Alma Carroll: Life Is Beautiful

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[Profile Of Life-long Activist]

"It can't come out of you, if it ain't in you."

These are the words Ms. Carroll’s grandfather said to her when she was a little girl. The words guide her as she remains active in her community.

Ms. Alma Carroll, 84 years young and a long time resident of Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn for 56 years, has dedicated her life to serving others in her community. She has been a volunteer with the Bedford Stuyvesant Interagency Council of the Aging for over 30 years and has served as president since 1991.

She gave tours of the Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights areas in Brooklyn and would tell her tourists "See the gems in the golden ghettos." She marched with Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. during job protests when people of African descent could not work on 125th Street in Harlem in the 1960s.

She is a founding member of the Magnolia Tree Earth Center, an environmental and cultural institution in Brooklyn. Ms. Carroll also found the time to be a Girl Scout leader and ran a camp in Upstate New York for 25 children on a hill with only herself and one other assistant.

"I’ve been historical from the day I was born and I’m still wrapped up in my community," she says.

What are some of the life lessons she has learned in interacting with people? "My children used to say, 'my mama never meets a stranger. My mama always meets a friend,'" she tells me.

She was born liking people. There are different strokes for different folks, different days, and different times, she says. She has learned to accept people as they are and enjoys helping them. She grew up as only child and has no problem being with others or by herself.

Ms. Carroll is proud of what she has contributed and at the same time disappointed that people are not carrying on the platform that was laid out in the 1960’s. African American communities are not upholding established organizations, she believes. "We’re not proud of ourselves because we don’t know ourselves," she tells me.

She says there are three to four generations that don’t appreciate the struggle of African people. Ms. Carroll has encouraged younger generations to take leadership positions rather than to constantly complain.

She believes that self-pride is very important and even takes issue with terms such as "Black people." As she explains: "We are mentally stuck in using the term black but when you use the term black, it has no connection to a place".

When she hears the word black she thinks of Africa and would rather call herself an African; we need to dwell on being African and not black, she says.

Even the election of President Barack Obama needs to be placed in perspective, Ms. Carroll says. "He came out of a white woman and only has his father’s seed in him. We’re saying he’s our Black president, but I remember when we said Clinton was our Black president," she says.

Ms. Carroll believes African Americans are in the power seat now and that we’re not supposed to be looking to President Obama to do anything for us. The main obstacle is that we’re on a "mental plantation" she says. "No massa is going to change and be benevolent to his slaves," she says, bluntly.

"We’re not thinking about if Obama is a one term president and how this will impact us. Are we thinking about who will be president in 2012 if Obama doesn’t win? If we’re not happy with Obama, what is the alternative? What do you contribute to where you live? What are you contributing to this life time?"

Ms. Carroll has done her fair share of contributing to this life time and has numerous awards as testament. This year, adding to her laurels, on March 24, she was honored at the International Women’s Month Celebration for her commitment to the Bedford Stuyvesant Interagency Council of the Aging. She retired from her position as president after 30 years.

Ms. Carroll was born December 16, 1925, in Asheville, N.C. She dedicated her life to being a community activist, wife and mother. She was married to world renowned jazz singer, Joe Carroll and they founded the Jazzpazazz Preservation Society before his death.

Ms. Carroll has three children, Elliott, Loyce and Juanita; three grandchildren, Loyce Melodee, Danier, and Divon; and, two great grandchildren, Jazmin and Daniel Jr. "I want to live to 100 with clarity and no dementia," she tells me.

She is well on her way.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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