The Kiosk at Mitch Park in Edmond is currently down for maintenance. At this time, we don't have an estimated completion date.

Oral History: Dianne McDaniel




Interviewee: Dianne McDaniel (DM)

Interviewers: Jac Kolker (JK) and Natasha Card (NC)


NC: This is Natasha and Jac, we are here with Dianne McDaniel, the first organizer and president of the JFK neighborhood. She’s lived here since 1985, and if I’m getting anything wrong, please jump in.

DM: No, You’re correct, you’re correct.

JK: Alright, first off, just some introductory questions. What is your full name?

DM: My full name is Diane Ross R-O-S-S McDaniel.

NC: And do we have your permission to record this interview?

DM: You certainly do.

JK: Perfect, okay. How long have you lived in JFK? 

DM: Since 1985.

NC: What are the most prevalent environmental issues in the neighborhood to you?

DM: The most prevalent were the booms coming from the manufacturer on Reno… That’s about it, I mean, as far as problematic things. They would go off, shake the house, cause some settling of the house. So that was about the major problem.  

NC: We heard there were some problems with the, like, causing cracks in the foundations. 

DM: There is and I can show you some, when we finish this conversation.

NC: Oh, excellent.

JK: If it’s ok with you, we’d love to take pictures.

DM: Oh, certainly, certainly.

JK: Let’s see, where do you like to spend time in the neighborhood?

DM: Really, before the houses and everything came up, I would love to spend time on the back porch. When Mr. Bradshaw first came to the neighborhood, and told us he was going to do some building down at the Old Douglas, because that used to be Douglas High School. That was the first high school for African Americans. And when I moved here, my daughter was in middle school, so she went to that school. So, I could have a view of downtown, the Devon Tower, I could see all of the fireworks go off, 4th of July, Christmas, all those kinds of things. So that has obscured my vision. But I like to spend a lot of time on the back porch or visiting with my neighbors. Mhmm.

NC: So, I mean you moved here in 1985, are you from Oklahoma?

DM: No

NC: Why did you take up this space?

DM: I’m originally from a little place called El Dorado, Arkansas. It’s about two hours from Little Rock, all the way down south. I was born there. And my husband went to Vietnam, and when he was discharged, he was medically discharged, he had shrapnel and tuberculosis, and he was discharged at Fort Sill and they sent him up to the VA hospital. I was attending college at the time, Henderson’s State Teacher’s College, I wanted to be a teacher, and we moved here because he could get better medical attention. He has one sister here who used to work at the State Health Department, she was an epidemiologist, and that brought us to Oklahoma. I came here in 1972, I think. 

NC: And you were in the service yourself?

DM: Yeah, 20 years, I was a Reservist. Military Reservist. I got in in 1977, I think Vietnam had just kind of settled down, and I wanted the experience. My parents were big military people, they thought, you know, military was just all of that, and so, as a skill, I could already type 80 words a minute. And, so, I was recruited by a friend. She said ‘come on, we’ll give you this, bonuses da da da.” So, I went in, did 80 words test, and I spent two weeks in basic training because I already had a degree and I also could type that fast. And all they needed was typists. And, so, I thought ‘What a way to go.’ And, so, I had a sit-down, easy job. But back in those days, typewriters weren’t IBMs, they were the slap, type, and slap. So, I joined the military, and one weekend out of a month, I would go out to Tinker, at the 95th Division, the headquarters company, and do typing, in-processing, all that kind of stuff. And then, of course, two weeks out of the year, you go to summer camp, which led me to Fort Polk, Fort McCoy, Fort Hood, Fort Leonard Wood, every place. I even went to Germany because our unit liberated France. I was a Color Guard in one of their ceremonies in 1995. 

NC: Would you say this drive to serve your community, or drive to serve, kind of brought you to be the president of this community?

DM: Well yeah, and my parents. My mother was a Brownie leader and then, we changed to Girl Scout, Campfire, and so she was a leader. She was active in the community, as was my dad. And, just being of service to the community and mankind. Which then, I landed a job with the Department of Human Services, child welfare, and spent 31 years in child welfare, with DHS, while I maintained my reserve status. So, I had two jobs. Uh huh, yea, so serving is just, I think it’s an, innate, inborn thing with me, I love to serve, to give back.

JK: That’s amazing. How would you say JFK has changed over the years?

DM: Oh Drastically. I’ve seen neighbors... When I moved in, we were full of neighbors, we got to know everybody, everybody knew everybody’s name. If they had a garden, they shared their peas and okra, corn, tomatoes. We looked after each other. I didn’t have a fence, I put up a security light because it was sparse in this area. Cause, see, this- these houses were totally gone when I came to Oklahoma City in 1972. They tore them down, then Urban Renewal said “We will give you grant money to move back, revitalize the area.” So, I thought “Hey, that’s neat. I like this area; it’s calm, quiet, peaceful.” So, they gave money to first time home-owners to move back into the area and they designed homes, and so. Like I said, some were already here, and we got to know each other. I got the security light because I didn’t have a fence and all of that you see now was just, except this house right behind my house, this little one here, it was all wooded. And I just couldn’t stand to have, you know, I was just so vulnerable. So, I put up a security light and my neighbor says “Dianne, since you got that, I’ll help you pay on your light bill because that adds security to my place too.” So, it was that kind of a neighborhood. If they saw me needing something or…we had a, doing the fence line, he had a diesel truck, he said “I’ll put some diesel oil right around the fence line so you won’t have the weeds growing up in your fence.” So, we were that kind of close knit, you know, family and stuff like that. 

NC: And are you guys still close like that today?

DM: Yes and no. The people that I knew growing up here are all passed away, practically, everybody. I guess I might be one of the longest residents on this street. I think Ms. Ruthie is up there by the church; she is one of the original residents in this area. But they’ve all passed away, the children either sold the homes, didn’t keep them up, and they lost them or, you know, to urban blight and all of that, so, no it’s not the same. But I must admit, I make myself real friendly, and so I get to know everybody on the street and everybody gets to know Ms. Dianne. Now the couple that stays across from me, their kids are one and four, and I’m their GG. Mhmm. Abe and Luna, and they come over and we, he loves the candy bowl, and, if I have something that I need fixing, his dad, Tim, he’s really a ‘Fixer Guy,’ and he’ll say “Ms. Dianne I’ll fix that for you.” And he’ll do that. They put up my… Somebody was ringing the doorbell at two o’clock in the morning, scared me nearly to death, but anyway, Tim and his son were going to come up, come over, and put up my camera Ring doorbell. Abe started acting bad at pre-school, so he didn’t get to help with the tooling. And, so, Tim came over, put up my camera and Ring doorbell. That made me feel much more secure. Believe it or not, after he put that up, nobody’s been ringing the doorbell. 

JK: They don’t want to get caught.

DM: Yea. And the man next door, his wife used to do hair, and if I couldn’t get to my beautician, she would do my hair. So, I could just run on next door and get my hair done. They had pit bulls. And I developed diabetes, but I loved to do all of my yard work, and his pit bull – I think pit bulls have a bad rap – because I was working out in the yard, got too hot, too long, my sugar dropped. The pit bull came over to the fence, and just stared and started licking at the fence, and I started getting shaky so something says “you better go test your sugar.” So, I came in, sugar was extremely low, got me some orange juice and sit down, rest a little while. And my endocrinologist told me, my OU endocrinologist, said dogs can sense a smell about a person when their blood sugar is going down. And he says that. So, if I were here long, and he got out, he would sit in my flower bed. Nobody would dare come to my door with the pit bull there. I mean, he was harmless, but nobody else knew that. So, you’re talking about, it’s not only the neighbors watching, but their dogs and pets looked after you as well. Yeah so I, I like that. 

NC: So, these next few questions kind of roll into each other. And I know you said that your biggest environmental concern was the booms that are causing the problems in this neighborhood. But do you have any concerns about your health because of these environmental issues?

DM: Yes, because I’m a flower, I love flowers. I hate that you all couldn’t come in the early spring to see my yard. But I notice my Crepe Myrtles, they have this fuzzy, white, powdery, sticky substance on them. Crepe Myrtles bloom from spring all the way to fall. And I have one here, one in the back, and everybody says “Ms. Dianne, have you noticed something on the leaves?” And I touched them, and I even told our president, Denevetta, “something dusty is about.” She said “Let me see, da da da da da.” Make a long story short, we had a neighbor who joined, an employee of the State Health Department, joined our association. And he took a picture, on the tenth floor of the State Health Department, and you could see this haze of smoke, almost like a crematorium, it was just oozing from this south, south corner, and he could catch it because he was so high up on the State Health Department. So, you know, I worry about that. And then they were doing some digging around, I don’t know who was doing it, but I’m thinking “were they testing the water quality and the purity of our water?” They never told us what they were doing, but I was inquisitive. And, so, I wanted to know: what are you doing? How is it affecting me? Well, a friend of mine has a well, she lives out in Forest Park, she took some of my well water and got it sampled, saying that it was hers. It wasn’t as pure as we all thought. Would you all like some water? I got bottled water. 

NC: No, I’m fine thank you.

JK: I have some thank you.

DM: I said it as a joke. But I’m serious. I noticed that, sometimes, you would have a distinct odor about the water. And they said it came from Hefner Lake, maybe Overholser, one of those lakes. But when she tested my water, and it had some impurities, but they were safe levels, okay. But how much is safe? I mean, what might be safe, what ten points per million for you might be safe, ten points per million might not be good for me, who has heart conditions, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

JK: Absolutely.

DM: Okay? So, I was concerned about that. And then I’m thinking “how many of our older residents have been drinking this water, breathing this air, for so long, now they’re dead, they thought they died of, let’s say emphysema, or whatever the case may be. But the root cause was what? The water and quality of air.” So I’m thinking, “oh my god, it’s like ingesting slow particles of strychnine.” That bothered me. I wouldn’t want to endanger anybody’s lives, that’s why I said “thank you all for wearing a mask” I feel comfortable that you are, okay. But to put a whole community in danger. Could those lives have been spared had they said “we’ve got this problem, this problem, and this problem?” And sometimes there is a stench that comes when we get south breezes. And it’s not a sulfur smell, it’s just a… and I’ve never smelt anything, I’ve had chemistry, but I’ve never smelt anything like it before. It’s a, it’s not a rotten smell, it’s just a … it’s just an odor that is not common. Then, with all the building that’s going on. Now, are we exposing those people to the same levels of toxin? You all as students, you go to the library up here, are you all being exposed to that? And what if you all have children in the next seven years? Has your health been damaged due to just being in the environment, I’m not saying staying, but being in the environment, drinking the water?

JK: Yes, absolutely. Is there a certain time of day, or even like season, where you would say that you experience that odor more? 

DM: Spring and summer. Spring, summer, and late, late, late fall. Because, if you walk outside, you can see the asphalt, there’s an asphalt plant back there too, and it has a mound, like you’re in Montana, I mean, it’s a mound of stuff. So, all of this, remember, from Fourth Street down to Reno, was industrial, but this is the only area that they allowed African Americans to live. From Second Street, to Eighth Street, you couldn’t go any further. That was it. Where the police department is, OU Police Department, you could go that far south, no that’s west, that far west and, I guess, about ‘round where old, where Douglas is now, to the east. That was it. So, we were encapsulated, confined, just to this segment. And along the railroad lines you had, you know, every kind of shipping coming up and down, you know, from wheat, to oil, to butane. Everything were in those tanks, and, so, but this was our- that was the plight of African Americans during that time of settlement. 

NC: So, I mean, the root of this project kind of just falls into environmental racism. And, I mean, like you said, like, people of African American descent were enclosed in this neighborhood. And, just around, what the asphalt plant, recycling plant, landfill, and then there is active and inactive oil wells, so how have these all, individually, impacted your life? 

DM: That’s not a tough one but… 

NC: It’s a lot 

DM: It’s a lot. I guess you have to make the best of a bad situation and you do what you have to do to survive and thrive. And there was little that we could do or say, even when I moved here, because they were talking about taking land, imminent domain, because there were houses that needed to be condemned, and there was an area that they wanted to develop. And I brought that book out, that you got your laptop on, because that was the original plan, when I came to Oklahoma City… Move Good Housekeeping, that was the original plan of the maps, what they had already designed, back then, how this would be constructed. Now that is, what you have in your hand right there, Jac, is the way they were going to do it. They were gonna have hearings, they were gonna have different legislative kinds of things, all of that. So, they took certain steps to either eradicate or eliminate. And if you just let stuff go idly by long enough it will deteriorate. So, with deterioration, and death, and everything, and peoples… African Americans became more affluent, they then were able to move beyond Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, to Edmond, to further north, Kelly, 63rd, they were able to move. [dog barking] That’s really interesting. We went to the city several times because we didn’t want the neighborhood destroyed, we didn’t want it cut up. We even met with the past president of OU, David Boren, he came to East Sixth Street Christian Church and told us that we had nothing to fear, that OU would not be taking eminent domain of this property and that they were going to do some research, there was going to be a research park. Sure enough, there was a research park up on Lincoln, you know, just west of here. He said that wasn’t their intent. I think the library had already been built. Some of the structures around the OU campus, OKC, had already been built, but they were looking to expand further. And he assured us that that wasn’t their intent. But he couldn’t guarantee, from his perspective, of what the city was going to do here in Oklahoma City. He could only take care of OU, okay.

NC: So, has the school encroached into the neighborhood? 

DM: Yeah, they’ve encroached in a good way, in a good way now. Most of the students living in the houses around here are OU students. I want to say 95% of them are OU students, are grad students, or professors coming to do their, I don’t want to say tenure, but working. So yeah. They have not been quick to come to meetings or get to know us or anything. And I think that’s a pity because when people learn other people’s culture, they’re more empathetic, sympathetic, cooperative. My neighbor Tim, he’s an engineer, and he and his family, they come to all of the meetings and, matter of fact, his company is building the sounding wall that that’s going to be constructed to eliminate the booms. And I said “Tim, I’m no engineer, social worker here,” I said, “but it might eliminate the booms, but what about the vibrations? No matter how big your wall, you’re gonna still have underground vibrations that will damage.” So, if the builders of those properties that they’re putting up now knew that their foundations were gonna be damaged, do you think you would invest two or three hundred thousand dollars in a house, knowing that the foundations, at some point, I mean… you see my logic. 

JK: Yeah, absolutely.

DM: So, I’m saying, some people who have invested that much have invested in a lemon. If we can’t stop the booms and the noise then the property that we sit on, the homes that are being built, are going to be damaged. Now who is going to buy damaged goods? If you could buy a brand new car from Diffee Ford or a Hoopty… I don’t think you’d buy a Hoopty. I didn’t understand the logic, still don’t understand the logic, and I wish those people who have bought land in the area would go ahead and start cleaning it up because I hate trash. I hate clutter. I guess, I don’t know if that’s my military, but I just hate clutter. But they’re not cleaning it up as fast, even though we have city ordinances, we have to call, and call, and call, and call, and call and call just to get something done. We’re going to go walk in a few minutes because my street, and the street that runs east and west, there is about, maybe a four inch gap in the middle of the street. Hello! And it bothers me that, if I do well, Jac, and you stay around me, you do well. We do well together. We reap the same benefits; we want the same thing: you know, security, love of family, God, and country, and all of that. But, sometimes, when it comes to services, in this quadrant, we are the least, the last, and the left out. And, we had to, I don’t want to say fight, we didn’t have to fight, but we had to put up such a struggle that, at some point, you just get tired ... Are you okay?

JK: Yes ma’am.

DM: Okay.

JK: Sorry.

DM: No, your little eyes looked like they were clouding up, tearing up. 

NC: This kind of leads us right into our next question. What are your future hopes for addressing these concerns and what solutions or actions do you want to see implemented?

DM: You got your- find your pencil? Probably behind you. Repeat that. Repeat that.

NC: No, no, so what are your future hopes for addressing these concerns and what solutions or actions do you want to see implemented? And obviously, like, it’s not your responsibility to have these answers. Uhm. And it’s really frustrating that you’ve had these issues for so long and the expectation is that the community should come up with the solution, uhm, so like, I hate to be condescending with this question, but, do you have anything in mind? 

DM: I’m 71 years old… congestive heart failure, 13 stints, diabetes. I just plant to live the rest of my life just contented right here. Whatever somebody want to do, fine. You get tired of fighting and pushing because the wheels of democracy are slow. Hope and optimism is waning. And I’m hoping, no, I’m praying, that your research in this area will find solutions for those that come on behind me. My granddaughter who is 25 lives here with me, and my daughter who is 47. So, I’m hoping it will be better for them, and I’m sure, the generation that came before me was hoping that it would be better for me. So sometimes you get so tired of fighting, what’s that song? You just throw your hands up, and your hands go up, and they stay there. And just make my little corner of the world, and the neighbors that I’m friends with, are happy and contented. Because I don’t think it’s gonna be resolved, I really don’t. I know that sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? Sounds pitiful. Like a little kid says, “sounds pitiful.” It really does. I applaud out president because she’s newer than I am to the community, much newer. They stay in a little wealthier area across Lottie, those houses are expensive. When I bought this house, it was only 50 thousand dollars. By the time I bought this house, my husband and I had divorced. So it was just one income, well, two incomes with the army. So, it was just me, and the good Lord, and two jobs paying for this. We’re on a different income level on the west side of Lottie, as compared to the east side of Lottie. Have you all driven down there?

JK: No, not yet.

DM: Here, y’all need to drive. So, it’s different, and they’re younger. I’ve retired from two jobs, and my granddaughter said “No, you really retired from three” because I was a Head Start councilor for seven. So I started adding up, golly, I worked almost 60-something years, good lord. So, when you’ve been working 60 years you just, the fight, the drive, it’s all gone. So, all that’s left to do is be as happy as you can and pray that somebody, like yourselves, will pick up the mantle and move it a little further. So, I think, from, those that are my age, and there are very few of the neighbors who are my age. I know you all don’t know Opio Toure, he was a representative. You’ll look him up after you leave. His name is Opio Toure. He and his wife, Linda, were some of the first residents. They lived on Fifth Street, they stayed closer to Fourth Street, and they remained in this area. For age wise, Ms. Ruthie, myself, Linda is not as, maybe she is, yea she’s got to be at least 65; she’s retired from teaching, but no we’re up in age. And I know you all say “71 is not old,” but when you think of, would you like to have a car that’s 71 years old? You just hope somebody else will pick up the mantle; pick the baton up and move it up a little bit further. And I can see the, I can see change coming in the neighborhood, I really can. I like the idea of a coffee shop and bistro 46th, 48th, whatever. I like that idea, but it’s encroaching on a neighbor across the street because she lives right in front of Culture Coffee and people park their cars in front of her house. When I try to turn the curb to go up to my endocrinologist at OU, I could have a wreck because you can’t see when cars are parked on both sides of the street. So, then we got the petition you know to get some stop signs, but still, it doesn’t help the parking issue. Of course, they said “well you have to be so many feet behind the stop sign.” You know. The code enforcement people, they don’t bother. I went to OU and told them about somebody that had an 18-wheeler that was parking on Stonewall, I mean an 18-wheeler. And they said “we don’t have jurisdiction, Ms. Dianne.” I said, “well, who do?” “Well, you’ll have to call the city.” I said, “no you’re the authority over here. You call the authority and get the 18-wheeler moved.” So, I went to the apartment manager, and she said "well, he’s a resident.” I said “you don’t park an 18-wheeler in a residential area. This looks stupid. You wouldn’t park an 18-wheeler in Nichols Hills or Gallardia.” I made so much racket an put so many tickets on their car. I just wrote a nice “please move your truck, please move your truck, please move your truck” and put it up there. So, they finally moved that. One man had a beat up wreck and I kept putting little notes like that on the car, but code enforcement didn’t come get it. Mhmm. No. No we have that. Sometimes we have harassment from the OU police.

NC: Do you mind expanding on that?

DM: Hmm?

NC: Do you mind expanding on that?

DM: Yes. I was going to a sorority meeting, in my little red and white and everything, and I was coming out, and he stopped me. He said, “Stay in the car ma’am.” I go, “What is it? What you want? I gotta go down to, Pinkon Boulevard, I’m at a sorority.” He said, “Stay in the car,” and he put his hand on his pistol. And so my granddaughter, who was twelve, she said “He finna shoot ya.” *laughs* I said, “No he’s not.” He said, “You don’t have a tag on your car.” I said, “Officer, that happens to be a sorority tag. You pay extra for sorority tags. I have an Oklahoma City tag, and I have this. Do you want me…” “No stay in the car.” I said, “Well I’ll pop the trunk, so you can see the real tag.” … And I was, I was so mad. And then one lady left the church. Reverend, uh, what’s his name? New Hope Baptist Church on Seventh Street. He stopped her one day, she was driving a little slow, he stopped her. She got so scared that Reverend Tyson had to go down to the City, and he talked to somebody and they talked to OU and uh, oh, ya know my real gutsy. I mean, you either enforce the law, when I ask you to move a truck, don’t harass me about that. Cause see, I was here during the bomb. I was, lived right here. My daughter was in Mortuary Sciences at UCO, I was sleeping, I had gone to Arkansas. My daddy was uh, had to go nursing home. The bomb went off, didn’t hear nothing. My daughter was said, “Momma wake up wake up.” I said, “What? What do you want?” she said, “The spiders are comin’- or, the butterflies are coming.” And I let out with some expletives. And she said, “Momma just turn on the TV.” So I did. Found out what was happening. She said, “Are you okay?’ I says “Yes” Says, “Is the house okay?” I said “Yeah.” I said, “But I didn’t hear a thing.” Um. I worked at night at the shelter,  Oklahoma City, County Juvenile Shelter, and I was comin’ home one night. But they had so many dead, that the coroners were right there on the corner. And so, they kind of quartered off this area. And you weren’t supposed to be in this area. So, I got stopped there. And he says, “What are you doing over here?” I said, “I Live over here.” And I wanted to say another word, but I didn’t. I said, “I live over here.” Well, do you know, I said, “Look, here is my driver’s license. I live two blocks from the coroner’s department. I’m just tryin’ to go home. Just left DHS shelter.” And so, he let me go. My daughter, did five bodies from the Murrah building. I worked, in the daytime, with the Salvation Army, to get grave registrations. Because people, that had moved away from Oklahoma City, they weren’t comin’ back. So they called the Salvation Army, since my social work, social work, social work, they would leave their, the grave registration, where it was, for people to bury their loved ones. That was a tragedy. And some of my army friends went to help dig some of the people out because he was a fireman. And a reservist. And I would debrief him after he would pull bodies out. So it’d be about four, five o’clock in the morning, we’re sittin’ here, he’s cryin’ and I said, “Okay, let it out, just let it out.” And two or three years later, I was talking to Antoinnette uh Highsmith, who was a social worker during that time, and she said, “Ya know, we never debriefed anybody who lived in this area, who were dramatically affected by the bomb.” And I said, “No. And I worked down there!” She said, “No, we never debriefed you all.” I said, “Well, prayer does a lot of de-debriefing.” So, all of us, in this area, we would come together, and grieve, because we lost people, from this area, down there. Lost five from our church, St. John. Mhm. Yep. So, as a tight-knit, family unit, and I said family unit, we’ve gone, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. But somehow managed, to stay sane. Mhm. Mm.

NC: So, has the community pushed back against the environmental degradation that’s been happening for a long time now.

DM: “Long, long time

NC: Has there ever been any, like, authoritative pushback, ya know either from the police or from…”

DM: No I’m talkin’, lookin’ at the City. Uh, Willa Johnson, she was on the City Council. Good friend of mine. She goes to our church. She assured me, cause, I thought they were gonna take my house, immanent domain. Kick me out, go wherever. Give me $12,000 for this house, and you can get the heck outta dodge. And she says, “Dianne, they’re not gonna move you, you’re good to go.” And when, President Boren came, he said, “We’re not gonna displace you all. We’re not gonna do that.” We said, “Okay.” So, I had his assurance, and Willa’s. But until we got Mayor Holt, who seems to have a pulse of everybody’s concerns, I said appears, see. Momma used to tell me, “Actions speak louder than words.” He appears to have, a more sensitive approach, because we’ve taken some, our current president has taken some of our concerns to him. Our current president has patience, fortitude, and not as quick-tempered as I am, my military training you know, my military training. The city came and were building stuff, I have a, I love immaculate lawns. I had just come from the cardiologist, they had this bulldozer had dug up my front yard, and when I tried to come into my driveway they said, “Do you want us to move this, so you can get in?” and I said, “Duh… expletive” And I was so mad. I was, no no, I said, “You’ve got… When you’re gonna dig on somebody else’s property, you need to, give them a notice this is gonna be happening. No notice was given. No notice was given, and I did get irate, and I cleaned my weapon on the front porch. Ya know, you know what a weapon is, right? Okay you don’t know what a weapon is?

NC: I do.

DM: They called, they called, Pettis. He was the councilman then, he said, “Dianne put your gun up.” I said, “II’m not threatening them. What, what chicken called the po-po?” And I said, “I’m just cleanin’ my weapon.” And they said, “well you, Ms. Dianne, the police came out. I said, *chuckles* “I’m just cleanin’ my property, just cleanin’ my weapon. I do not like what they did.” he says, “well, we’ll try to fix it.” And I’ve been workin’ on my yard, front yard, for days, and it’s never the same. Because, I sodded, my yard, myself. I went down to the Choctaw Sod and Farm, got the sod, that was thrown or kicked back, that didn’t roll right. Came home, in the rain, and put that sod out. And what it took, what, seven-eight years to do? They destroyed. Did that answer?

JK: Yes ma’am.

NC: Yes ma’am. I’m sorry that happened.


DM: Huh?

NC: I’m sorry that happened.

DM: Me too. Oh dear.

NC: So I think, we covered all of our questions.

DM: Mhmm. Oh, two seconds. Let me show you a picture right quick. Those are the flowers.

JK: Oh wow!

NC: Oh those are lovely! What are those?

JK: Those are beautiful.

DM: Those are, oh, I’ll tell ya, can’t think now. That’s my little neighbor. Isn’t she cute? That’s Luna.

*Shows video on phone of small girl.* She says, “Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.” Another woman in the video offscreen says, “What comes after ten? Eleven?” The girl continues, “fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, eighteen…”

DM: I babysit. While she, her mom goes to pick up the brother. I go and watch her while she takes her nap. So I’m Gigi. Now this is the way my front yard looks, in the spring. Let’s see if it’ll turn.

NC: Oh that’s beautiful.

DM: Well, yea.

JK: Oh wow.

DM: Knockout roses, outdoor Hibiscus, Black-eye Susan’s, oh yes.

JK: They’re amazing.

DM: Now let me show you what they did. And tell me I have a right to be, a little PO’ed.

NC: I think you have more than a right to be just a little PO’ed.

DM: Oh girl. And this comes, this is what I captured, at this tree there. Hummingbird, he knows me! He does. I mean, I know y’all like, ‘really?’ That’s a Rose of Sharon, and it’s, and it’s purple, and he goes in the, in the pistil of the flower, and he knows my voice. He knows my voice. Trust me.

JK: I definitely believe it.

DM: So I love flowers. Was gonna show you this messed up yard. Oh here it, here it is. That’s, now that’s the butterflies. That’s the way the tree looks. Out back, when it’s in full bloom.

NC: Oh wow!

DM: Yea. That’s Busy, and that’s Abe! But anyway, that’s, oh what is that… Moonflower! It’s called the Moonflower!

JK: Oh yea!

DM: And it sme-, and uh they bloom at night, and when you wake up in the mornin’ and the breeze hits them, it’s a fragrance that would just, you would think you’re in paradise. And that’s my pride and joy, that’s my Hibiscus!

JK and NC: Beautiful!

DM: Abe calls it a Hibiscus… biscuit Hibiscuit! Um.

NC: I think he’s on to something there!

DM: Hmm?

NC: I think he’s onto something there!

DM: Oh yes, yes. It’s fool with Abe, it’s fool with Abe. I can’t find it, but they did, they-they-they destroyed my yard. Oh God. Anyway, what’s the next question?

NC: Well you do- I’m sorry, you do have my number so if you do find it, and you don’t mind sending it to me, I’d love to have the, the picture of what they destroyed.

DM: Okay, okay. Put your, put your number there. Jac, and…?

NC: Natasha.

DM: Natasha, Natasha, Natasha, Natasha. Little girl named, Natasha. *pause* Mmm. Now that’s a Fourth of July celebration. So, everybody’s havin’ their own little individual barbecue, and stuff like that. That’s, that’s, that’s good. We share. Hm hmm hm hmm. And what else do you all want to know?

JK: Um, we just have a couple more questions.

DM: Okay. That’s good.

JK: Um, what does environmental justice mean to you?

DM: I think I answered it. Environmental justice means, the way I picture it, okay. If there’s a water issue going on, and the smells of water, it should be a big- a justice concern to you if you lived in Nichols Hills, and I lived here. I don’t know if y’all know about the Lynn Institute. The Lynn Institute, it’s a healthy living program. And this area of Oklahoma City, northeast, is the sickest community, the 73117, 73111. Our health is poor. Not because we do fast food necessarily. Because I’m a southern girl, I cook greens and squash and cornbread, don’t use a lot of fats and oils. But I think environment has a lot to do with a one’s overall health. So if I’m healthy, at a zip code of 73117, and you live at Gallardia, you oughtta be as concerned with my health as I aim about yours. Because, if we’re all healthy together, we tend to prosper together. We tend not to use vital resources for medical treatment. Your taxes, trynna get me well. So, I’m gonna make it, I’m gonna make sure that environmental justice, reaches everybody. So the quality of health, and the quality of life, for everybody will be, that of, good quality and I can be proud of. See, that’s my community. We’re all healthy. But we didn’t have a grocery store! Did you know that? When, this town was first, this area, we had a grocery store down on, 8th Street. It was called ‘OK Market’. You could go in, buy groceries, they’d write you out a little receipt, when you get your paycheck, you go down, and pay ‘em. We didn’t have a market. Then, they brought in Country Boy, then they brought in Otwells. And here recently, Homeland, we were all excited! Because we finally got a decent grocery store. With, not Best Choice or Good Choice or, an off-brand, or a no-brand. We got something that, hey this is Del Monte! This is, you know, Green Giant! We’ve got Wesson oil! Granola! Olive Oil, extra virgin! That kind of stuff, uh. But, when you’re limited in the quality, then your health is affected. Everything is affected. And if your toe is messed up, and you don’t get it fixed, pretty soon it’s gonna spread all over your body. That’s the way I look at it. That’s my justice. Ya see that, that’s what it looks like. What it smells like, it tastes like, making’ this country, this Oklahoma not just northeast Oklahoma, all of Oklahoma. We don’t even have a sandwich shop over here! I like subs! I like Baskin and Robbin! But I’d really love a Braum’s, because I can go in get my milk, my little bread. We don’t have a Braum’s! We’d don’t have a pizza place! I asked this, this this girl come, her name is Vanessa, she’s doin’ some stuff down in this area. And she says, ‘What would you like to see?’ I said ‘I’d like to see a Dominoes Pizza!’ Okay? I said ‘I’d like to see a laundromat! Because I don’t wanna use my little home washing machine to do my quilts and my blankets. Oh no!’ I have to drive on Britton Road to go get a comforter in a large capacity. And I, and if y’all are students up there, y’all got the little stackables, but you can’t wash no blanket in there! We don’t have a laundromat! We don’t have no CVS, that ya know, we could just run, in the middle of the night and get a prescription. Nothin’s open. We don’t have a gas station. Think about it. What’s the closest, petrol, I mean not petrol but just, anywhere to get gas. Cause I don’t go to petrol, with the truckers, oh no. So I mean, think about it. You’re in this area, where do you all get gas?

NC: Uh, I actually live pretty close to you, and I have to drive out uh, quite a ways to get gas.

DM: Thank you. I drive to Walmart.

NC: Me too.

DM: Okay. Cause Walmart be on Murphy, and Murphy is a subsidiary of Arkansas. Mhmm. SO, those are the kind of things… We don’t even have a carwash! You either do it in your driveway, or again you have to drive a little ways to find a decent carwash! I go to May, out there by Sprouts. Mhmm. You don’t live in this area?

JK: I live in Norman.

DM: You’ve got it made. Y’all have everything, I’m serious! In walking distance! Don’t even have a soda shop, a bakery, to have some nice gingerbread cookies.

NC: In Norman?

DM: No, I said we don’t have a nice bakery shop to get some nice gingerbread- I mean just, what you, I used to run a group home, of teenage girls. Off of 17th, and Penn. Over in the, what is that? That district over there, off of Classen?

JK: Is it the Plaza?

DM: The Plaza District, yes girl! And, you can go anywhere in the Plaza, get something to eat, you can watch, you can go to the vintage stores, I mean. It is just loaded! But not here. We can’t even get a snow cone! Mm-mm. You’re fortunate. Yes ma’am

JK: Yes I am.

NC: So before we wrap up, is there anything that we missed, that you wanna share with the class, or?

DM: No. You all have been very kind, very gracious. And I do thank you all, for the opportunity just to share. Just a little, just to share a little bit. I was gonna have some pictures, because I have some pictures, we used to have a little get together, family get together. And I say family, a neighborhood get together, and the Church has been, east 6th Street Christian Church has always allowed us to meet there. And that’s where I met, personally met, President Boren. And he felt real comfortable and everything, he was talking’ to us. But that was one of the one of our gathering places. And we’ve got a little community garden. Mhmm. Stuff like that. Y’all wanna see the pictures? Stuff outside?

NC: Absolutely! Uh is there anybody you know, off the top of your mind, that we should be interviewing as well?

DM: Reverend Jesse Jackson. Let me give you his number. Jesse Jackson and Carmen Jackson. Reverend Jesse Jackson has this little church, out back. It’s a hundred plus years old.

NC: The famous Jesse Jackson?

DM: No, not the. No, not that one, not that one. Mm-mm. What she said ‘The? We got one right here?’ No girl. His wife’s name is Carmen. C-A-R-M-E-N. Carmen Jackson. Her phone number is… And I’ll tell her you gone call. He’s a preacher. Come on outside, I’ll show you.


DM: And that’s it right there.

JK: Oh wow!

DM: Mm-hmm. That was one of the first, it’s a Chris- East 6th Street Christian Church. It was one of the first Christian churches, for African Americans. Mmhmm.  And see the view, this view, if those building and that hadn’t been down there, we could see the Devon Tower.

NC: Wow.

DM: Yea girl. It was, like kids say, ‘The bomb!’ … You wanna come see the damage, outside? Busy, okay Busy, the years of shakin’ and stuff, you see how it started takin’- takin’ the corner off? There?

JK: Wow.

NC: Yea! I’ll get ‘em.

DM: You’ll get ‘em?

NC: Mmhmm.

NC: I’m sorry I turned my phone off, that’s what we’re waiting on.

DM: Oh, oh that’s okay, that’s okay! While you’re doin’ that, let’s walk on up the street. And you can see. And trust me, nobody gonna get, go in my house. They know I have weapons. Yes. They know I have several.

JK: It’s a beautiful day.

DM: It is! And it’s about time, isn’t it?

JK: I agree!

DM: I was just, ooh I was too through. Opio, see that house over there? The green…

JK: Yes.

DM: That’s where, he and his wife used to live. A part of the highway is named after him. As you go east, as you go south. Toward Norman.

JK: Mhmm.

DM: Representative Opio Toure. You see where these cracks are? *humming* Well, there’s another. *humming* And they came out and did some patchin’, after much controversy and talkin’. But these are the same streets, that were here, the pavement, that was here 35 years ago. 35-40.

JK: Goodness.

DM: That’s our little garden. You can see the line, you see it?

JK: Mhmm.

DM: The crack? I had to get onto them, too, because the city… she can run, can’t she? C’mon girl!

JK: *laughs*

DM: The city won’t come out and clean our drains.

JK: Oh, yea.

DM: Mm-mm. You have to call them. So that drain is clogged, that drain, believe it or not this is a drain!

NC: Oh my goodness!

DM: Mm-hmm! Yea! Now you tell me, if you live in any other part of town, the city, I just want you to be sure and see the drain, cause it’s a drain. They don’t even come and clean it out! But this is a drain.

NC: Goodness.

DM: But that’s all dirt. They don’t clean the drains out. And we pay for city services! Mmhmm! Now when I’m mowin’, I clean that one out, at times. And then when they do come, and chop up the streets, they leave it like this.

JK: Geez!

NC: So sorry if this is a stupid question, but what do you mean they chop up the streets?

DM: Well, if they gonna do a line, a lot of times they come through and blow out the line.

NC: Mmhmm.

DM: And they’ll have to dig around. And then, they patch, they do patchwork. But that’s shitty! Excuse my French, I can say it outside. That’s shitty!

JK: It is, you’re right.

DM: I mean- we pay taxes, c’mon fix the street right. Then you have to call them five or six times. And that, I mean, not only is it unsightly, it can get, ya know in the summer, it can get pretty rank.

JK: Oh absolutely. And I’m sure it floods when it rains.

DM: Yea. Oh, I just don’t like these. This, this.

JK: Mhmm.

DM: I don’t like cracks in the street. I was driving out to Tinker this morning, and I go down Martin Luther King, down by Crooked Oak, you know where Crooked Oak?  When you get on Martin Luther King, goin’ over that bridge, there’s not even lines in the street, to tell you you on the left or right. And I’m thinkin’, ‘C’mon people!’ The only thing they did good out here, they buried all the line, so our lights don’t go out.

JK: Oh, well that’s nice.

DM: But that, wasn’t for us, it was for OU, and the medical complex center. So we don’t have outages, like people, but...

NC: So did the City really only start making repairs when the OU Health Sciences popped up?

DM: Well yea, and when I called, and just keep complainin’ and bitchin’. When I start bitchin’, they get tired of hearing Ms. Dianne bitch ‘em out. They’ll come and do somethin’.

NC: It’s really unacceptable that you have to call several times.

DM: Yea, yea. And I, that’s a- that’s a housing authority house right there. I’ve even had that mowed, for the people. Because they only pay $45 a month for rent, and if you payin’ $45, I mean, you can’t get nobody mow your yard for $4-, you’re already in poverty, shit.

NC: Right.

DM: And Tim, a good neighbor, he’ll sometimes let me uh, pay people to cut that. I can’t st- I hate filth. Did you, turn your phone on?

NC: Yea, I got the pictures.

DM: Okay.

NC: Thank you.

DM: No, thank you all. Thank you all, Natasha. See there?

NC: *laughs*

DM: And Jac.

JK: *laughs*

NC: Alright Ms. Dianne thank you so much for doing this.

DM: Mmhmm.

JK: Yea, really. Thank you so much.

DM: Mmhmm. My little roses are budding. You see that? You ever seen a rosebud? See it? See that right there? That’s a bud. See right there?

NC: So when this comes back in a few months, it’s gonna be gorgeous.

DM: It’s gonna be gorgeous. It’s going to be knock dead gorgeous.

JK: It’s a shame we couldn’t come see it.

DM: You sure, see, see you missed my best work!

JK and NC: *laughs*

DM: Oh this is my little kitchen. I didn’t show y’all about the house. This is the little kitchen, washroom, tada!

NC: Oh very nice!

DM: Yea. Everything is kinda compact.

NC: Yea.

DM: And here is, this is my grandmothers, that’s my grandmother up there. Who is it. And my mama, she handed to my mom. And that’s a radio, you know, girl when it does warm up, shoo, gives you a boomin’ sound! This is, my granddaughter’s room, girl. How does it look? Granddaughter-ish-ish-ish. Mmhmm. And Busy. Busy! Somebody here to see you! Have you been in mama’s bed? Say been in my mama’s bed! I’ve been in my mama’s bed!

JK: Oh, he’s so cute!

DM: Say yes, I’ve been in mama’s room, say yes I have!

JK: *laughs*

DM: Say yes I have, say yes I been in my mama’s room! And this is my daughter’s. She had to teach in here for a whole year!

JK: Oh yea, with the pandemic?

NC: Oh my goodness!

DM: She was doin’ home- homeschool. You know, what is, virtual school? So yea, when they got pandemic’ed and everything, they kind of moved in here with me. And I didn’t catch the pandemic!

NC: Oh excellent!

JK: That’s very good!

DM: I’m tough. Yea. Busy, busy, be on your best behavior, best behavior! Yea, get down. Come on, go and see your little friend. Go see your friend, go see your friend, go find your friend.

The materials in this collection are for study and research purposes only. To use these digital files in any form, please use the credit "Courtesy of Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County" to accompany the image.