Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Natasha and Michelle Lightfoot


Natasha Lightfoot and Michelle Lightfoot

Interviewees: Natasha Lightfoot and Michelle Lightfoot
Interviewers: Brian Purnell
Date of Interview: November 10, 2004/ November 22, 2004
Summarized by Alice Stryker

Natasha and Michelle are sisters and lived in the Bronx for most of their lives. Both were born at St. Luke’s Hospital. Their parents are Jocelyn and William, both from Antigua. Although the couple dated in Antigua, they did not marry until both had immigrated to the United States in 1970. Their maternal grandmother taught at schools and was a seamstress from the home and the maternal grandfather was a mechanic and a cab driver. Their paternal grandmother worked as a domestic and their paternal grandfather worked for a newspaper. Before moving to the Bronx, their parents lived in the US Virgin Islands. This gave them a chance to begin the naturalization process and earn American dollars. When the couple moved to New York, their mother worked for a phone company and their father opened an auto-body shop on Third avenue. He also opened a night club called Quartermoon and mostly Antiguans went there. 
The first apartment the couple lived was on Clay Avenue. This neighborhood had many West Indians and was a type of entry port for these new immigrants. Her father had a reputation for being very friendly and hospitable to Antiguans and many who did not know him would come to parties the family was throwing.
When Natasha was four, the family moved to Seward Avenue in Castle Hill. They moved into a co-op called Jaime Towers. Natasha and Michelle do not have vivid memories of the urban decay in their new neighborhood. However, they both remember noting the differences in their neighborhood from their grandmother’s neighborhood on 168th and Webster. The neighborhood in Castle Hill was mostly Black and Puerto Rican. Soon after the family moved to Castle Hill, they started attending St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Their father would not attend church every Sunday, rather he would stay at home listening to jazz music and watching TV shows, which had a positive impact on Natasha and Michelle. Every summer while the girls were in school, they went to Antigua. 
On page 41, session 2 begins. They discuss their father’s role in the various Antiguan social networks that were established in the Bronx. Although he was not a member of any social groups, he was a very strong supporter of the Antiguan Labor Party. He,others supporters in the Bronx, and people back in Antigua would be in constant communication about the issues in Antigua over labor. The way this communication was maintained was through frequent trips back and forth and sending newspapers, like one called The Outlet. His nightclub served as a convenient meeting space for the organization. One time, he organized a fundraiser there and the Prime Minister of Antigua attended. In the late 1980’s he decided that he wanted to move back to Antigua and get involved with more lucrative business opportunities. This proved very hard for the family, but through this he got more involved with ALP leadership. While their father was away in Antigua, their mother tried to keep the family together by pushing the girls academically.

The girls loved living in Castle Hill. Jamie Towers had plenty of children their ages so both had many friends. The buildings were also very diverse. The children in the buildings would play many outdoor games like tag, basketball, and jump rope. Many children were members of Kips Bay, a boys and girls club, which had great facilities and was well supervised.

They then begin discussing the rise and influence of hip-hop on their generation. One way they experienced it was through breaking. People were break dancing in their neighborhood and through this they would hear the music and see the dance moves. They also remember a local TV station called The Video Music Box, which played hip-hop videos. They also discuss the violence that was occurring at that time over clothing and jewelry. For example, neither the girls nor their half brother were allowed to have a leather jacket because their parents feared they would be killed for it.

Their mother was also the driving force behind their religious practices. She made sure they went to church as often as possible. St. Andrew’s, the Episcopal church they attended, was mostly African-American. As girls, they formed strong bonds with the other young people attending the church through Sunday School and Youth Groups. The church also made a point of celebrating academic achievements, like graduations of any kind. The church was also a great place to network, which assisted the young people in finding jobs. The church also had a sect of Episcopal Church Women, a group their mother was president of. Their discussion continues to list other organizations and social groups within the larger St. Andrew’s congregation that parishioners could be apart of.
They had a very interesting dating experience growing up. No guy could call their house. This was mainly due to their parents concerns over the numerous teen pregnancies happening in the Bronx in the 80’s. Natasha however, did not always follow her parents strict rules.
Both Michelle and Natasha went to Spellman for high school. Natasha says that going to Spellman increased her exposure to the West Indian and white populations of the Bronx. They interacted with the West Indian students through food and dress and with the white population through their honors classes. The girls were also involved in their marching band’s color guard, one spinning the baton the other the flag.

Keywords: St. Luke’s Hospital, Trinity Episcopal in Morrisania, Antigua, Gray’s Farm, Ottos, Antigua Progressive Society, Quartermoon Café, Clay Avenue, Clark Street, Castle Hill, Seward avenue, urban decay, 168th and Webster avenue, St. John Vianney School, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Antiguan Labor Party, The Outlet, Kips Bay, hip-hop, breaking, Video Music Box, Spellman High School,


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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