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Casmarah Mani Interview Clips

Title

Casmarah Mani Interview Clips

Description

Casmarah Mani talks about changes in his community, the effects of desegregation, and race relations.
Casmarah Mani talks about his time in prison, police corruption, and his lawsuit against the city for the attempt on his life by police officers.

Creator

National African American Archives & Museum,
Museum of Mobile

Publisher

National African American Archives & Museum,
Museum of Mobile
Mobile Public Library, Local History & Genealogy

Date

2000

Language

English

Type

Oral history interview

Identifier

VOHP-CasmarahMani-Community

Interviewer

Kern Jackson

Interviewee

Casmarah Mani

Location

Diamond's Convenience Store
637 North Thomas Avenue
Prichard, Alabama

Transcription

Jackson: Right. When you think back to childhood days, what are some key events, key things that have happened in your memory that kind of define the neighborhood and define the time or the place?

Mani: Good question. That’s a good question. I really can’t think of any outstanding incidents that was defined other than the neighborhood was more of a how you say a community type neighborhood. There was a lot of brotherhood, love and sharing. Used to go to the neighbor borrow a cup of sugar. The neighbor would come to you and borrow a cup of flour. You know. If you did something wrong and you saw, the neighbor had the authority from your parents to whoop your butt. And you tell your parents, the parents whoop you again most likely. You know. There was a lot of…the African proverb about the village is responsible for raising a child, the entire village is responsible for raising a child. I guess that would be my most distinct memory of the Black community in Prichard when I was coming up.

Jackson: Can you… do you have some sense of when things in your estimation changed?

Mani: Well you know you have to say that many of the changes began when you start talking about desegregation.

Jackson: Okay.

Mani: You know. The intents of desegregation was real good. It’s noble, honorable. The end results didn’t quite add up or measure up to what the intent started out to be. With desegregation, we wind up seeing Black kids bussed from our neighborhood to other neighborhoods you know. You wind up seeing Black schools that were high schools like Central…

Jackson: County.

Mani: I’m going to that but I’m trying to think of the word for these ___ Central and County that were hallmark Black schools in our community. That our parents and there parents had went to school there. You know it’s kind of like institutions in our community. They were closed you know. And those kids that went to those high schools were bussed somewhere else. Unfortunately, many Black teachers became unemployed. Many Black principals became unemployed. Got lost in the shuffle. Many people left town during that gap. If I had to think of a turning point educationally in the Black community when we start talking about desegregating and bussing kids from one neighborhood to he other. And you know there is a distinct cultural difference you know in young Black kids and young white kids you know. And when you got white teachers coming out of white neighborhoods they kind of understand the distinct contradiction between a white kid. Pretty much the same music they like pretty much. The same cultural things they get involved and they like. And then with the Black teacher kind of like the same thing. She can tune in on a Black kid because you know she got this kind of like soul sisters and brothers. That’s were the word “soul” came from. My soul brother mean that we brought through the same experience. Know what I mean. Just like if you Black you can go out there and be confronted by the police for no reason. No matter how much money you got in your pocket you can go out there and be confronted by the police or be confronted with racism for no reason. That will make us be brothers of the same experience. Soul brothers. And I kind of feel like desegregation kind of got lost in the shuffle with all its good intents through integration. You know. Know when I think we were arguing for equal justice my idea of equal justice would be bringing the standards up to where they should be. But many Black leaders at that time felt that equal justice means integrating everything, not just some things but everything. And I don’t think everything should be integrated. And right now where you go to school got a Black and white, mixed. Blacks and whites get along fine. But at a given time in a day, at lunch time for example. All the white kids, most the white kids go sit with the white kids, most of the Black kids go sit with the Black kids. They mingle fine. Get along as friends many times. But the distinct difference is they branch off to there own kind to talk about things that each other are familiar with. You know there was time when they were testing people in New York and the Black people complained about the test they we’re being subject to. And one of the brothers pointed out that if you take some kids from New York and give his a test on the country, the gone most likely do poorly on that test compared to a kid from the country taking that same test. If you take the kid from the country give his a test on the city like subways, et cetera et cetera, he’ll probably do poorly as opposed to testing the kid from New York. So you saying that in that statement is that if you have an instructor that can relate to the cultural background of a child, his or her chance of communicating with that kid is better.

Jackson: When you were coming up through Blount and going to school and everything when did you, I assume this during a major part of the civil rights struggle, when did you become in Prichard like politically aware of all these things. It sounded like your granddaddy had already turned you on to all that stuff all along.

Mani: Yeah. There was a subconscious knowledge about certain things.

Jackson: Like what?

Mani: About being a Black man. There was a set of rules different when it came down to dealing with Black people as opposed to white people. Knowing that being in the Black community that there was certain sense of safety as opposed to branching out from the Black community. At that time, see Prichard Mall was predominately white. Everybody living around the Prichard Mall at that time were white people. Blacks lived further off over on off Main Street by Blount High School and concentrated around that area around in there. But when you went to the mall, you had to be running through that mall, you know what I mean. ‘Cause those jokers be at you. Those white kids be at you. And ‘cause there was… Jim Crow was the order of the day then. You know Blacks had a place they had to stay in and the propaganda of Jim Crowism made a lot of seemingly good white people believe by that garbage that Blacks were inferior, that Blacks were monkeys, we had tails and you couldn’t trust none of us cause all of us were theives and that same premise still lives with us today, you know. But that was a sense of safety in the Black community at that time. Not necessarily from the white area or outside area but a safety from not feeling from your brother or a sister. A safety you don’t feel now because if we walk out , I walk out my door now, it won’t be anybody which might look like me and so that white sticking me up, you know what I mean. Its got the stick up man and what the big difference is from then and now is. That sense of safety that we feel around our own people is gone. And it’s kind of like when Hitler ruled Germany, he ruled Germany through fear and paranoia. The husband couldn’t trust the wife, the momma couldn’t trust the son, the son couldn’t trust the daddy, they couldn’t trust the children, you know what I mean because Hitler had put so many paranoia and fear and trusting one another among the populous and that’s how you rule and control. And it’s kind of like the system has us now. We have so much paranoia with one another you don’t know who to trust. Solid guys walk up to you, you know, “Hey what’s man?” And you look at ‘em… He may not be as solid as he looks.
Mani: And I guess about two months later, I made parole. And when I made parole we started a lil organization called Keep the Community Hall. It was on Davis Avenue then.

Jackson: Keep The Community who?

Mani: Keep the Community Hall. H-A-L-L.

Jackson: Where on Davis Avenue?

Mani: Right where Stewart Memorial Church is now.

Jackson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mani: Used to be a barber shop, Nobles. Mr. Nobles was a midget, had a little barber shop on the Avenue. It was a lil complex right there. Lil 3 or 4 complex, barber shop and our community hall was on the end there. And they torn it down and put Stewart Memorial Church there. On the corner of Davis Avenue and Ann Street. Ann run right into it. You know. And we was kind of like a community based group that dealt with teaching karate or teaching culture. Free lunch program, had the lunch, free food program. Kind of like patterned after the Black Panthers Party in California at that time, you know. And Vincent Woods was our chairman. Good guy, he eventually tripped out and kind of you know, things got so rough for him and I guess he kind of broke down a little bit, you know, lost his self for a while. He’d just walk around, you know. And he’s come back, he’s come back. After years, he’s come back in the last five or six years, he’s come back to his self. But he was our chairman at the time. Think we were about sixteen guys strong and we had a little dance troupe called the Liberation Players. A group of teenage dancers who did African… A guy named Shinny and Lorenzo who taught skit and dances. African skits and dances. Both of them were homosexuals by the way. But they were good soldiers had a real good perspective on life. Never tried to bring their lifestyle to the kids and they were real, real good soldiers. And last time we went anywhere, we went to Selma. Hank Sanders and Rose Sanders invited us to Selma and we took the kids there to perform. I guess it was like ’75 or ’76 something like that. You know. And then we moved from… That’s when the incident we talking about the police begin to happen. You know the hangings and it was me. One of the officers had beat up Dino, had beat up Dino’s daddy. Dino was sergeant-at-arms in the organization and he kept the order in the meetings and they had beat up Dino’s dad real bad and the officer’s name was Roy Adams. So we got a petition together to have Roy Adams moved off Davis Avenue. So we took the petition down, had him transferred somewhere else. And this night in question, he stopped Secu and I and my oldest girl, she was like about three months at the time and her mom. They’ve since moved to Chicago. They lived in Chicago since that point to now, pretty much, you know other than coming down here to visit during the summer time. But Roy Adams stopped us that night. When he saw us he stopped “Uh, huh. What y’all doing over here?” “Minding our own business.” One word lead to another, you know. And he started trying to get rough you know so. One thing lead to another you know. … so I ran that way, Secu ran that way. And we were thinking like, he just gone about his business, you know. One of those incidents. But before we knowed anything, they had kind of like cornered off the entire area like they are really looking for some killers, you know. Somebody who had some murder cases and so they eventually found me in one of the vacant buildings.

Jackson: Where was that at?

Mani: Right behind Conti Street. The street that runs behind McDonalds. I think we were like two blocks down from McDonalds. We had went to visit, Barbara, my oldest girl’s mother brother was at in Louisiana at one of the colleges then and he played baseball and he was here. And he was staying with one of their kin people who lived down in that general area and we had just left their house. And the… we was in her daddy’s Chevrolet, a beige Chevrolet, an old Chevrolet. We always had trouble with the battery. The cable in it was loose. And we were trying to get a jump off, that’s what it was, we were trying to get a jump off when he pulled up. Yeah, what’s the problem? Need a jump off. And that’s how one thing lead to another. You know. And so he brought us. He took Secu back to the car. And they took me to a tree. Now the car is like, the tree is like parallel to the car like a “L”. They’re parked in front of the sidewalk sort of and the tree is like right here. So they can see what’s going on. And the guy said, “Niggers like you don’t live in this neighborhood. And get a tree, get a rope and let’s hang this nigger.” And I'm just thanking he was just talking you know. And we need all nigger babies to the alligators. You know. And they took me and walked me to the tree away from the car. The boy came back with a rope man wit a noose already in it. They threw it up in the tree and I’m talking noise you know. I guess I was making em more angry ‘cause I’m talking noise, like I got a army too, you know. And threw the rope in the tree and took the rope around my neck, two or three of em holding me like this, handcuffs behind my back and to the point where I’m on my tiptoes. And I could feel it cutting my air circulation off. And then everything got quiet and my daughter’s momma said plain clothed detectives had came on the scene. And pretty much told him, we’n hanging niggers tonight. Take em on down and book em for robbery. And they took Secu and I down and put us in a line up and they picked me out. Now he and I were supposed to had committed robbery together but three nights ago, four nights before this incident and they picked me out and didn’t pick him out. And but I was the only one in the lineup that had blood, had blood all over me from where they, I don’t know, I think I had on Black and white shirt, it was white in the front. You know, and I had dirt all in my hair from being up under the house, you know. And so I looked like somebody who had just been apprehended to make a long story short. And so he had, they got the manager to say it was me but they couldn’t get the assistant manager and one of the workers to say it was me. You know. So, they had the white manager to say it was me but the white assistant manager and the Black worker said it wasn’t me.

Jackson: What store was that they said you robbed?

Mani: It was a Church’s, it was a Hart’s Chicken on Dauphin Island Parkway. You know. And so I called the lawyer who was representing our organization at that time. His name was Clinton Brown. And I called Clinton …. I said, “and they tried to hang me man.” “Come on kids man, come on now. I said, come down here, you’ll see rope burns around my neck.” Clinton came down and he saw rope burns around my neck and then things begin to snowball from there. He contacted the FBI. Told the FBI he had seen the rope burns around my neck, the FBI came, saw it for themselves, they investigated the police vehicles that was on the scene that night. And found the rope still in the trunk of the patrolmen car. And when the found the rope in Officer Brown, one of the young officers, he just rolled over and started telling on everybody. From that they wind up indicted five of the officers, Wilbur Williams who ran for sheriff here recently, Vernon Strong, it’s been a long time since I… But those two names always stick in my head. Ronnie Patrick who took the fall. He was a fall guy. They said, he was the one who put the rope around my neck. And he was the only one who wind up getting kicked off the force. The rest of the guys wind up being promoted and moved up in ranks. They threw the charge out against me. We sued the city, you know, punitive damages. And about three years later, I think we settled for something like about 65, $75000, somewhere in the neighborhood. But all those guys are still on the force except Patrick. Patrick took the weight said he was the one who initiated everything. It was his idea. Charlie Braddick was district attorney then. I thought he was their attorney. The district attorney. And he got in there and ramped and raved about the officers are really good officers. Guys are playing dual roles or something. First he told my lawyer to tell me I shouldn’t come to court dressed so clean. We wear a shirt and tie everyday. I said, “Why?” I got to impress and they want me to come looking like a thug rather than coming looking like somebody with intelligence, you know. Not necessarily a shirt and tie give you that intelligent look but you can recognize uniforms. Police uniforms, shirt and tie is uniform. Anyway the guys got exonerated. All of them got exonerated. And I think they disciplined Patrick, they kicked him off the force. So, we moved Community Hall from the Avenue after they bought that property and we moved it to Hiway 45 right across from Moody’s restaurant. Nick Solomon had a TV repair shop there.

Original Format

VHS

Duration

8 min 25 sec
10 min 49 sec

Files

Citation

National African American Archives & Museum, and Museum of Mobile, “Casmarah Mani Interview Clips,” Mobile Public Library Digital Collections, accessed August 24, 2019, http://digital.mobilepubliclibrary.org/items/show/2416.

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