Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York


Patty Dukes

Interviewee: Patty Dukes and Rephstar
Interviewers: Dr. Oneka LaBennett and Dr. Natasha Lightfoot
Date of Interview: December 14, 2007
Summarized by Alice Stryker

Patty was born in Puerto Rico in 1979. She moved to the Bronx when she was 5 to 176th Street and Grand Concourse. Patty had a cousin and sister living with her in the Bronx. Her father originally worked in the military, then became a super when they moved to the Bronx. The family moved to a building close to Mullaly Park, so the family could continue to have trees like they did in Puerto Rico. Rephstar grew up in Washington Heights.  Both of his parents came to the Bronx when they were children during the 1940’s. His grandmother was a union worker for her entire life. The political engagements his grandmother participated in rubbed off on his mother, and she began to get involved with politics as well. His father although working as a physician’s assistant, was very involved with helping the squatters in the Bronx during the 1970s. Throughout his childhood, his parents were very politically active. His mother founded Casapa Lakes.
When Rephstar was a teenager, he still lived in Washington Heights, but frequently came into the Bronx to skate in their skate parks. These were not located in good neighborhoods, and he describes skating there as dangerous. His grandmother lived across the streets from the Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo, so he often visited these places, which he claims made a lasting impression on his opinion about the environment.
When Patty was growing up, she was listening to hip-hop while her sister was listening to Spanish music. She identified herself more as a New Yorker, where as her siblings more identified with their Puerto Rican and Dominican background. She was also the darkest skinned out of her family, which she said really affected the way she saw herself and the way her family treated her. Her family did not like that she was friends with Black girls at school, something Patty did not like because these girls were better behaved than the Latinas. When she was a child, she loved performing skits, songs, and scenes from movies and TV shows for her family. When she was in high school, she began to do plays with teen acting groups. She even started writing plays. After high school, she went to Hunter College.
Patty starting attending ciphers and working on her own rhymes when she was in her twenties. She was very motivated by the fact that many people had never seen a female emcee. She would go to small places and to open mics at local community centers to practice and get inspired.
Rephstar first went to Syracuse University and then transferred to City College. He was very influenced by his parents’ activism to get involved with hip hop. He would break dance, rap, and spray graffiti. This occasionally got him in trouble with the law. He was very inspired by the street life and interactions with homeless people, drug addicts, and other street artists. While he was at Syracuse, he missed this environment, so he had to come back. After getting a degree in music from City College, he began working with a number of nonprofit organizations. Through a program for female emcees, he met Patty. He brought Patty in to teach girls how to cipher and write rhythms, which was very successful.

Keywords: Puerto Rico, Mullaly Park, Washington Heights, Independence of Puerto Rico, Young Lords Movement, squatters, Casapa Lakes, Lincoln Academy of Science, Hunter College, Nuyorican Poets’ Café, Syracuse University, City College, Public Allies


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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