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Cassandra Grant was born in 1947 in New York City. Her family lived in the Lincoln Projects in Harlem, a haven for Black World War II veterans who were routinely denied better housing options available to White vets. The neighborhood was tightknit. To this day, Cassandra maintains friendships with kids she grew up with.
 
Cassandra’s parents were from Georgetown, South Carolina. When Cassandra went to South Carolina to visit her grandparents, she crashed up against the more overt racism still dominant there. Things like marching up to the front of the movie theater to buy a ticket—and being told she had to go to the back door. Things like hopping onto the rope swing in front of the general store—and getting called the N-word by the store owner. At age 73, Cassandra still feels the sting of those encounters.
 
One of Cassandra’s grandmothers was a teacher, and from early on, Cassandra set her sights on becoming an early childhood educator. In college, she grew her hair out and got yelled at by her mother. A semester later, however, she came home and found her mom had an Afro, too. The times were changing—but one topic remained off limits: sexuality. Neither Cassandra nor her mom knew how to talk about it. Cassandra had some boyfriends, but in college, she fell in love with a woman named Luvenia Pinson. Inspired by the Rev. Dolores Jackson and poet Audre Lord, Cassandra, Luvenia and others formed Salsa Soul Sisters Third World Project to support Black and Latina women and other women of color who loved women. The Salsa Soul Sisters met every Thursday night for protest, advocacy, and fun—but when they went to Greenwich Village bars like Bonnie and Clyde’s and The Duchess, they met with the same racism, a bit more slickly packaged, that Cassandra had experienced in the Deep South. Things like getting asked for multiple forms of ID, while White girls didn’t even get carded. The Sisters stuck together, fought together, and loved together. Today, they’re the oldest Black lesbian collective in the United States.
 
Throughout all the years of the Salsa Soul Sisters, Cassandra also pursued and accomplished a rich career as a teacher, administrator, and activist, working tirelessly to improve early childhood education at the city, county, and state level. Looking back today at the sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia she’s encountered and dealt with in her lifetime, Cassandra says, “We dealt with them in an honest way and a truthful way, in the best way we knew how. When Salsa women get together, we just give each other big hugs.”
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] We'll just pause and we'll close that window. No, the siren. We'll just pause. It's easiest. Do me a favor and start off and just tell us your name and then just spell it out. The actual spelling.
Cassandra Grant: Well, my name is Cassandra Grant and that's C. A. S. S. A. N. D. R. A. And the last name is Grant, G. R. A. N. T.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] Excellent. Now, by the way, even though I'm sitting pretty close to the lens, just try to completely ignore the lens. Just look at you with me. Okay And, if you wouldn't mind, tell us where you were born and the actual date of your birth.
Cassandra Grant: I was born in New York City, Harlem, June 9th, 1970. Oh, wait a minute. I want to be younger.
Cassandra Grant: [00:01:00] 1947. No way was it 74.
Mason Funk: Okay. Alrighty. So do me a favor. Introduce me to your family. Tell me who was there when you were growing up, who the important people were, how safe or not safe your childhood felt. Just paint me a little picture.
Cassandra Grant: [00:01:30] Well, from my memory and certainly the things that I hold dear, I was born into a family of five. My mother, her name is Valentina Grant. She likes Valdina Veronica Martin Grant. She likes to say her whole name and she would wear that on her pocketbooks. VV Grant. And my dad Joseph Grant,
Cassandra Grant: [00:02:00] who was a World War II veteran. I have two brothers, an elder brother, Joseph Grant Jr and a younger brother Terrance Grant. Of course I was in the middle and the only girl and kind of the only girl in the family for a while. So they kind of doted on me. I probably took charge of a lot of things being the only girl.
Cassandra Grant: [00:02:30] I think my family was like, the memories I have was really wonderful. We grew up in Harlem, and I don't remember the early years because apparently we stayed with my Uncle Clarence and my Aunt Bea. Those who lived in the South, my parents are from the South, from Georgetown, South Carolina. And when you lived in the South and you wanted to come North, you had to have someone to sponsor you.
Cassandra Grant: [00:03:00] You just couldn't just come North in order to ensure your safety and to ensure hopefully that you'll have a pretty good life. So my Uncle Clarence, who was college educated and my Aunt Bea sponsored my mom so that she could come to New York and she lived with them. She married my dad who went off to the service
Cassandra Grant: [00:03:30] and they lived there for a while. But in sponsoring someone, they would take responsibility to ensure that you had a place to live, that you could get a job, that you might be able to continue your education and that you'd probably be in a safe community. New York was very different at that time, certainly, in the forties, fifties,
Cassandra Grant: [00:04:00] and probably really in the thirties when they really first came to New York. I think had a pretty loving family, but a family that I'm sure is pretty normal to most folks. There are the ups and the downs. I remember living in the Lincoln projects, and at that time the Lincoln projects was available to veterans returning from World War II.
Cassandra Grant: [00:04:30] Now, the interesting piece that I've learned is that African Americans that came from World War II were not really given the opportunity to move out into a home in New York. That was reserved for whites only. They had homes that they could move into and they would really get a veterans loan to pay their mortgage,
Cassandra Grant: [00:05:00] but African Americans didn't have that luxury. They didn't have that, have access to that. So the projects was a place where African American men returning with their families had an opportunity to live. But in those days, projects were very different than they are now. It was a really wonderful place to live. I mean, so many friends, buildings with,
Cassandra Grant: [00:05:30] I guess it was probably about fifteen stories high, so probably about eight families on a floor. So there were a lot of families, a lot of interesting events happening all the time. But even living in the projects, my family was pretty close knit because they came from the South and there was a community of families from the South.
Cassandra Grant: [00:06:00] So everyone from that town would get together, and they would have events. They would go to the same church. They had a brownstone in Harlem where they would have parties and christenings and funerals. So it was a very close knit community. And I remember always being well taken care of,
Cassandra Grant: [00:06:30] never having to worry about, in fact, you had a mother and a father, but you also had an extended family that was also much like your mother and father. In fact, all adults you had to have great respect for. There was no disrespect for adults and for the most part, all adults had the same answer for you. So you would have to toe the line,
Cassandra Grant: [00:07:00] whether you were with your parents or you were not with your parents. It was just no acting out. They were caring, but that didn't only exist in the families from South Carolina. It also existed at that time in Harlem, in the projects. Because my parents work. So we were latchkey children, meaning that we would have to come home with the key around our neck,
Cassandra Grant: [00:07:30] open the door, make our sandwich, do our homework. But for the most part, my brothers and I had to take care of each other. But the neighbors would look in after you. Again, no disrespect, whatever they said was just like what your mother would say. So you had to always be on your best behavior. And if you weren't, they would make sure your parents knew by the time they got home,
Cassandra Grant: [00:08:00] even though they weren't in your apartment. But they were checking, and we would have people to look outside their windows. The mothers that didn't work, they looked after the children of the parents who did work. So even in the projects in Harlem, it was a very safe place to grow up, a very wonderful place. And in fact, I still have friends from when I was very young, so were like seventy year old friends now,
Cassandra Grant: [00:08:30] friends that I grew up with in the projects, and now I see their children, their grandchildren. So it's really kind of nice to really have lived in a community where you still recognize community and you felt safe and you felt wanted. You felt that people were there to make sure that you live a good life.
Cassandra Grant: [00:09:00] But there were still struggles in the community. There was still poverty. I remember my parents struggling around issues around work. Even though my father had gone into the service, he had a very hard time keeping a job. At that time,
Cassandra Grant: [00:09:30] many men from the South and who had went into service, had to do a day's work and they would work in factories. But they provided for their families. My mother also worked. The thing is that they didn't have a job where it was guaranteed. Someone was always looking for work in our families.
Cassandra Grant: [00:10:00] So it was a struggle. I know for both of them taking care of three children, paying the rent. But my mother always had big aspirations and she was very good at really providing extra, making sure that we went to the library, making sure that my brothers were in sports, making sure that I took dance, ballet.
Cassandra Grant: [00:10:30] And I know now how much a struggle that was on their salary. I think she understood that a little bit better than my dad. Although he was a good provider. He kind of enjoyed the sports life cause men had it a little bit easier. I think men, while they were fathers to their children and the providers, they didn't always understand
Cassandra Grant: [00:11:00] what it takes to really raise children and ensure that theyre balanced and ensure that children have one, a good education, they have a good social life, that they have a good spiritual life, because they had more freedom. I look back now and I see how my father used to hang out with the guys and especially Friday when they got paid or they would get dressed up and just go out to a party.
Cassandra Grant: [00:11:30] My mother and her friends, they were all at the house with all the children and making sure the food was cooked, and the house was clean and making sure that we had enough money and to get up early on Saturday to take us to the library or the movie or take my brothers to the Y so that they could join in in the sports club. And that was to me, a real sacrifice for her,
Cassandra Grant: [00:12:00] even though she did enjoy sometimes out with her friends, but not like my dad. I mean, he had a real good time. They go out in the week and they'd also have a great time on the weekend. But my family wasn't too different than many of the families that lived in my building that many of the men got to enjoy the wonderful clubs, the Savoy, the Jewish Stony Bar,
Cassandra Grant: [00:12:30] all those wonderful clubs on Lennox Avenue, the Apollo, they really had a great time, and Harlem was a great place at that time. It was a great social place. But a lot of the parties were also parties that they had at our home. They would have fish fries
Cassandra Grant: [00:13:00] and they would have what they call waistline parties, meaning that everybody that came in would pay according to their waistline. Can you imagine twenty-one cents or thirty-four cents? But that's how they raise money for different things that they wanted to do. Everybody would come and they would bring their children. We had one, two bedrooms, a kitchen,
Cassandra Grant: [00:13:30] a living room, of course a bathroom. Now in that one bedroom would probably be about ten children and we had two beds and everybody would just sleep somewhere. I don't remember where we slept, but because families were tight knit at that time and they didn't have a lot of money, the one family, they would take turns cooking, and whoever would cook,
Cassandra Grant: [00:14:00] I guess they somehow would pay them the money by charging for the waistline, and they'd cook, and they played records, and we would all be in the room. The children understood that we had to stay in the room no matter how many adults would come to the party, we wouldn't go out to the party. You were in the room. But it was a good time because we all grew up as family and you kind of didn't even know, who was your real cousin?
Cassandra Grant: [00:14:30] Cause everybody came in and said, Oh, that's my cousin. Well how many cousins did you have? Your cousin is really your mother or your sisters child. But it wasn't, it was anybody that they brought to the house was your cousin. Everyone was your aunt or your uncle and you had to address them by Uncle Clarence, Aunt Bea, Uncle Herbert. You couldn't call them by their first names like children do today.
Cassandra Grant: [00:15:00] Everyone had a title and to some extent that, I think, gave us a level of respect for adults and what adults would say to us. Not that all of it was good, cause some of it was a little bit not so good. They were pretty strict in terms of your behavior, you had to really toe the line. Any adult speaking to you,
Cassandra Grant: [00:15:30] you certainly had to respect them. Even if they were drunk, you could not speak back to them. You'd have to just listen. And I think sometimes that's where abuse takes place, when the adults have so much power over young people, and young people cannot speak. So if something is happening to you, you can't really tell an adult because they're going to believe the adult and not the child.
Cassandra Grant: [00:16:00] And now I look back at certain things and I wonder about certain things that happened during my childhood, and how certain people were abused during the early years but not able to speak about it because no one believed them. Because there was that code of great respect for adults and probably has a lot to do with also
Cassandra Grant: [00:16:30] the issues around race and class and how parents had to really protect children in issues in terms of class and race and how they were raised. So I think my parents had an opportunity to begin to change the paradigm for
Cassandra Grant: [00:17:00] how you raise children. Because I remember going back South and my grandmothers would say to us, I'm going to have to talk to your mother and your father about that, because you shouldn't say that or you shouldn't ask about that. But because we were living in the North, certain things were accepted there but was not accepted South.
Mason Funk: [00:17:30] Anything to do with questioning how things were?
Cassandra Grant: Right. Questioning about anything about, well, I could give you an example. Going to the movies up here, you would go to the movies and you'd pay, you'd go right to the front and they tell you how much it is and you pay.
Cassandra Grant: [00:18:00] Same thing going to get a hot dog. You would just give them the money and they'd give you the hot dog. But when we went South, when you would go to the movies, my brothers and I, we had no idea that you couldn't go to the front and ask for a ticket. So, we, of course, we were a little ahead of my - it wasnt my real cousin, but it was my cousin - and we were running ahead. So we ran to ask for a ticket,
Cassandra Grant: [00:18:30] and the guy says, you're not gonna get a ticket. So my brother looked at him, what is he talking about? We said, Can we have a ticket? Here's the money. And my cousin comes and jerks us by the neck, are you going to get in trouble? We said, Trouble? What kind of trouble? We had no idea that we had to go around to the back of the theater to get a ticket. You couldn't get a ticket from the front because black folks were not allowed.
Cassandra Grant: [00:19:00] They were only allowed to go to the back of the theater to buy a ticket. And we couldn't sit downstairs. We had to sit upstairs. But one good thing about sitting upstairs was that we could throw popcorn on the kids downstairs. So we'd like that. And when they bought the flashlight and said, Who did that? We'd all look like we didn't know what they were talking about. But you know, part of that kind of racist behavior was constant.
Cassandra Grant: [00:19:30] We also got almost arrested by the police walking down the street. We wanted to play on the swings. They have swings outside the store, so we just sat there and started swinging and the store owner came, You can't sit here. We said, Oh, yes, we can. We want to swing. He said, Oh no, you can't. You got to get out of here. I don't remember. They called us You n******, get out of here or not.
Cassandra Grant: [00:20:00] The policemen, who happened to be a black man, was coming down the street. He says, Oh my gosh, those are Maddie Green Grants. Those kids are gonna get killed down here. I'm going to take them right to her. And so he took us home. He said, Maddie Green, you better keep your kids in this house because they are going to get in trouble. Those kids are from New York and this is not New York. So there were so many incidents that we encountered going South
Cassandra Grant: [00:20:30] that were just so... I mean, they have such an impression. It was almost like I can feel that today I'm seventy-three and I could take myself back to when I was a little girl and the man would not give me a ticket to the movie, or they wouldn't let you sit on the swing. And right down from my grandmother's house, she lived on Main Street, and we were a family that lived across from the church,
Cassandra Grant: [00:21:00] Bethel AME Church. And there was a swimming pool about, maybe four or five blocks up. Well, we wanted to go in a swimming pool and we would walk by the swimming pools, but it was for whites only. My brothers and I would just go there and stand there and just look at it. And the white people would come and say, you better get off of this block. And we said, but we live down there. They said, I don't care where you live, but you better get off of this block. So that kind of discrimination doesn't go away.
Mason Funk: [00:21:30] Do you remember ever talking to your mom and/or your dad to process these experiences with racism? Would they be explainers for you? Could you talk to them about this or is that just not how it worked?
Cassandra Grant: [00:22:00] I don't remember ever getting an answer that was comfortable. I know that when we would come back from South Carolina back to New York, we would be full of stories, and we would tell them about the things that would happen to us. My mother was more of a listener than my dad was. My dad was pretty upset about the whole thing.
Cassandra Grant: [00:22:30] And I now understand some of his anger, because he was still going through a lot of what he had experienced living in the South and then coming North, going in the service, and being treated so badly while he was in the service. We didn't hear those stories until we were teenagers. He might've told it to us when we were younger,
Cassandra Grant: [00:23:00] but when we were teenagers, he spent a lot of time talking about the racism and the discrimination that he experienced while he was in the war because he fought over in Italy. And he would talk about how they would turn them around and say, You have a tail. I know you must have a tail in there, pull your tail out, and the way that they would be treated,
Cassandra Grant: [00:23:30] and how they would have to go to the front line. And how, when they came back - and he was wounded in the service and had to spend two years in the hospital, and they didn't even give him, really, disability. They gave him a small check that he would get, but nothing like disability that he should have gotten. He didn't understand how to fight for it. I'm sure there wasn't, maybe he just didn't know an organization
Cassandra Grant: [00:24:00] that he could've joined to get the appropriate amount, and the fact that he couldn't move into a house, he couldn't get a job when he returned. And he always talked about the fact that they promised them that they were going to have a parade down Fifth Avenue, for the soldiers from his division and that never took place. They shipped them all over the country. He was shipped to I think Arizona
Cassandra Grant: [00:24:30] before he could come back to New York. So his whole troop was broken up into different incentives, different parts of the country. And they never got the parade that they should have been a part of. It was for whites only. He spoke about it, but he suppressed it a lot too. He drank. And I think that it was a way
Cassandra Grant: [00:25:00] that you suppress your anger and you're not able to. And my grandmother would say, Your father was really wounded in the service and he's not in his right mind. And now we know that he was in his right mind. It was post-traumatic, what was it? Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Cassandra Grant: [00:25:30] that he was suffering but he wasn't being treated. And none of the soldiers that came back from World War II who were really suffering were treated at the time, and they had to do the best that they can. So some of them, I'm sure, went on drugs, some of them drowned it in booze, some of them drowned it. Some of them were violent in a way to combat all of the anger
Cassandra Grant: [00:26:00] that they were holding on to and no way to shed that. And still, not only were they dealing with that, but coming back home to a life that continued along the same lines. They were clear they were not going to go South. They were not going to live in the South. That was just out. I mean, it was hard enough here. I remember my father always wanting to be a part of
Cassandra Grant: [00:26:30] whatever movement here in New York. He was listening to many of the conversations, and they would always have a person speaking on the corners about the injustice that was going on, in America, in New York, in the community. And my father took part of that. My mom didn't, but then she was busy taking care of us.
Cassandra Grant: [00:27:00] So you kind of get something wonderful from both of them.
Mason Funk: Let me interrupt for one second. Michelle, this is a really minor thing, but I just want to straighten this up and ask you to tell this story. You described a moment in your childhood when you saw children in the projects enjoying what you thought was a safe learning environment that wasnt available to you .
Cassandra Grant: [00:27:30] Right. We lived in this building that had a nursery school at the bottom of the building. And when you would go out and you'd go around the corner, there was this beautiful playground where the children would come out of the nursery school and they were playing. I remember asking my mother, Well, why can't I go to that nursery school?
Cassandra Grant: [00:28:00] And she says, everyone can't go there. And I said, Oh, that doesn't seem right. And lo and behold, I would become an adult and I would become interested in early childhood education. I remember the fact that many of the children in the projects could not go to the nursery school. And the nursery school seemed to be a wonderful place for young children. It was a place where the children were running around.
Cassandra Grant: [00:28:30] They were playing, there were adults there, they had games. And I said, every child should be able to do that. I didn't really know that I would go into that field, but in college I started thinking about it and I said, you know what? I was talking with one of my professors and I said, what about early childhood education? I said, I remember seeing a nursery school and I think that it should be for all children.
Cassandra Grant: [00:29:00] She says, Well, nursery schools really aren't for all children. but it's a great place for young children and it's early childhood education. You might want to think about going into that field. So I studied early childhood education and she said, if you ever get back home, cause I went to Florida A&M University and I think that they had a wonderful early childhood professor there and I don't remember her name. She said, go to Bank Street College, its a great school for educators.
Cassandra Grant: [00:29:30] Lo and behold I would get the opportunity to go to Bank Street College. I became an early childhood teacher because I had such a passion for young children having a wonderful place to grow up in. I think all children in America, in the world, if their parents decide that they would like them to really have a early childhood experience,
Cassandra Grant: [00:30:00] it should be available. It should not be available to just poor children or just rich children. And of course, wealthy children have always had the opportunity to either have someone to take care of them or to go to a private nursery school. That opportunity was not available for a long time to children in New York City, in New York state. It was only available to children who were on public assistance.
Cassandra Grant: [00:30:30] There are the families that are so close to public assistance that there's no difference. When you look at your income, your income is just as close and paying the rent, the food and clothing and just taking care of your family. Who's going to take care of the children if you have to work? And most families, they were either single parent families or even where the parents,
Cassandra Grant: [00:31:00] both the mother and the father work. Who is taking care of the children? Who's providing a safe learning environment? So I became very interested in that work and very interested in the injustice that I saw in nursery schools, that there were schools that were only available to low income children,
Cassandra Grant: [00:31:30] that there were schools only available to very rich children. But all the children in between, all the families, rather, did not have that choice. I went to work on doing a lot of things on the city level.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you a quick question, going back to that moment in your childhood. I don't want to get too far forward quite yet. I'm just curious
Mason Funk: [00:32:00] why those children in that one nursery school on the ground floor of your building, why were they able to go to that one facility and you weren't able to? Do you know?
Cassandra Grant: I'm sure it had a lot to do with income.
Mason Funk: So your family is one of those families that in a way was not poor enough or not wealthy enough?
Cassandra Grant: Probably not poor enough.. Because in our building were children on public assistance,
Cassandra Grant: [00:32:30] and they were families where the parents were single parent, cause you know you have a mixture in the projects. So you have families in there that have, and in those days we had one family, they had fifteen children. They had to break out the dentist's office so that they could have enough room for the family. They would not do that today.
Cassandra Grant: [00:33:00] But that is amazing. So a family, it could be a mother and a father, but if you have fifteen children, your income is zero. But then there were single parents families there and there were families on public assistance. My family was not on public assistance. Now I do remember that we were able sometimes, but I don't think we qualified for it. I just think that they didn't have a good system of recording who got it and who didn't get it.
Cassandra Grant: [00:33:30] They would give out free cheese, free eggs and other things down in the basement of your building. And all of us would get in line to get it. But I know my family wasn't eligible for it. And even though we were not in any way a middle class family, we were not poor enough to have those services. So, that kind of resonated in my,
Cassandra Grant: [00:34:00] my mother, I'm sure, I tried to explain it to me. I didn't understand it then, and I was an adult, and in college, and even when I came to work as an early childhood teacher, and head start had just started, which was a program for low income students throughout the country to improve the quality of education for children of color across the country.
Cassandra Grant: [00:34:30] It was still not available to all children. You still have to qualify. Sometimes it was a very thin line in terms of the families that qualified versus the families that didn't qualify. They all live in the same community. They all live in the same building. You have three children. I have three children. I qualify, but you don't qualify.
Cassandra Grant: [00:35:00] As a director it was very difficult for me when parents had to go for recertification and they would lose their slots in the daycare center. The thing is, the mother didn't have any place else for her child to go, but because the recertification didn't come through right away, she didn't have a place for her child. In some cases they lost their job
Cassandra Grant: [00:35:30] because if you didn't have a place for your child to stay, you couldn't go to work. The boss didnt want to hear that. Childcare in this country has improved, but it's certainly still not at the level that it needs to be. But daycare, head start, and then it moved into the public school system where you had early childhood education. But for a long time,
Cassandra Grant: [00:36:00] families did not have places where their children could be cared for safely. And there were so many cases of children being abused, children dying in situations that they should not have been in, if in fact, we were more careful about children. And that's not even, that's a tip of the iceberg because education in our country is certainly another area that leaves a lot to be desired.
Cassandra Grant: [00:36:30] It's not quality education and you can have early childhood settings, but it's not quality. It's not a safe environment. It's not an educational environment. The individuals that are responsible for the lives of those children are certainly not paid the kind of salary that would ensure that they would provide a safe and learning environment for those students. So some of the work that I was a part of was really looking at that.
Cassandra Grant: [00:37:00] How do we create safe learning environments for all children, not just children? And you don't want communities where you put all the poor children together, put all the middle class children together, you put all the rich children together. That's not a good environment. You want an environment where it's mixed, where we can learn from each other, so you don't have that divide of class and race.
Mason Funk: Right. Being perpetuated through the school -
Cassandra Grant: [00:37:30] ...consistently because it perpetuates. But the issue is not in our education system. The issue is in our communities, because if you don't integrate your communities, you cannot integrate your education system. So it's the communities that we should really be focusing on, because once you integrate communities, you don't have to worry about what's going to happen next because we're going to all have to start working together to make it work. But, that has a lot to say about our society. Its about divide and conquer.
Mason Funk: [00:38:00] Let me interrupt you for a second and ask you: just going through your childhood, besides your mom and your dad, and you had these aunts and these uncles who may or may not have been your aunt and your uncle, but do any other role models come to mind? Specific people who, in those early years, say from your childhood on, into your young adulthood, are there specific people you
Cassandra Grant: [00:38:30] Oh yes. My grandmothers.
Mason Funk: Tell us about them.
Cassandra Grant: My grandmother was... Well, I was blessed to have two grandmothers, my mother's mother and my father's mother. I got to live with them, and meet them both. And they were both just jubilant about the fact that they had grandchildren. They loved us, they took care of us. We got to experience a lot about life
Cassandra Grant: [00:39:00] and they lived on two different sides of town. I don't know if you know about the South. This was cross the railroad track and you live on one side of the railroad track. On the other side, on one side of the railroad track is basically where the white folks live, and you have a sprinkling of black folks. And that's where one of my grandmothers lived. My mother's mother. And on the other side of the railroad track is mainly the black folks. And my father's mother lived on that side of the railroad tracks.
Cassandra Grant: [00:39:30] Life in some ways were similar and some ways very different. Even within the same class, the same race, there is classism. You have to learn to understand that. And it's a very difficult thing because, with oppression, those who are oppressed sometimes become the oppressors of others
Cassandra Grant: [00:40:00] because oppression is such an ugly animal that it seeps into your psychic and into the very bloodstreams of your life. And even though you don't mean to be oppressive to another person, you become so. You sometimes internalize the racism, the classism, the sexism that you're experiencing,
Cassandra Grant: [00:40:30] and you become a part of that. You have to really work hard to educate yourself so that you don't become that. But my grandmothers tried to give us probably the best life that they could. They were both very hardworking women. My mother's mother was a teacher, and, I guess, self-taught. In those days, you could become a teacher even without finishing college,
Cassandra Grant: [00:41:00] because they needed black teachers that bad. There were places for you to teach in the community and in the churches. She was very spiritual and I think they both were very spiritual. I think as black people, we have to be spiritual because the life you live is so hard. And when I think about the work that they did, my grandmother worked,
Cassandra Grant: [00:41:30] she did day's work in a motel and I'm sure she probably just made $10. I don't know. She probably made $10. I remember one day going to work with her and seeing how hard she worked and doing the work with her. And I said, Grandma, I'm going to go to your boss. And I said to her, I'm going to tell him if he doesn't pay you any more money, you're going to quit. And she says, I'm going to take you home.
Cassandra Grant: [00:42:00] The thing is, you saw the difference in the generation. I was able to speak about things that my grandmother couldn't speak about. I could see injustice that my grandmother couldn't see. And I was still young at the time, but I knew that it was something very wrong with that. But even with all of that, my grandmother owned her own home. She was able to buy her own home.
Cassandra Grant: [00:42:30] She raised my father, but with a family. If she didn't have an extended family, I don't know what would have happened to my dad because she was very young when she had him. His father was killed mysteriously. They were supposed to pay my grandmother, some money for the fact that he was killed mysteriously. She never got it. They never found out why he was killed.
Cassandra Grant: [00:43:00] But it was the extended family that helped her to raise my dad. And without that, I don't know what would have happened. She had her own little side business. I think she had a little moonshine business going in the back of the house. I was used to seeing a lot of men. But with us, she was strict. You have to have a lot of side jobs to make it. But she made it and she owned her own home
Cassandra Grant: [00:43:30] and we were able to renovate that home through my father's veterans. And so that was a good thing that I remember doing. Although, she didn't really like the house, because she said it didn't have the porch that she had before. They want a big porch with a big swing. I'm from New York and I helped my dad do it. I didn't know anything about a porch, or a swing, and till the day my grandmother died, she didn't understand that porch and why she didn't have the swing that she had before. But I understand it now why it meant so much to her.
Mason Funk: [00:44:00] Something you said a little bit ago, I want to go back to it. It's so interesting. You talked about how you were all taught to respect your elders, so it was just ironclad. And in a way that's like exactly what you want to teach your children, but at the same time, those children of your generation needed to grow up and eventually did grow up
Mason Funk: [00:44:30] and had to find voice to question authority. Otherwise nothing would ever change. When you teach children to obey adults, you're kind of teaching them to accept reality as they see it. So I wonder how that gets overcome, cause that's such a good value on one hand, but it can teach children to be very compliant when they shouldn't be.
Cassandra Grant: They shouldnt be. Absolutely.
Mason Funk: Thats just such an interesting phenomenon.
Cassandra Grant: [00:45:00] Well, it's one that I still think about a lot, and I try to understand within myself how I got through that. Excuse me. Because when I was growing up, and my friends, we all say it together, when we call each other, she said If I went to your house and your mother told me to do something, I did it. And if you went to my house and my mother told you to do something, you did it. You didn't question it. And in the matter, you could go and in that whole building, probably, I don't know, what was it, fifty homes, fifty apartments.
Cassandra Grant: [00:45:30] Out of almost all those apartments that you went to, whatever they told you in those fifty apartments, you would have to do it. There were very few apartments that you would go in - cause there were a few that were just off the chart. They couldn't get it together. They couldn't get their kids to school, they couldn't get themselves to work. So there was some very dysfunctional families even in the building. But for the most part, many of the families were very functional. And in those families,
Cassandra Grant: [00:46:00] they had the same rules. Whatever the rule was in your house was the same rule in my house. So, we grew up having to respect that rule for a very long time. I don't remember questioning my grandmothers or my aunts or my uncles or the extended aunts and uncles or cousins. Anyone older than you. Anyone older than you, you did not question. I'm trying to remember, when did I start questioning those
Cassandra Grant: [00:46:30] that were older than I? I remember certain things about life. What I did question... you do question as a child. Cause I remember questioning my mom about someone that was pregnant. One of my friends was having a baby. Well, her mother was having a baby, and I was excited about it, and I went home and told my mother,
Cassandra Grant: [00:47:00] my mother slapped me. She doesn't remember it. You couldn't even ask a question about a baby. Those things were off limits, asking them questions about sexuality, about someone having a baby. I mean, today when you think about all the things you see on TV and things that kids can say to each other and say to their parents, we could not say to our parents. So it is when I got older, and I think most of it took place in my adult years,
Cassandra Grant: [00:47:30] my early adult years in college, because that was the beginning of the civil rights movement and everything was being questioned in the civil rights movement. I remember Stokely Carmichael came to our campus. They didn't want him to come, and the students said, Oh yes, he's going to come. We're going to have him. If he has to stand out here in the street, he's coming. And what we all did is we all came in the streets and he got up on a car and we got him a bull horn and he started talking to the students,
Cassandra Grant: [00:48:00] and then the students says, Well, we don't have to stand out in this hot sun listening to you out in the sun. Let's go sit. They wouldn't let us use the auditorium, it was Lee Hall Auditorium, so they wouldn't let Stokely Carmichael. They heard he was coming to the campus. We had the students invited him and they wouldn't let him go into the legal auditorium. So at some point the students said, Look, we had enough of this. We're going to break the doors down to the legal auditorium. We're going to go in and sit down. Stokely Carmichael, you going to go up on the stage,
Cassandra Grant: [00:48:30] and you're going to speak to us and no cameras, cause the cameras were already there. And that's what we did. So it's that questioning, when you get - my mother pushed me to go to college, and it's like you go to college and you start reasoning and you start thinking about, what they said, I don't know if that's right. Why were all of a black folks over here and all of them native Americans over here and all the Latino kids over here?
Cassandra Grant: [00:49:00] I mean, you question a little bit of that in high school, but you didn't really get into it. I mean, I joined a few clubs, we did a few things, but mainly, you were kind of good dealing with your friends. But when you got to college you start saying, Oh, something's wrong with this big check. And then it was the height of the civil rights movement. Everything was being questioned. Things were being questioned in New York. And my dad,
Cassandra Grant: [00:49:30] I remember them coming to our house one night and he was on a job and it was something about if you are a communist, he would lose his job. And they said he signed some papers. My dad said he didn't sign the papers, but they were trying to get rid of a lot of black folks on the job. So they were just saying that they were communists, or if you went to any meetings of any kind.
Cassandra Grant: [00:50:00] I've tried to remember that story really well, but I can't remember it so well, but I know my father and my mother was very upset about something. They were coming around, knocking on the doors in the projects, asking people, questioning them.
Mason Funk: Do you remember ever butting heads with your mom or your dad because either you thought they were too compliant or they thought you were too
Cassandra Grant: [00:50:30] ...too radical.
Mason Funk: Too radical.
Cassandra Grant: Oh yeah. When I was in school, and I came back and we were wearing our Afros, cause you went with your hair straight to college and I came back, I had this big Afro and my mother said, what did you do to your hair? You know, you can't be down there doing all these crazy things, joining all those groups, going on marching. I said, Well, mom, this is what the students are doing. We gotta be with the students.
Cassandra Grant: [00:51:00] You gotta go. And she said, Uh-uh. She said, I sent you to school to get an education and I don't have any money and you can't get put out of school. She said, you better get focused. And I said, I am focused, ma. I said, this is what they're doing. But I was near the end of school. The funny thing that I do remember is when I came back with my fro, a lot of my friends, they had fros. But our parents thought we were really too radical,
Cassandra Grant: [00:51:30] talking about too much going on and police brutality, education should be free. A lot of things, wanting to really join the movement, and she says, you just better get an education and make sure you get a job. But I went back to school, and the next semester, when I came back, my mother had an Afro. That was just unbelievable.
Cassandra Grant: [00:52:00] She got on me so bad about all my hairs in this Afro, why you have your hair like that and you know, I said, wow, this is what you got to get into. You got to really be with the power. Black power. Next one I came home and she was black power. So I think that they come along but not right with you. But they begin to understand, and the whole community is changing too, because there was, and certainly being in New York, there was a lot of changes going on.
Mason Funk: [00:52:30] Do you remember, I'm always curious about this. So there was Dr. Martin Luther King, and then there were the Black Panthers, there was Malcolm X. Do you remember hearing these names in the mix? I guess my question is, I've traditionally heard that Malcolm X was more radical. Dr. King was more of an incrementalist and some people thought he was too slow.
Mason Funk: [00:53:00] Then some people thought Malcolm X was too radical. Do you remember these conversations?
Cassandra Grant: Oh, absolutely. We have to, now that I'm older and I really understand the brilliance of both of them.
Mason Funk: Can you tell me who you're talking about?
Cassandra Grant: Dr. King, his brilliance. I mean, they read last night, United States Senate read his
Cassandra Grant: [00:53:30] Letter from a Birmingham Jail.. I mean, this man, he was off the charts. He's brilliant. His words are moving us today. Every single word. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. When you think about what he was going through at the time, and his ability to pen
Cassandra Grant: [00:54:00] the experience and the understanding and the vision that he had at that time, which is very right on time today, it is no different and so is Malcolm. What Malcolm said is true. You can't keep oppressing people and expecting them to be okay.
Cassandra Grant: [00:54:30] Oppression is all over the world and it's economics, it's political, and it's just not about race and class. It's about power. Your power to rule over everyone and your inability to see the value of all human beings.
Cassandra Grant: [00:55:00] It's about your respect for human life, and you cannot keep oppressing people and expect them to accept it and say, Oh no, down the line. No, down the line is now. There is no tomorrow, tomorrow is today. The work we have to do is right now, and we all have to be engaged in that work. Engage in, justice, equality for everyone
Cassandra Grant: [00:55:30] because injustice to you is injustice to me. It has nothing to do with your class, your sex. We got it all wrong. When we sit there and we strive to make it about someone's race, someone's sexual identity, it is not about your sexual identity. It is about my respect for you as a human being. And if I have the right or the access to something,
Cassandra Grant: [00:56:00] I also have to give you the right and the access to that. And without harming someone. Now, if you do something wrong, yes, you have to suffer the consequences of that, but not because I am withholding your right to be a human being. I think that both of them had that same message, but it was a different message,
Cassandra Grant: [00:56:30] and it appealed to a different audience. And that's what has to happen, because my message may appeal to some people, but to others it would fall on deaf ear. So I think Martin's message appealed to a certain group and he certainly was able to bring together the spiritual community, the religious community, which needed to come together because they were sitting inside of a lie
Cassandra Grant: [00:57:00] that you cannot pray to God and say the God in you is the same God in me. And then I go out and I do something against you. But [inaudible] the God in me that you said you love. You cannot. He had to bring them to understand that, and that's why so many people were able to join him at the same time to really begin.
Cassandra Grant: [00:57:30] He appealed through love, through spirituality, through what was right and his eloquence and his understanding of life. It took a while because he didn't speak about the Vietnam War initially. He didn't speak about those kinds of things that Malcolm was speaking about right off the cuff. Malcolm was speaking about. Some people understand that, that they were already there.
Cassandra Grant: [00:58:00] So he had a message that resonated to those folks that were already there. He unveiled some truth, the truth that was not just about America but the truth about the world. Cause you have to go and look at what's happening, not just in America, but in the world, and look at some of the injustices that exist. But America could not hide. And that's what America was doing.
Cassandra Grant: [00:58:30] America was hiding behind a lot of things that were not true. And Malcolm unveiled that to the world. And I think that they both did, but it's two different audiences. Bringing those audiences together is what we also have to do, still today. is we still stand, you know, [inaudible]. But to me,
Cassandra Grant: [00:59:00] I think that when we look at the children, and I think that children probably bring us together more than anything, because as adults we sometimes take out our sides. We will take a corner. But when you look at the babies and you look at the children, you can begin to break down some of the barriers that you have around all of the issues. No matter what issue you have. Here is a little girl saying that she's a boy and she's only three years old.
Cassandra Grant: [00:59:30] I'm a boy, Mommy. I want to play with the trucks, and her mother has to start listening to that little girl, born a girl, but says she's a little boy, and have some level of respect because that's still my child. That's still a person that I love. That's still a human being.
Mason Funk: [01:00:00] Let me ask you this. So bringing in the sexuality piece in your own life, when along this journey, all the way to Florida A&M, when did you start to sense something different about yourself vis-a-vis your sexuality?
Cassandra Grant: Well, I must say that
Mason Funk: Actually, let me just have you finish your sip and then start fresh.
Cassandra Grant: I must say that I think sexuality is probably something that we all question quite a few times in our lifetime along the pendulum. Maybe for some more so than for others.
Mason Funk: [01:00:30] Lets pause for one second. Okay. Michelle, I'm just gonna adjust this mic just cause you shifted position. Okay. Okay. Carry on.
Cassandra Grant: Okay. My mouths not getting too white? [inaudible]
Mason Funk Anytime you want to pause, just let us know.
Cassandra Grant: Okay. All right. Let me, I think I'm, yeah. Okay, good.
Mason Funk: Let's do it. Are you ready Michelle?
Cassandra Grant: [01:01:00] Everything they wrote, both of them, everything they wrote you just go like, Oh my gosh, how did this come up in the minds of Nan? This really, theyre so genius and and their expression, and he was so eloquent, but they both had a distinctive voice. Malcolm had this beautiful voice. The way that he would compel the audience. It's like a conversation
Cassandra Grant: [01:01:30] that just draws you in. He could be saying nothing and it was still, and so would King, he had this voice that would just, and I think maybe it's somewhat divine. I don't know. When you think about it -
Mason Funk: Sorry. Cause I want to go back to that, because I know it's a big topic, but folks are going to want it because this is all going to lead us to the soul sisters.
Cassandra Grant: Oh yeah. I didn't talk about my sisters.
Mason Funk: Yeah. We're going to get there. But first I just want to hear your own personal journey on sexuality. We all had those moments or that moment.
Cassandra Grant: [01:02:00] Mm. I kind of remember sexuality as I was growing up as being a forbidden topic in my generation. I would have loved to have had conversations with my mother about how I was maturing,
Cassandra Grant: [01:02:30] and the different things that I was experiencing as a young girl. We kind of had some conversations, but nothing near what I probably had on my mind. I'm sure she would have probably had some things that she would have wanted to say to me, but she didn't know how to say it. I didn't experience those conversations from my grandmother or my aunts,
Cassandra Grant: [01:03:00] cause they were all of the same generation where you will become a woman and when you become a woman you will learn about things. I remember coming across my aunts - Oh boy, if she ever sees this, she'll know - my aunts letters from her boyfriend then, but she married him, he became her husband. And I thought he was so wonderful,
Cassandra Grant: [01:03:30] and I wanted to talk to her about it, but I couldn't tell her. I was, you know, and then as a young girl, you are experiencing some of these thoughts and you're reading all the books that you can read. I mean, everything, and your friends are all talking, everybody's talking. So most of your experience is through your friends, and somewhat your community. We didn't have TV, it didn't do a lot for you in terms of sexuality because everybody went to bed with their pajamas on
Cassandra Grant: [01:04:00] and almost slept in a separate bed from what I remember. So it really wasn't, you didn't learn a lot from TV. You did learn a little bit more from music. Now when you listen to music, jazz and R&B, it was on.. You would wonder, what are they talking about? You said, I want to experience some of that. You didn't really know what that was until you eventually had that experience.
Cassandra Grant: [01:04:30] But there were guys that I met that I was very interested in, and I'm sure they were very interested in me too when I was younger. But then I also met some young girls that I became interested in, and they were interested in me too. And it was just an experience. I was kind of open to something that I wasn't sure what it really was. And some were in high school, I remember them saying,
Cassandra Grant: [01:05:00] you can't be going with those girls cause you're going to be a lesbian. I didnt even know what the word meant, too. So I think I did get a couple of books and I read, but it didn't really bother me one way or the other. Cause with having brothers, and this is one thing I also learned, my brothers and their friends talked about girls like a dog. They would talk about them in the room, and I would listen and I said,
Cassandra Grant: [01:05:30] Oh my gosh. I said, if those girls only knew what they was saying about them, they would be up here slopping every one of their faces. But they didn't know it. That kind of stuck in the back of my head too. So you know, every experience kind of puts you in a different space in life. I would listen to how they would talk about the girls and I said, Oh listen, I'm not going to let them be talking to him about that, about me. But I did meet quite a few really nice guys.
Cassandra Grant: [01:06:00] Hung out with them, enjoyed them. And also in college, I met quite a few nice guys. But then I also met a woman that I loved and I had a great experience with. It wasn't until I came out of college and I was supposed to get married and I decided that, no, I don't think I better do that. Something inside of me said, I don't know if you're making the right decision. He's a nice guy.
Cassandra Grant: [01:06:30] You probably have a great family, but maybe that not might not be right for you. And I kept examining that. Then I met another woman that I became interested in. Lavinia Pinson. I started meeting other sisters
Cassandra Grant: [01:07:00] and we formed Salsa Soul Sisters and that was it. It was on. It was an opportunity to be crystal clear about my sexuality. I think that if I probably didn't have that experience, I might've gotten married and maybe stayed in that for a while. Got out of it. Cause I think eventually I would have probably found myself leaning towards
Cassandra Grant: [01:07:30] where I should be. But the thing is, with the right experience, you kind of get it right. We found a place and a group that allowed you to explore everything you could think of. I mean in Salsa Soul Sisters, third world women's organization, we were able to examine life upside down.
Cassandra Grant: [01:08:00] We were able to look at the politics of being third world women, whether you were native American, whether you were Latino or whether you were Asian or whether you were African-American, whether you were from the South, whether you were from the North or whether you were from the Caribbean. And all of these places has a different culture, and that culture has to be talked about,
Cassandra Grant: [01:08:30] because with that culture comes different ways of being in the world. And when you get a chance to talk about the different ways of being in the world, you can explore almost everything. We had marathons, there were our Thursday night meetings, Southwest Soul Sisters, and we came out of, it was the Black Liberation Front. Some of the women were there. We were at the firehouse.
Cassandra Grant: [01:09:00] Many of us try to become a part of the gay movement in the white organizations. But we always knew that we didn't fit.
Mason Funk: Hold one second. Carry on.
Cassandra Grant: Okay. But I said a white organization that made you cough.
Mason Funk: Okay. Carry on. So you're talking about what years? Give me a little bit of a time.
Cassandra Grant: [01:09:30] Okay. So this is after college, so we're now in the seventies. Yeah, we're in the early seventies. Yeah, we're in the early seventies, so I'm somewhat in my point. Let me see, wait a minute. Gosh, it looks so cited, so hard to remember dates.
Mason Funk: I remember over here, I think it said 74.
Cassandra Grant: [01:10:00] 74, so I mustve been about, well I was about twenty-seven. So I was in my twenties. Certain things had happened a couple of years before that, because when South Sisters formed, I was already in a relationship for a while, and always already going out to bars, going to meetings, trying to find a group that you could kind of vibe with, a group that was dealing with issues you already in,
Cassandra Grant: [01:10:30] looking at the black movement in terms of what's happening in New York, whats happening across the country, trying to find your space. And then you also had work. I mean, when you think about it, you're managing so many things, cause you're out in terms of your work. We were organizing directors in East Harlem
Cassandra Grant: [01:11:00] around quality education for early childhood. Also going to school, also handling a relationship. Also dealing with your parents, telling you what to do and when you're going to get married. No, that's not happening, mom. You know, here, meet this woman, she's very nice. You'll love her. My fathers saying, something's wrong with that girl. He doesn't know exactly what, but he ain't saying too much because he doesn't want to get into the conversation.
Cassandra Grant: [01:11:30] Call him. Lucy, go over there. I don't have no food right in there. Lucy. Call them, Zoe. So as a lot of things going on in your life, hanging out with your college friends and kind of distancing yourself from them because now you're carving out a new way of being in the world. Not being too close to your family because your family's not really on the road with you
Cassandra Grant: [01:12:00] and you don't want to bust their bubbles and keep them happy. So you've got to find a new place to be. You gotta find a new groove, cause all the old grooves are not working. The college folks not working, the liberation group is not working. Cause you know, they don't wanna hear nothing about being gay. They want to hear, what are you doing to make the movement happen?
Cassandra Grant: [01:12:30] And then you're here with all these white folks and white women and they're not talking the same. They're not dancing the way you're dancing. They're not talking the way you're talking and you're saying, :well, I don't think I belong here. And they not making you feel real. They're not making you feel yourself and you know it, but you don't quite know how to articulate it. You kind of know that I'm here, but I really don't belong here.
Cassandra Grant: [01:13:00] And you're going to the bars and the bars are discriminating against you and you're not seeing too many sisters sometimes. And if you see them, they're not talking to you too tough either. It's something about a scene that doesn't accept you as you are, is not always welcoming and comfortable. You go and you be there, but it doesn't support you, and you know it doesn't support you. And when you know that you start making movements about, you've got to do something different.
Cassandra Grant: [01:13:30] So along comes Salsa Soul Sisters, and we formed that organization because we didn't want to just be about the bars. I mean the bars was where you got high. The boys is where you met women. The bars is where they talk loud, bars is where you danced all night long. The bar is where it wasn't going to be the be all and end all for you. So what else is there?
Cassandra Grant: [01:14:00] You know that your life is so much more than that. And somehow we came together and it was, I wasn't there in the very beginning when Dee Jackson brought the women together. But in the very formation of Salsa , I was. We were the first board of directors that really put pen to paper and developed the structure and really was responsible for organizing our meetings,
Cassandra Grant: [01:14:30] going to meetings. We held a lot of meetings and in my home I was with Lavinia Pinson at the time who was crystal clear, brilliant sister, wonderful lover at the time. She was clear about the direction that she was going. And I didn't know at the time that she was 20 years my senior. Somehow, I loved all the women. I just gotta be clear about that,
Cassandra Grant: [01:15:00] because I mean, after all, what you said: I had the naivete that sometimes exists, even in your being aware, you're saying that you're smart, you're brilliant, you know what you're doing. But there is a level by which you are operating that you don't know, that you're kind of following and you're hoping
Cassandra Grant: [01:15:30] and praying that you're going in the right direction. So for me, I was going in the right direction.
Mason Funk: Hold that thought for one second.
Cassandra Grant: What was that?
Michelle McCabe: The little ones.
Cassandra Grant: Oh, did they come in? Oh, they're just coming back from vacation.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Cassandra Grant: Yeah. Today. Oh, we might hear some noise. Oh, here they come. They live upstairs. They have, she has two little ones.
Mason Funk: [01:16:00] Okay. I think we're good though. They went, they went upstairs. Right. So they're more or less like,
Michelle McCabe: There might be a little running back and forth.
Cassandra Grant: Oh, they're just coming from Spain. Oh my goodness. Yeah, they went home too.
Mason Funk: Okay. So you were dating this older woman?
Cassandra Grant: Yeah. She was really involved at the beginning more or less with Reverend Dolores Jackson and starting the group.
Cassandra Grant: [01:16:30] We had a friend of mine who I was dating in college come live with us who was taking a course at NYU, and she was saying, Oh son, you better go to those meetings. I mean, they having some serious meetings. And she said, you haven't seen the sisters until you got to those meetings. I said, do you mean are there a lot of sisters going to them? A lot of sisters. I said, Oh, well I'll be at the next one. So once I went, I never left. It was just unbelievable.
Cassandra Grant: [01:17:00] I mean, the sisters that were coming out to the meeting and the issues that were coming before us and the beginning of friendships that were developing and the kind of... Oh, it was almost like, you kind of want to try to find the word. I'm trying to think of a word that would just consummate what was happening. It was just
Cassandra Grant: [01:17:30] something so beautiful that was happening within our group and in our community that continued to happen for the rest of the time that we were with Salsa. And not that it was always that way, cause it wasn't always that way. There were terrible fights, and there was discourse sometimes that just never seemed to end.
Cassandra Grant: [01:18:00] And there was always issues that came up that were of serious debate. And because I think the timing was at such an important time in life. It was the seventies. It was after the March on Washington. It was the civil rights movement. It was the women's movement.
Cassandra Grant: [01:18:30] So many things were happening at that time that was really supporting us in terms of what we were going to be about. That it was about the best time ever. The greatest of times, the best of times for sisters to come together. And we would have, we would plan, a calendar for the month
Cassandra Grant: [01:19:00] and we would have topics every Thursday night. We would invite speakers to come in, some sisters that were in the group, some women that were not in the group. There was a serious mixture of women, which made it wonderful because it broke down the issues, not the barriers, and that was real clear, not the barriers, but the issues around class and race
Cassandra Grant: [01:19:30] and our sexuality, because you had women in there that were college educated. You had women in there that were totally uneducated, that were, didn't have high school diplomas, looking for work, single mothers, married. We did have transgender women
Cassandra Grant: [01:20:00] that were coming and that was an area that was just beginning to really start happening at that time. And one sister, she's now an elder, Christian O'Neil, came in as Cynthia and departed here as Christian. She went through, he went through that transition
Cassandra Grant: [01:20:30] during Salsas years. But it was quite a long time, and it was quite an experience, I'm sure for him as well as all those that knew him. But it was an experience that was brand new to Salsa, and some of the things that they're just talking about now, we were talking about, what is that, forty-five, thirty years ago.
Mason Funk: [01:21:00] I want to just talk about some of the issues you fought about, cause along with this incredible solidarity, you also say there were strong wills, strong opinions, and not harmony all the time. Give us a picture, paint us a picture of what some of the issues are that you would fight about. Things you guys wrangled over.
Cassandra Grant: [01:21:30] When I think about the women in Salsa and I think about the board, there was a board of directors as well as individuals that poured into salsa that had certainly strong personalities and a strong influence over what we were doing and the way we were thinking and how we were going about the different things that we wanted to do.
Cassandra Grant: [01:22:00] We were clear that we wanted to be an organization that really just did not appear to be a social club, that we were not, because there were sisters in there who are in education, sisters in healthcare, some in social work, some sisters interested in a nontraditional work at the time, which was brand new on the horizon in terms of sisters wanting to become plumbers and electricians.
Cassandra Grant: [01:22:30] There were artists in there, there were writers in there, there were dancers. So we had, I mean we must've had the best of folks and such brilliant people. When I think about sisters that were - well, some of the sisters don't want to come through, but some of the people like -
Cassandra Grant: [01:23:00] I'm trying to, let me go first with some of the elders. Some of the elders like Georgia Brooks and down here we have my [inaudible] who was Yvonne Flowers. Sylvia Witts Vitale. Phyllis Clay, and I want to talk about her at some point, was the first sister that came out to us with HIV and AIDS and helped us to understand the importance of identifying our health needs and our sexuality.
Cassandra Grant: [01:23:30] And if, in fact, this happens, what do we need to do? I mean, she was so warm and so kind and so clear about life and it was a hard time for her. But we hopefully tried to be family there for her at the time. And she had children. Blackwell, Lee, Johnny Gray, IRA, Jefferies, Tippi Onnis Harrison.
Cassandra Grant: [01:24:00] So many more. Cennen, Candace, and certainly Audrey was more of a mentor to us, as was people like Pat Parker. Individuals in the group like Harriet. Oh gosh, there's so many. Asabi, well, let me think...
Cassandra Grant: [01:24:30] Adrian was like a baby at the time. We had some young, very young people. Daisy Haziz, Oh, Elma Gomez came to our meetings. Sapphire, I think about, Oh gosh, I think about so many. Jean Wimberley, Joan Ashley. I mentioned Liotta Long Dog.
Cassandra Grant: [01:25:00] She was our first native American person that was in our group who really helped us to be a little bit more understanding around the issues of native Americans. And she played that role alone. At the time, we had no idea of really probably what she was really going through. We supported her and loved her as a sister, but at the same time she was the only one.
Cassandra Grant: [01:25:30] And that must've been a tremendous burden that she carried with her at the time, but still being very much a part of who we were and what we were trying to do. I think they are going to have so much respect for her in terms of that. I think of Cat Deval. Vira. I'm just, and I know sisters, Donna Alegra,
Cassandra Grant: [01:26:00] there'll be so many others. Barbara Brandt, Betty Powell, Bonnie Harrison. I'm saying that to say that there were just an array of brilliant women. Duaner. Roberta, when I think of the artists, Duaner and Roberta started the first drumming and dance troupe of women.
Cassandra Grant: [01:26:30] At that time it was a time where we were into our culture. And really it was a time where women were looking to become drummers, but there were no one, s no one wanted to teach women to drum. They were able to teach themselves and find others that would teach them and develop their own group,
Cassandra Grant: [01:27:00] a piece of the world. It was a community that supported them. The poets, when I think of the poets, Errare whose work that you see here, this is her artwork. And I think of Charlayne who's now first lady, was in our group. I mean it was just so many. Marjorie Hill who became the first director under Dinkins for the gay organization.
Cassandra Grant: [01:27:30] I can't think of it right now what the title was, but she was, Marjorie was the first, came out of Salsa. There are just so many other women. Sapphire, who did the play Precious, and all of these women at the time were in Salsa, and creating such a community,
Cassandra Grant: [01:28:00] developing such a movement around so many issues, education, health, social service, relationships, sexuality, you name it. It was there being discussed, being brought to the forefront. If someone in the group didn't have the knowledge or the understanding to speak to the issues,
Cassandra Grant: [01:28:30] we would bring someone from the outside to come in and speak to the issues. There was always some level of struggle around issues in terms of what we should do in the community, because we know we were being discriminated in the bars. We know we were being discriminated in certain organizations,
Cassandra Grant: [01:29:00] and they said, Well, what roles should we take? And there always had to be a coming together of what we should do and how we should do it. It wasn't easy for a lot of the women to come out. So while we were in the march in 1974, and everyone agreed that we should be in the march, and we had a committee go and discuss us being in the march,
Cassandra Grant: [01:29:30] and then they came back and said that we would be somewhere in the back. The sisters got very upset about it. They said, No, we should really be in the front. Why would they put us all the way in the back of the March? So we're fighting about this issue, about being in the March, and being in the front of the March. And lo and behold, we go back to the sisters and say, Okay, who's going to be in the March?
Cassandra Grant: [01:30:00] And for the life of us, we couldn't hardly even get the women to come and march cause they were so afraid, because they were afraid they were going to get fired. They're afraid that their husbands might see them. They were afraid that their parents might see them. We have to remember in 1974, it wasn't so wonderful to be gay. Everybody wasn't up and out of the closet, and women were trying to come to grips with being gay,
Cassandra Grant: [01:30:30] and even saying the word lesbian. Like, we can just,, it rolls right off the tongue right now. Lesbian, gay, queer. Well, it wasn't, and no one was going to call themselves queer in 1974,in our organization.
Mason Funk: What march is this? You're talking about
Cassandra Grant: The march in 74.
Mason Funk:: What was that March and where did it take place?
Cassandra Grant: In New York City. Gay pride march. Cause it started in 1970.
Cassandra Grant: [01:31:00] We started around, the first march started in 1970, and we started really coming together around 1972, 1973. We didn't really organize ourselves until 1974, and we became incorporated in 1976. But in the very beginning, we would have, our room would be packed. We'd have forty, fifty or more women at our meetings,
Cassandra Grant: [01:31:30] and if we gave a dance, it'd be over 100 or more. But to get 100 women to come out and march, no, I don't think so. We'd be lucky if we got twenty, and yet we're busy fighting. We made our own banners, we got our banners, I shared some pictures of the banners, and most of the women would join us when we got down to the village. They wouldnt join us at the beginning of the march. They weren't comfortable doing it,
Cassandra Grant: [01:32:00] but when we got almost to the village, they would then jump in the line and march out and go on to Christopher Street and over to the pier. So they were comfortable doing that, but they weren't comfortable in other places, because some of them were just not out then. They weren't comfortable being who they were. It took time. And over time, the numbers grew. Over time, we grew. Over time,
Cassandra Grant: [01:32:30] our ability to accept who we were grew. But that was with a lot of education. I remember starting the first clinic with Joan Winkovitz, and she was so kind. A free clinic for women here in New York City for gay women. We did our first examination so the women could examine their body parts. Some women would never even think about doing that.
Cassandra Grant: [01:33:00] We did that at a meeting with a sister, Sylvia Vitale, sex therapist, and she was really something. It was an unbelievable meeting. So many first things happened there. Our picnics with our children, mothers with children. That was unheard of too, because most women were afraid to come to the meeting
Cassandra Grant: [01:33:30] if they had children, because they were afraid that their children would be taken away from them. They were afraid to even say anything to their children. But by having the meetings and having the conversations, we were able to help women accept their sexuality, and accept the fact that they had to really speak about it, and some women to come out to their husbands,
Cassandra Grant: [01:34:00] to say that this is who I am now. That's a major move. I mean, it sounds simple. It sounds easy, but it was not easy. And issues around how do women treat other women was always major, because for the most part, the gay community takes on the behavior of the heterosexual community, and those same behaviors in terms of the femmes
Cassandra Grant: [01:34:30] where the ones that cook, clean, took care of the children. The butches, which they called at that time, that was just one term that they would use, would take on the role, in most cases, of the male. So they felt that they had to be dominant over the femmes, and would treat them like the men would. Oh, you do this, you do that. And some of them would be violent towards the women. We said, that doesn't work. No, that's not the kind of relationship we want.
Cassandra Grant [01:35:00] You want a relationship that respects each other, that loves each other. It is not about being dominant, one person over the other. So those were issues that were constant, and some of the women were coming to tell me how to treat my woman. I'm the one that tells you how to treat. That's my woman over there. And the issues around being able to ask a woman in the early days,
Cassandra Grant [01:35:30] you would, some relationships, if you went to the bar, you would have to ask another woman to ask a woman to dance. Well, to us, we're young and in our twenties, early thirties, we're saying, that's crazy. You want to dance with somebody, dance with them. So there were a lot of discussions, and the few stats, little arguments, some bars you didn't go to because you know you would get kicked out or killed. What was, I'm trying to think of the name.
Cassandra Grant: [01:36:00] Oh gosh, it's a [inaudible] now uptown. It was a serious part. That's why I said that as you need your friends, cause they would help you remember the names of places that you would go to. But it was cutthroat, and not a comfortable place to be. But women learning to love other women took time, and it was over a period of time
Cassandra Grant: [01:36:30] that we had to work at those issues around what does it look like when one woman loves another woman? How do you treat them? How do you talk to your family about that? How do you talk to your brother or your sister about that? How do you talk to your friend? And those were issues that we confronted on Thursday nights,
Cassandra Grant: [01:37:00] issues around your own body parts, your own sexuality, masturbation. I mean, whatever the topic was, nothing was off limits. Raising children. And certainly issues in terms of the politics of life, because you're really sometimes dealing in two different worlds. Cause some of us were dealing in terms of being in the black community
Cassandra Grant: [01:37:30] and dealing around the issues of struggle, and then trying to be in the gay community, and wearing both hats. They would accept you in a gay community, but when you went over to the black community they say, no gay folks up in here and no conversations around that, but you had to come back to group to say, how do we balance that? How do we begin to talk about that and [inaudible] was very helpful, you know to us with those issues,
Cassandra Grant: [01:38:00] she was very helpful to us with a lot of issues, and she was a person that really, again, when you read her work, you are blown away because it existed then, but it also exists now, and some of -
Mason Funk: Hold on one second. The blankets slipped down again. I want to make sure we get to some follow up questions,
Mason Funk: [01:38:30] which are still to do with, this may seem like an obvious question, but I just want to make sure we have it clear. The need for this organization was prejudice, predicated on the fact that you were all women of color and lesbians. So you were seeing these multiple obstacles and barriers, and there was no easy fit for you in the wider movement. And I guess I just want to hear you say succinctly, why was this so important?
Mason Funk: [01:39:00] Why was Salsa Soul Sisters so life giving and important to you as women of color coming together as lesbian women of color and coming together.
Cassandra Grant: Okay. The reason why Salsa was so important to the women of color coming together was because for the most part, there was not family.
Cassandra Grant: [01:39:30] You had a biological family that you could not go back and talk to. You had a community that was not open and accepting to you. You had a spiritual family that was not there for you. I mean, you would go to church and you would never ever mention the word gay. And if they mentioned it from the pulpit or whatever religious organization you might be,
Cassandra Grant: [01:40:00] cause it wasn't just in the churches, but in any religious organization, you were made to feel ostracized, less than, or something was deadly wrong with you. You needed to commit suicide almost. Salsa really became a healing place,
Cassandra Grant: [01:40:30] a place where women could come and feel like family. So the word Salsa Soul Sisters is really real. Sisters could come together and feel like sisters. When you walk through that door on a Thursday night, you met someone at the door that smiled and welcomed you to the meeting. You heard issues that almost probably blew your mind,
Cassandra Grant: [01:41:00] heart, and soul away, because they were issues that hit at the very core of what probably was on your heart and in your soul and in your spirit for years. And you had no place to talk about it. You were a college graduate, you were probably married. You maybe have been living by yourself. You might be a mother with children,
Cassandra Grant: [01:41:30] and there was no place for you to go where you could come and feel comfortable enough to speak your truth and to hear truth spoken back to you. Thats one thing that's very important about you know, an organization, if it's real. When you speak your truth, first of all, you got to be able to speak your truth, because in some organizations, you have to act a certain way,
Cassandra Grant: [01:42:00] be of a certain class. But in Salsa it wasn't about that. You could be of any class. It didn't matter whether you are a high school graduate, whether you were no graduate, whether you were high, because people would come in there stoned high as they could be, and we would try to handle it the best way we could. People would come in, in pain, broken up from a relationship,
Cassandra Grant: [01:42:30] maybe ready to kill themselves. Didn't have a place to sleep, needed somewhere to go looking for a job, just got fired cause they came out or someone found out that they were gay. So, the issues were monumental. But within that organization, there was healing. There was an ability to direct the actions
Cassandra Grant: [01:43:00] and the conversations at what needed to take place. There were women willing to bring mothers together who had children and do activities with them. There were issues around culture. If you wanted to be an artist or you wanted to do poetry or you wanted to be a writer, or you wanted to have a book party, or you wanted to have a bus ride
Cassandra Grant: [01:43:30] and go up to the Poconos. We took families and women up to the Poconos. Some had never been outside of New York City. So it was a place where they could come and go and be safe and be loved and know that the choice that you made is the right choice. Theres nothing wrong with you. You're not sick. You're not an abomination. You are wanted. You're beautiful.
Cassandra Grant: [01:44:00] You have all of your life ahead of you. You can be, you want to be a plumber. You could be a plumber. You want to be an electrician. You could be an electrician. You want to be a teacher, you could teach. It doesn't matter that you're gay. Your sexuality is a part of who you are, but it doesn't totally define you. And you want to step into the movement. Well, we're going to step into the movement,
Cassandra Grant: [01:44:30] because we don't like what's going on about police brutality against black men and black women. We don't like all the sisters and brothers that we see in jail. So we're going to do something about that. We had women working with the prison population. We'd go to the prison population. We had sisters working in the board of education, working with the state department of education against the injustice that was happening in our schools. We know our children weren't being educated,
Cassandra Grant: [01:45:00] and predominantly those children in communities of color going to low performing schools. Schools where teachers and principals and supervisors did not care about them. So we joined forces with those. But those sisters could come to our group and get an understanding. We know our culture was not being taught in the public school system. So we created work. We started Kwanzaa
Cassandra Grant: [01:45:30] in Salsa and we celebrated this year our 42nd celebration of Kwanzaa in New York for the LGBTQ community, having an annual celebration of our culture, teaching children, parents, grandparents, gay, straight, black, brown, green, whoever wanted to come, our doors were open and they still are open,
Cassandra Grant: [01:46:00] because we know that we have to come together to really learn how to work together, live together, understand our differences, and find new ways of being and save ourselves. I don't know, there's so many sisters that say if it wasn't for Salsa, I don't know where I'd be or who I'd be right now. But in Salsa I was able to find myself.
Cassandra Grant: [01:46:30] In Salsa, I was able to do other things. I became more of who I really was. I didn't even know who I was, but when I walked through those doors, I learned about who I really was, and I have friendships, lifetime friendships that now still speak to who I am and what legacy I want to leave.
Cassandra Grant: [01:47:00] So Salsa was a world changing organization for women in New York City, women of color and other women. Cause other women, cause we had sometimes as much white women at our events as we had women of color, cause they could feel the love.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you a practical question. It's 5:17, and you said you needed to leave at 6:00, is that right? To go to church. Okay. Does everybody have to leave at six?
Cassandra Grant: [01:47:30] Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay. So we have to walk out the door at 6:00.
Cassandra Grant: Well yeah, as much as we got close, why? What you going to do?
Mason Funk: We got a couple more questions, and then we'll be okay. Cause in about ten, fifteen minutes, we should probably finish up so we can wrap up our gear and get out of here on time.
Cassandra Grant: Oh, you don't want to go tonight?
Michelle McCabe: I had no idea.
Cassandra Grant: Well you don't have to go. We're going to Tuesday night live. You want to go?
Michelle McCabe: [01:48:00] Oh, Sharon didn't know either cause I asked her. She didn't know about it.
Cassandra Grant: You don't have to go. You could stay. Zoe stays, that you mean you could wrap up later?
Mason Funk: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I don't have many more questions. I think we've covered Salsa Sisters really, really, really well.
Cassandra Grant: [01:48:30] I do want to talk about everybody.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I know, we don't have time to talk.
Cassandra Grant: Alright, you're not gonna mention them all anyway.
Mason Funk: Yeah, yeah. Eventually, I'm going to take a photograph of that poster, but let me look ahead on my list.
Cassandra Grant: I know it's about by three people. Never had three people. I mean, I did not mention Sharon, Sharon, boy, I didn't mention her name in there.
Mason Funk: [01:49:00] No. You want to talk about Sharon? How are you feeling? What do you feel like you want to talk about that you haven't talked about? I think we covered Salsa really, really well.
Cassandra Grant: Well, I think becoming an elder, moving through life. Sharon and I have been together.
Mason Funk: Can you sit back?
Cassandra Grant: [01:49:30] Oh, okay. I'm sorry. Sharon and I have been together since... Gosh, I have to think about what year. She'll kill me. We met in Salsa in probably around 1974. We had pictures in the marches, various marches that we were in. We traveled all over.
Cassandra Grant: [01:50:00] We certainly did the marches in New York. We did marches in Washington, went to Atlanta. I missed that march cause I was on assignment, but Salsa went to Atlanta. Wherever there was a march, Salsa was there. Some members of our organization, some women went to China, certainly to Africa. We've all been. Not all of Salsa,
Cassandra Grant: [01:50:30] but women in Salsa have been to Africa. I've been to China. We went with a mission. We went to certainly experience another culture and another place on the face of the earth, but we also went touching bases with other women.
Cassandra Grant: [01:51:00] When you talk with Amani, she'll tell you about the great trip that her and Maua and Shirley Carvin, who's another brilliant sister that was in Salsa, took, and the experience that they had. So there were many marches, there were many rallies, there were many meetings, there were many conferences, and even talk about the various conferences that we were a part of, and some that we helped to start,
Cassandra Grant: [01:51:30] and that we continue to do that work. So what I'm really saying is that Sharon and I have been a part of a movement for a very long time. It's almost like your life has been a movement. In fact, one of her for friends at work said, you're the movement women, because you've always been in some kind of movement. Civil rights movement, the gay movement, the women's movement, We're always in a movement, and it's about how do we live a life
Cassandra Grant: [01:52:00] that improves not only the quality of your life, because if I improve the quality of my life, I improve the quality of your life. It is the extension of what I do while I'm here that improves the lives for others. And I believe that really solely. I believe that the life that I have, that I'm living here has to be about not just a good life for me,
Cassandra Grant: [01:52:30] but a good life for someone else. The work that we've done through Salsa and through various movements that we've been a part of. Cause I feel as strongly about the education movement and the black movement as I feel about the gay movement. I feel that I've been in those circles, and that I've committed myself to doing that kind of work because there were things that needed to be
Cassandra Grant: [01:53:00] that needed to be better. There were, I was trying to, it's more than the word things cause things is so minimal. What you do while youre here on earth is almost like the pebble that you throw into the water that has a ripple effect and that continues to blossom.
Cassandra Grant: [01:53:30] You don't always see it. Like we didn't even see that in 1974 that I would be talking about Salsa in 2020. No idea that that would ever happen. No idea that the work that these women did, and that these women did and some that may not even be on here and this young goddaughter that we have,
Cassandra Grant: [01:54:00] cause she knows all about salsa, that this work is going to continue because it's at the core of who we are as a people, as a human being. I ts greater than us and whatever you do, you want to make sure that you do something that speaks to the greatness of human life,
Cassandra Grant: [01:54:30] and that you take care of yourself, but in taking care of yourself, you don't forget to take care of others. Because it is what you do for others, and I think Dr. King must have said that, that's really going to make a difference. I really believe that, because when I think about the children that I taught, when I think about the mothers that I work with, when I think about my coworkers, and the work that I did in education,
Cassandra Grant: [01:55:00] it was about looking at the system, and not that I always wanted to look at what was wrong. Even in Salsa, we didn't want to look at what was wrong with the gay movement, but in order to do and to make things better, it's almost like you have to look at what's not right with the world and make it right. It's not impossible. And now I sit in my seventies and
Cassandra Grant: [01:55:30] I'm almost in awe of who I've become and what I've been able to do, because you almost think that you can't do it. You say, Oh, I'm just this one little person. I'm not that smart. I'm not that beautiful. I'm not this. You know you got all the nots, but it should be all that I am, because all that you are is going to push you to so much more,
Cassandra Grant: [01:56:00] and to be a part of things that you never dreamed that you'd be a part of. I never dreamed - I worked with this organization in Harlem called Board for the Education of People of African Ancestry. We've done some work in Selma. We need to do so much more than what we've done, but Selma is the birthplace of the civil rights movement, but it's not known to the world. But it needs to be, because people died and gave their lives.
Cassandra Grant: [01:56:30] People whose names we'll never know and some whose names we do know, but we do not even give them the credit for the sacrifices they made. And it was because, not because of what they did for themselves, but it's because of what they did for others, that this world is a better place. If they had only done what they did for themselves, this world would not be a better place. Martin, Malcolm, Rosa, Harriet Tubman, had shed suit.
Cassandra Grant: [01:57:00] Dr. John Henry Clark. So many names I want to call that are in my mind and I know of. All these scholars and educators, if they had only thought about themselves. And I think if I just saw Just Mercy with, Oh gosh, why am I forgetting his name? Just Mercy. What is his name?
Mason Funk: Reactor. No, Brian Stevenson.
Cassandra Grant: [01:57:30] Brian Stevenson. I met him. I know him. If Brian Stevenson had only thought about himself. His mother said, Brian, why are you going down there? That's a dangerous place to be. Alabama. It is. I'm telling you, I've been to Alabama. Alabama is. Even today on the roads, I'm riding down the street, we're going to Jubilee to commemorate the march, the crossing of the Pettus Bridge,
Cassandra Grant: [01:58:00] and you get the fear comes up inside of you, cause you're traveling on a lonely, dark road. Can you imagine what Bryan Stevenson went through to do his work? But its what you do for others. And if we get it right for the children, if we teach children not what you do for yourself, don't take all those pictures of yourself. Don't be just thinking you've got a million thousand friends. Its what you do for others
Cassandra Grant: [01:58:30] thats going to make this world a better place. And if you make it better for others, you make it better for yourself. That is such an important message, and we don't teach that in our schools. We teach about, Oh me, Oh I, I'm this, I'm that. No, it's what the I, the me does for the next person that makes it better because once I do something for you, I begin to see who you are. You see the God in me, I see the God in you. If I never do anything for you,
Cassandra Grant: [01:59:00] I can't see the God in you. So the world can't get any better. That's why I could go in my house, roll up my window, get in my nice car, wear all my furs, go out, walk past the children that are starving. I don't have to see them. But once I see the starving child, I have to do something. Once I see the homeless person, I have to do something.
Cassandra Grant: [01:59:30] Once I see the person who's been in prison and is in prison for the wrong reason, is an innocent person, I have to do something. So it is what we do for others. Once I know that that school could be a bastion of education, but it's not, I have to do something. That's the person we need to elect and put in the white house. What you do for others.
Mason Funk: [02:00:00] Tell me about it. Oh gosh, youve said so much amazing stuff.
Cassandra Grant: You think?
Mason Funk: Oh my gosh. Yeah. What do you think?
Michelle McCabe: Oh, yeah.
Cassandra Grant: Yeah, I hope so. I have a great teacher. The one person I didn't mention, I have to mention her name because she has taught me so much. Her name is Dr. Adelaide Sanford. She is, and if you ever get, she's not gay, but she's brilliant.
Cassandra Grant: [02:00:30] Oh my gosh. You're talking about blow your mind away. Her name is Dr. Adelaide Sanford. She held the highest position of any African American person in education for the state of New York. She was the vice chancellor emeritus for the New York State Board of Regents. But it is not your brilliance. It is your ability to connect with those
Cassandra Grant: [02:01:00] who are suffering at levels that no one understands or no one wants to see. Cause once you see you have to do something, but it is your ability to see.
Mason Funk: And your willingness.
Cassandra Grant: Cause you take the glasses off. You have to do something. You can't keep seeing it. And she sees,
Cassandra Grant: [02:01:30] she sees the heart, the soul and the spirit of the human suffering in the world that compels the world to be a better place. It is unfortunate that is through our suffering that the world has to be better. Cause if it was through our good living, then wed do nothing. It is through our suffering that the world gets better, isnt that amazing?
Mason Funk: [02:02:00] I have one last question for you. Last one. We ask this of all of our subjects, and it's just a simple question. If you could tell 13 year old Cassandra one thing, what would you tell 13 year old Cassandra if she were sitting right next to you on the couch?
Cassandra Grant: [02:02:30] Fear not what comes before you. It is going to be okay, and maybe inside of the fear that you have will come the light that guides you. Let not your fear keep you or hold you back.
Mason Funk: [02:03:00] That's great. Thank you. I love that. Okay. Should we record? We're going to do 30 seconds of just what we call room tone. It means the sound of this room with no one talking. It's in technical thing, so I'm going to call out. Ready? Room tone.
Michelle McCabe: [02:03:30] Cut and cut.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Michelle McCabe
Date: January 21, 2020
Location: Home of Cassandra Grant, Brooklyn, NY