversation about leadership and inner work, about care for others and about belief in there being something better afoot. He’s really sharp and has such a quick mind. And with someone like Dennis, set interview questions can’t really work. The interviewer must flow with him wherever the energy presents itself. Below is a poem inspired by my time with Dennis which I hope gets to the heart of our conversation together.
Leading from the heart
Harken back to days
when equity was a budding word
when the call to action was heard and lifted up to the light.
This man, no sight, rises to meet
that which is awake inside of him
that which he sees awake in all.
A commitment to inclusion and care,
A discipline for inner work and joy.
What do leaders need today I ask?
What must we learn from the past?
“Open up and listen”, he says
“stay grounded and aware of the call”
“leave no one behind and look out for one another
I witness his wisdom and feel more
than I understand
Keep a laugh on the tip of my tongue
Keep the vision for liberation at the forefront.
This will not be easy,
The tides are shifting
Give thanks for the wisdom keepers
Who generously share.
May I pass forward the messages
and always remain
a learner.

Interview with Dolores Cunningham
By Jennie Bennett

Do you know why your family gave you your name?: Answer is, I guess my mother gave me that name because it was beautiful and that she liked it.
How large was your family?: Answer is, There was 5 girls and Dolores was the oldest.
What was your favorite book growing up?: Answer is, Black Nigeria.
Who were your heroes/sheroes or people you looked up to?: Answer is, MLK and President Kennedy.
Do you have children or grandchildren?: Answer is, Yes, I have 3 kids my son died though.
What do you want your children and grandchildren to remember about you?: How kind I was to everybody. Also how I was able to feed everybody cause a lot of people don’t have a chance to feed themselves or there children. So I’m glad that I got that opportunity.
As an older adult what was the most difficult and rewarding time in your life?: Answer is, when my son died was the most difficult time. Most rewarding to me was when I got to  give my kids as much as they want or need.
What life advice would you like to share with the younger people of today?: Answer is, To be more supportive and kind to people.

A Message From Gail Meadows, Founder of Meadows Livingstone School.
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