Brenda Mapp and Ashley Mapp

Recorded September 19, 2009 Archived September 19, 2009 37:14 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: LMN001712


Brenda Mapp is interviewed by her daughter about her family, specifically her mother and how she raised Ashley.

Subject Log / Time Code

BM defines the idea of “home” and talks about members of her family.
BM describes her favorite moment, a cook out with family on July 4th.
BM remembers driving through Trenton, NJ with her mother during the riots after Martin Luther King’s assassination.
BM tells a story about her mother inspiring her to fight a neighborhood bully.
BM remembers when she got pregnant with AM.


  • Brenda Mapp
  • Ashley Mapp

Recording Location

StoryCorps Lower Manhattan Booth


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00:03 Hello, my name is Ashley and I keep a map and my age is I'm 19. And today's date is what date is it 2009. Where in New York, New York?

00:21 City and my relationship to my partner is my mom mommy go. My name is Brenda Matt Brenda. I am at my age is 52 today's date is September 19th. 2009 location is New York City Foley Square relationship is this is my daughter. I'm here with she's interviewing me.

00:47 Alright, thanks. I bet. All right. What does home mean to you Mommy?

00:54 I I saw that question earlier and the first thing came to my mind was home from The Wiz when I think of Home the song and that also that that tells a lot about about having love and affection at home and and safety and how your home is your castle and home to me should be a place where you can just take it easy and let it go and just be yourself. So that's what home is for me. Tell me about your parents. Tell me about Grandpa and Grandma.

01:33 My mother is Johnny may Max she was born to Victoria and John Thomas. She was born Johnnie Mae Thomas, March 11th.

01:47 1917

01:51 And she was born in Cordele, Georgia and her mother died. Victoria died at the age of seven.

02:03 Victoria

02:05 Died when my mother was 7 years old. So that made my mother like a super mother. She she made up for not having a mom. So she became such a great mom. And that's one of the things I want to talk about is how she raised us to be you're like really good people so

02:29 I think that's where it all began wherever when her mother died at 7. She had a stepmom later on and she began to

02:39 Not really, you know how they always say Your mother is your best friend and it more or less. She epitomizes that my mother was my best friend, and I know that tell me about your dad.

02:53 Well, my father is Robert Maps.

02:57 And he was the oldest child from Owen and Elizabeth.

03:03 Matt and

03:07 My father was a farmer and when they didn't have any crops or anything going on whenever the Depression hit he was a Pullman Porter and Washington DC. He left the family down and Cordele and he went away to work and he would send money home to feed close the family and take care of things. And you know, it was one of the things of pride in my family that our family that no matter how difficult times where they always took what they had and used it to the best of their ability.

03:50 So during that time, he was a Pullman Porter. He would just you know sending money back home and you know, my mother ran the house with the kids and to this Union Johnnie Mae Thomas and Robert map.

04:09 Were seven children born maybe I'm not like that loose stuff. So we just do it like this. Anyway, Robert map junior is the firstborn my sister Lizzie Mae. It's the second third is Louis Charles 4th and Ernestine delaura.

04:43 V is Betty Jean and then Ernestine the Laura and then me bring the Diane and my brother Johnny.

04:56 Okay.

04:59 Most liked your favorite memory from your childhood that you can remember of

05:08 One of my favorite memories was when we had a cookout on Fourth of July, and I guess I had to be I mean maybe

05:18 Five or six maybe maybe 5 or 6 years old. And so so Johnny was about 3, I imagine but we had to speak Cook-Out. Our relatives came from South and from the North Korea a lot of relatives from New York. Marry Lizzie and they all came down and our cousins and we got a chance to meet all the family and they came to our house and it was a choud cookout. We cooked like all day long people stayed over to the night. And when we lived in Trenton, we lived at 28 Hart Avenue, and it was just a shoot house with with magnificent wood.

06:05 Borders and all that sort of thing and wouldn't stretch big wooden French doors and all that sort things a cute ass wonderful house and we had a vacant lot next to our house. So everybody was just like everywhere and it was just so nice and your mom would always buy a nice little clothes and things like that. We have another short sets for a specific occasion and I have fond memories of low outfit that had low pink butterflies on it.

06:38 That would be one of my Fondest Memories tell me about one of the family reunions that you guys want to cuz I never been to one made me upset already with the dishes.

06:54 Well

06:57 We've always had like a networking system throughout our family where we would meet each other and introduce other people that we know or words related to so say for example

07:13 We found out through networking through my family and Matt family and Chicago that we were related to.

07:27 Elijah Muhammad, his original name was Elijah pool and and it was really crazy because

07:38 A family was like we don't like black Muslims and I was just like didn't really couldn't really believe it or wrap my head around the idea that this man Elijah pool when it gets the green. They I mean the family totally shunned him and he became Elijah Muhammad. We are related to like Elijah Muhammad, whatever, you know, he used to be the Nation of Islam Farrakhan runs it now but before Farrakhan Was Elijah Poole and he is our cousin we are lying and we found that out at Family reunions and all different kinds of people coming networking test tell information and and pass information along and so are some of the stuff let me see anything particular. Other than that, I can't think of anything other than that, but you know, we have such good times. The Phantom in Union is always a day with the first is always 4 days. The first day is like the Ori

08:38 Haitian people get together so I can meet and greet, you know, go back and forth to hospitality Suites. We had to 3 Hospitality Suites and second day usually like a Friday night fortnite get out of town or or not get out of town but or go out on the town type thing and then Saturday would be like a party nights and picnic it would be on Sunday and we have a Sunday church service and all all the events were run by members of the family. Like we didn't go out and find a minister to run the church service cuz we had one in the family at last count. Well a great your great-grandmother the stand now, but we have pictures whenever we had family reunions in Trenton where she was putting the paper she had over 300 great.

09:38 Grand kids bike 60 great great grandkids and like 40 or 25 great great grandkids, and it was just a huge. Well, not a huge picture but a nice nice picture in the paper and Grandmama was in the paper and all her grandchildren around her and some you know, it's always been a really big deal. They continue to have my don't know if they have in the last few years because the economy hasn't permitted for much, you know travel and Leisure type of activities and you know, I'll be able to spend money without too much.

10:21 Don't have any money to spend with you. Say it like that. I mean

10:26 Black Panther in the day

10:33 When I was with you when I was sending I think

10:38 Seventh grade

10:41 I was in 7th grade and Huey P Newton Bobby seale will all impressionable young black men at the time and they said pick up the guns and they didn't think that you know, black people caught a fair shake and you know, it was about Revolution try to change the world and at the time I was really impressionable and I take go through the motions of buying a newspaper sign a little paper and send it in all that sort of thing. And you know, I used to spout all these things about the revolution will not be televised and all that sort of thing and it was a time of my parrot. Where was my awareness my black awareness became more to the floor, but I became more aware and even in the sense of

11:33 Black history black is beautiful and and that sort of thing, you know, it was just like an Awakening because I felt like I felt like, you know

11:47 Racism what was the main?

11:52 You okay?

11:54 Racism was a main stifling factor for African-American. I seen Kennedy killed I'd say why does a king killed and you know, I have to kill Martin Luther King. Everybody got a little bit crazy. I wanted to talk about when

12:18 Martin Luther King was killed what happened in Trenton?

12:22 And how this reflects back to my mother too and have a great a woman she was

12:30 Martin Luther King was killed and the evening and night the next day and it's some cities that same night people went crazy started burning down buildings and busting out windows things like that. Needless to say we still went to school because it hadn't hit Trenton like with the ride and all that sort of thing. So has the word filter down all the way out to Trenton, New Jersey. Let's say

13:02 We found out they started riding in town. My my mother took me Johnny and Pam put us in the car. We had to go pick up my older sister Laura Ernestine and she was downtown in the center of town at Cathedral.

13:21 And it was such a scary time people was on every corner people were running out in the streets hat-trick scare people throwing bricks has sticks and an actual boards and stuff at houses on fire with a new white people live in that house is on fire and and my mother took her little Biscayne Chevrolet Biscayne and was just as nervous if she could be but she drove through his crown and it was it was a a car in front of us and have to have a white man driving a car and we actually witness these people snatch this man out this car beat the man down car with rolling down the street. They didn't even bother to stop the car. Just snatched man out in the car with rolling down the street and we saw a man go out into the crowd how people took them off into the crowd.

14:21 And mother my mother said oh my God, and she started praying. So needless to say she was really really nervous. She didn't know if they were going to that goes next week with the crowd moved in from East are quarters and from east side of street and she was like, oh my God, so we realized we would like okay for the moment cuz we were back and we went on down the street we picked up my sister and we quit back home and boy we stayed in that house after that. It was one of the times whenever you know, she just didn't worry about her safety or she's protecting her kids.

15:06 That's how great our mom I had.

15:12 What are you feeling and thinking I was I was in awe it was it was like you never act like yeah, it was it was it was mob mentality firsthand, you know, it was it was devastating. I was scared and I wasn't scared cuz I said I saw some people to Crown a new one. That's about 7th grade. I thought I knew some of the people with a crown but that was just such Reckless abandon that it was just horrible. It was just like, you know, this is the kind of thing that can go wrong real fast, you know, so I got scared but I mean I was also

15:53 Just just amazing how my mom handle it, you know being up from the south little lady. She was not scared. Well, you can tell she was scared you could know she was concerned I guess scared is not the right way to say it. But yeah, so it's amazing. What are you grateful to have Grandma? Yes, I couldn't have a better mother. She stuck by me all my life. Now. This is where I may cry.

16:22 Don't cry, then we won't talk about this.

16:34 Can you tell me how can you just describe your mother to she's about five five? She was about 180 lb she had a round face brown skin. She have brown eyes.

16:52 Turn light clips not real thick lips, like normal African-American people have stopped at the extended lips. She had a flat goes like my like my nose round face perfectly round face thin paper and eyebrows.

17:12 Long hair Indian Hair Repair real curly wavy hair

17:23 What was she like?

17:26 Always always compassionate always loving always supportive.

17:45 Well when she looked you up when I get back up talking to tell you different stories and I haven't thought about what about different stories that I thought about that I would tell with the one where she made me so I guess develop my character. She helped me to to get to where I should be.

18:04 We are we used to live in the city and we had to walk maybe eight or nine blocks to to school and every day. These kids would beat up my sister my older sister. She's 4 years older than me though that she was like a sixth grade and I was like a second grade and they would religiously beat her up and she would run home from school most days and I will run behind.

18:35 Needless to say she went to high school junior high and I guess I was in

18:45 For 5th grade at home from school one day and I came in the house and said Mama Mama or doesn't want to fight me. She's a big girl. She's 61. What may be one year older than me. My mother said she was a third grader high school. I was in 5th grade and this girl have to be in 6th grade. But anyway, anyway, I ran into house mama mama mama. She is six afraid. I don't want I want she said she said you ain't going to start this or do that. She said this is not in your character cuz I want you to go upstairs put on your put on your play clothes and you go outside. She said if you got to get a stick you better whoop her cuz if she whoop you I'm going to bring it here and imma whoop

19:45 I will walk over you somebody going to get a whooping and it's if it's

20:09 I beat the shit out that girl that girl fast cuz she came down there. Then we became best of friends going back and forth. But how could you live right around the corner? So I live like down in Hart Avenue in the middle of the block and she lived on Clinton Avenue around the corner in the middle of the block. So I had to go past the house to go to school at either way Gordon, So, you know, I had to see this girl. So my mother knew if I started running today it was going to be for the rest of your life like that. She's really smart.

20:50 Let's backtrack a little I want to talk about your childhood and how I know for a fact because you taught me you told me several stories how you used to be a little tomboy tell me about the some of the occurrences that you've had whenever you were younger. And if you ever got in trouble, what's the worst that you ever got in trouble doing mischief and what not?

21:14 I don't know but

21:17 Please do all kinds of stuff. I was crazy. I would do things like mixing powder with alcohol with turpentine experiment with stuff like that. And I can't recall offhand what their mom? Whoop me about but I know whatever she did. She used to make us go get out on the switch. We have to go get ice which I know if you got a small Switchback Atman see you after she said, oh you going to make me go get sweat time. So I got to go get to switch. So you had always pick a good Swiss because if she had to go get this wish she would get a longer dick. I have you at once you had always been something. I was mediocre maybe like maybe about I guess about 2 ft long at least something like that, please cuz if you didn't she went out and got one like 3 ft long like a yard at least I didn't beat You Til It's Gone But I'm a better person out of us. We didn't we didn't talk back. We didn't know we did what we had to do.

22:17 I wish she told us to stop when he stops.

22:20 It is all in the good people intelligent people to.

22:28 See you soon. Are we were little? Yes. She did. I remember I remember I cried cuz I had woke she would go look I guess you could say I was smart because I wasn't type of person. I knew if she knew I looked like I was upset now is really like I even if I wasn't like getting hit hard if I didn't act like I was half-dead she was stopped. So I would just like like act like a baby and I was just like a like a

23:05 I wish you liked me so upset because sometimes she would hide and I could not find her very small child. It just worried me that she would take it that serious that she thought and you don't sometimes you kids run away. So, you know, I stop beating up but I should have kept beating them because she talks back to me now very outspoken. No, I'm not. I'm not that bad anymore, but I used to I wasn't that bad of a child just like people let me

23:38 Do things even though you wouldn't let me I remember one of her grandma was like did you start my starting?

23:51 What's your Authority? She let her get away with things that she would never write write write write. Yeah, she was and the bad part about it was we lived at home with her and so she took care of me. So I read every day. I will go to work and I will leave her with my mom and forgot to take it there to a babysitter, but she she was so pampered and so I don't know if boiled I took her to a babysitter. She cried the entire day. So when I went back to pick her up, she stops took a breath and said she cried all day long when I took her home. She said past your past. My mother said I'll keep her I'll keep her so so I let her so I'm going to stay with my mom and she's got a lot of Tendencies from my mother likes you she acts like a older lady, you know, but it which is a good thing, you know somewhere he's and but for the most part she was a really a spoiled child.

24:51 Anything she wanted she got and how do we turn in? How do we turn this around and start talking about you? Every time I ask me a question then okay. What are you most proud of?

25:12 And why?

25:15 Think long and hard even though it's not that if I am most proud of

25:21 Intellectual Pursuits

25:23 I am very proud of my daughter. But personally personally I'm pleased with what I've accomplished. Although. I've had some backs, although I've had some with some some problems and

25:40 Take us to steps backwards. I still know a lot of things and I'm happy to be intelligent and to realize that it is an asset. Yeah, cuz I know a lot of people in our family especially Liz Grandma Grandpa didn't have an education. So whenever you went to school and made a very lasting impression on the rest of the family and everyone was very most people thought I wasn't as smart as I am. I think I'm kind of crazy cuz I'm outgoing and loud and outspoken and kind of crazy anyway, so and I go real Street real fast. So most people think I'm pretty much an idiot, but I'm not so, you know about college then cuz I'm going to enter college and you have experienced this tell me more of your experience. I think it's the best time of your life is the best time of your life. You get to expand your mind. You learn all sorts of Concepts and ideas.

26:40 Isn't it's just yes exactly and it in descendants of time where you can grow where you can develop as a person and write and and you need to take it very seriously because like I I wrote that I told you before this will determine your station in life how well you do in school. It's not something to take lightly or something to go in there and kick ass and take names and do the best you can and have your name to be one of the names that people throw around when they talk about people at this University Ashley mattman, you know, she graduated Seton Hall University in that's the way you need to approach it because I like I said, it's the most important thing you do in your life and you know, if you want to be somebody and I know you going to be somebody I've been telling you that since you three and you want to be somebody this is where it starts this we're really gets down to the brass tacks.

27:39 It's so you got to take it seriously because of that before in a lifetime repay.

27:46 Exactly

27:50 I'm going to steer the direction of the conversation a little bit need to talk a little louder. When did you find out you be a parent around out?

28:05 What you mean when I found out you want well, I mean, you know, I was going with your father Joseph holding Junior and we will use a really good person. Well, at least I thought it was and

28:23 I I I I told to him I don't know. What do you mean it was when we watch a Star Trek. But anyway, we will track it track if there's one thing we had in common and I told him I wanted to go to the doctor. He told me he would come the next day to take me to the doctor.

28:41 And I was 4 months pregnant. I figure out was around that time. He told me you were coming to the take you to take me to the doctor the next day and I haven't seen him since so needless to say that was when I found out that I was really pregnant and I'm excited and scared. What were you tell me your reaction was I was angry. I was angry because I didn't know that he was like a chameleon. I mean, you know, he was portraying himself as one way and he act another way. I mean, you know, I went to his apartment. He had moved out everything was gone within a span of two days gone. Goodbye. So I mean, you know, it was amazing and you know for a long time for a long time I looked for him.

29:37 Put a tire iron in the car. I mean pregnant with and I looked for him and I was trying to do some damage. But yeah, I didn't find a minute as a matter of fact, I went into labor the very next day because I have been out looking for him that night and I went into labor and Mom have went to church and Liz I went to church with Mama and I called Sunny and ISO Sun incessantly, I think it's time. I had all my bags packed and all that sort of thing and tell the water the water broke my oldest brother and my water has broke and sunny came down and pick me up and I remember it well because the Giants was in the playoffs and I was trying to see this giant game and going into labor and it was an unbelievable.

30:37 So tell me about the first time that you saw me.

30:44 Well, well, I thought that's where you were born. I was getting their cut me off.

30:52 All right, so so

30:55 I had to have a cesarean so I am.

31:00 They gave me this huge needle in my back and it absolutely took me out. I mean, I couldn't feel nothing like them weren't stomach down and they cut me over put it in your lower back and right in the sticky right in your spine. So so they cut me open. I can feel my skin being pulled and flipped over to the side really weird cuz it was a painful that I can feel the sensation of my skin. You're pulling away pulling away. They pulled you out. They took you out and then they cleaned you up a little bit and they packed up at you on the butt Newkirk screamed and they hand you to me, but some one store hours it tells about how your grandmother thought that you whenever you were really small that you were so content you never cried and then he's concerned mama mama.

32:00 You know this baby don't never cry but the reason why is because I always took care of you. Make sure you will never win. Make sure you was fed will always took care of you. I was always there with you. I live a tribute to that.

32:21 Me changed you.

32:24 Well

32:26 Before you was the Black Panther saying in the Revolutionary and really Reckless totally Reckless. And after I had you I became more sedate settled down not really settled down but less crazy and

32:50 I've started to help you develop as a little person and that's been my job since day one I met you and that's what I've tried to do before we end.

33:04 How do you want to be remembered?

33:09 I want to be remembered as I don't know why.

33:13 Therapist

33:15 To stay in school until I'm like 28.

33:20 Have enough money or anyting I might want to be a journalist cuz it was nice doing this is nice nice little experience. I never really interviewed anyone like this and but I want to be remembered as a strong person. I want to be remembered for a long time which is why I like most people they want to be famous. I want to be famous anymore. Cuz you're in the scrutiny of the public eye and do anything wrong and they'll hate you the next day and the next minute. I don't want to go through that but I do want to be reviewed is someone very powerful. I do want to be powerful not only because of the money cuz that does help but because I want the map name to go somewhere by saying that I haven't I just like her last name, I like our family and so I want to be remembered because to pass down before I get married to pass down like our lineage cuz I'm a girl who I wish I could keep my name.

34:20 Want to be seen as a strong individual and

34:26 Good person in person who care who tried to teach I even teach when I'm not in the classroom, I teach all the time will you know you can attest to that so I just want to be remembered as somebody who care somebody who tried to

34:48 I guess make the world a better place.

35:00 I've been okay. Alright, let's talk about something else then. I will I like to say I want to dedicate this to my mother Johnnie Mae rehab and Dad.

35:13 I don't have written down some things that I wanted to talk about and I never got to but that's okay. But I want to say that how she always always tried to do the best thing for everybody involved. She was a strong woman. She held our family together. She passed away on June 14th 2003 and we miss her still. I want the world to know that of a person. She was that she helped us develop as individuals. She let us know from the very beginning that education is the key to success. Why mother would have her come home from school. We come in we change our clothes we put on our political if we call him but it was just like little jeans and things and shorts and stuff and we come in and we do our homework first, but if we have any time,

36:13 Daylight left then we will go out and we could play but I homework was our number one priority when we came home and that's what I tried impressed with you and I want everybody that he is just taped to understand or realize or know that education is the key to success and to be intelligent does not mean to know all the answers means to know where to look to find the answers and I just want to say that I love you. I love you, too. I want to see David the people of the new listen to this.

36:53 And there are descendants. I want to say that I love them to we all do.

36:59 And they'll be wonderful people because we're wonderful people.

37:03 Okay. Thank you Ashley for inviting me here today. You are welcome mother.