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0:00 - Introduction and High School

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Partial Transcript: Cook: Today is February 12th and My name is Susan Cook, I'm interviewing Ebony Wilson.

Keywords: all-black neighborhood; McDonalds; Norfolk General Hospital; ROTC; Taco Bell; Western Branch High School

Subjects: African American parents; Children of divorced parents; Norfolk (Va.)

5:27 - Coming to Virginia Tech

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Partial Transcript: Cook: How did you decide to come to Virginia Tech?

Keywords: big school; IDST; math; Michael Herndon; ROTC scholarship; veterinarian school

Subjects: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Corps of Cadets

8:42 - Experience in the Corps being a woman

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Partial Transcript: Cook: So I guess just talk about your first or just some of your memories since you're a senior. For instance, I guess the Corps.

Keywords: buds; co-ed dorms; dirty jokes; freshman year; respect; restrictions; roommates

Subjects: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Corps of Cadets

14:50 - Experience in the Corps as an African American

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Partial Transcript: Cook: Do you feel you are treated well as a black- do you like to be called black or African American?

Keywords: black student preview; buds; echo company; Janelle Harden; negative comments; Rasche hall; uncomfortable

Subjects: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Corps of Cadets

24:19 - Graduation and Diversity at Virginia Tech

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Partial Transcript: Wilson: I'm at that point that I have to have a car too, that's because I'm about to graduate.

Keywords: August; basketball; computer science; Drill field; football; Lane Stadium; May; racial climate

Subjects: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Corps of Cadets

27:43 - Family Background and Childhood

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Partial Transcript: Cook: . I forgot to ask you, this is going back to the beginning, I'm always interested in knowing about your background.

Keywords: Chesapeake; Corrigidora; counselors; Creekmur; Dr. Beverly Bunch-Lyons; great grandmother; ODU; slave rape

Subjects: Children of drug addicts; Grandparents; Norfolk (Va.); Role models

38:07 - Interest in math and Academics at Virginia Tech

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Partial Transcript: Cook: How did you get interested in math? Were you good in high school in math?

Keywords: Darlene Pryd; Dr. Bunch-Lyons; high school math; history; IDST; Michael Herndon; Woody Farrar

Subjects: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

42:49 - Membership in Zeta Phi Beta

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Partial Transcript: Cook: Oh yeah! Tell me about the organization you belong to on campus and what you do?

Keywords: Homecoming Step Show; interest meeting; service-oriented; Stepping

Subjects: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority

48:21 - Switching majors

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Partial Transcript: Cook: Why did you decide to switch to IDST?

Keywords: Dr. Arnold; Dr. Reed; IDST; Linear Algebra; math; Modern Algebra; statistics; Vector Calculus

Subjects: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

55:28 - Plans after graduation

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Partial Transcript: Cook: What do you want to do after you graduate?

Keywords: four-year commitment; four-year scholarship; Norfolk; prejudices; San Diego; sickle cell

Subjects: United States. Navy; United States. Navy--African Americans

61:15 - Trip to San Diego and Mexico and Plans after the Navy

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Partial Transcript: Cook: I like San Diego. I've been there once.

Keywords: beggars; cruise; paid vacation; seasick; Tijuana; training; weather

Subjects: United States. Navy; United States. Navy--African Americans

70:40 - Ways Virginia Tech could be more diverse

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Partial Transcript: Cook: What problems pertaining to African Americans do you think the university needs to address to make it more diverse, to attract more black students?

Keywords: Black Student Preview; environment; Minority Student Preview; retention

Subjects: College students, Black; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Corps of Cadets


[Tape 1, Side 1] Cook: Today is February 12th and My name is Susan Cook I'm interviewing Ebony Wilson. Ebony, can you state your whole name and when you were born?

Wilson: Ebony Ginell Wilson. I was born July 4, 1979.

Cook: July 4th? Where were you born?

Wilson: In Norfolk, Virginia.

Cook: Did you grow up in Norfolk?

Wilson: Yes.

Cook: Tell me about your parents, like your mother's work or father's work.

Wilson: Well my mom is Patricia Wilson and they're divorced. She works at McDonalds and my father works in Norfolk General Hospital.

Cook: What does he do there?

Wilson: He lays down the carpet. He is a floor specialist - puts tiles on the floors, stuff like that.

Cook: So did your mom work when you were growing up?

Wilson: No, off and on but mostly she didn't work.


Cook: Can you tell me about their education?

Wilson: They both completed high school, um that's all.

Cook: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Wilson: I have five brothers.

Cook: Oh my gosh! You are the only girl?

Wilson: Yes!

Cook: All right what's is your age order?

Wilson: 23, I'm 21, 18, 16, 15 and 4.

Cook: Aah! So you are the oldest of all those?

Wilson: I'm the second oldest. I have one older.

Cook: You have one older brother. Can you say their names?

Wilson: Anthony, Keith, Keshawn, Derek, and Antonio.

Cook: Are you close to your little four-year-old brother?

Wilson: Yes, I was with him since he's been born.

Cook: Did you watch your mother have him?

Wilson: No, it's actually my stepmother who had him so he lives with my father, 2:00and I live with my father too.

Cook: What is your older brother doing?

Wilson: He's married and he works at Smithfield, the ham people, he works in a factory doing that. He's married so he lives with his wife in Portsmouth.

Cook: Ok, so ya'll stayed around each other. Can you describe your neighborhood that you grew up in?

Wilson: I actually moved around a lot but in general my neighborhood is an all black neighborhood. I lived in a lot of old neighborhoods with older houses and 3:00school was always close by. I always walked to school, especially elementary school.

Cook: Was your school an all black school too?

Wilson: Uh-huh, up to elementary school and then I got into middle school and it was more mixed.

Cook: Um what mixed with what? White or Hispanic?

Wilson: White and one high school I went to was mixed with Filipino and Hispanic because of the Navy community. It was mostly just mixed with black and white. I went to fifteen different schools so--


Wilson: I think it's 15 or something like that!

Cook: Well that helps you with being in the military, right? [Laughter] What is the name of the high school you graduated from?

Wilson: Western Branch.

Cook: Western Branch High School-- okay. Did you like it there?

Wilson: No, not really-not really, just 'cause I was the new kid until I graduated and I'm kind of a loner so I didn't really like it. I didn't like high school at all, so I was just ready to go to college, I think.


Cook: Were you active in anything in high school?

Wilson: In ROTC.

Cook: Oh, okay. when I was a senior in high school my parents moved in October and that was so hard. I ended up graduating in January and my dad wanted me to go to graduation and I said I don't know any of these people I don't care about them. I can definitely relate Did you work while you were in high school?

Wilson: Yes, I did.

Cook: Can you tell me about that?

Wilson: I worked at Taco Bell. At first I started working part time and like almost everyday after school and then I kind of slacked off cause I had to baby-sit my little brother when he was born. Then I started working the summers.

Cook: At Taco Bell?

Wilson: Uh-huh.

Cook: Are you and your family members politically active?

Wilson: No.

Cook: Did you belong to a church community?

Wilson: No, not really. I went to church. Like right now I just go to church but 5:00I don't really belong to a community except my step-mom's church. I go when I'm back home.

Cook: But you don't belong to one here. Okay, well we can move on then from high school. How did you decide to come to Virginia Tech?

Wilson: It's actually pretty funny. In high school we had to do a project. We had to pick a career and we had to pick what school we graduated from, like what college we graduated from. We had to interview a person in that community. Well, I decided that I wanted to be a vet and the only school around here that had a veterinarian school was Virginia Tech. So I just became interested in Virginia Tech that way. I did more research on it and they kept sending me a lot of stuff. So it was between UVA and Virginia Tech. I picked Virginia Tech.


Cook: Thank you!


Wilson: I always wanted to go to a real big school, the bigger the better for me. UVA was smaller so I decided to go to Tech.

Cook: Me too, 'cause I feel like you can disappear more in a big school than in a small school. Do you feel that way?

Wilson: Yeah and I think small schools feel more like high school.

Cook: I felt the same way.

Wilson: I wanted the bigger school the better! The more people that went there the better!

Cook: Me too! When I got out of high school I went to University of Maryland, College Park. Everybody else was going to these small schools and I said 'no' 'cause I'm thinking 45,000 people and I--

Wilson: In Maryland?

Cook: Yeah! 'Cause you can get your own group of friends but you can also disappear if you want to. So you were in ROTC in high school. How did you get into ROTC here?

Wilson: That was the only way I could pay for school.

Cook: Okay!

Wilson: I couldn't afford school at all! If it wasn't for ROTC scholarships, so I decided, at the time, it seemed like my only option because I didn't know-- I 7:00was the first one to go to college so I didn't know about financial aid or anything like that. I got the ROTC scholarship, and they tell you to choose the school you want your scholarship to go to.

Cook: Oh so you applied directly for an ROTC scholarship but not at a particular school but you list schools.

Wilson: Yeah, you don't apply for it.

Cook: At Virginia Tech?

Wilson: No, you just list. They will tell you the schools that have the ROTC and you just pick whatever schools have the ROTC. More than likely you get your first choice school.

Cook: So you came in as a freshman ROTC?

Wilson: Uh-huh.

Cook: How scary! [Laughter] You're very brave. What was it like when you first came here?

Wilson: It was different because of the whole 'Corps' thing. I felt like I didn't do anything my freshman year. I still don't know what I did my freshman year. It just kind of went by I guess-- sort of was average on grades. It was 8:00harder than I thought it was going to be 'cause of my major and stuff.

Cook: What is your major?

Wilson: Well my major was math. I just changed it this year to IDST. It didn't set me back that much but--

Cook: That's my major too, IDST. Do you know Michael Herndon?

Wilson: Uh-huh. Yeah he advises me with a lot of stuff.

Cook: I really like him. His daughter was real sick last week, Shakira. She got the flu and she was really sick. So I guess just talk about your first or just some of your memories since you're a senior. For instance, I guess the Corps. What was that like? Were people friendly?

Wilson: No.


Cook: Do people yell?

Wilson: They yell. It's been a lot different than it is now but there's not as much yelling. I think the class when we came in the classes above us, for some reason they were a lot meaner.

Cook: Do you get to yell now though?

Wilson: I do get to yell but I feel like I don't like yelling at people. I just feel like if somebody's gonna do it, I couldn't do it, you know yell at them. Um, I don't know, I just remember not being able to go out doing some of the things I wanted to do especially as a freshman. It's kind of I think it's important as a freshman to go out because that way you are gonna know what college is about not just staying in a room.

Cook: Yeah because that's part of your education being free for the first time.

Wilson: I couldn't do it all my freshman year, my whole freshman year. We they set times for us that we could go out, like ten to twelve on a Friday night or something.

Cook: That's it?

Wilson: Yeah and I was kind of upset about that 'cause there were some things I wanted to do at like eight o'clock. Say for instance it was black history month 10:00program or something. I'm pretty sure they would have let us go to that but stuff on a weekend that started at eight I probably wouldn't been able to go to.

Cook: On Saturday?

Wilson: On Saturday because you had to stay a certain there is a certain time frame in the evening when we had to stay in and clean the hallways. They don't do that anymore. We had to clean the hallways when we were freshman.

Cook: Not fair. Were you resentful at all?

Wilson: Yeah, I was resentful!

Cook: Did you um, get along with your roommate?

Wilson: Uh-huh. I had two roommates. One roommate got out of the Corps. She didn't like it at all.

Cook: Was she white or black?

Wilson: She was white and my second roommate was Filipino. She's not here 11:00anymore either. She left because of different reasons, she's not in the university, but we got along. I get along with pretty much all of my roommates.

Cook: Did you have um-- sometimes it's hard to ask all these questions. Did you have any problems have you had any problems in the Corps as far as being a female?

Wilson: Um, personally, no. I've heard of stories well actually there was one time when someone climbed into my bed in the middle of the night.

Cook: What!

Wilson: That was kind of scary. I don't think if I was a male it would have happened. It happened because the guy was like sleepwalking or something and he went to the male's bathroom that is right across the hallway from our room, freshman year. This was the first week of school so I was terrified when he did it. But I found out he didn't even remember, so, it was scary

Cook: Wow! Did you wake up screaming?

Wilson: I just felt somebody pulling my covers back. My roommate said she saw him come in our room. He came in our room and started opening our dresser drawers and our dresser drawers are in the closet. So he had to open the closet, 12:00open the drawers and mess around in them. She said she thought it was me. She kept calling my name and she said I didn't respond, and I was like "cause I was asleep" and that was it. But yeah we just, we just got up and told our next-door neighbor; a sophomore and he got him. He woke him up 'cause I didn't know what was happening. That was the first week of school.

Cook: Yeah, he probably was so embarrassed though!

Wilson: Yeah, he didn't even remember.

Cook: Well so you don't have to-- you can't keep the rooms locked?

Wilson: After that we locked the room. Normally even now my room isn't locked. I don't lock my room. That is the only-- that is the main thing I like about the Corps is that I'm pretty sure there are some people who got stuff stolen from them but I never locked. In three and a half years, I've never really locked my room.

Cook: You feel safe?

Wilson: Uh-huh. For some reason I don't know. Now they try to tell you "lock your doors."

Cook: So your hall is very co-ed then?

Wilson: Uh-huh. I live beside-- both my neighbors are guys.

Cook: And you get along with them fine?

Wilson: Yeah!

Cook: They treat you with respect and all?

Wilson: I mean you hear the dirty jokes, especially as a freshman. I heard the 13:00dirty jokes from my buds like the rest of the freshman class, but some people don't like it. I guess it depends on the person because I don't. I guess they know, I don't want to say they know better. But I don't want to hear that and then they stop. It depends on the person.

Cook: You can kind of set the limits and all? They know they can't pick on you?

Wilson: Yeah, 'cause even if you do you might hear a dirty joke and you're like "I don't want to hear that" and you got to tell them and there is some, I know, there is some girls who the guys won't listen to at all so I don't know. And then the setting the tone and it goes all the way back to your freshman year. You make your impression your freshman year.

Cook: Do you feel you've been treated well by I guess, I don't know what you call them, the uppers, the people who aren't students, the faculty?


Wilson: People who run it?

Cook: Yes!

Wilson: I guess, I don't really talk to them all that much, I don't know.

Cook: For instance is there someone you have to report to, that's higher than you?

Wilson: My company commander.

Cook: Yeah!

Wilson: He's a senior so he's like in the same level. So it's not like, he's not going to, I don't know, he treats me with respect. But most of the seniors and there are people you don't like but there's people everybody don't like.

Cook: Do you feel you are treated well as a black- do you like to be called black or African American?

Wilson: It doesn't matter.

Cook: Ok, do you feel you are treated well there? Have you had any incidents?

Wilson: I haven't had any incidents. I just don't- I just never felt comfortable because there are never-- like when I first got there it was a shock because I never lived close to any white people before and then I'm sure they never lived close to any black people but it was only two of us out of thirty for my company 15:00as a freshman. So it's not like they had to adjust. It's sort of like I had to adjust. The whole listening to music, the people upper made us listen to music and it's not the type of music that I like. Little things like that made me mad.

Cook: They don't help you to be comfortable.

Wilson: And we all had to, as a freshmen, we were made to go out together like Friday and Saturday night and everybody of course would want to go to a party that I didn't want to go to, that I wouldn't feel comfortable around so I never went.

Cook: So you couldn't socialize with other people you met in classes or other African American? That would be hard.

Wilson: It was hard because one I was in the Corps so it was very hard and I'm 16:00extremely shy so that's working - the Corps was working against me. And I know a freshman, when she was a freshman, she's a senior now that had to go out. When she was allowed to go out, she kind of like snuck away from her buds and went to other parties. But I couldn't do that 'cause I was kind of shy. So I didn't do anything until sophomore year when I wasn't regulated as much.

Cook: Well the other person in your, what do you call it, in your area? You said when you were a freshman there were only two blacks-- Company, what Company were-- ?

Wilson: I was in Echo.

Cook: Echo-- and was that a male or female student?

Wilson: It was a male.

Cook: Oh, so you really were alone.


Wilson: And the other, only other black female, trying to think, the only other black female was a freshman in Foxtrot. We kind of knew each other from the black student preview. The year before we met each other there. For some reason we both ended up in the Corps but she's still here. But other than that there are no other black females. The rest of the black females were upperclassmen that you couldn't talk to. I didn't talk to them until my sophomore year.

Cook: So Janelle really was a year ahead of you then?

Wilson: She was a year ahead of me but um, the main thing with Janelle, I get on her about this all the time, um she lived in Brodie and I lived in Rasche. And the whole fact that you got to sound off at people, walk on the right side of the hallway and do all this stuff. I never went over to Brodie. I didn't know anybody in Brodie. So she stayed in a totally different company. I didn't even know Janelle until we both got in a sorority together and that was my sophomore year. So it was like "Yeah I know you're in the Corps!" but I didn't know her name or anything.


Cook: What do you think-- you probably don't know the percentages, as far as white to minorities in the Corps? Pretty small?

Wilson: It is pretty small. Like Asians-- I think there are more Asians.

Cook: Than blacks?

Wilson: Than blacks. I'm pretty sure there are more Asians than blacks actually they did a Corps survey and they had the results. There were more Asians than blacks. Black people-- I think there's about twenty of us, and that's stretching it.

Cook: I had no idea!

Wilson: That's really stretching it. In our company there are three out of forty-nine and that's about typical of every company so I say there's about twenty.

Cook: That's small. Do you ever get any negative feelings from other African 19:00American students on-campus that aren't in the Corps?

Wilson: No, none of them really know I'm in the Corps until they see me during the day because most people don't see me during the day 'cause I go to class then go back to my room and at night, like after 5 you can wear regular clothes. So people see me and are like "You in the Corps?" [Laughter] They are like, most black people they don't even like realize!

Cook: Oh okay, all right. They don't say, "What are you doing in the Corps?"

Wilson: No they don't. They just say, "I couldn't do that" or something like that.

Cook: I think you must be strong just to be in the Corps and then to be a minority in the Corps. Are your parents proud of you?

Wilson: Yeah, I guess. It was sort of-- I guess I'd say it was expected of me. I don't know why. The whole path that I took was kind of-- it was sort of already 20:00there. Like I knew I was going to go to college. How I was going to go to college, I had no idea and I knew it was going to be paid for. I didn't know how. Ever since I was in elementary school it was sort of like instilled in me and not-- I don't know why it wasn't in my cousins or my brothers but it was instilled in me that I was going to go to college.

Cook: Do you think that you will influence and encourage your younger brothers?

Wilson: Uh-huh. They are a little bit harder to encourage but yeah I am trying to. Well you know my four year-old brother, he just started school, I encourage him and my other-- one of my brother's wants to play basketball and go to college and stuff so I hope he does that.

Cook: Yeah 'cause you are a role model for them. I mean college is not for everybody. I have brothers and sisters that didn't go to college. It's not- but the fact that you did it will make it more accessible and they could find out how to afford through you. I can't believe that, how many brothers, five?


Wilson: Uh-huh!

Cook: Do you have both black and white friends at Virginia Tech?

Wilson: Um, yeah I guess you can call them friends in the Corps, the people I hang out with in the Corps. And then I have whole separate friends that are sorority, the people I meet as far as my sorority.

Cook: Do you find you have more male or female friends in the Corps?

Wilson: I have more female friends. Well I mean most females in the Corps, we tend to hang out together, not always cause you can't hang around with males, they call them male buds the people who are freshman in your company.

Cook: You can't? You're not supposed to?

Wilson: Well you can. Like the people who you are with, like the same company they call them buds. A lot of people hang out with them--

Cook: Buds? B-U-D-S?

Wilson: Yeah

Cook: Oh (laughter) slang, so has anything negative racially happened to you? Any comments while you've been in the Corps or on campus either?


Wilson: Not on campus. In the Corps it's more, I don't know. People say, people say stupid, like just general comments about. I know one time somebody made a reference to Martin Luther King holiday when I was a freshman; it's just like just small comments like that. Especially around me I haven't really heard any, any negative comments.

Cook: You need to check out that website, because that talks about the first black women students at Virginia Tech and what they had to go through. It's really interesting. How about in the community? Cause this community per say is pretty white, do you, have you ever had any problems?

Wilson: No, none. No, I don't, cause I don't really get out that much (laughter) 23:00so I haven't had any problems. I'm really sure they are there. I can like prejudge a lot of people, how they act but I haven't seen any, I haven't experienced any. I've experienced more back home than I have here actually.

Cook: Oh really, do you get to go home that much?

Wilson: On the breaks mostly because of the whole money situation, find way to get back home.

Cook: So you don't have a car on campus? It's a good thing. Cars are a pain. I have a son who goes to GMU - had to get that car, had to get it. I wouldn't let him get it and then finally he got it in August and he'll be a senior next year. 24:00So guess what- it broke down and he can't afford to fix it. It costs, the minimum $1400 dollars so I told him that's so many problems.

Wilson: I'm at that point that I have to have car too, that's because I'm about to graduate.

Cook: Yeah, are you going to be able to graduate in May?

Wilson: I'm graduating in August, but I am going to walk in May and do the ceremony cause my parents "we want to see you graduate", ok.

Cook: I did the same thing. I just graduated from undergraduate. It took me a long time. Um you know what I don't like though, they are not going to use the stadium now, they're gonna do it on the drill field with chairs set up.

Wilson: I thought they start, they was going to start in 2002.

Cook: Oh, ok I bet you are right then.

Wilson: I read in the paper about something like that. That they were going to 25:00start in 2002.

Cook: Because it's a good feeling in the stadium.

Wilson: Yeah!

Cook: Do you go to sports events-- well you have to go to, don't you?

Wilson: I had to go to the football games and we had to go to the women's basketball game this past Wednesday.

Cook: Yeah?

Wilson: I like it, I like football actually; I'm a big sports fan so I don't mind. I know there's a lot of - for some reason most of the black people don't like going to the football games. But I don't mind cause I like football.

Cook: Yeah, I haven't been to any. I need to go and I want to go. I just can't afford it.

Wilson: Yeah they're fun, since they're free also like it helps that we don't have to get tickets.

Cook: Exactly, do you yell and all?

Wilson: No, I just kind of watch

Cook: Gosh, all right um back to the racial things. What do you feel is the racial climate at Virginia Tech. For instance do you feel it's diverse here?

Wilson: No. [laughter]

Cook: Why?

Wilson: 'Cause I have a computer science class and there's-- five black people 26:00in that class in Norris 136 and that's kind of a big classroom. It's not the biggest classroom but it's a big classroom. And I counted, cause I do that on the first day of classes. There was like five of us in there and Norris 136 was full there's about 300 students in that class so it's pretty-- it's not diverse at all.

Cook: When you're in a class you very much feel like "I'm black" and there's not that many students here that are black.

Wilson: I feel that mostly when I'm in the Corps because it's just, I'm just not used, I'm still not used to living around, I guess white people. I don't know I just feel like that all the time especially when I'm in uniform.

Cook: Because you've grown up in mostly black neighborhoods and schools? So do you think that's a good thing to help you live with Filipinos and Asians and 27:00white people, do you think that will be good for your future?

Wilson: Yeah, but I think it needs to be the other way around instead of, because I don't really think I'd have a problem living around white people but I think it's the other way around, when the white person lives around all black people. I think that's what is, that really should be it because they don't know a lot about us and we know a lot about them.

Cook: Oh okay, I understand. I forgot to ask you, this is going back to the beginning, I'm always interested in knowing about your background. Like is your family, as far back as you can remember, from Norfolk? Did you grandparents come from somewhere else?

Wilson: My great grandparents they lived in Chesapeake, but it's still in the 28:00Norfolk area, as far as I remember. My dad's side of the family, they're from Norfolk back as far as I remember 'cause I asked my great grandmother because my mom is very light and my great grandma is really, really light like, "how'd you get so light?" And she told me that her dad is half white/half black 'cause her grandmother was raped. Her grandmother was a slave and she was raped by an owner.

Cook: So this is your grandmother's--?

Wilson: My great grandmother's, grandmother.

Cook: Your great grandmother's-- so what was her, your great grandmother's name?

Wilson: Bessie Jenkins.

Cook: Bessie Jenkins!

Wilson: She's still alive.

Cook: She is? Wow!!

Wilson: She's eighty-something!

Cook: Oh my gosh!

Wilson: She's a great-great grandmother actually.


Cook: And that's your mother's mother?

Wilson: My mother's grandmother.

Cook: Your mother's grandmother.

Wilson: Uh-huh

Cook: And then her, let me get this straight, your great grandmother's mother was--

Wilson: Grandmother.

Cook: Grandmother-- was a slave and raped by a white man. So that was probably in the Chesapeake area too?

Wilson: Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's the Chesapeake area because they're the type of people that, as far as I know, they haven't moved. My mom-- the house they lived, my great grandma live in now. She raised my mom because my grandmother died when they were young.

Cook: Oh, what did she die of? Do you know?

Wilson: She died of asthma. She had an asthma attack. It runs in the family.

Cook: Do you have it?

Wilson: No!

Cook: Thank God!

Wilson: None of my brothers have it. None of us have it. But she died, so as far as I know, they lived in the same house and there was no electricity, they had no bathroom, they had no outhouse. That's what my mom remembers.

Cook: I'm going to send you a name of this book. I can't remember it right now. Do you know Dr. Beverly Bunch-Lyons?

Wilson: Uh-huh, I've heard of her.

Cook: She's one of the best professors. She's just so wonderful. I couldn't take 30:00her graduate course this semester because I already fulfilled that requirement but she's teaching African American women's history and one of the books-- it's got a weird name, it's called Corrigidora or something like that and it's about African American women. I don't know if they go from slavery, when women were enslaved and after. I'm not sure. I'm going to read it though. It talks about that sexual aspect of it, how black women have always been preyed on by white men. So would you be interested in just knowing about that?

Wilson: Yes.

Cook: It's a thin book. I saw it at the bookstore but I thought you know we need to know this. I am reading a book called Many Thousands Gone for one of my 31:00classes. It's very interesting. It's about slavery in the 17th and 18th century and how African Americans managed to have power even though they were suppressed. So it's really, really interesting. We are studying about the Chesapeake too. So you can probably trace your ancestors back to all that area. What's your mom's maiden name?

Wilson: Creekmur.

Cook: Can you spell it?

Wilson: C R E E K M U R

Cook: That's pretty. That sounds Indian, American Indian.

Wilson: I think it might be from that area because I see it. I know a name of a store was Creekmur too, so I think in that area somewhere around there that name just came up, popped up.

Cook: Does Creek, well creek of course is the water, but Creek is also American Indian. Do you know if you have any American Indian in your background?

Wilson: I'm not sure.


Cook: Here's a silly question but when you were growing up did you have any childhood heroes?

Wilson: Yeah, I've got a silly answer.


Wilson: I think Wonder Woman. I think that was my thing because I watched a lot of TV when I could and everybody tells me-- I don't even remember but when I was like three and four Wonder Woman was my favorite. I was all into the super heroes, Charlie Angels' type thing. [Laughter]

Cook: Yeah, that's interesting! Did you ever have a mentor; I guess is the word, when you were going to school? Any high school teacher that was a good influence on you?

Wilson: I had one high school teacher was, actually a high school counselor, a 33:00couple of counselors because we were going through-- my mom-- she was a drug addict for a while. I had to be and my brothers had to be taken away from her and I started living with my dad. That's when the counselors came in and tried-- I mean I guess they tried-- but I was moving around so much I couldn't really go to one single counselor but they influenced me, the counselors.

Cook: How's your mom doing now?

Wilson: She's okay now but she turned from that to alcohol.

Cook: That's hard.

Wilson: Yeah, she's doing a lot better than she use to because she's working now; at first she didn't even work.

Cook: Does she have any kids with her now?

Wilson: She has two of my brothers, the 18-year-old, 'cause he's still in 34:00school; he's graduating this year and the 16-year-old, he's still in school.

Cook: Uh-huh, did you say her first name?

Wilson: Patricia.

Cook: Patricia, okay. All right, can you say what she was addicted to?

Wilson: She was addicted to crack-cocaine.

Cook: Do you think that you're closer to your dad than your mom? Or do you feel still close to your mom?

Wilson: I still feel close to my mom, like I still talk to her all the time 'cause I kind of know she didn't-- even though she knew she was addicted to drugs and like didn't have running water, we didn't have lights. We were homeless for a while on the streets. She still didn't want us to leave her and I still feel close to her and now she's better. She's trying to do better. My dad-- I feel close to him. We argue a lot but I guess it's not serious arguing. It's just he doesn't like the fact that I came here.


Cook: Why? 'Cause it's predominantly white?

Wilson: Yeah, he wanted me to go to ODU [Old Dominion University], which I find interesting cause that is mostly white too. But he wanted me to stay close to home or go to a predominantly black school. I mean we argue but we don't argue seriously 'cause he doesn't pay for my school.

Cook: You have that power?

Wilson: Yeah, I said, "You know you don't have to pay for my school, so?"

Cook: You know he's proud of you!

Wilson: Yeah, we don't have a really, a really, I don't want to say loving, just a touchy-feely relationship, neither one of my parents because we don't hug each other and stuff like that, never have.

Cook: How old were you when you went to live with him?

Wilson: I was 15, pretty old. It just got to the point where I had no other choice because I wanted to live with him for a while, for three years before that. But he was always in a bind where he never had enough room. He finally was able to buy a house.


Cook: Does he still keep in contact with your mom?

Wilson: They never talk ever since they separated. They separated when I was one and they couldn't get a divorce until years later. They don't talk to each other. It's not that they're mad at each other; they just don't feel the need to talk to each other.

Cook: 'Cause they're different people-- do you like your step-mom?

Wilson: Yeah she's nice. I have a stepsister that lives with them. She's going through a phase. She's 15 and so she's going through that phase.

Cook: My son that's nine, he's going be ten. One day he loves me and the next day he looks at me and he goes, "You are so weird!" and I'll go, "What?" and 37:00he'll say, "You're so old-fashioned! You don't know the right music to listen too!" I just go, "Me?"


Cook: It's awful! Do you have any African American role models? Especially women?

Wilson: It's kind of hard to explain. With everything that was going on I didn't really think-- like people say stuff like that "would you never do this and that?" I didn't because I was always worried about what I'm going eat or are we going to have water when I come home from school. Which we never did and where are we going to get lights from? How many candles do we need?

Cook: Oh gosh!

Wilson: I never really thought about-- there are times when I guess I was nine where everything was normal. Then from 9 to 15 everything was-- like we stayed 38:00in a shelter. So I don't really think about it.

Cook: That's so hard! How did you get interested in math? Were you good in high school in math?

Wilson: Yeah I ended up being good in it. I actually failed pre-calculus and then I took it again and figured out it was a lot easier than I thought it was. Then I just started taking geometry and trigonometry and I was just--

Cook: In high school?

Wilson: Uh-huh. It was easier than calculus!

Cook: Gosh!

Wilson: I felt that it was easy so I was like "maybe I would like math" and I'm actually more of a history person in college because I love reading and I write better than I thought I did. I thought I wasn't a good writer. I don't like to write. I don't like to proofread. When I write my paper, I don't proofread it, I 39:00just spell check and I still get A's! I'm like "I should be a history major!"

Cook: Really? What professors have you taken courses from here?

Wilson: I've taken-- she's a humanities professor-- um I just had her last semester-- the medieval world-- I forgot her name.

Cook: Darlene Pryd?

Wilson: Yeah!

Cook: Oh you did? Did you like her?

Wilson: I liked her class.

Cook: I think she's leaving; actually she got a job. I don't really know her but she came into one of our seminars and spoke and she just seemed like she had so much passion or something! [Laughter]

Wilson: Yeah about the medieval world!

Cook: Yeah!

Wilson: But she is a good teacher! I think those are the best teachers, who have a passion. And I had Dr. Banks. I am taking one of her classes now and I took a class before. She's a good professor. She's a hard grader but I still ended up getting a B in her class.

Cook: What is she in?

Wilson: She's a Black Studies professor.


Cook: Do you know Dr. Kershaw?

Wilson: Yeah, but I never took any of his classes. Also, I forgot her name-- I am taking a Women's Studies class, Women and International Human Rights.

Cook: Oh that sounds really interesting!

Wilson: Yeah, there is a lot of writing but--

Cook: Oh that's all I do-- I hate it! In fact this afternoon I have to go back and write two papers.

Wilson: See I hated it but-- I don't know-- I get my paper right and "you got an A!"

Cook: I know you are going to graduate in August, but if you need a course if you could take Dr. Bunch-Lyons'. You would just love her!

Wilson: If they're offering her during summer school, I probably will because I have electives. The only reason I'm not graduating is because I have one class to take and the rest-- nine credits of electives that I don't know what I'm going to take. So I might take her class.

Cook: I had the same thing happen! Then I had to take a writing intensive course in IDST and that was my last course I had to take. I took it with Michael 41:00Herndon and I was so dreading it! Because I walked like you're gonna do and I thought "oh gosh" and it was so much fun, I just loved it!

Wilson: I'm taking the writing intensive course for IDST and I don't like it.

Cook: Who's the professor?

Wilson: Brian Britt.

Cook: Oh he's the bible guy.

Wilson: Yes. It's more of a discussion type thing. The only reason I like his class is because you can discuss it. But other than that it's not what I - I don't like the way it's structured.

Cook: Uh-huh. You can tell right away?

Wilson: Yeah! That's how I could tell because anytime you're confused after you read the syllabus it's like huh-- what are we supposed to do?

Cook: Yeah! There are some good African American professors in history. There's 42:00Woody Farrar. I like him. I think he is eccentric.

Wilson: Yeah, he is! I've never had his class but I see him around. Everybody sees him around on campus.

Cook: He went to University of Maryland when my sister, older sister, went there and he was the leader of the Black Student Union. He's very militant, was very militant. Then he went into the Navy. There's Dr. Floyd-Thomas--

Wilson: Yeah we met. I met her in one of Dr. Bank's class.

Cook: But then there's her husband.

Wilson: I know she taught a religious course. I'm not sure.

Cook: She's in Humanities or Women's Studies or something. Dr. Bunch-Lyons-- I consider my mentor here. I just really like her. I kind of digressed there. Oh yeah! Tell me about the organization you belong to on campus and what you do?


Wilson: Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. We are a service-oriented sorority. I mean we have a certain amount of service projects. It's not a set limit. But the national's would be like you need to do service projects. We do a lot of programs like forums and stuff like that. You know the resume writer and we do social stuff too but it's mostly for a purpose-- like a party to raise money or something and we're very small right now. We have four active members. We have another member but she isn't active and we have four active members on campus.

Cook: Is that the only black service sorority on campus?

Wilson: All the black sororities and fraternities are service. We are all supposed to be committed in service. How many are on campus? Six, seven, seven on campus.

Cook: Just for women?

Wilson: No!

Cook: Oh, for men?


Wilson: It's three, three women and four guy, four fraternities.

Cook: I'm really ignorant on sororities and fraternities but I have a stereotype-- so the service divides the other kind that you always think of as being big partiers?

Wilson: I think our-- I think for us our color divides us from the other kind because there might be some service fraternities out there because I know there are business ones, like Delta Sigma Epsilon. They're a business fraternity. I don't know. I think it's mostly our color that divides us because most people don't even know we're service 'cause they might see us Stepping' and think, you 45:00know that's all we do, like throwing a party-- they think that's all we do. I know a lot of people think that's all we do is Step and it's not!

Cook: What does that mean, 'Step?'

Wilson: It's sort of-- it's not like dance-- sort of like different steps you know.

Cook: I think I know what you mean.

Wilson: Uh-huh, it's like Step shows.

Cook: Yeah, I'm trying to think like the Irish have their stomping and it's-- you do that?

Wilson: Uh-huh.

Cook: You do that? Wow, I'd like to see that!

Wilson: It was in an article in the paper about the Homecoming Step Show.

Cook: Of your Sorority?

Wilson: It was all the ones that were in the Homecoming Step Show.

Cook: You think I could- Is there a picture too? Is there a picture of it? Could I put that picture on the website?

Wilson: Yes.

Cook: Okay.

Wilson: You probably have to go to Collegiate Times because it was in the Collegiate Times.

Cook: In the Fall?

Wilson: It was a while ago. Yeah, in the Fall.

Cook: Okay, but Fall 2000? Oh that would be so good!


Wilson: If you wanted to go to one, we are having one March the 24th. It's a really, really big Step show.

Cook: It is? I would love to, March 24th?

Wilson: Uh-huh, It's in Burruss Hall.

Cook: Why do I think I'm gone that weekend? I hope not because I could bring my sons to that. They would love it!

Wilson: And the thing is with that one, a lot of white people go to that, like the white sororities and fraternities help us. They might help us work the doors or something.

Cook: Okay, all right, thanks! If I'm there this weekend, for some reason I feel like my husband has some conference that weekend-- but he said the last weekend in March, so maybe it's the next weekend. Cool so I can get your picture in there. Is that the one organization you belong to?

Wilson: Yeah that's the only one because that's the only one I really have time for. Because I'm president, it's a lot of time with only four members.


[Tape 1, Side 2]

Cook: Did you start it or was it already started?

Wilson: It was already started. It started in 1983. Don't quote me on that.

Cook: Do you recruit new members?

Wilson: The thing is we don't recruit. This is another difference between white sororities and us. People who are interested just come up to one of us--

Cook: Oh okay, you don't do that stupid rush?

Wilson: No we don't. We don't do rush or any of that stuff. We might have an interest meeting where we just sit down, sort of like a tea, and talk about our sorority. It's all in the other person. If the other person is interested in us then that's when we locally process it-- getting in.


Cook: Would you say those are your best friends, the ones in the sorority?

Wilson: Uh-huh. They're my best friends. I hang out with them all the time.

Cook: Maybe I can interview one of your friends. You told me what your major was. Why did you decide to switch to IDST?

Wilson: Math was just getting hard. That's not a really good major for black people, I don't think.

Cook: Really? Why do you say that?

Wilson: No, because I'd be in the class and everybody talking-- everybody like math majors would be talking and I just feel like-- because this girl when she was in charge of the senior pictures for math majors and at that time I was a math major, she was just going around asking everybody, "Did you get your senior pictures signed up?" She didn't ask me but she asked everybody else.

Cook: She just walked right by you?

Wilson: She was just sitting in her chair and she was just asking people around and I was one of the first people in the classroom. She didn't ask me.

Cook: Excuse me?

Wilson: Did you not think I was a math major?

Cook: Are there that many women in math?

Wilson: No. It's not a big major but I'm pretty sure it's not fifty-fifty. It's 49:00probably about 30 percent.

Cook: Oh okay.

Wilson: It's not a small number.

Cook: When did you decide to switch to IDST?

Wilson: When I realized I was failing very, very badly. I should have switched a long time ago but I was being stubborn about it. Maybe if I take this class it will be better 'cause I understood the material. I'm just not a good test taker. That's when I realized I could write a lot better than I take tests. So I always did badly on my tests. My teachers, some of the math teachers, were actually helpful. Then there's others who I just didn't like. They tried to help me with 50:00my tests--

Cook: What would you say is a really hard math course? Like name some of them.

Wilson: All of the 3000 courses. Modern Algebra was pretty hard for me because I had Dr. Reed and he's really, really helpful; one of the few helpful white professors, I think. It was just hard. He did everything in his power to help me and I just couldn't do it.

Cook: But you went for help. That's good. So they knew.

Wilson: Yeah I went for help all the time. I was always in his office hours and then the linear algebra class I had last semester which is the 3000 level linear algebra with Dr. Arnold. Dr. Arnold was kind of - 'I'll help you to an extent' sort of thing. I think he's sort of like 'you should get this, this is easy!' You know the type of person. So I didn't really feel like I could go to him all the time because I needed help almost everyday. That was a hard class!

Cook: Those kinds of professors! You feel like you can't go to 'cause they're looking, at least in my case, at you like "You can't get this?"

Wilson: Like they help you just because they have to because of their office hours. I think that's the only reason why. And I had Vector Calculus. I think 51:00the teacher was just horrible!

Cook: What kind of calculus?

Wilson: Vector calculus. They call it Calculus and Multi-variables. I totally understood the material, understood what she was talking about-- when I take the test-- Oh, I don't, I can't get it! She just writes on the board for an hour fifteen minutes and we copied notes for an hour fifteen minutes and she won't stop to explain or anything. She'd be like "do you understand this?" and everybody just be writing so fast that we couldn't be like, "I didn't know."

Cook: That's not being a teacher.

Wilson: No! So that's when I started not liking math. I still like it I'm just not good at it.

Cook: I bet you could still be a math teacher though with that in your background.

Wilson: Yeah. I couldn't teach though. Everybody told me I should be a teacher.

Cook: No I did the same thing. Everyone told me I could and then I did volunteer work and I said, "I can't do it." I'd get in trouble, especially in high school-- I know I would yell at some of them 'cause they'd annoy me.

Wilson: (Laughter) Yeah, I like kids-- but then again I don't.


Cook: Same here. You know you feel if they were trying to be sassy answering you back you'd just feel like-- (Laughter) Yeah, I know I couldn't either. Well anyway that's another subject. So then you switched to IDST which is a very good major. It really gives you a broad education. I think it's wonderful.

Wilson: I wish I would have switched earlier. I found out that I really liked statistics and I want to do that. I never knew what statistics was until I came here and I had to take it for math. I was doing better in statistics than I was doing in my math classes and I wanted to switch to a statistics minor but I have to take these-- I have to graduate in December-- take an extra course. One course I would need is only offered in the fall and I switched my major in the 53:00middle of the fall semester.

Cook: So you're good at statistics? Statistics is very good to have on your resume nowadays. I took one statistics course. It was very hard for me.

Wilson: I think I had a good teacher. He was a graduate student, a PhD candidate, I think. He was like this is what you need to know and this is what I'm going to teach you and that's it. It is like no messing around. He'd teach and if he didn't need the whole hour and fifteen minutes he let them go.

Cook: What is his name?

Wilson: Wilcox-- Wilcox? He was a graduate student.

Cook: Teachers really make a big difference, I think.

Wilson: Yeah!

Cook: Do you think the white teachers treated you well? Did you ever have 54:00situations where they didn't?

Wilson: It was the whole-- I think the whole, you know, algebra situation because everybody was telling me-- even some black people told me-- that he's a good teacher but I didn't have that same vibe 'cause he knew I was struggling in the class, even though I really needed that Linear Algebra. I ended up late dropping it but I was really struggling in that class.

Cook: You tried--

Wilson: Yeah, I really tried.

Cook: Do you think he treated you that way as a woman or as an African American or both?

Wilson: I think it's both and just as a struggling student, 'cause I told him that I needed a good grade in that class. He's like, "Well I don't think that's going to happen." I don't know and he kept sort of saying it under his breath.

Cook: That is annoying!

Wilson: Then in most of the classes, like my computer science teacher-- I'm having trouble with that. He's helping a little bit 'cause everybody had trouble with programming their first time so he's all right. He's sort of helping.

Cook: But he treats you nice?

Wilson: Uh-huh.


Cook: That's good. How about women teachers? Do you have any?

Wilson: I've had some. I had a couple of women math teachers and they treated everybody about the same. I had a lot of big classes like in Squires Colonial and Norris and other big places.

Cook: Okay. What do you want to do after you graduate?

Wilson: I'm going into the Navy, which I don't want to do.

Cook: Have you committed?

Wilson: I was committed since freshman year.

Cook: Oh really?

Wilson: Since sophomore year actually, they make you sign a contract 'cause I was on scholarship. I had a four-year scholarship. That's not what I want to do though.


Cook: So how long will you have to do that?

Wilson: Ummm-- for four years so that's where all the minority stuff comes in-- and Navy, I don't like the battalion. I don't like ROTC here 'cause their people just are not friendly and they get me mixed up with other black people.

Cook: The higher up people?

Wilson: The higher up people, anybody. The older people get me mixed up with-- 'cause there was another black girl, she graduated in December and they'd get me mixed up with her. They got me mixed up with other people and I got a bad evaluation because I was mixed up with somebody.

Cook: What?

Wilson: I was really mad about that. I really didn't like it!

Cook: Did they apologize?

Wilson: No, I told them "this is not me!" They wrote a comment on something that I supposedly did. I didn't do this! And I know who did it.

Cook: Good thing you spoke up.

Wilson: Yeah.

Cook: Oh, where will you be stationed?

Wilson: I don't know. I find that out Thursday.

Cook: What are the possibilities?


Wilson: All over the world, Norfolk and San Diego, Florida, Mississippi, Japan, Pearl Harbor.

Cook: Oh my gosh, Ebony!

Wilson: But I'm also one of the last people on the list, so I get the last picking.

Cook: Don't go on a sub right now. Things aren't good for subs

Wilson: I can't go on a sub

Cook: Can it only be men on subs?

Wilson: Uh-huh.

Cook: Can you swim?

Wilson: Um-- a little bit.

Cook: Do you have to be able to swim really well to be in the Navy?

Wilson: No, 'cause I can't swim well. I can swim enough to try to swim to the shore, swim to survive.

Cook: Oh you can? Okay! You know you always see these big waves-- they'll make you do a test and all?

Wilson: Uh-huh. Like I can't fly. I think my grandmother was so upset about 58:00this-- even though I didn't want to fly because they told me you had a trait of sickle cell.

Cook: Oh really? When did you find that out?

Wilson: I knew ever since I was little because I had problems with my ears. My mom knew ever since I was born because they tell you. They did a physical and they were like, "You know you have a trait of sickle cell?" Well it was like, "You got a sickle cell, and you can't fly." So I was like okay 'cause I don't want to fly. And my grandmother she was upset, my dad's mom, because she's all into racial stuff like it's racist because apparently they're not supposed to do that anymore because a lot of African Americans have a trait of sickle cell. It doesn't bother me. It's just that I have the trait.

Cook: And I wonder where that rule came up or how long that rule is.

Wilson: That rule is probably about sixty years old. It came up when they wanted to fly, like in the forties in World War II they wanted to fly and it was just an excuse to weed out a lot of people.

Cook: Somebody needs to challenge that.

Wilson: Yeah 'cause when he told me that I was like fine I didn't want to fly anyway.


Cook: I mean I wouldn't want to fly just because I don't even like to go on a roller coaster but still for someone to tell you that's the reason that you can't.

Wilson: And another girl, she really wanted to fly, really, really bad. She didn't have the sickle cell trait. She passed all the tests, all the swim tests and she was black. She didn't get a spot. Like there are plenty of people who have bad grades, who weren't good in the ROTC program and they got a pilot slot. It's competitive.

Cook: Is this at Tech?

Wilson: Uh-huh. It's at this ROTC.

Cook: Is it political? Like who you know and stuff?

Wilson: I don't think so. I don't know why she didn't get it because there are other people who are less qualified than she was and they got a slot. She was very, very upset. She really wanted to fly.

Cook: There could be double prejudices; it could be being a female and being 60:00black. And you have to decide if you want to fight it and all that.

Wilson: Yeah it was a big difference between driving a ship and flying.

Cook: Uh-huh!

Wilson: That's what I'm going to be doing.

Cook: Do you have any preference where you'd like to be or not like to be?

Wilson: My dad wants me to stay close to home we're arguing about that now.

Cook: You're his only daughter; dads are close to their daughters. (Laughter)

Wilson: Yeah, his has four kids.

Cook: Uh-huh.

Wilson: And my mom has four. So it gets confusing but I'm the only one that's really close to him because two of my brothers they don't live with him. So I'm the only one that would call him all the time and talk to him and stuff. "So you got to stay close to home! You better choose Norfolk!"

Cook: Did you?

Wilson: I don't know yet.

Cook: Oh do you get to, at least, say some places?

Wilson: Uh-huh. I can say where I want to go and what slots they have left open.

Cook: Did you put in for any overseas?

Wilson: I don't want to go overseas. I think the farthest I'd go is like San Diego because I was there before.


Cook: I like San Diego. I've been there once.

Wilson: I didn't think I was going to like it.

Cook: Me neither.

Wilson: But I liked it. It's a little weird; the people there are weird.

Cook: I had this stereotype of southern California blondes and everyone's going to be real ditsy and it really wasn't like that.

Wilson: No it was like all Mexicans.

Cook: Yeah?

Wilson: That's the only thing about it-- it's like there were not a whole lot black people there.

Cook: There's not?

Wilson: But I don't mind. It's a nice place to be.

Cook: The weather is so perfect.

Wilson: The weather is scary to me 'cause it's never raining.

Cook: I know!

Wilson: I didn't think I was going to miss the rain but--

Cook: When did you go there?

Wilson: Over the summer. The Navy sent me on a-- we call it a cruise-- it's supposed to be training and stuff but it's really a paid vacation for us.


Cook: Wow!

Wilson: I was lucky enough to get to San Diego twice between sophomore and junior year and my junior year and senior year for a month in the summer.

Cook: Is that hard to be alone and then go off to a new and different place?

Wilson: No 'cause I like doing that. Like when I was in San Diego they say stay with other midshipman or stay in a group but I'd go off in San Diego on my own and explore and go to Tijuana and look around and stuff.

Cook: That's a trip, Tijuana; I've never been there but I've heard it's almost sad. Isn't it?

Wilson: It depressed me a lot. I mean you get different emotions because it's depressing and then you're like wow I'm in a different country. But it's really depressing.

Cook: I've heard there're homeless little kids just walking the streets and animals and--

Wilson: I made the mistake of um-- I guess I see it as a mistake not really though-- Soon as I crossed the border it was obvious we were American. They had a big Virginia Tech shirt on (Laughter) and uh it's obvious. Everybody who was crossing the border at the time were Americans and some girl came up to me with a cup and she was a little girl! I put a dime in there. I had fifty dimes, I 63:00don't know why I had a handful of dimes. All these kids, like thirty kids, all of them had cups. I was like, "Oh my God!" No one told me. They were like don't give them money because everybody else.

Cook: How could you not though?

Wilson: I don't know. I was like if I had enough dimes-- I just gave them all the dimes. I had enough so I just gave them all the dimes and I bought some packs of gum from a little girl. Everybody else started running up to me again.

Cook: I can just picture that. Were they just little Mexicans, so cute?

Wilson: There were just little kids and a couple of them had their mothers. It looked like they were too sick to even stand up. I was walking around more in downtown Tijuana. I gave this little girl, she was begging you could see her mom was just sitting there, like she was sick and the other kids around her just 64:00gave her a dollar. I was like, cause a dollar to me didn't mean much of anything 'cause only took about 20 dollars down there and I gave away only 5. But it seemed like a lot because I gave money to a lot of people, like a quarter here, a quarter there.

Cook: Yeah I have a soft heart but it makes me think we're so sheltered here.

Wilson: Yeah cause this little Mexican boy ran up to me and the other girl, she had a big Penn State on her shirt and she was white and he went up to us and was like, " Do you have a dollar, do you have a dollar?" We were like no we don't have any more money and he was like, "Oh you Americans, you are all rich! You have swimming pools. You are a millionaire."

Cook: No!

Wilson: But he was one of the lucky kids cause his parents had a shop so we were like, "No you lucky. Your parents are working." You know.

Cook: Gosh, I think Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, has a hundred million people or something crazy like that. I think I remember that from a course.

Wilson: Really eye opening for me. When people read my shirt, I met um five, a group of black girls who went to Tech which was surprising 'cause there were no 65:00black people. "Yeah I went to Tech." I was like yeah you are black though and you're in Mexico.

Cook: That's very coincidental.

Wilson: They were visiting Mexico. That was a big coincidence. I don't know why and then I met people from Roanoke when we went to Hard Rock Cafe-- and yeah you go to Tech - big Virginia Tech on my shirt. We live in Roanoke, it's a small world. We met a lot of people. The girl from Penn State was like, "A lot of people from where you're from!" No not really I don't know why.


Cook: This is unusual!

Wilson: Yeah!

Cook: I have a niece that lives in San Diego and her fiancé is um, what's that word JAG-- a Marine, what is it-- something general, Judge Advocate--?

Wilson: Judge Advocate General.

Cook: Yeah he just started; he just went through all that. Left Quantico and 66:00went back, went to San Diego. I've never been on any of the big Navy ships there. I want to take my kids there.

Wilson: It was a big base. Norfolk's base is even bigger.

Cook: Gosh!

Wilson: It's like, it's hard-- I was on Norfolk Naval Base my freshman year. After my freshman year they sent me to Norfolk. It's a big base. Man I'm from Norfolk; I don't go on the base! We are not a military family. My family is anti-military so--

Cook: Yeah that's why I think you're so brave because I think a lot of people that go into the military are from military families. It's just really brave of you, I admire you.

Wilson: Yeah I have a couple of cousins in the military but no one--

Cook: Usually a parent or something, even Janelle, her parents--

Wilson: Yeah I think her dad was in the Air Force or something.

Cook: And used to travelling around and stuff. Do you, do you see yourself down the line, going back and settling in Norfolk or do you think you want to go somewhere else?

Wilson: I see myself settling in Norfolk. I just like the area. I never realized I liked it until I came here and I missed flat land. When I was in San Diego I 67:00missed rain. I just miss everything. I don't miss the humidity but that's about all. I mean I see myself-- if I get stationed there it wouldn't be any big dissapointment, I'd save money, I'm close to home. I told my mom I was going to live with her. She's all excited about it.

Cook: Do you want to get married some day and have kids?

Wilson: I do. Not when I'm in the military though I don't see how they can do it. If I ever have a kid when I'm in the military-- getting married-- I'd have to get out as soon as possible.

Cook: 'Cause don't you have shift work when in the military and if you have a kid--

Wilson: Yeah, because when I was in San Diego they set you up with a--sort of like your mentor for the month and she had a little ten month old daughter and 68:00it was such a hassle going to the babysitter even though her babysitter was like her family so she didn't have to pay for childcare or anything but it was such a hassle.

Cook: But don't you feel sad for the little kid?

Wilson: Yeah and her dad was on a six-month deployment in the Marines. And her mom was about to go six-month deployment as soon as her dad got back. So, I couldn't. They always complain. "I don't want to leave my wife and kids!" And you go why are you in the Navy? You know?

Cook: So as of right now after you finish your four years you see yourself getting out of it?

Wilson: I'm sorry-- I get seasick!

Cook: Do you?

Wilson: I didn't realize that until after--

Cook: Can you do anything about it?

Wilson: You can take medicine for it.

Cook: Dramamine though?

Wilson: Yeah!

Cook: That always makes me feel weird. It gives me energy in my legs. There's something that you can put back here--[back of the ears] a little circle thing I see people in airplanes. I get it [motion sickness] on airplanes and if I go out more than a little bit from the shore. I like to be on the edge of water.


Wilson: Yeah! (Laughter) That's why I see myself in Norfolk because I feel if I'm in the middle of a country I don't--I feel like I'm surrounded. I need to be--

Cook: Do you feel almost claustrophobic?

Wilson: Uh-huh!

Cook: My family's from the Eastern Shore in Maryland, so I'm used to flat land and water everywhere.

Wilson: Yeah I'm like used to bridges and tunnels-- like no one is used to the under tunnel thing.

Cook: That big one; the 27-mile one?

Wilson: We get a lot of underwater tunnels. Its just second nature to us. We're used to it.

Cook: I don't know if I like that, the tunnel.

Wilson: No one likes it. No one does unless they grew up around there. Like Janelle wanted to come pick me up and she said she was about to turn back around because she said she saw these cars going underwater.

Cook: Did she do it?


Wilson: Yeah she went under 'cause she had to come get me from home. [Laughter] She was like, "You didn't tell me there was an underground tunnel!" She was mad!

Cook: And it's so long!

Wilson: Yeah 'cause she was coming from Maryland, from Northern Virginia.

Cook: Yeah!


Wilson: "You didn't tell me I had to go underwater! I saw these cars disappearing in the water!" I was like I forgot!

Cook: 'Cause you don't think of it. It's just normal--

Wilson: Maybe 'cause she says she had family down there. I thought she knew. It's funny!

Cook: Okay, what problems pertaining to African Americans do you think the university needs to address to make it more diverse, to attract more black students?

Wilson: I say--I think to attract more black students you have to have more black students.

Cook: So retain more black students?

Wilson: Yeah! You need to retain. I'm not going to say we're stupid or anything. 71:00I think it's the whole academic system. It isn't favorable. Because-it doesn't- it makes me not want to learn--but when I see a class full of all white people and I'm just sitting there--I feel even more depressed so I don't know what the school can do about that. As far as the Corps we lose, after freshman year, a lot of black freshman just get out. There are a lot of them that just--'cause we get a lot for their freshman year but after that they all get out. So by the time senior year--like now there're four black seniors.

Cook: I didn't know that. Why do you think they leave? Because it's just lonely?

Wilson: 'Cause it's not a good environment. They want to do more 'Cause you just 72:00want to see more faces like yourself--like how they make you hang out with your buds. It's like you are not always going to want to hang out with them. And you don't do the same things. It's really hard for people to adjust who grew up in all black neighborhoods. They come here and there are all white people.

Cook: Do you think it can happen here?

Wilson: I think it can but it has to start with - as far as black people just getting together - it has to start with the freshman class cause if you don't have a good freshman class then everything else is going to go down. I've heard a lot of people that came in my year who are seniors, who are fifth year seniors from '96, complain about how they don't see a lot of freshman and sophomores 'cause most of the members are in the Greek organizations now and as far as I 73:00know are juniors and seniors. All of us, we are going to graduate and then it's like where are the sophomores and freshman?

Cook: Where are they?

Wilson: I don't know and a lot of black people live off campus too. For some reason on campus isn't where black people want to live, where a lot of people want to live. It's kind of hard. I always liked Black Student Preview when they had it. I know they switched it to Minority Student Preview but I think our black student preview in '97 was big. I really liked it.

Cook: What was that?

Wilson: When all the black students who got accepted into Tech, well most of them in this area from Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia, they'd bus us here to Tech. Which was good because I would have never came to Tech had they not done that. I didn't go to orientation or anything and this was for a weekend during our senior year, the end of our senior year and we got to meet the other 74:00black people here. It's pretty nice. They changed it a little bit and now it's not the way it used to be I guess, I heard.

Cook: So now it's probably called minority student--

Wilson: Yeah its called Minority Student Preview and they are trying to do a little too much now it seems. I think its good they're trying to reach out to Asians and Native Americans but I think they're trying to do too much. I mean I don't know, I think they should have just kept it. If they want to have Asians, they can do an Asian one 'cause FASA is pretty big here.

Cook: What is that?

Wilson: The Filipino American Students, I'm pretty sure they have a lot.

Cook: I didn't know that.

Wilson: You know there are a lot of Indians here on this campus?

Cook: Indian, East Indians?

Wilson: Uh-huh.

Cook: I'm trying to find American Indian students to interview.

Wilson: I know an American Indian student.

Cook: You do? Will you give me a name?


Wilson: But he identifies with the white culture. This is an American Indian who used to have the Confederate flag hanging up on his wall.

Cook: Okay.

Wilson: I mean if you want to interview him; he's from North Carolina. I think he's from a small town in North Carolina. He's Native American, I don't know how.

Cook: Well let me have his name.

Wilson: Thomas Brantley

Cook: Is he in the Corps?

Wilson: Yeah, he's in the Corps.

Cook: Thomas Brant-- can you spell it?

Wilson: B-r-a-n-t, I think, e-l-y.

Cook: Okay, thanks!

Wilson: Or maybe the t and e are switched, something like that, He's a high-ranking person in the Corps.

Cook: Well I can try.

Wilson: You can try.


Cook: So what you are saying is with the Black Student Preview, it gave you a sense of a black community here?

Wilson: Uh-huh because there was more of a black community here.

Cook: Okay and that would help with retention?

Wilson: Uh-huh!

Cook: Feeling that you had other people like you on campus? Wow I should tell that to Michael Herndon.

Wilson: Uh-huh! A lot of people who hosted us for some reason, odd reason, there were a lot of black people in the Corps. Some of them graduated, Some are still here. But a lot of people who hosted us kept us in their rooms or in the Corps and I saw, for some reason, I saw black people. I saw plenty of black people in the Corps and they all got out the next year when I got in the Corps. [Laughter] It's like where did so and so go? Oh she got out last year. But I just saw her. They were all second semester freshman. Most of them who hosted us were either freshman or sophomores and they got out.

Cook: That's not fair. Do you have any ties with any-- I guess I asked you this already-- black women on campus? For instance do you know Barbara Pendergrass 77:00the Dean of Students? I know sometimes she forms close ties with especially black women students

Wilson: Uh-huh I don't really talk to her that much.

Cook: Would that be helpful in retaining students, especially for women, to have a more African American women mentors on campus?

Wilson: Yes!

Cook: Is there anything I haven't talked about that you want to say? Anything profound?

Wilson: No.

Cook: Is it hard because I'm white to answer questions?

Wilson: No.

Cook: Because sometimes its hard for me. I feel awkward asking some questions. 78:00Would you-- somehow I know the answer to this-- would you advise any friends or family to come to Virginia Tech?

Wilson: Uh-huh.

Cook: You would? Oh okay!

Wilson: Yes I would. I would. I just warn them it's not what you think. But I like this school. I tell a lot of people this. I like the campus. I like the way the campus looks but I just don't like the people who go here. I don't like the people who go here. I don't like a lot of the teachers but I like the campus a lot because it's different from back home I guess. I just wanted something different. I thought it was going to be colder and I'm disappointed 'cause I like winter.

Cook: Me too [the winter].

Wilson: And I like the snow. I like a lot of snow.

Cook: Me too! I'm the same way. I'm always happy when I wake up and it's cold and snowy.

Wilson: If I did it all over the only thing I would change is my major. I wouldn't be in that major.

Cook: Do you think you might have gone into statistics?

Wilson: Yeah, statistics. I didn't know what statistics was. So it was either 79:00math, history or Spanish for me.

Cook: Do you wish you had someone giving you guidance more about what's out there?

Wilson: Yes because I didn't go to orientation so I already felt like I was behind. And I thought math--I don't know.

Cook: You might have been a good engineer, if you could do calculus, you might've been--no, you don't think so?

Wilson: Engineering is hard.

Cook: Do you like sitting at computers or do you like doing better, up and doing stuff.

Wilson: I like reading.

Cook: Me too!

Wilson: I like reading. Reading is interesting.

Cook: What do you like to read?

Wilson: I was really interested in the Holocaust. I took the Holocaust class here. I didn't really learn anything new. I was just excited they had a Holocaust class.

Cook: I wanted to take that. Do you know that is one of my interests too? I'm an American Historian but the Holocaust is a big deal to me because when I grew up in New York-- a lot of my friends, my Jewish friends parents-- I'd see tattoos 80:00and I didn't know because no one talked about it. I even found out that a guy in my class, mother and her mother, her mother was a young mother, survived Auschwitz. I didn't know that my teacher was a survivor. There was a movie last night based on a true story of a Jewish woman who tried to get Jewish immigrants out of Germany then to the U.S. and the second half is Wednesday night, if you want watch it.

Wilson: Oh, Hayden I think it's called.

Cook: Yeah, yeah you're right!

Wilson: I saw the commercial for it.

Cook: I wanted to watch that. I read so much about it.

Wilson: When I was twelve-- I actually got interested when I was twelve because in school, our history books of course were very inadequate--there was a small paragraph about-- I mean they had a little section about World War II. It was about a paragraph. "Oh by the way, Adolph Hitler killed six million Jews." -- 81:00the death chambers and showers. I was like, "What?" Can we get more information on that?

Cook: So you went on your own and read about it?

Wilson: Then I just went in our middle school library. For some reason there was a lot of information on it. So I started reading on it when I was twelve. I just didn't stop until I started reading the same books over and over again. I went to the museum--

Cook: You know what, Ebony, so many people don't even want to know about it. People will say to me "Why do you want to read about that. It's so terrible!" I think we need to read about it because we need to know that people can kill people on this mass scale and not look at them as human.

Wilson: Reading about it just irritated me that they just had that small little paragraph. Granted I was twelve but by then I think the L.A. riots were going on, I'm pretty sure, we're used to violence by then and it just irritated me.


Cook: The U.S. knew about it and didn't do anything about it. They could've even bombed near there. I know, gosh! Do you like to read mostly non-fiction?

Wilson: Uh-huh. I mean it just depends. I like a lot of Stephen King. I really read a lot of them and John Grisham and books for class if they are interesting. There are some classes, this IDST class talking about violence in the Bible. I don't like a lot of theory because I don't like a lot of other people's opinion. I don't care about other people's opinion and I took the Civil War class too.

Cook: What did you think of that? Did you think it was going to be better than you thought at first?

Wilson: He was a good teacher but I kept having mixed emotions. I couldn't tell if he was a racist or what, like this guy is a racist. But he'd start talking about how he grew up with a black mammy. He didn't say 'mammy' but it was a 83:00mammy and different stuff. He tried to do it from an objective-- like he'd try to do it from a non-biased point of view but--

Cook: Why does he bring that up at all?

Wilson: I don't know and then he asks that no one videotape him or record him because people get his words all screwed up and I could understand how people could think yeah he's for the confederacy. That's why I had a problem he was glorifying the whole Confederacy part of it and I was like, that's not good. He was a good teacher but-- I took it for the Navy cause we had to have a history class.

Cook: Did you know that back in the sixties, well probably it went on even longer than that, but during football games they'd played, the Highty Tighties 84:00played, Dixie and then they'd raise the Confederate flag and finally it made--well you can read about it on the website because some of the black women students talked about it. Also some of the first black men students talk about it. It made black students uncomfortable.

Wilson: It does. Like seeing the Confederate flag makes me uncomfortable. I see that a lot in the Corps too.

Cook: It makes me uncomfortable.

Wilson: I don't like it and I think the Highty Tighties have a symbol on the back of their shirts because they have company shirts and I think it's an American flag and a Confederate flag. I have to look at it closely because it's small. It's an American flag and Confederate flag on the back on their shirts. It is very uncomfortable.

Cook: One whole company?

Wilson: Yes.

Cook: Are there any blacks in the company?

Wilson: There are blacks in their company. Their drum major was black last year.

Cook: I wonder how that makes them feel?

Wilson: I don't know and plus he's from the Caribbean. So it's a whole different perspective.


Cook: Yeah that's true.

Wilson: The other black girl they had she left.

Cook: That was really strange that they would have that now. Even right now they have it?

Wilson: Yeah I have to look it up, because they don't really wear their shirts that often. But I remember seeing a Confederate flag on the shirt. It was just in passing though and I didn't want to stop.

Cook: That's really interesting! Well, this is off the subject, but have you at all seen what's happening in the Blacksburg community about the high school and the mascot?

Wilson: Yeah that's irritating to me.

Cook: Can you tell me how you feel about that?

Wilson: I feel that they should change the name because if it's bothering just a few people, and I granted, I know that's kind of dangerous in that everything bothers somebody in a way but stuff like that, they should change their name. I think they are being real insensitive to Native Americans.

Cook: I kind of look at it as the white people are a privileged group and they 86:00don't even see what they are doing, they don't even realize.

Wilson: Yeah!

Cook: They don't even realize because I'm looking at them and I'm thinking, "Can't you see what you are doing?"

Wilson: It's like a white person saying, I don't think there's racism because you don't experience.

Cook: Right, exactly!

Wilson: That really irritates me! They thought they'd just change the name. I can just imagine a group of white people saying, "No we're not going to change it!"

Cook: It is. My husband's involved in all that but there's a American Indian principal somewhere in Christiansburg way and as an example when one of the students found out she was American Indian, he said, "Why don't you live in a tee-pee then?" So there you go. There is the stereotyping. I mean American Indians are just like anybody else. They become teachers and lawyers and doctors. I was just curious what you thought about that. All right I guess that's all. Thank you!

[End of tape]