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Demetria Shabazz

May 18, 2018


Hudson, NY


Recorded by

Jon Earle

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Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz is an activist and professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she teaches film, Afro-American studies, and community-engaged learning. At the time of the interview, she was a student at the Oral History Summer School.

In the interview, Demetria, who also goes by “Dee,” talks about growing up the youngest of three children in “idyllic” Galveston, Texas. Dee’s late father was a hardworking construction worker, and her mother—a “brilliant” lab assistant. Both had grown up on farms in southern Louisiana, and they taught their children “agrarian” work ethic. Dee remembers waking up early to do household chores. She and her older sister would sing as they worked, including church songs like “This Little Light of Mine,” which Dee performs on the recording. Dee’s deep love of music extends to country, zydeco, and other genres. Growing up on the Gulf Coast, Dee learned to love the water. “It’s like a beacon for me,” she says. But the water also brought devastation in the form of hurricanes, such as Hurricane Alicia (1983), which destroyed the hotel next to her Childhood home and forced her family to evacuate. Later in the interview, Dee talks at length about her two sons and husband. Of her 13-year-old son she jokes, “I’m just trying to survive him right now.” She describes him as courageous, a true ally, and somebody who feels very deeply. Dee’s older son is 6 feet 7 inches tall—a big man, like Dee’s father—but a “teddy bear.” He teaches electronic music at an after-school program. Dee met her husband when she was a non-traditional student and undergrad and he was a grad student. She tells the story of  how a “platonic cup of coffee” led to a lifelong partnership for which she feels tremendously fortunate.

This interview would be of interest to those who are curious about the African-American, and Afro-Creole cultural experience in the Gulf Region, especially as pertains to music, migration, and extended family networks.

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Interviewer Bio:
Jon Earle

Jon Earle is an independent radio producer based in Brooklyn, NY. He has produced for print, TV, and podcasts, with a special focus on the former Soviet Union. Jon is particularly interested in creative audio documentaries and family history. Born and raised in Weston, Connecticut, a suburb of New York City, he graduated from Williams College and spent several years living and working in Moscow, Russia.

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This interview is hereby made available for research purposes only. For additional uses (radio and other media, music, internet), please click here to inquire about permissions.

Part of this interview may be played in a radio broadcast or podcast.

Oral history is an iterative process. In keeping with oral history values of anti-fixity, interviewees will have an opportunity to add, annotate and reflect upon their lives and interviews in perpetuity. Talking back to the archive is a form of “shared authority.”

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