Gary Roberts, born in 1963, grew up in the Burgess Hill community where his aunt, Marie Christopher, and her husband raised him. He graduated from Nacogdoches High School in 1981 where he succeeded as a musician and artist. Roberts is currently working on several projects with his church and community while balancing a job and family.
The interview, conducted by Aaron Marsh, took place on June 26, 2010, in the Ralph W. Steen Library at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.
MARSH: It's all yours. Yes, the date is June 29, 2010 this is Aaron Marsh, I am interviewing Mr. Gary Roberts at the Ralph W. Steen Library on the Nacogdoches SFA [Stephen F. Austin State University] campus for the African American Heritage Project [AAHP] gathering information on the integration and just the basic communities about the African American population in Nac [Nacogdoches] that have contributed to Nacogdoches.
So Mr. Roberts, what was your neighborhood like growing up. Can you explain it please?
ROBERTS: It was pretty carefree, for us being kids. We had, I mean we played, I mean, it wasn't we weren't allowed to hang around a lot grown folk when they were talking, they would always shoo us away. But, I mean, we just went out and played in the dark and we were called to the house and we just had fun. I mean, it was, it is not like it is today, I mean with the kids are involved in the gangs and all this stuff it was just carefree. I mean, we didn't have to worry a lot about, you know, the violence, if somebody got in a fight it was just a fistfight, it wasn't no gun no stadium, oh I'm coming back, better not be here when I come back. It wasn't none of that, you know we got into it, we fought and we were friends the same day.
MARSH: What was your typical day of school like before integration?
ROBERTS: Before integration.
MARSH: Yes sir.
ROBERTS: Well, I wasn't too much involved with that, because like I said I graduated in '81, elementary school, it was, you know, White, Black Hispanic children, and I was real quiet. You know as a little boy. Very quiet, and especially in school. 'Cause in the third grade I had a hearing issue, hearing problem, um that was the reason my mother made, had them to keep me in the third grade, so I repeated the third grade for two years, because of my hearing problem, and after I got that fixed, then I went on.
MARSH: Once integration happened, did you see any changes in your neighborhood? About '70, '71, integration of high school because of the older kids in your neighborhood. Maybe, did you see a change in their attitudes, personalities, or just your neighborhood in general?
ROBERTS: No, I didn't see any changes, because we were raised up on Burgess Hill, in the Burgess Hill community, and that was pretty much, you know, all Black. So that was we didn't see much of a change, you know, just us. We went to school together, we rode the bus together, you know, as Blacks. And we didn't see a lot of, you know, I didn't know anything, too much of anything, especially elementary, I didn't know that much about as forced-integration. I just knew the kids we went to school with. They were White kids, Black and Hispanic kids.
MARSH: Once you got to the high school, did any of your friends change the way they saw things once they found out or you found out about how they mixed the two schools, the E. J. Campbell School and Nac High?
ROBERTS: I know, I remember back, when we went to elementary, for like sixth and seventh grade. They bussed us for P. E. over to the, E. J. Campbell on Shawnee. I remember going there to um, for P. E. I mean we had the shower, we walked up the hill, on the playground and stuff that is what we had. As far as the high school, one thing I noticed were, was the kind of you know, made me take notice was when we had lunch. You know, all the Black kids sit together, all the White kids sit together. During lunch.
MARSH: When did that end?
ROBERTS: Kind of a social thing. You know pretty much that was throughout high school for me. You know, I remember, you know, yeah, that was pretty much throughout high school. It was just the thing we did.
MARSH: Nice. Also, once you graduated high school and you went off to, what did you decide to do and why?
ROBERTS: My objective as far, when I graduating high school, my thing was to go into the military.
MARSH: What Branch?
ROBERTS: Army. But, that is when I found out when I tried to go, I got married, and I went to the MEPS [Military Entrance Processing Station] down in Houston and that is when they found out about my kidneys. I had a kidney issue, a kidney problem, and I sat there in the bus station, I know for three or four hours waiting for them to come back, they stopped me from doing my physical after they found out. They found what they call a high protein content in my urine and they stopped the whole process for going through the military. I had to come back home and I had to go to Dallas to a nephrologists at Parkland hospital, and that is when they found I had what they call bumerinal nephrituis, and that pretty much stopped me.
MARSH: It said on your little profile that you did the bass, you played the bass. What drove you to actually play the bass guitar, where there any influences when you were a kid?
ROBERTS: Yeah. Well when I was, I used to, I have been singing for a long time. In high school I sung in a choir, the Nacogdoches IYC, the interdenominational youth choir. Back in high school a bunch of us kids we went and sung for the Governor of Texas, and to Austin, Governor Mark White, during his inauguration. The city paid for us a bus, it was a bunch of Black kids in a choir, singing for the Governor of Texas in his inauguration. Then from there we went to the State Fair, and I was very heavily into gospel music and I was part of a group, called the, what was that, been a long time, The Soul Revivalists. We just, we were kids in high school. And the guy that taught me bass, he was playing bass and I just sung background. I had what they call a falsetto voice, in a quartet. And, we had a bass player and, but he left, and then he showed me what they call a C rung on the bass guitar, you know just a [humming and fingers moving as air guitar], and that was it. And I pretty much kind of took it from, well, God taught me the rest. I put it like that. 'Cause I had no formal training, was self taught, and God blessed me with the rest, the ability to hear. I went on, I kept learning a lot of people, because of my voice, it was so high, people thought I was kind of funny or gay but it was just the way I sung, my voice. But I didn't let that stop me. I kept going, and, like I said, God has blessed me musically, you know, we did talent shows in high school and I played bass there, it was just a lot of things. What really influenced me to play bass was, you know, a lot of people that I was hearing, um like Stanley Clark, some local bass players, Kenneth Ross, he was the one that taught me the C rung, and just other bass players that I knew. Back then it was eight track, and cassettes. And I just kind of took it from them, 'cause I wanted to stay in the gospel field. Like I said, I went, we in the high school we sung in talent shows and a lot of times we won first or second place. But it just, you know the influence of bass, you know, I could have gotten out there and went R & B, but my heart was in gospel music so that is where I stayed.
MARSH: Did you travel anywhere else with your band?
ROBERTS: Oh yes! We went to, we went to Dallas, as the years went on, we opened up for The Gospel Key Notes, The William Brothers, Yolanda Adams, and just a lot of people.
MARSH: That's a lot of good names sir.
ROBERTS: I played for different quartets. I used to drive from here all the way to Crockett to rehearse on a Friday night and then go back on Saturday night to go somewhere Houston or Huntsville, you know wherever, we had to go sing, and I was playing bass for them, they were called the Crockett All Stars, a gospel group, a quartet that is my heart. And just, God has blessed me just to go a lot of places and see things I have never though I have seen before.
MARSH: That's awesome! In your travels, did you see any other stuff, maybe West Texas, Midland, did you see any problems with you being an African American gospel group. Did you have any problems from anybody that weren't African American while you were singing, or was it just the artistic ability just conquers all?
ROBERTS: It was just, I think, I didn't have any problems with anybody 'cause I am a person, I don't like sitting in the back, even today, I can't sit in the back, I got to go to the front. And my wife gets on me like that. I can't sit in the back. I got to go up front, to the front row. That has just been my thing. When I know people who are prejudice against me, or I can feel or sense that they are prejudice against me I will go out of my way to make them speak to me. That is just the drive that I have. You know, I am not going to accept prejudice, I am just not going to do it, I am going to address it, because it's just me, it's within me. You know, I love people. I'm just, not going to let prejudice, because I got a bunch of White friends Hispanic friends. I just love people. And I love them, from the heart. And not just, you know, just 'cause people. That's just who I am.
MARSH: Nice. Growing up, did you travel much around Nac see different parts of Nacogdoches and if you did, how did that affect you?
ROBERTS: Well, going to like Appleby area, Appleby Sand Road, we knew that's where all the White people lived. And it had all the nice homes and stuff, and where the good pool was, but like I said, I went there too. You know, I am not going just because, you know, it is in their community I am not going to go to it, 'cause I went to the swimming pools, you know, just because it was there instead of going to the White / Black Temple pool, we went there too, but we went to Maloney as well.
MARSH: Did integration affect your parents in any way or anybody in your community; did they come out and talk about it or mention it to your parents?
ROBERTS: My parents weren't really involved in a lot of things socially, they would just to themselves, work hard, taught us how to work hard, the importance of getting a good job and just working and being the best you can be. You know 'cause, see, I was raised by my aunt, my real mother passed when I was three years old, well she gave me, well let's go back. When I was three, my mom sent me to live, my real mom, sent me to live with my dad's people. And I was passed kind of passed around and I ended up with my dad's aunt, well my dad's sister, Marie Christopher, at the age of three. They said when I came to her that you could count my ribs, and she has some old, she still got some shoes that I wore at the age of three when I came to her, and they were flat and had holes in them. But, she took me in and took me to Dallas, and that's where I went to school and came back after my grandfather passed, well he got sickly, and then that's when she, we came back from Dallas, so it's just. My mom passed when I was fifteen years old.
MARSH: Sorry to hear that.
ROBERTS: Yeah, I watched her die in Memorial Hospital room two hundred, second floor, big bed beat, I'll never forget it. I watched her draw her last breath, and she was calling out to my older sister, Tony, that was her last breath. And, I questioned God, "Why did you take my mama, I needed her?" But, you know, I didn't know a whole lot about her, because like I said I lived with my dad from the age of three, and I would just go over to my mothers, house like on weekends for when we did back here. So until this day I always, I had a complex 'till like I was twenty-nine years old, 'cause she sent me to live with my dad's people, but she kept my brother and my other three sisters. And I had a complex about that, why did she send me to live with them, but she kept my other brother and sisters. It was not until I was twenty-nine years old, I was attending a workshop, a conference in Austin, that I, that it really just came out, my mother loved me because she had that foresight, because she knew, because she could see I was going to have a better life with my dad's people and I did. I was able to do more things, go places, financially, and I was doing better for me, and after my mom passed, my brother, only brother, and two of my sisters came to live with us and they got an opportunity to get things and do stuff, that they didn't do. I'm not sayin' my mom couldn't provide for them, but she was at the time, when I was small she wasn't working. And so she died of cancer, she was real sickly, you know, during my teen years. And, it was hard, but now I realize and understand why because she knew I was going to have a better life.
MARSH: Did that bring you closer to God do you think?
ROBERTS: Yeah? Yeah, in knowing because, as kids we went, we were, my mom didn't, well my aunt, but she's my mom to me, because she had since I was three, I call her mom, now she didn't take us to church, she sent us to church. But she didn't go herself, my stepfather didn't either. And it was just, you know we went, me and a lot of my friends we went to Mt. Moriah Baptist Church up on the hill, and that's where we went to church. You know one, because of the girls were there, like most teens do, we would go to church because we see girls there. I had my share of that. And ended up getting a young lady pregnant at the age of twenty-one um, but it happened and it helped me, and I always tell my daughter all the time you helped me to grow up, twenty-one years old and I was out there doing what I wanted to do, but when she came into my life I had to stop, I had to take perspective, because I'd see other of my friends have, have children and they not take the time, but always, my daughter can never say I was never there. Because I was the one who took all the work to take her to the doctor, I got her when she was three months old, because her mother was on drugs.
MARSH: I hate to hear that.
ROBERTS: Yeah, like I said, I tried to get her, to spend time with her, she just, she wouldn't. The drugs had her, but like I said, I felt like I didn't want another man to take care of my responsibilities, so I had to man up and do what I needed to do for raising my child. With the help from my mom and my family, she's twenty-seven years old now.
MARSH: Do you have any grandkids yet?
ROBERTS: Yes! A little six year old. She's one. Only one [laughter]. Her name is Jamia.
MARSH: Is she a handful?
ROBERTS: Oh yeah, that's my heart, that's my heart. Because, one thing that, when my daughter was born, one thing I always wanted to do, I wanted to hold my child and be there when my child was born, 'cause see, her mother didn't give me that opportunity, after she got pregnant, she went to Houston, and didn't tell me she was pregnant. I did not know until like two weeks after she had her, she came back to Nacogdoches. And a lot of people started telling me, Gary she sure look like you. And one day I approached her on it and she told me nah it wasn't my baby it was a guy named George in Houston. "Okay." She called me one night to go get her some pampers, so, I asked her, and later on that night she called me and asked me, "Gary how well do you like Ashley?" "I like her okay." She was on the phone a long time and said she's yours. I was speechless, but after I found out she was mine, I had to man up.
MARSH: Did you have a hard time finding employment in Nacogdoches or were there jobs around.
ROBERTS: Yeah I had jobs. My first job was The Hot Biscuit on South Street, on North Street. I worked there in high school, but I didn't have any problems finding jobs. As a matter of fact, I worked here, in this library. Because that's where my mom worked. And she got, I was able to get on, matter of fact working these floors in this library. I worked here almost nine, ten years right out of high school.
MARSH: What are you doing now besides playing the bass with your little gospel band?
ROBERTS: I am a prevention case manager, what they call a C-R-C-S, comprehensive risk counseling services. Basically it is prevention case management. I work with individuals who are high risk of getting HIV, also those who are living with HIV, trying to help them reduce the risk of getting re-infected, and it's a challenge, it's a challenge but it's rewarding. Especially when you see people who are doing right, doing what you are trying to get them to do, and that is all of harm or risk reduction, so it makes a challenge. But like I said, right now, I'm just kinda at this stage a little burnt out. 'Cause I give so much of myself to this job, to this position. But, Monday through Wednesday, Thursday, on Friday, I am on fumes, 'cause I give so much of myself and that is something I am trying to work on, but it is because my love for people and wanting them to do what is right, and it kind of takes a toll on me.
MARSH: So your dad's family when you were growing up, ya'll live in the same neighborhood or move any or stay in the same spot?
ROBERTS: No, we stayed in the same, uh, I was raised on Burgess Hill, that's where we all stayed, my dad was there, my aunt, my mom stayed on the east side with my brother and my sisters. But we would all, all go over there on the weekends, some weekends and just had a blast.
MARSH: What did you do at your moms on the weekends?
ROBERTS: We played. My mother [chuckles] she would run up around the yard, I mean wrestle with us, I mean a lot of times I remember, going, she putting us to bed and her and my aunt would go out on the porch, they had a screened in porch over on Railroad Street, and I remember some nights waking up going out there and they'd be sitting on the porch talking, drinking cokes. That was their thing. So, I remember that very vividly. And so, that was my mother. She could draw, I mean, my mother could draw houses and stuff, and one thing I noticed was that happened, 'cause I used to draw stick people, but it seemed like after my mom passed away at the age of fifteen, that's when art came to me. Because I was in high school they voted me most talented in high school, to, and drawing. I had one of my drawings, Mr. Reed was our, our art teacher, I had one of my drawings put in the Art Club calendar, 1981 calendar, I got that picture in my office now. We went on like I said doing a lot of stuff. God blessed me with three things to do and that's singing, playing bass guitar, and art, and that's what I am going to do. It is just a part of me. It seems like there's not enough time in the day to do it all, but you know God has really blessed me to do, I have done murals for churches, since I have been doing art, I mean churches, businesses, doctor offices, and stuff like that, support the art. It's just in me.
MARSH: That's awesome! Do you think that Nacogdoches successfully, from what you have seen, do you think Nacogdoches has successfully integrated or are there still parts that are not comfortable with it? [Background noises.]
ROBERTS: Any city, there's going to be parts that's still not comfortable with integration or quote, Blacks or other minorities moving in and vice versa even in Black communities. I mean, but you know, I think it's more tolerated than if you live in a White community, because you have a lot of Hispanics and Whites moving into the Black community and that is part of it. You still don't see, you have to be, 'cause I know, my, up here in Waterford, my supervisor, or my executive director, he had some confrontation when he moved to Waterford. I think he's, he might be the only Black that I know in Waterford. That I know. And when talking with him, he did, there was some resistance in him moving up there when he came back here from Virginia where he retired from the state, he up there and he's not going anywhere. Like I said, you still have those pockets, any city you go to or town, you are still going to have those pockets. But when you, how you see integration or segregation, it's in the mind, I mean if you can't accept. I mean, like I said, we have to accept each other, 'cause we can't, we've got to, even when we I know there have been times, I know one particular church, I think I'd been the only White, I mean Black, that sung at that church, I mean it's just strange to me to still have that happening. I don't care where it is, if someone asks me to come sing I don't care what church it is, Hispanic church, whatever, I'm coming. Because I just want to share the gifts that God has blessed me with, with anybody that want it. I'm not saying I'm all that 'cause I'm not. I just want to be a servant. God has given me things to do, and that is all I want to do is his will in my life because I can't speak for anybody else, all I can do is speak for me. What God has given me is the ability, you know to bless people, and one of the things, I have adopted a motto for my life and it is one of a part of Dr. King's drum major instincts speech and it is just an excerpt from that, and it simply says: "As I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with the word of song, if I can show somebody who is traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain, if I can do my duty as a Christian ought, and I can spread the message as the master taught, then my living will not be in vain." I want my life to mean something. You know, there's a man in The Bible, named Methuselah, the oldest man in The Bible. All it said is Methuselah he lived nine hundred something years old he had some kids and that was it. What did he do, I want my life to have meaning, I want to be able say, he, like Dr. King he tried, he tried, he might not have succeeded every time, but he tried. I just want to use what God has blessed me with to hopefully bring some people together. That's what it's all about.
MARSH: What is your favorite verse in The Bible and your favorite book? [Laughter.]
ROBERTS: My favorite is Proverbs 3:5 [3:5-7]: "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and not thy own understanding, and all thy ways acknowledge and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes, fear the Lord and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones."
MARSH: So is Proverbs your favorite book?
ROBERTS: That and, John and Revelation. The Revelation has, it's scary, but it's so important that people read it. You know, I was reading it this morning, you know, I mean the twenty-first chapter, about how God, God himself [fingers thumping on table], you know, when New Jerusalem comes, he's gonna, God himself is going to be there, God himself. I want my name in the book, in that twentieth chapter.
MARSH: My favorites are Psalms and Proverbs.
MARSH: I love them.
ROBERTS: Yeah! Yeah! Psalms of David. Yeah, awesome books. Like I said, we just got to, I mean it's just . . . what concerns me now, especially about our young people, is they are getting away from God, and they are seeking other things for gratification.
ROBERTS: Other things, yeah! You know the rapper and all this other stuff. Michael Jackson, you know, it's like he, they worship him like God, and I was hearing when he passed, that there were people out there literally killing themselves, committing suicide 'cause he passed. Nah, he's just a man, you know, I loved him too, I grew up on his music too. He will be missed, you know, but I just hope he was ready, you know, to die, because we all got to be ready.
MARSH: What do you think Nacogdoches can do to help the African American community better understand things and to better help out and to benefit just Nac in general?
ROBERTS: Well I don't think, it's not much the White community can do, I think it's got to start from within our community, the Black community, 'cause I said it for years, we have to get rid of this crab in the bucket mentality. Said it for years. I mean nobody wants to see somebody else pull up, 'cause you know, I use the analogy of that, the crab in the bucket mentality for this, okay, you got a bunch of crab in a bucket, one gets up there and they pull him back down, that's in our community, our Black community. But we fail to realize that, okay one get on that bucket, on the rim of that bucket, okay, that's somebody up there, reach down, pull somebody else, that's two people up there, and so on and so on, and we keep that mentality that we got to help somebody rise up out of this. To get out of this situation, we all can get out of it, but it has got to start within our community. You know, we can't have this mentality the White man owes me. The White man don't owe you nothing, this, this forty acres and a mule stuff, no. We owe it to ourselves to be better, as a community, we don't have to see, I mean everywhere I have gone. God has blessed me to go to a lot of places, you know where the, where the Blacks live. It doesn't have to be that way. It does not have to be that way. It does not have to be junk cars in the hood as they say, and, tennis shoes on the wire, it don't have to be that way. It's got to start within us, you know, we got to to get out of this mentality, "oh I'm Black and I'm not going to be able to be nothing." That is a lie. You know, if somebody else can do it, you can do it to, but it starts from within our community, and most of all within us, individuals, as people 'cause we are a proud race of people, but we don't see that. All we see is "White man gonna hold me down, I can't get no job", No. You know, you are afforded the same opportunities. It's just up to you to go get it.
MARSH: What are some ways you think communities can help, um, help them get out of the rut you think they are in.
ROBERTS: Well like I said, well, even in the drug thing, and that's a big factor in our community. We all know that White, Blacks, well, Blacks don't have no ships, don't have no planes to bring this stuff over here. We know where it is coming from, but like I said, put it in our community, they wash their hands of it, then our kids are going to get caught up in it, and serving time for it. For what, bling bling. And they see lucrative money. I taught a guy, and I tried to help guys that you know, what, how can I, what makes you think I want to go to McDonald's and make minimum wage, where I can go out in the streets and make a thousand dollars in one night. How can we compete with that, and our young people are drawn into that. And see, that's what they see, "I'm gonna go get mine," they want it right now, and you got a lot of these kids they can't read a book, but they can rap. You got a lot of kids. I mean they're smart, but they want to do negative stuff with it. I mean smart kids, but they choose, that choice that they make. You know so many times, especially in the church, and I have challenged a lot of people, a lot of guys, especially men. 'Cause we had an organization back in the nineties called B. B. A. D. [Big Brothers Against Drugs], I was working with the Nacogdoches Community Coalition, and they would grant money, it was a five year grant, to come up with a program, a prevention program, for youth, I was a youth specialist, our, the objective was to start a program, then give them away to existing agencies or entities because it was just a five year grant it would be gone just after five years. We did that program, in the beginning, it was Big Brothers Against Drugs, B - B - A - D, Big Brothers Against Drugs, we adopted a local park on Burgess Hill, where I was raised, uh, that was the first park to be adopted through the Nacogdoches Recreation Adopt a Park program. It was a bunch of Black men, we trying to get Whites too, just men coming together, preachers, and, and we had family day at Ritchie Street Park, we started doing it, and we had, you know fun for the kids, we had a trailer we got from Lone Star, we had entertainment gospel music, we fed 'em, we had games, I mean that was awesome. And we even had a youth revival that we started putting on. We moved around to different churches once a year. And the last time we had it, I remember getting up at the end to have remarks, 'cause I was the founder of it, B. B. A. D., well, like I said, somebody got to do it. And I asked, if we got up, if we were to get out there in the street on a Friday night, and make a stand, you know, for our youth, who will stand with me or us. The whole church stood up. I never forgot that. So like I said, after that I got sick, on dialysis, had to go on dialysis.
MARSH: Did someone else take over?
ROBERTS: No. I tried to give it away, I tried I wanted it so bad not to stop, but I couldn't do it physically, so it pretty much just kind of dissolved. You know, we were looking at, people were calling me to start chapters over in like, San Augustine and other little small cities.
ROBERTS: Um hm, it was just me.
MARSH: Have you ever thought about getting in that and doing that again or trying with your church?
ROBERTS: Yes! It's in my heart now, to bring it back. I have talked with some of the guys and, we want to do it.
MARSH: Is everybody on board with it?
ROBERTS: Yeah, we're working on it now, we're trying to get some things, another thing we're doing, we were doing, we had a scholarship program.
MARSH: A scholarship program.
ROBERTS: Um hm, we sent, we given five hundred scholarships to young guys, a matter of fact, we had one of them came back, he went into the military after college and came back and thanked us. That was the most humbling experience for me. Humbling. But like I said, it just starts with one person, it's in me. I remember one time, I pushed myself so hard, at the family day thing, and I was on dialysis, and my legs literally quit working, they stopped working, I couldn't even walk. My guys came and picked me up, put me in my car and my wife took me home.
MARSH: Sounds like you are heavily involved in your community, and this program, did you travel, or these church days, did you travel to churches just around Nac [fingers thumping on table] or in neighboring places, like did you go to Garrison, did you go to Timpson, did you go over here to Cushing, did you go here did you go there?
ROBERTS: Yeah! Like I said a lot of what we were doing it was just local. Like is said, we got calls from people around wanting us to expand to those communities, but like I said at that time that's when I started getting sick, and I had ended up starting dialysis in '95.
MARSH: Do you still have those contacts from other communities?
ROBERTS: Yes. And like I said it is in me to do, and God has put it on my heart again, he has given me that drive back. But like is said, I'm so, I'm so, you know forward, I'm very heavily involved in my church, my job, keeps me on the go, I have nine counties I go to, and doing that, and then being involved so heavily in my church, I mean it's just not enough time to do it. And then trying to spend time with my wife, my daughter, my granddaughter, you know, I'm part of a big brother program, I haven't even had time to spend with them. You know, just kind of spread thin, but like I said, it's in me to do it, but I've got to find that person to be able to take this and just do it, let's make it happen. But, I still got contacts. And one thing that I am so grateful for, is that I have respect from other people in our community.
MARSH: That's everybody.
ROBERTS: I've been involved with Kiwanis, with the city.
MARSH: Lion's Club, everybody?
ROBERTS: Well, Kiwanis, and, you know, just different things, I was on the Big Brother Big Sister Program, that, to get it to Nacogdoches, but that kind of dissolved when, and I don't agree with it either, was to start allowing gay men, gays to become mentors, I don't agree with that. You know, I just couldn't. Their main office was in Lufkin, but I couldn't associate myself with that when they started that so I had to back off. I have been on a board, a lot of boards, different boards, and just being involved, I want to be a part, of, back in February I signed up. Because of my artistic ability, I want to recreate the history of the Black community on canvas. That's what I want to do with this part of this AAHP.
MARSH: Have you started that?
ROBERTS: I've gotten, I did a portrait and right now that portrait is downtown Nacogdoches, in the art on Main Street. So, I've been doing, like I said, I have no time to do it all, I don't have time to paint, it's in my head and it's in me. It's like having children, I've got to birth it, 'cause I got so much in me and I've been writing music, because a group, a gospel group called Men of Praise now, and were looking at doing a CD, and hopefully we'll get in the studio by the end of this year, 'cause a lot of people have asked us for CD's. Right now we just, we just trying, God has blessed me right now, he has given me about thirteen songs that I've written. It's just in me, the music is, like I said just, just having the time to do it all.
MARSH: Are you going to draw the community, buildings, people, everything from your childhood and present, or both?
ROBERTS: Childhood, just all in my mind and just, and I've been looking to go around talking with individuals, who were, some of the shops on Shawnee. I did a quilt, for the E. J. Campbell alumni.
ROBERTS: And it's, right now that quilt is hanging in Mr. Harlon Brooks, who owns the barbeque place.
MARSH: I know Mr. Harlon Brooks.
ROBERTS: Um, his house, it's hanging in his house. And then I got a, I did a painting of the E. J. Campbell building, over on Shawnee, I think that's in his house too.
MARSH: Have you ever been in touch with the African American Museum in Dallas.
MARSH: Some of the stuff that you are saying sounds like awesome, and since I have your address [fingers thumping on table] I would like to get you in touch with some of those people, maybe they can help you branch or maybe do other stuff.
MARSH: And maybe they can help you with things, what you are doing.
ROBERTS: I'd love it. I'd love it. 'Cause we're also, I'm also part of an organization called Art of Color. And that is myself and another awesome artist, as a matter of fact we have the same abilities, she sings, she plays the bass guitar, I mean she paints, she does sculpture, she does it all, you know, Karen Christopher. We started this about seven years ago, and we do a show down every year at Angelina College [A. C.] for the whole month of February, our work is just on display for the whole month of February, Black History Month, at A. C. And our objective is to, a lot of our young people, they doodle, you know like on paper, but they really, that's as far as they go with it. Back in the day I took, in particular, I took some kids, young people, artists, to the Art Institute of Houston to let them see, you can't go anywhere without you seeing art. And that is right here, let 'em know you have, that's a skill, that's a skill, and go with it you can make a career out of that, and that's what we're trying, that is our objective. One of our objectives but and then also to chronicle the African American community on canvas.
MARSH: That's called the Art of Color?
ROBERTS: The Art of Color.
MARSH: I just want to thank you for your time Mr. Roberts.
ROBERTS: Okay I appreciate you for having me.
MARSH: That is, that's great and wonderful. Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule.
ROBERTS: Yes, thank God. I appreciate you.