Interview with Ethel Mae Matthews

Atlanta has a reputation for being an excellent place to live for Black people. What do you say?


It's a excellent place for some Black peoples. It is. It's a excellent place for some Black people. But not for all Black peoples, it's not a excellent place to live. Because if it was a excellent place to live, they would get people some job**. All those people who sleep on the street, who eat out of the garbage can. It would be a better place, yes, if you're bright, the Nilla wafer color like I told you the other day, if you have a Nilla wafer color--you know what a Nilla wafer is, don't you? Those kind of colored peoples? What look like they're White, they is half and half. If you're their--I you're their color, and you got long hair, sure! It's good for you. It's good for you. You can come here and get a job. But if you've been here all your life, uh-uh. If you're Black. Uh-uh. You can't get a job. See them houses they're living in? You got oodles and oodles and hundreds and hundreds of houses in the, ah, public houses, boarded up. Nobody, you know, got nowhere to live. Everybody, they say, Atlanta's this. Atlanta's too busy to hate. That's the word here. Atlanta's too busy to hate. I don't say that. Atlanta is not too busy to hate. Because if it was too busy to hate, you wouldn't have no children going to bed crying for food every night. You wouldn't have no children getting up in the morning crying for bread. You wouldn't have people standing in the shelter, have to get out--get up every morning and get out before seven o'clock. And that's what you have to do if you go to the shelter. And the mothers' whole families, mothers and children living in shelters, they're afraid to go to sleep. Afraid they're going to get raped. And a lot of them have got raped in the shelter. Yes, we need shelters. But we don't need a permanent shelter. We need shelters for peoples who are down and out for two or three weeks, or two or three days. But we need some of the boards took off the windows of these vacant houses, these vacant buildings, you know? We got skyscrapers, we got domes being--going to be built, we got all of that. But when it come down to a poor human being, the peoples don't have nothing downtown, for nobody. And, and, and, and it's frustrating. I mean, you got peoples who can help. And you go to them, they be like, "You don't know what you're talking about." And they look at you like you're dirt. And they look at you, and pretend that they don't know what you're talking about. And then, when you go downtown, you have to act like you're crazy to get any attention. And that's what they label you as- of. Those are crazy people. Here come those old crazy, hair-raising people. That's what they say about you. That's the only way you can get attention, now, downtown. You know? You got to go down to go to city hall. You can't get in to see, um, Mayor Andy Young, because one of his aides is going to meet you and talk. He's not in town. Nine out of ten he not.