Interview of Floyd Smaller

Interviewer: 00:06 Could you spell your first and last name please?

Floyd: 00:08 F-L-O-Y-D S-M-A-L-L-E-R.

Interviewer: 00:14 All right. And reference to the map in front of you there, do you currently or have you ever lived in or near this part of north Minneapolis? And if so, how long?

Floyd: 00:22 Yes, I live at 1121 Vincent. Approximately, I’d say 49 years.

Interviewer: 00:29 Any other places have you lived? I think, I can’t talk today.
Floyd: 00:33 It’s okay, no I haven’t.

Interviewer: 00:35 Okay. Thinking back from when you first came to this area to today, what changes have you seen, positive and negative?
Floyd: 00:45 Negative it’s like, I mean all the blacks have, they’re moving a lot of black people out, and it’s like gentrification. They’re moving a lot of white people in, and it’s like they’re taking over the community, and some of them are nice, some of them are not. It’s different now. I don’t understand what’s really going on. But when I was coming up as a youngster on the north side, it was basically balanced. You had your whites and you had a lot of blacks, and you had black businesses that were flourishing. We don’t have that anymore, and we don’t have a store close to the Northside right here. You have to] go all the way to Cub Foods to get groceries, and for the people that live down this way it’s extra hard. But if you had – I think it would help out a lot – if we had a grocery store closer to the community. When we did have a grocery store it was black owned. But I helped get rid of it because the guy was selling drugs to little kids in the store.

Interviewer: 02:13 Wow. What was the name or location of it?
Floyd: 02:17 It was down here on – what street was that? Close to Russell down here. It was the Sweet Shop, that’s what i was called. Yeah it was a long time ago, you guys probably never heard of it.

Interviewer: 02:31 I’m doing some historical research on north Minneapolis so it’s good to know those things.
Floyd: 02:35 Yeah it was called the Sweet Shop and this guy, this black dude who was in there, I think his name was Jesse. Me and this other guy got rid of him. We got the police involved. I didn’t like what was going on because young kids shouldn’t be exposed to that. Messes up your mind, you can’t think straight. You get confused and a lot of things happen to you. I think the north community has a lot of good things too. People work together and show love towards one another and there’s a lot of good things happening here. I think if we all just took together and made things work out right, we could all make things work.

Interviewer: 03:29 Definitely. So I hear you saying there was some positive and some negative changes. Could you identify what caused some of those changes?
Floyd: 03:40 Well, let’s see. I say people moved from Chicago or in Indiana to get on this easy welfare up here, not really wanting to work, not really wanting to produce. It brings the community down. When you really don’t produce things and do things for yourself and try to do anything, you don’t get any good results. Part of that is hard work. When you do hard work, you get results. I learned that as a young kid and I know how to work, and knowing how to work is a good thing because you can always produce for yourself. Do something, live for others too, like this old lady I help her all the time. She lives by herself. She can’t really move things. Can’t really do things. So I help her out a lot. But I know there’s a lot of people that don’t care about the elderly here on the north side. They don’t try to help them. They play their bang bang music, I don’t like that. Ride down streets smoking dope, smoking weed. That’s bad for a community.

Floyd: 04:59 I mean if you want a nice community, you want educated people in your community. People that are doing things. People that are trying to help one another. Educated people – doctors, lawyers, businessmen. You don’t want dopeheads running around messing with your children and messing with the community. [crosstalk 00:05:24] I think another negative aspect is that thing that where the buses run, that they’re like little blocks of something, with poles standing up. I don’t know if you guys noticed them when you’re driving in your car. Where the buses run now, you guys know what I’m talking about? That’s a hazard because that can cause accidents for bikers. If you got a biker on the side of the road driving, the bus comes, don’t see them – bam! He’s gone.

Interviewer: 06:06 You’re talking about that little indent that goes from this. They did so much construction right there on Oak Park.
Floyd: 06:13 I don’t understand that.

Interviewer: 06:14 They just literally just extended the sidewalk, and then continued it.
Floyd: 06:18 Yeah. Why would they do that though? Do you guys know?

Interviewer: 06:20 No. I don’t understand. I never understood why they did it. That’s the type of question I should be asking because they took so long just to do that.
Floyd: 06:30 That is so retarded dude. I don’t get that. Northside has changed for some better though, because it used to be a lot of gang violence here. I don’t know if y’all know that or not. That has slowed down a lot. The north side got some good parks, good recreation, good community centers. North High School, that’s a good high school. I went to Saint Paul Central, I ain’t go to North. I live over north, and I have to function over north, and I like it over north, so I’m not going to move from over north. I like the people over north. But I don’t like some of the things some of the guys do. But ain’t nothing I can do about that. I’m not God. I have to deal with it just like everybody else. I ain’t nothing special out here. I love my people though. I ain’t gonna lie about that. I love my black people. That’s just the way I feel.

Interviewer: 07:39 So we’re gathering these stories to increase understanding between the city of Minneapolis and the community on the impact of historic discriminatory government policies.
Floyd: 07:56 Yeah, discriminatory is right because another thing I want to bring up. There was a McDonald’s here years ago, up on Pin and Plymouth. I worked up there and I was discriminated against. I was fired because the white manager told me to do something, but it was like, “G outside and pick up the garbage.” And I looked at that like, “Wait a minute.” It’s like he had an attitude about saying it. And I was young and in my teens, so I took an attitude I’m saying, “Wait a minute. Go outside and pick up the garbage? Stay out there until it’s all picked up?” I took like it’s not my dad. I’m here to do burgers and fries, dude.

Interviewer: 08:49 Right, and not to pick up garbage.
Floyd: 08:51 I’m not out here to pick up garbage and throw it in the garbage all day long. So he got rid of me. That’s how life is. So I got fired and I lost that job. It was a good job at first, until the black manager left and then the white manager came. I was like, “I’m done with this. I’m done.” Then I went looking for another job. Then I worked at Mars and Building Maintenance Company.

Interviewer: 09:19 I worked there before.
Floyd: 09:22 I messed my hands up, so I was gonna sue them, because the chemicals got on my hands. I got a big rash. I’ve been through some changes y’all.

Interviewer: 09:34 I see you talking about employment. Some of the examples I was going to give like transportation and housing.
Floyd: 09:40 Yeah, transportation – I take the bus everywhere because I don’t have a car. But I manage, and I do yard work now to relax me because I’m old. 53, I mean I ain’t no teenager no more. I try to make it best I can. My mother is sick right now. She could go at any time.

Interviewer: 10:05 I’m sorry to hear that.
Floyd: 10:16 Oh boy. I don’t know. Life is funny. Real funny.

Interviewer: 10:24 Appreciate the time we do got.
Floyd: 10:24 I appreciate your time you gave me. It turned out to be a good thing. I got to release all my tension. I am a little pissed off. These white folks moving up here, taking over shit.

Interviewer: 10:37 That’s part of my next question I was going to ask you. What’s going on in the community that raises your level of stress?
Floyd: 10:49 Well, the white folks moving up here. They act like they run everything. It’s like they don’t have to speak to you. They can belittle you. I don’t like that. I have the Audi you don’t, so I’m better than you are.

Interviewer: 11:04 Absolutely.

Floyd: 11:06 I have the Mercedes you don’t, I’m better than you are. I moved into your neighborhood, I’ll take it over. I’ve been living here for 40 years. I might not have the Audi, I might not have the Mercedes, but I got a house. I got a place to live. I got a roof over my head. I eat everyday. Ain’t like them begging in the streets. So I feel I’m just as good as you.

Interviewer: 11:29 That’s true.
Interviewer: 11:29 Absolutely are.
Floyd: 11:31 God gave us both the same insides, so how are you so much better? What makes you so much better? My ancestors suffered for 400 something years. They made this country for you to live in. But you push us to the side. What’s up with that?

Interviewer: 11:59 What gives you hope for the future of this community?
Floyd: 12:02 Black people get together and stick together. We can rule this mother.

Interviewer: 12:07 That’s what I’ve been thinking everyday.

Interviewer: 12:17 How to build the community and how to make everybody continue to be on the same page.
Floyd: 12:18 I see we on the same page.

Interviewer: 12:19 Absolutely.

Floyd: 12:22 I’ve told you before, I love my black people. I don’t never turn on black people. I’ll be downtown, and somebody will say, “Dude, can I get change?” If I got it, then you got it. Now if you’re white, I figure you already got money. You don’t need to ask me for money.

Interviewer: 12:37 If you ain’t got money, you got privilege. You got something.
Floyd: 12:40 Privilege, man. You came from rich. What do you need me for? You know what I’m saying?

Interviewer: 12:48 Can I get a dollar?
Floyd: 12:49 Kick me out some 20’s, man! Shoot. I don’t turn on my black people. A girl yesterday went out to my mom’s house. She’s in foster care, and her parents kicked her out of the house. She ran to our house, so we took her in for a minute. Then my mom talked to the foster kid. The parents, they came back and got her. She was crying and scared, and when you in the foster program, you don’t see your real parents. You don’t know what it’s like to really have real parents. I think that’s unfair too. I think it’s unfair that a lot of black men don’t get to see who their fathers are. Their mothers. Or if they come from a single parent home. I think they deserve the same rights as a person with a two parent home. I think they deserve that right. I don’t think black kids should be cheated. I don’t think none of that should be happening. I don’t like that kind of stuff.

Interviewer: 13:54 These next couple of questions are just –
Floyd: 13:59 You can shoot as many as you want.

Interviewer: 13:59 Absolutely. They’re just meant for quick and short answers. So first question I’m going to ask is when you think about this area today, what impact do you still see from these historic government policies that we talked about?
Floyd: 14:14 What impacts? You mean positive?

Interviewer: 14:15 Positive, negative, just the ones you were talking about like the war on drugs –
Floyd: 14:20 Well the negative is they got rid of the black barbers shop on Plymouth. The reason they did that is so they could get a white person to buy the place so they can take it over and make more white businesses. That’s negative. Now, far as positive, we got a barber shop on Broadway that’s black. Black owned, black everything. That’s where I get my haircut at. I ain’t letting a white boy cut my hair, I’ll be looking like alfalfa probably. Shit, the part down the middle. I ain’t pulling that. I do need a haircut and I’m getting one this week. But now as far as positive things is going, we got a nice downtown. Broadway is flourishing with more stores for blacks. People like y’all. Nice people you can open up to. I feel like I can open up to y’all, I feel good about it.

Interviewer: 15:24 That’s good.

Interviewer: 15:24 We appreciate that.

Interviewer: 15:24 Appreciate that.

Floyd: 15:29 I could sit here with y’all all week. I ain’t lying.

Interviewer: 15:36 Next question for you. How would you describe the relationship between the city of Minneapolis and the community over the last couple of years.
Floyd: 15:44 That’s hard to say. The relationship between the community and Minneapolis. I’d say crime has went down. Crime has went down. I don’t know what else to say about that one.

Interviewer: 16:06 That’s fine.

Interviewer: 16:06 We can go and stop it right there.

Interviewer: 16:11 No, I’ve got one last question.

Floyd: 16:12 You can shoot me with three more if you want.

Interviewer: 16:15 I hear you talking about you’re for the people a lot and want to do positive things for black people. So what part do you feel you can play in creating a more hopeful future for our community?
Floyd: 16:26 Create more activities for black kids to get into, and help them to get along with one another better and not hate on one another. That they call hate unity more, because that’s what’s messing us up. Some kid will have a nice pair of tennis shoes on, and you’d look at him and roll your eyes at him. Mean mugging, they call it. Because he’s got something better than you got on. All you gotta do is get a job and go get the same thing. You ain’t gotta go do that. We’ve got a lot of that going on in the community. Lot of mean mugging. That could lead to fights, and then later on, a murder. Occasionally it happens. That’s why when I’m out I don’t roll my eyes, mean mug, or cutting my eyes at people because you don’t know what could happen.

Floyd: 17:25 It feels good to be on the safe side when you’re trying to live longer, because a lot of guys get in these hip hop cars and hip hop things, and they want to handle it. It goes to their head, and I don’t know man. I got a cousin that got shot in Saint Paul. Getting in that hip hop life, it couldn’t handle it. Shot right over by White Castle. I miss him dearly. But he was killed because he was out there. When you’re out in that life, a lot of things happen to you. A lot of guys on the north side are in that life, that drug life. That’s not a good life. But you got a lot of positive black women here. A lot of positive black men here. So I can’t knock the north side at all on that. A lot of black men are taking care of their kids. A lot of black men are working. A lot of black men are doing a lot of good things. There’s a lot of good things happening here, y’all.

Floyd: 18:40 There’s a lot of bad things happening, undercover things. Abuse from kids. A lot of things go on. That’s unheard about, and that’s not good either. But I have a daughter now. I’m a grandfather.

Interviewer: 18:57 That’s a beautiful thing.

Floyd: 19:00 I’ve lived a long life. Some of my high school friends are dead that I went to high school with. I’m still here. I thank God every day for waking m up. Bless you, Lord. He don’t have to wake me up. He can put me to sleep any time. Put you to sleep any time. We all could take a nap tomorrow. But he brought you in and he said, “I want you to interview somebody. You can interview them.” Thank God you’re here. Thank the Lord that you are here.

Interviewer: 19:31 We definitely appreciated and your story.
Floyd: 19:40 I appreciate you too.

Interviewer: 19:41 Unfortunately that is the last question we have for you.
Floyd: 19:46 Well, ask me one more. How do I feel today?

Interviewer: 19:49 How do you feel today?
Floyd: 19:51 I feel great. How do you feel?

Interviewer: 19:51 I feel wonderful.
Floyd: 19:53 I feel wonderful too now.

Interviewer: 19:53 I appreciated that.

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