Doris Adelaide Derby oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-04-26.
DD: Well, uh, I grew up in a community in the Bronx called Williamsbridge, and, uh, it was an interesting community. It was diverse, and yet we had a, um - the black community was welded together through the four - three or four - churches in the area. I, uh - my father was Episcopalian, and so we went officially to the Episcopal Church. But my three girlfriends, who lived on the street on the same block as I did, [5:00] they went to the Baptist Church down the street. And so, I went there also. So, I really went to two churches every Sunday. And, uh, I sang in the choir, the child - the youth choir, uh, in their church, and, um, I was active in other ways in, um, the Episcopal Church. There was several, um, people from the Caribbean Islands, as well as the South - South Carolina, North Carolina - and, um, so, I had a mixture there.
In the, in the community, you know, every time I went to another level of school, from elementary to junior high to middle school, uh, I had to walk a longer distance, but the environment, the people were, uh, more, uh, varied. But the block, the neighborhood, the immediate neighborhood was very varied, too. Uh, we had a Jewish delicatessen. Italians owned the liquor store. We had a Chinese restaurant and Chinese laundry and a black restaurant owner. So, it was very - quite varied. The Italians were the largest population in our community. And, um, so, as I said, we - as we got older and went to another school, we got more people coming from farther away, some from what we called the Lower Bronx, and so, you had that mixture. Many were - some were Latin; some were, again, Caribbean; sometimes a few African; as well as, you know, Greek, Italian, Jewish, all of that. So, I grew up along those lines.
But I also had a quest from an early age as to, “Where are our black positive images in the media?” I’m not seeing very much of it in books, in magazines. Now, in newspapers, there are black newspapers. Uh, but in film, uh, you know, we gravitated to what movies there were, which was Amos and Andy or, um, Tarzan where there were some black African people who were running around.
And I had a great-aunt, who was, uh - she was like a great-great-aunt. My grandmother on my father’s side, she called her, “her aunt, Great Aunt Jesse.” Great Aunt Jesse was a missionary in Liberia, and she would write letters to my grandparents, my paternal grandparents, telling about her experiences in Liberia, Monrovia, and, um, sent some photographs, but mainly, you know, stories. And so, I said, “Oh,” you know, “I have to find out more about this continent that has all black people or a variety of black people, uh, where we came from.” And, um, so, that was one of my missions.
Now, I also grew up, uh, in the arts. All of the, uh, children in my mother’s family played musical instruments, except for - well, my mother did also, but she studied dance. And my sister and I studied dance from elementary school. And, uh, that, of course, uh, pursuit expands your horizons. And combined with the ideas, uh, from my great-aunt about Africa, I wanted to know more. So, when I was in junior high school, anytime we had a social studies report, I did something on Africa or the Caribbean.