Al McFarlane: You come from a tradition of activism
Doris Slaughter Christopher: I started out in the 60s as an activist with the M.O.E.R (Mobilization of Economic Resources) Board,… Al McFarlane: You come from a tradition of activism
Doris Slaughter Christopher: I started out in the 60s as an activist with the M.O.E.R (Mobilization of Economic Resources) Board, Doug Hall, Edgar Pillows and John James. We did a lot of things in this community and I feel good about what we did.
AM: Your mother was Ione Brown, equally legendary. How did she participate in guiding the development of Minnesota in general, and the Black community in particular?
DS: She was my true inspiration, along with my father. Mother started “U Meet Us”. She decided that seniors citizens were at home and not participating in the community [and that] isolated seniors weren’t getting out at all. So, she started the “You Meet Us” senior citizen’s center. [Her’s] was the old, grassroots style of organizing. She made sure they had rides to the center.
AM: Where was the center?
DS: It started out [as] a 38th Street storefront, moved to Macedonia, then to Sabathani. She always made sure seniors felt good about themselves. She sort of used us younger women as servants, in a way, because she said, ‘We’re serving our community.’ She had us as drivers [and] serving meals to seniors. We acted [in] personal service. [Mother] had me cleaning this lady, Mrs. Flower’s, house. She had me going over on Saturday morning. Now, I had a family at home. She said, ‘Dorris you can go over there and help her because Mrs. Flower’s needs help.’ I would drive over there. I look back and say it taught me a lot about being compassionate for people. I have since [worked] with senior citizens at the Legal Aid Society. I was there 32 years.
AM: You had two worlds. A community that was insulated, other Black people, or people of color. Then, you had to operate in the other world. You had to be aware of when to turn it on and when to turn it off. It was second nature.
DS: Absolutely. I remember so many things about growing up. My parents taught us we must always be better. There was subtle racism. We didn’t have Jim Crow, but we knew.
AM: They had the lynching in Duluth.
DS: That was before I was born. My parents talked about it. The main focus there was racism and how to survive in that community we were in.
AM: How have you seen the community change over the years?
DS: In the 60s [I met] Matt Eubanks. Matt was a visionary, I can’t say enough about how he changed this community. He saw things that I think we all knew were here, but didn’t know how to change. He got us all started in change.
AM: You symbolize the spirit of community. You’ve made comments about your friends. When you think of Liz Samuels,, what first comes to mind?
DS: Liz is a person who can get people together. She’s always been encouraging to the community and is loyal to [a] fault.
AM: Bernadette Anderson.
DS: Benie is another dear friend. Loyal to the community. It takes people that will stick in for the long haul, the long fight. [And], as I mentioned, Matt Eubanks. Matt brought out the best. After the riots, Matt and I walked down Plymouth Avenue. He said, ‘Stay cool.’ That was his message to the brothers and sisters.
AM: What led to the riots?
DS: There was injustice. There is injustice today. Matt felt this community deserved much better than they were getting.
AM: I’m hearing you say that Matthew Eubanks put a different analysis on conditions; that the understanding he brought motivated us to take action, what we would call the movement.
DS: [He felt] there wasn’t anything we couldn’t change. He said if there is a need out there, we need to fill [it]. Teacher’s aid in the school, he was behind that. There was breakfast in the schools. He did a lot of things [that are] carried on today.
AM: What about Dr. Thomas Johnson?
DS: Oh, and Fra