Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Dana Driskell


Dana Driskell

45th Interview
Interviewee: Dana Driskell
Interviewers: Dr. Mark Naison and Mark Smith
No Date of Interview
Summarized by Rob Passaro

Dana Driskell, a Fordham University Alumnus and senior planner with the New York Department of City Planning, was born in Morrisania hospital in 1951.  Her family roots extend from Florida and Tennessee, and her parents met in Washington State during World War II.  The couple married and moved to Harlem before coming to the Bronx and her father worked in the sheet metal industry.  Dana was the fourth of six children and the family moved a number of times throughout the Bronx.  Driskell attended PS 64 and by junior high, her parents had split up, leaving her mother to raise six children in a predominately Black and Latin section of the Bronx.  Driskell described the area as tough, but said it was mainly fistfights and not gang, knife or zip gun fights.  Driskell would later attend The Bronx High School of Science, where she first became interested in politics.

Growing up Driskell listened to a lot of Salsa and Latin music like Eddie Palmier, Tito Rodriguez and Charlie Palmier.  She also liked “soul music, Otis Redding and the Motown types and the New York groups like Chuck Johnson.” Clubs like the Blue Morocco and Club 845 were popular and stayed open late Saturday nights.  Driskell blamed the change in the music industry and the disappearance of neighborhood theaters on the creation of the Cross Bronx Expressway.  She believed the Cross Bronx had a negative effect on the South Bronx economy and neighborhood life as heroin began establishing itself in the community.  Meanwhile, New York was changing from a blue to white-collar city and it was becoming increasingly harder to support a family with out becoming the “Gregory Peck” prototype of the white-collar businessmen.  It was also very difficult for Blacks to find a position in a white-collar field.

During her time at Fordham, Driskell really became involved in politics, and joined the Black Students Union to help get a Black Studies Department created.  She was also involved in an on campus organization called Unity House and a Black student organization aimed at student outreach.  Driskell worked on all of this at a time when there was a lot of tension between many of the first generation Italians living in the Little Italy section of the Bronx.  There was a lot of conflict between the Italian and Black communities and it was important to the safety of many African Americans to completely stay away from Arthur Ave.

Keywords:  Morrisania, PS 64, the Bronx High School of Science, Salsa, Latin music, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Rodriguez, Charlie Palmieri, Ottis Redding, Motown, Chuck Johnson, McKinley Square, Blue Morocco, Club 845, Cross Bronx Expressway, heroin, Gregory Peck, Black Students Union, Black Studies Department at Fordham University, Arthur Ave, Unity House.


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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