recorded at KenCrest Services April 2015
Nicki: OK. We're recording and this is Nicki (inaudible) and I'm here at KenCrest in Malvern, Pennsylvania on April 23rd, 2015 for the Lives Lived Apart Project and also in the room are... I'll let them introduce themselves.
Gail: My name is Gail Freedman. I'm with the project as well.
Nicki: And can you tell us your name?
Edith: My name is Edith Hampton.
Ami: Thank you.
Edith: Thank you.
Nicki: And also in the room is...
Anita: I'm Anita.
Nicki: And you can just say why you're here.
Ami: Oh, I'm here with Edith. I'm Edith's 101 staff.
Nicki: OK. Thank you so much.
Anita: You're welcome.
Nicki: OK, Edith, like we said before we started recording both Gail and I are going to ask you some questions and we're here to listen to whatever you want to share with us about your life. OK?
Nicki: Great. Gail, do you want to start or do you want me to start?
Gail: OK I'll start. Edith, can you tell me how old you are?
Gail: And where you were born?
Edith: I was born in Philadelphia. Philadelphia, born. My mom put me out, put me in prison, because I was at this old man's house. He was sick and I was helping him out. My sister was around to the corner, went to my mom, and told her I was in this man's house so I had to leave him in the house by himself. He had no money and no clothes and I feel sorry for him. So the cop came around and I come down the road. My mom told the cop on me. My mom said "What are you doing in that man's house?" I said "Mom, I'm just taking care of him and helping out." I said "If you was old like that and nobody wanted to take care of and wanted to help you." I said "I bet you would feel sad." But no my mom had the cops at the house and I walked down. The cop grabbed me, put cuffs on my hands, and put me in jail. So I didn't see my mom but my mom and daddy, they drank and go out when they want to but me? I can't go nowhere but the house. Every time I want to go out with my boyfriend, she get mad at me and ground me and my grandma and grandpa told them I don't think it's fair. Why can't Edith have a boyfriend? But no my mama didn't like me. All my daddy and mom did was beat me up, punch me all in the face, and I didn't even want to fight him but he want me to fight them but I didn't. So I didn't say nothing. So...
Edith: So I came... so the cops put me... all ladies, we couldn't be with boys. We had separated. At first I went to a large state school but at prison they had bars on the window. They had a room (inaudible) if you talk back to your people out there, they will lock you up and they give you dope and they give you all kinds of pills and the cop (inaudible). If you didn't take that, in the brown bottle, they tell you how many drops to put in your medicine. I didn't want to take it because I know something is going to happen to me and it did so my eye ... so I couldn't see where I was going. My eye was in the back of my head. It was out of my head and I walked across the street and this car knocked me down and this lady seen me but I couldn't walk. So they had to call the ambulance and put me in the hospital and then when nobody want me so that happened in school at (inaudible) and they all... I had to see a colored lady hugging Ms. Jane and I asked and she said "Yes. You did not do nothing bad at home. Your mom and daddy ain't do right" and she said "You're not going to stay in this prison for your whole life because they say you're a smart girl. You know how to do a lot of things. We have a big living room and our own break" And I did. I didn't get in no trouble.
Then I went and put my (inaudible) back nice and neat. So after that I went and knocked on the door and told my boss I cleaned my living room. So she came out and my other boss, they said boy, we've never seen the living room like this nice and clean. And they said we're going to do something about this. They say you couldn't stay in this school for a long time. So each morning we had a laundry mat. We walked down the street on the left and this lady named Ms. Jane. She's a white lady. She's the boss of the laundry and it's real big and they ask you questions. You have to do what they tell you. If you don't do what they tell you, you call the man to put you in a side room and lock you up and I didn't do nothing bad so all I did is did what she told me. We had a supervisor, Mr. Bob, and I had to iron his shirt and his undershirt and jeans on and I had four things to do. So he asked me to and I went to my boss and I said "Ms. Jane, I'm finished with the shirt and underwear." And she looked at it and she said "Perfect. You're a good ironer. You know how to do peoples clothes." I said I do. Nobody teach me. I said I taught my own self how to do things. I don't need nobody to do by work but she told me then it was time for us to punch out our card and walk to the room. Then I walked in the door. My supervisor lady, her name is Ms. Brown, she was nice. She was a nice lady but she sit down nice and calm and she said "Edith, I don't see why your mom put you here."
She said That's nice of you helping that poor man out who had nobody.
So the next four weeks I went home so Ms. Brown came to me and we had a chat. The supervisor to hold for us because they take us on trips and everything we want. So the next week I was in the living room watching TV and somebody came up to see me. It was my mom. I didn't want to look at her face and say anything to her because my mom had a bad attitude and I didn't like her one bit. I didn't say nothing to her. The ladies said how Edith helped and she said "Edith?" I said "Yes?" She said "Honey, if you don't want to say nothing to them we can not make you do because you your own boss and you're a grown lady and you keep the bedroom nice and clean everything. You wax your floor. You did nice. Put clean sheets on my bed. My whole room was sparkling." So we went down then. This man came over and shake my hand. I said why you doing this for? He said "Edith, we going to move you somewhere else to stay."
So they brought me here and then I was the only one on my room, only house. I was there by myself and this lady living there, the supervisor. Her name is Alfrina. She has long hair. She's nice and clean. She help me out a lot and she is kind to people and she always treat me, take me to the store. We all sit together and she say pick anything you want to eat. I said thank you Alfrina. I said Alfrina and I told you I've never seen a nice pretty lady like you Alfrina. I said thank you for everything you did for me and she did. She said to me she had to go home at 11. I'd be in bed and her mother... I mean Ms. Bradley. So she came up. She worked down the office. She's a supervisor and...
Nicki: Sorry about that. Go ahead.
Edith: And she's a supervisor. Her name is Ms. Bradley. Boy she is nice. She dressed nice. Her hair always looked good. Every time she came to work...
Nicki: It's OK.
Edith: Every time she come to work and I look at her and she said "Edith?" I said "Yes Ms. Bradley."
Nicki: Sorry about the interruptions Edith.
Edith: That's alright.
Edith: And Ms. Bradley came to my house. I didn't have no clothes on my back. I was naked and when I walked in the door and Ms. Bradley and Alfrina, they went to the store and bought me clothes with their own money and that's Ms. Bradley, y'all. I said thank you so much. I said I love you two so much. Y'all is like a mother and sister to me. They bought me this. Alfrina bought me this whole side. She (inaudible). Her mother (inaudible) and they both came over my house. We watch TV and have snacks and Ms. Bradley, she be working and her daughter, named Alfrina...
Edith: Her daughter take care of me real good and they both is like a mother to me. So I told (inaudible) I said thank them for everything they did for me. They never hit me. They don't say nasty stuff. They is like a mother and sister to me and I love both of them and I told Ms. Bradley. Ms. Bradley said Edith? I said yes? She said can I ask you something? I said yes, what do you want to ask me Ms. Bradley? She said I'd like to have you for my daughter. I said me? She said yes, you ain't got no parents. I said what happen to them? They all got hurt and the whole house was burnt up.
So she took me for her daughter and she went to my court, her and Sam and she told me you just keep being good. I'm going to get you to bed in my house. You're going to live with me. I said yeah Ms. Bradley? She said yes honey because I know you're a good cleaner. You know how to clean everything. I said OK Ms. Bradley and she hugged me all the time. She smiled. She believe in the Holy Ghost. She has a big white bible. Every night she go home. She always read her bible and she believe in God. They both do and I did that when I got home and I got came to work and work and Diane, the one downstairs, she's my boss. Pat and Bernadette and Al and Al's... everybody here changed me after this. I didn't have no prison. No trouble I've been here. Everybody here has been good for me. They are nice and kind. Al, he's a good supervisor. Diane (inaudible). They all help me and they changed me and they told me I'm the best girl they got here in the workshop and I hugged them and said thank all of y'all and went back to my job and that was it.
Nicki: Wow. Edith, thank you so much for sharing so much...
Edith: That's alright.
Nicki: of your story already. Can I ask you a few questions to hear some more?
Edith: Anything you want to ask.
Nicki: Gail, do you have a question or do you want me to... OK. Well I would like to start where you just left off.
Nicki: And you said the people here changed you.
Edith: They did.
Nicki: Can you talk a little more about how you feel you've changed since being here.
Edith: Well I was on too much medicine. My eyes and my daddy, he's taught me how to fight and I didn't want to fight nobody. I said Daddy and the people cross the street, they see him punch me on the face so I said daddy, I'm going somewhere else. I can't take it. I said you're supposed to be my father and beat me up? I said if I did that to you, you won't like it. And he did the same thing like my mom. They both was in prison, jail, drunk so I didn't (inaudible). I just got right in the car with the cops and they took me here, all of them. They said Edith, if you have any problems, anybody bother you in there, they said would you please come to us? We are your boss. And he said don't fight nobody and don't hit nobody back. I used to be that way but now I've changed. My mind is (inaudible) I changed my own self. I come to work every day, every day and Diane always hugs me. She loves me so much. Diane is a wonderful lady. I do like her. She never gave me no trouble. She never did. Everyone here, everyone in this workshop. The staff has been good to me and I love them and with this one...
Anita: My name?
Anita: I'm Anita.
Edith: Anita? When I came here, one thing about her, she is a wonderful girl and I like her so much. Every time I come to work she always share her stuff with me. We share... like a diet. I had two big bottles of a diet soda and I came on duty one morning and I come in the office and I said here here's a bottle of soda for you and I got one. Every time. Every time and then we went out together, me and another lady. She went to the store and bought me a pair of jeans. Nice. I said why are you doing this for? She said Edith, I like you because you're the only one that doesn't howl at me and call me dirty names. She told me if you want anything, ask me, and I will give it to you. And she did a lot of things for me too. She helped me out and told everybody to leave me alone and we go out to have a good time and we have a radio. (inaudible) kitchen. Every time I dance she copy off of me. Every time if I like it, she liked it and everybody (inaudible) screaming go ahead! We had a good time together and Al... I mean Pat. Pat said "Look at that! Look at her shaking!" This one right here, her too. I wish you would see her dance. She's a good dancer. Me and her can dance really good. Everybody (inaudible) You know how to move it and she can move it too. We both.
So every time... and we have a store downstairs. Every time she calls for snacks and diet. I always get her and she always get me. She told me she likes me because I'm like a sister to her and I told her she's like a mother to me and she is wonderful. I give her money, she gives me money, and we share together; no trouble. One thing about her she don't cuss. If somebody comes up and says a nasty word she tells them to leave me alone. She says Edith is not bothering you. I'm her boss and I listen to her. And every time I get a check, check and check it's all time... I make more money in this workshop, don't I?
Anita: Yes, you do.
Edith: She's a wonderful lady. She got her own. She's got kids too but one day I gave her some... some candy and presents for her baby and the kids and she said Edith, why you doing this? I said child because I like you. You is like a sister to me and you buy me stuff too and boy she hugged me and she ran back and told Al. I have a sister Edith and Al said yep. I want you to be like that together and Pat said OK and then we got done and we all sat down and ate and then she told me if you leave here Edith, I'm leaving too because I'm on my way out of here because I'm going to a laundry job. Yeah. They had here a meeting a long time ago about (inaudible) the laundry. I didn't want to lose her but I said my dad tell my mom like you want me help you out? I'll be glad to come. I do want two jobs. I got one now in the laundry mat and I told my mom I want another job to work to make my own money. So I didn't know about this meeting we had on that day. So I was in my room at home and I said I should get another job. I said if they come here again I'm going to ask them do they need me to help y'all out and I'll be so happy. If y'all do want me to help you out, I'll be glad to help you. I don't care who you are. God made me to get along with everybody and help everybody so if you really want me to help you and help the other job going all you got to do is tell them and my people. I'll be glad to help you.
Nicki: Are you talking to me right now? Are you talking about out project?
Edith: Yes ma'am.
Nicki: OK. Just... I want to be clear. We're not... We're not. We can't hire anybody. We're not here to do job interviews. This is just an interview about your life and your story and you're sharing everything you're sharing is how you can help us and we are so appreciative of you doing that.
Edith: Yes ma'am.
Nicki: We don't have... we're not here about jobs beyond this. We're here about your story.
Edith: Oh, OK.
Nicki: So I'm sorry if that was not clear.
(Come in, who is it?)
Nicki: One moment. OK, we're recording again.
Nicki: But I want to hear more about... so you'll be starting a job at a laundry mat? Is that right?
Edith: Yes ma'am.
Nicki: And the meeting that you're talking about; was that like an ISP meeting or something? A meeting where you talk... where people... where you make decisions about what... can you tell me more about the meeting that you had where you... you just mentioned the meeting where you... where people were talking about your work, where you're going to work next.
Edith: The meeting, Ms. Bradley and (inaudible) in the office. They always come to my house.
Edith: The house I live in and ain't nothing to do but sit in the house on Saturday and Sunday so I asked Ms. Bradley. I said Ms. Bradley? She said yes? I said can I please ask you something? She said sure, that's what I'm here for, to do things for y'all. So I said can I work at a laundry mat? She said well, yeah you can. I'm going to talk a moment and people down at the office, can you have it because you know how to do a lot of things. You keep the house clean every day. You iron your own clothes everyday so her and Warren and them say they got it for me. So Ms. Bradley, now she's going to take me shopping and get me some more jeans and shirts to work in the laundry mat because she said we cannot wear no skirt and dresses because you know how it is. So I said OK. So pretty soon I'll be getting leaving this place. I don't know how long but they said if I keep my work up and working, working, they will help me and get me out. So I really appreciate everybody.
Gail: Can I just ask where you live? Do you live near here with Ms. Bradley? Is that...
Edith: Ms. Bradley live far away.
Edith: And my home is 1-7. It's close by around here. It ain't far but Ms. Bradley and she go to work. She's a supervisor. She's here for everybody to help to give people a job. She checks the house and thing. If your house is not clean she will tell you about it because she is the boss of this whole building so I said yes. So that's why I ask her for another job. So they told me pretty soon they will let me know when I can go.
Gail: Do you live by yourself?
Edith: I have a house by myself, yes. And the lady I told you name's... gosh I missed that.
Anita: Ms. Bradley?
Edith: Yeah Ms. Bradley. And Alfrina. Those two. I talk to those two and they two told me pretty soon, don't spoil it and so I'm just waiting.
Gail: How do you get from your house to here?
Edith: Well I have a van, a grey van. She bring me to work back and forth. She come and get me at eleven o'clock and I have to be here with another girl named Marilyn. She drives me to work here and then I go back downstairs so the kitchen... I have to do all the doors and things and downside and wipe the counters down and sometimes I come up here and clean up here all by myself up here and sometimes Al asks me to do his office and I do it and they told me I'm a smartest girl in this workshop. Nobody can work just like me.
Nicki: Why did you want to work somewhere else?
Edith: Well, I wanted to get help since she is my mother and I want to help her.
Nicki: Ms. Bradley?
Edith: Yes ma'am. Cause she have a lot of bills to pay and I don't want her to be sad all the time and get mail, checks and checks and since she taking care of me I want to take care of her too. She's like a mother to me and I don't like her going all the time spending her money on me. If I was her daughter... if you was my mother and got a lot of bills to pay, would you help out? That's what I'm doing to her. She helps me out so I'm going to help her and I love her, both of them and I don't care what they say about it but I love Ms. Bradley so much. Every time I see her I have tears in my eyes and I say Ms. Bradley? She says yeah baby? I say I love you so much. She says I love you too Edith. You are a wonderful daughter to me and so that's why I want two jobs to help her out and I don't care what it is, I don't care how much it costs. If I go to work there and I sign my own check I'm going to give it right to her. I'm going to say Ms. Bradley thanks for doing everything for me you did for me. That's alright. I'm doing it for you and we were like [brothers].
Nicki: That's really touching.
Nicki: So am I understanding right, you want to work somewhere else so you... because you'll make more money than you'll make here?
Edith: Yes ma'am.
Edith: Well she told me... I think she is kind of getting me a job around her way because I think she said it's a van going to come and pick me up from her street and bring me back and forth and I have a card to punch in and get off the van and I want to help her and I want to help myself.
Nicki: Yeah. So what kinds of ... You've talked about work.
Nicki: What kinds of things do you like to do for fun or what do you enjoy doing?
Edith: For fun? I'd rather be working. I don't like to sit around.
Gail: What kind of dancing do you like to do?
Edith: I dance how I dance. Sometimes I dance like Elvis Presley songs and Tom Jones and Supremes and Ricky Nelson and the (inaudible) brothers and Lou and Michael Jackson.
Nicki: That's a good list of musicians.
Gail: Is there anything else that's important for you to say or tell us?
Edith: All I'm doing is waiting to go.
Nicki: How do you... I'm sorry, go ahead.
Edith: I was waiting to go and go to my job and get myself, get my mom, Ms. Bradley, to go to the store with me and help me pick out different color pants and blouses and things and take me to work because I don't like to sit around. I don't. Every time I see a lot of girls working, selling food, working at Burger King. I don't like to sit around. I don't. I like to move around and make money and make it and when I do get a lot I ask Ms. Bradley to put it in the bank for me and she puts it there so that's all I want.
Nicki: OK, I think... I'm so glad you spoke with us today Edith. Thank you much.
Gail: Thank you.
Edith: You're very welcome.
Nicki: I wish you good luck on your next... at your next job, your next move.
Edith: Thank you.
Nicki: Thank you.
Gail: Thank you.
Photos by JJ Tiziou
A Fierce Kind of Love has been supported
by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.