I recently had the chance to chop it up with Mrs. Evelyn, a well-respected individual who currently resides in the Wakefield area of the Bronx. She shed light on some of her fondest memories as a Bronx resident. Originally a Brooklyn native, the sixty-seven year old relocated to the Bronx in 1989, a time when drugs and crime was at its peak. A Daily News article written in 2013, to commemorate the release of The Central Park Five documentary, stated “On a typical day in 1989, New Yorkers reported nine rapes, five murders, 255 robberies, and 194 aggravated assaults. Fear wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction; it was a matter of self-preservation.” Mrs. Evelyn backed this claim by stating: "The Bronx was crime ridden and, at times, a scary place to love but I still considered it home."
Settling into her South Bronx one bedroom apartment in the late eighties, Mrs. Evelyn witnessed the economical, social, and political changes over the years. She remembered the smooth transition from Brooklyn to the Bronx due to the moral support of her husband. “He made things a lot easier, I felt more secure,” she stated. Formerly an MTA worker, Mrs. Evelyn became very familiar with the geography of the Bronx. The only borough connected to the New York mainland, this is where she able to rightfully identify as a “Bronxite.”
“You’ve got to keep your eyes open, mouth shut, and be aware of your surroundings,” Mrs. Evelyn adopted this philosophy after witnessing countless misdeeds that included, acts of violence and drug use. Despite its gritty and raw environment, Mrs. Evelyn was able to share some of the warmer memories of the Bronx, including her favorite hangout spots. She spent most of her free time at The American Theater in Parkchester. Built in 1939, the theater underwent various changes and renovations until its final closing in September 2013. “It’s a shame that iconic places like that gets closed down and gets replaced with things that are of no use,” she shared. Tight knit communities such as Coop City, Mundy Lane, and Riverdale were among other favorites.
"Gentrification is coming and we need to be prepared for when it comes. We are all equal and everything needs to be harmonious," she goes on to say as she believes not enough people speak up on this issue. Passionate, raw, and sweet, Mrs. Evelyn was the epitome of your around the way girl and now a well-respected woman who constantly bestows wisdom to us young folk.