Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories

Reggie Garrett

December 08, 2020 Reggie Garrett Season 1 Episode 3
Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories
Reggie Garrett
Show Notes Transcript

In this special episode, Allison talks with PNW local and musician Reggie Garrett about his lifetime of work in the industry, history's influence on the image of black success, and what it means to him to challenge societal expectations.

Website: www.reggiegarrett.com

Reggie Garrett has been performing throughout the U.S. and Canada for a number of years. Based in Seattle, Washington he performs mostly original songs mixed with pop covers and more traditional style folk ballads. He is the purveyor of a unique urban strain of (mostly) acoustic music incorporating a number of diverse influences, including: Folk, Latin rhythms, Blues, Gospel, Celtic, Rock, Jazz and more. The result is a musical blend that has excited and touched audiences throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Take Notice w Reggie Garrett 



[00:01 – 05:18]

Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Welcome to ‘Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories’. Thank you for listening. I am your host Allison Preisinger-Heggins. We will begin as we have for the first couple of episodes by recognizing taking notice of the voices that are so often unheard. Land acknowledgement statements are an important part of honoring those whose land we now live and work on. I have chosen to begin each episode this way to spark ideas and keep these conversations in the front of our minds, so that we may learn how to do better. I would like to acknowledge the land on which I created this recording and the recording of the interview in this episode. I would like to show gratitude to the traditional ancestral land of the Tulalip, Snohomish, Stillaguamish, Sauk-Suiattle, Shoalwater Bay and Chinook tribes, recognizing that these names are not the original names of the peoples of these areas. As I continue to learn how to better acknowledge native peoples of these lands, I will adjust the wording of the beginning of each episode. 

I encourage listeners to research the land on which you live and are listening right now, recognizing this is just the beginning. We are excited to begin bringing you episodes on a regular basis, with this and one more episode this month, we will start up again every Tuesday in January with a new episode starting on January 5th. We appreciate your support so far and if you have enjoyed these conversations, it would really help us out if you shared or reviewed our podcast in your favorite podcast app. Another fantastic new show that we would like to highlight and encourage you to check out, is a show called Melanin Stories Matter, it is a show produced by story fruition, and they have released a couple of shows so far that you can find on their website. This live streaming storytelling program showcases the impact of racism on the everyday life of the bipod communities through individual true stories. 

We highly recommend checking them out and following. You can find them at melaninstoriesmatter.com or follow them on social media and they are at melanin stories matter. Last week I shared a bit about how this project began, another piece of this story of how this all came about is the acknowledgment that I will and have made mistakes in this project and in my journey of anti-racism, and that term even anti-racism and anti-racist was not even in my vocabulary until this year. It is not like how you learn to ride a bike and then you are done. Life, this is just a life long journey and everyday check-in and commitment to being open and learning and knowing that in my case, I will never know but can always be better and be a better accomplice. There are a couple of examples of what I would call mistakes in this very episode, maybe not massive mistakes but mistakes nonetheless and making mistakes feels different than it used to be, it used to feel to me. 

I used to avoid them as much as possible. It was wrong to make a mistake, and it made me a bad person or unworthy or incomplete and I do not really see it that way anymore. There are times when that old thinking still creeps in but I now recognize that mistakes are just a part of the process and how else does, like a kid learn how to walk or talk, they do not get it right away the first time or the second time or maybe millions of times after that, maybe not millions but these conversations are difficult for many reasons but one of them should not be being afraid of making mistakes. So, now I will own the mistakes that I make, when I make them, a mistake is not an excuse in itself. In my conversation with Reggie Garrett that you are about to hear, I feel like I reacted too strongly to a story he tells about an incident at an event that I am familiar with. It should not have been a surprise to me but at the moment it was, I was not expecting it, even though looking back I feel silly for my reaction. 

I now know something I did not before and I probably would not be surprised the next time I hear a story like that on a different level that is pretty unfortunate. But, I may not have gotten to that point, as a person of my background without making that mistake and reflecting on it. I may not have the understanding that I feel like I do now without that mistake. So, hopefully that makes sense and I am going to make mistakes in my choosing to record them, you are going to hear them, and hopefully it is helpful for you all to hear. Reggie Garrett is one of my very first guests that I had the honor to record back in September of this year. His generosity and ease of storytelling calmed my nerves and made my job really easy. So, Reggie Garrett is a fantastic musician with a beautiful voice and has been performing throughout the US and Canada for a number of years. Based in Seattle Washington, he performs mostly original songs, mixed with pop covers and more traditional style folk ballads with influences in Latin rhythms, blues, gospel, Celtic, rock and jazz. 

Stick around for after the interview for a bonus story, submitted by Mr. Garrett. Please enjoy my conversation with Reggie Garrett. 

[05:19 – 10:42]

Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Take Notice would like to take the time to acknowledge Black owned businesses, organizations and artists. If you have a suggestion of which we should highlight during our episodes, please find us on social media or visit our website. Take Notice would like to encourage listeners to follow and support the south Seattle Emerald. The South Seattle Emerald's mission is to amplify the authentic narratives of south Seattle; founded as a platform that authentically depicts the dynamic voices, culture, arts, ideas and businesses that fall within south Seattle’s borders. The Emerald is news as it was originally intended to be, not as business, nor as a forum for propaganda, but as a service to the community, it chronicles. Follow and support on social media and by visiting southseattleemerald.com. Well, hi Reggie, how are you? 


Reggie Garrett 

Alright! How are you doing? 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Good. Thanks for joining me on Take Notice. You are one of my first guests and so I am very appreciative of that. So, thank you very much. 


Reggie Garrett 

I am honored. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

I know you from the musician world in Seattle but if you want to just let our listeners know a bit about you, maybe where you grew up and anything you feel like sharing as far as your background that would be great. 


Reggie Garrett 

Okay. I guess I can give a quick little rundown. I was born and raised in Cincinnati Ohio that is where I grew up, went to high school there, graduated, left went to college at Williams College in Williamstown Massachusetts, got a bachelor's degree in fine arts, left there and went to Albany state university, and worked on a master's degree in painting, left there and moved to new york, moved to Brooklyn, I had a loft with a good friend of mine and did the starving artist bit for a while until we had starved a little too much and then I ended up somehow getting the job with IBM, which trained me to be a systems engineer for large computer systems, way back in the day, which still mystifies me to this day that I actually did that life and at a certain point, I think I decided, I do not know I had this vision, one day I was sitting at the desk in the office and I was making way more money than I ever thought I would as an artist, as a musician. 

And all of a sudden I had this vision of me still sitting at that desk when I was 60, never having done any of the things that I wanted to do and it scared me to death and so, I hopped up and I started painting again. I started writing songs. I started going to open mics, you know, playing with a friend out on the street, ended up leaving IBM and moving out to Seattle. I had a few jobs but started a band, and never really looked back been playing music ever since, still working from time to time, but always doing music. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

That is awesome! Did you grow up with siblings or were you only child? 


Reggie Garrett 

Oh, yes, I grew up with siblings. There were eight of us… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, there were…


Reggie Garrett 

Four boys and four girls… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, nice! Okay. 


Reggie Garrett 

And from time to time my grandmother would come by and stay with us, we would live very close, so sometimes a few of us would stay with her, she would come and stay with us, there were a lot of us, a lot of us.


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Nice! Yeah. It sounds like each side of my family, my mom is one of seven, and my dad is one of eight, so… 


Reggie Garrett 

Small families… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. Right. Totally! Not, a lot of cousins at all, no. Oh, that is wonderful! Did your siblings end up doing something in the arts, where they ended up? 


Reggie Garrett 

No, let us see my older sister Terry ended up working for IBM and eventually left that and became a consultant, computer consultant and now she has her own travel agency which I think is probably not doing that well right now. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. Right. 


Reggie Garrett 

Since we cannot go anywhere… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Sure. 


Reggie Garrett 

Let us see, my sister Kathy, the one right after me became a doctor, lives in Orlando, was joined some sort of, I cannot remember what it is. A medical business, she became one of the partners, and for a while was the Florida state, head of the Florida state board of medical examiners. She had a few children, they are still there. Let us see, Kevin, my brother, who was nine to a genius, got into television and radio broadcasting, travel the world, doing all of that. Let us see, Timmy was into sports casting, he loved sports, followed it, and wrote about it. Robbie, Robbie got into the hotel business, did that for a while. Laurie was a model in Milan; she modeled for really the big dogs internationally, like Johnny Versace and Valentino. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Wow! 


Reggie Garrett 

And she was always interested in fashion, long tall things; she did that for a while. Retired, she is now married, lives in Switzerland, has two children and she and her husband have a kind of like an organic natural farm thing that they do. Patty was a stewardess flight attendant for Delta Rosen became, I think the head of the flight attendants at some point, she left, let us see she did a travel agency business with my older sister terry and now, I am actually, I am not really sure what she is doing right now, but she lives in Atlanta. See, Robbie, I am trying to remember everybody. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. There is a lot to keep track of. 


Reggie Garrett 

No, I think, I already told Robbie was in the hotel business. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, sure. 


[10:43 – 15:02]

Reggie Garrett 

That is everybody that is all of us. The nice thing about it is ever since this COVID thing happened; we have a thing, where we get together via zoom, twice a week, all of my siblings, we… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, that is great! 


Reggie Garrett 

You check in every Wednesday and Saturday morning just to keep track with what is going on, talk about the things we know, educate each other on things that we do not know about and I keep in touch with my family that way and I love it. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. That is really nice. Yeah. We are talking about all the technology since the beginning of the year that started and that is one of the benefits, I think is being able to connect with people even though you are far away. My cousins have gotten together via zoom a few times, like why did not we do this before, like we did not think about it, could have easily done this. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Did you have some specific stories that you wanted to share? 


Reggie Garrett 

There were a couple of them; I thought about sort of, you know, where this was supposed to go and one of the things that struck me and it is a story that I come back to over and over again, especially since this whole movement for Black lives and racial equality has started and I keep going back to the time that I first should say learned about or came into contact with the idea of prejudice and racism. I remember, I was a little kid, we lived in Cincinnati, and Cincinnati had an amusement park down by the Ohio River that as kids we loved to go to that, it was called Coney Island. The same as the one in New York but Cincinnati’s Coney Island, it no longer exists but we loved to go there and I remember one day, I was very young. I remember one day, my sisters and I decided today would be a great day to go to Coney Island. So, we went to our parents, let us go to Coney, let us go to Coney Island, we were harassing, it must have been a summer day or something nothing to do. 

And my parents were busy doing things around the house, and they said; no, not today, no, we want to go, we can, why cannot, we are not doing anything, said no, we have things, let us go to Coney, we are driving him crazy, we really want, we want to go to Coney island. My mother says; we cannot go to Coney Island today, why cannot we go to Coney Island today and she said because colored people are not allowed there today and so, you imagine your kid, like five or six and your parents tell you something like that and your mind has no idea what to do with it, it is like what? And I am trying to wrap my mind around this thing, like what does me being colored because that is what we called ourselves in those days. What does that have to do with anything? That was the first hit went off trying to digest this. Well, okay, what is going on that, there is something about my skin that, huh! 

And I do not know where it went from there, but that was that was the very first time that I can remember the earliest instance I can remember and not being able to fathom it. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

And you were about five or six is that what you said? 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. I was around; I think I was around that age. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Well, if you are comfortable sharing about what year was that? 


Reggie Garrett 

Boy, that would have been around 58, 1958, 1959, and it was a really interesting thing because that, like I said that is come back to me time and time over the years. I remember when Barack Obama was president and I remember when Michelle Obama got in trouble. Well, I should not say she got in trouble, Newt Gingrich and a few people came down on her because I cannot remember what it was that happened but there was an interview that she had, where she said and this was maybe the first time I was so proud of my country and I remember, a lot of republicans really jumped all over her, like how dare hers, how dare her not be proud of her country, and this and this and this and I remember chewing on that for a while and wishing that I could stand in front of Newt Gingrich and say to him the story I just told you and ask him, should I have been proud of my country that day. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. You do not necessarily remember what happened after that or do you remember anything that your siblings said about it or…? 


Reggie Garrett 

No, I do not really remember anything other than being so utterly confused by that. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. 


Reggie Garrett 

I mean it just did not. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


[15:03 – 20:14]

Reggie Garrett 

For a little kid, it just came out of nowhere, what? 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. 


Reggie Garrett 

What does that have to do with anything? 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah and that is something that stuck with you this whole time, so it absolutely made a huge impression. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yes, I would say it did. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. Are there moments around that time that or since then like around your childhood that you remember that were similar to that or that kind of helped you get through that confusion even though it is confusing no matter what. 


Reggie Garrett 

I am not really sure. All I know is I remember the time it confused me but… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Sure. 


Reggie Garrett 

Since that time other episodes in my life, there are a number of things that happened, where I came up against it, but one, I will say that one of the things that helped was that my parents, particularly my mother were very big on us getting our education. So, my mother worked very hard to make sure we could go to the best schools possible. I wanted to go to elementary school with all the rest of my friends. The first thing no, you are going to this place over here, some place I have never heard of but okay that is a better school so… one day they woke me up, when I was in sixth grade, early in the morning, said get up, get dressed, the crack of dawn, drove me halfway across the county and I ended up going to this school and taking a battery of tests and I said okay, we will accept you, you have to come to summer school to buck up on some stuff. So, I ended up going to the school on the other side of the county that I found out was one of the best prep schools in the Midwest. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh! 


Reggie Garrett 

I had never heard of it but my parents were serious about education. The point is that, my mother got us out of the house, out of our neighborhood, out into the city, at large, all around, so that we would be comfortable anywhere with anybody and one of the things that I noticed when I was hanging around with a lot of my friends that my sisters and I, my brothers and sisters and I did not seem to be that intimidated by white people. We knew we were as good as anybody. So, we just went and did what we wanted pay attention because you do not want to go somewhere where you should not. But, I think that helped to, I do not want to say ease the pain made things better, made things a little bit easier, as we made our way through the world like, yeah, I know I can compete. Yeah, I know I can do this. 

Yeah, that is not really a problem. I will say there was a point in my life when I was younger, these things that keep coming back to me. I remember at one point thinking when I was a child, I was really pissed off that I was Black and the reason was because as I looked around, on TV, movies, things like that, I did not see that Black people were allowed to do anything that I thought was interesting. If you were a great baseball player, basketball football player, yeah, if you were a great soul singer, jazz singer, yeah, but I was none of those things and they were not any of the things that I wanted to be. I did not see Black scientists or Black artists or it is not that they did not exist… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. 


Reggie Garrett 

But those examples were not out there for us to see and so what can I do. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. What did your parents seem like they were wonderful in helping you guys focus on education and things, every one of your sibling’s sounds like they ended up doing really awesome things? What did your parents do? 


Reggie Garrett 

My mother was a teacher, I guess in the beginning both of my parents worked for the post office or sorters. Let us see, my father stayed at the post office most of his life but he also did a whole bunch of other odd jobs, there were times he had three jobs, especially like around Christmas time to support the family. My mother left the post office, went back to school and got a couple of different degrees in social work to begin with. But then went into teaching and she was a teacher for most of her life, all the way until retirement. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

What did she teach? 


Reggie Garrett 

She taught mostly third grade toward the end of her career, I think because she had some physical disabilities, she got retrained and got more into counseling but she was a teacher to her hear. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. Oh, that is great! You ended up moving to Seattle about what year or how old were you about that? 


Reggie Garrett 

Let us see, I have been in New York for probably around seven years or so… it was the early 80s, maybe 82, 83… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Was that about after you finished your masters or after you were working at IBM? Is that right? 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. I had finished my master's years before that I was at IBM, living there, working and just decided, it was, well a couple of things, one I met a young woman, who was leaving new york, we had this whirlwind romance for about a week before she left and she was coming to Seattle, so we had long distance thing, back and forth for a while and finally decided I am going to come out to Seattle. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

And long distance at that time is much harder. 


Reggie Garrett 

It was a whole lot harder than it would be right now. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. Yeah. 


Reggie Garrett 

So, I packed up and came out here. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

So, you followed her out and then did you have a plan when you got out here or was it just I am going? 


[20:15 – 25:09]

Reggie Garrett 

Well, I came out here and decided that we were going to be here, actually what we decided was long term, we would go to san Francisco, and so we were going to stay here for a little bit, save money, make plans. I actually went down and visited a few times. I loved San Francisco. But, the longer I was here, so I am still not leaving, still not leaving, must be something going on, that I am still here. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

The roots were setting in. Yeah. 


Reggie Garrett 

They kind of did. Yeah and eventually we parted ways and she ended up going down there, which was what she always wanted to do anyway. I stayed here and the rest is history. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Did you start music up pretty quickly after you got into Seattle or…? 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. As a matter of fact that did. I mean I started playing guitar in high school, played all through college within a couple of bands, while I was in college and while I was in high school, left when I was in grad school, I played my guitar but did not really do music too much. When I moved to New York, I was really pushing the art thing, and guitar was kind of a sideline. I remember one year, my mother, I had this old beater harmony guitar, and my mother told me one year, you know, you should get yourself a real guitar, because I never took taxes out of my money. I always waited and would get my tax refund. So, I got a decent refund, one year she said buy a guitar, buy yourself a real guitar. So, I went out and got one and we are sitting home in the loft at night, playing the thing and actually starting to write songs. So, I played all the way through there, moved out here and when I moved out here, we started a band right away. My girlfriend, I, a good friend of ours and I have been in a few of them off and on, all the way down through the years. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

And your most recent group is called Reggie Garrett and the Snake Oil Peddlers. What has that been since then or has been different variations? 


Reggie Garrett 

That was a name I came up with, god, years ago, mostly when I first moved to town was when I first started to use it and I decided that snake oil peddlers were going to be sort of a name for my music projects. So, there have been different personnel who have come and gone through that thing, the current one is flat out the best band, I have ever played with. Let us see, we had a band, let us see Scatter Shack, Iron John, home is a tricky concept, a few different bands over the years but snake oil peddlers have lasted. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Are you able to make music with them right now in any form? 


Reggie Garrett 

Well, let us see, we couple of weeks ago, we did a show at the royal room. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, yeah. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah that thing that they are doing now, where they have the band come in with the tech guy and nobody else and then live streams it. So, we did that and outside of that I have been working on trying to get videos where I record stuff and have them all record stuff and splice it together. But, no, we have not been able to do a whole lot since this thing started. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. That is understandable but that is nice that you are able to do at least one altogether. That must have felt nice. 


Reggie Garrett 

It was a blast it was so nice to get together and play. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

So, you mentioned quite a few different places that you lived throughout the country and I am curious if you have any thoughts or comparisons as you were going through those different areas and since you had the experiences that you were talking about that your mom had you go see the whole city and have a broad experience that did you kind of just take that with you and did not notice as much. 


Reggie Garrett 

Well, part of having that broad experience means that you run into all kinds of things, so, yeah, we definitely had encounters along the way, some that really stuck with me, some that just were like the everyday kind and I know this is I do not mean this just as being Black because I had a good friend, once who was the head of the feminist alliance when I was in Albany and we would talk about things and compare notes, so I know that everybody who is any kind of minority situation goes through those things. So, some were just the daily kind, but there were a lot of things that happened over the course of my life, pretty much everywhere I lived and then just traveling around, running into things. I have been called Nigger to my face many times; my wife has heard people call me that from the side. The fact that she is white and if they do not know that she is with me, then she hears things that I might not hear. We have been in all kinds of situations like that, so… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah, I would not say it is a daily thing but it is constant. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

How long have you been married? 


Reggie Garrett 

Oh, a dangerous question. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh! 


Reggie Garrett 

I should know this. I should know this. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

I know I keep asking numbers questions, alright. 


Reggie Garrett 

Almost 30 years… 


[25:10 – 30:33]

Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Okay, so not a whole lot longer after you moved to Seattle then. Is that right? Maybe a few years ago…


Reggie Garrett 

A few years after that, you know, we spent, it was a while before we met, and then left together for a while and then decided to make it legal. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. I can only imagine the encounters or experiences, you both may have had, especially I imagine in the 90s and all these things. My husband and I have had a hand, I would say, we have had a handful of experiences him being Black and me being white. But, I imagine, I do not know, I think for me I earlier on was not as aware of what was going on at the time and then now I am learning and we have only been together for about, oh, now numbers for me, seven years… so, less amount of time for me to be aware and like conscious and good about knowing how to handle it even, you know. So, I do not know if you had any experiences with your wife that you were wanting or open to sharing. 


Reggie Garrett 

Well, sure, I mean, and what I wanted to say listening to you is that, yeah, I understand how it is because one of the things we have talked about and I have talked about with her is that maybe she was not that aware of those things but then she never had to be. She was not supposed to be, that kind of thing was not aimed at her and so she would not have had the opportunity to learn the signs and signals and develop the antenna to pick up on a lot of that kind of thing. I remember, once when we were driving, we are coming back across eastern Washington, it might have might have been route to… no, I remember we were in Spokane, and we were going through Spokane, and I saw this little music store and being a musician, of course! Can we stop, just to go through and see what is in there, some wandering through, and she is not all that interested in that kind of thing. So, she wanted said gone, you look, I will just hang out. 

So, I am wandering through the store and I am looking at things, looking at prices and at a certain point she appears next to me and she says; we have to leave, and I said, she said, we have to go, so we understand each other, when it is in that tone, okay, so left to walk out, there in the car and take him out, she said; yeah, I was wandering around the store and some guy came in and he is talking to the guy behind the counter and they are both going. God! You see that Nigger who came in, do you think the fuck does he think he is, this is going on and on, they did not know that she was with me. So, she heard it all and that was one thing and once when I was playing at folk life festival, she and her friend were sitting together, and she said the sound was not so great, so she went up to the sound guy and said could you raise Reggie’s vocal and guitar, just a hair, it seems like it is drawn back in the music in the song. I said; oh you mean the Nigger, she was like what. So, yeah, the things like that have happened. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Man! And for anybody listening it does not know the folk life festival's in Seattle, right? At Seattle center and me just thinking about that, like I grew up in the area and went to folk life, all my life on and off and then I worked for folk life for a while and that is not reflective of the festival mate, maybe I know but like… 


Reggie Garrett 

No, no, it is not, it is absolutely not. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. But man just to think like in Seattle at something like that, you know what I mean, like you can still run into that. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yes, you can. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

And that is, you know when I was a kid or like years ago, I would have been like what, no way, because I just thought. In Seattle nobody thinks like that anymore but my eyes have been very much open since I was little, so, yeah and then as far as, it your wife be hearing those things and then knowing how do you… what do you do in that because for me, in my experience, I do not know, like I would either freeze or say too much or get angry and try to fight back but then that does not help anything. So, knowing what to do as the support system for the person that is being directed at… 


Reggie Garrett 

Exactly! And I think she did the right thing in that case. Like the one at folk life, I think, she and her friend, I think she said her friend gave the guy an earful and then they went and put in a complaint to folk life about it. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Reggie Garrett 

But I remember, once traveling the two of us, we went to new Orleans, she went for a conference, she was a psychotherapist, mental health counselor for a while, so she went to new Orleans for a conference and I went with her. I remember being followed around the hotel, by the hotel detective wondering what I was doing there, even I was a guest, we were registered but we were there and I remember walking down the street with her one day, and we are window shopping, looking in windows and I remember, Santa look, stay very calm, do not jerk or jump or anything, but I want you to just very calmly look at the reflection in the window and so she did and what she saw was this pickup truck driving by on the street that had all these white guys in the back, who were staring daggers at us, like they would love to have jumped out of that truck at that moment and she saw that. 

[30:34 – 35:12]

Reggie Garrett 

It is kind of like what you were saying about yourself, not being that aware of it, and me complaining and her like, I think you might be imagining that but over the years, she finally started to see these things and become… and it is not that she was not aware but just it is different, I guess when you start to live it actually. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Absolutely! Yeah and that is, I mean, that is part of the reason why, I mean that is a major reason why I am doing this project, is because I have had the… what I feel like is a benefit of being able to have conversations and learning, what my husband Darius goes through, so that I can be aware of it on a deeper level and so that I can better advocate for or support or whatever I need to do, you know so it is, I think that is part of the reason why I am doing this project, so that people who just have not encountered it ever, like me when I was younger… 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Can hear people's stories and know that yes, it is very much still a thing. 


Reggie Garrett 

It is funny and, by the way, tell Darius, I said hi. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Reggie Garrett 

One of the things that I have thought about over the years, it is a little involved, that is I do not want to… well I would not say most. I will say there are a number of white people who do not think that Black people believe in this country or believe we are Americans and it is kind of interesting because we all grow up as Americans. I grew up in this country saying the pledge of allegiance, all of that stuff. Believed in the country, hey this is the greatest country in the world I live here. I am happy I live here and so, it was beyond difficult for me to get to a stage in my life, where I started to find out that maybe my country is not as great as it claims itself, we do some terrible things around the world. Everybody does but we do too. So, it is not like we are the greatest, well, maybe we are the greatest thing since sliced bread but you know what I mean and that and growing up as an American that is hard to accept, hard to come to terms there is a point in your life, where it is really difficult to settle with the fact that your country can do some of the things that it does as an American. 

And so, I can understand how a lot of white people, who do not come up against this stuff, every day, would find it difficult to believe that these kinds of things go on all the time. I mean I can understand that. I do not slam anybody, for not immediately falling in with me and say; oh, I believe you, I believe, this now that cannot be true, that sounds more right from people and I can deal with it as long as people are open and willing to talk about it and learn. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

That is the main thing and I have learned from my conversations, especially, well we have had conversations since we met, Darius and I. But, especially since everything is been, so I do not know what the word is, but so upfront, I guess. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Like when do you dig in and when do you just say that person is just never going to get there, so...


Reggie Garrett 

That happens too. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Reggie Garrett 

I was trying, it is funny, and I was down the Oregon coast with my wife and her mother. We took a trip and I remember on our way back up, we stopped, they went into some place that is down there, where you can go into these caves and see the sea lions or something like that and so, we stopped and parked and I was not interested, so they went on down, and they came out and when they were finished, they came back up, when we were walking to the car and we are getting in the car and there is some old guy, old guy, who walked by and he saw, and he saw us and I am opening the door for my mother-in-law, she gets in the backline, driving miss daisy huh! And my mother-in-law got pissed off. She would have taken that guy out but it was kind of funny to me, they were so upset which was gratifying. But, they did not understand, like why I was not so upset and I said that guy is like 1200 years old, he is set in his ways, he is not going to change, it is insulting but I also know, he does not mean anything by it. He does not understand and he is going to be dead next week. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. 


[35:13 – 40:09]

Reggie Garrett 

It is not worth, it is like, there are battles to fight and there is some that hey, you know, okay, just walk on. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Sure. So, one of the questions, I will be asking each guest is, what brings joy or fun into your life? 


Reggie Garrett 

That is easy. My wife whom I love, my dogs whom I love, music, which love is not really the right word, it is probably more an addiction, something you have to do. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

I hear. 


Reggie Garrett 

People, who are not musicians, do not understand that, love does not even come close to what it is, and chocolate. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, hey. Nice. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

What kind of chocolate? 


Reggie Garrett 

Oh, 88 proof at least, at least the dark stuff, hardcore. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

There you go. Alright! What would make you feel genuinely equal? 


Reggie Garrett 

That is a hard one. It would have to be a number of things. One, if I saw or became aware of more; say executives, at the upper levels of corporations, who were Black. If there were more Black faces in what is traditionally considered to be white areas of entertainment, like for instance, I have seen any number of white soul singers over the years or rappers, but I have not seen very many Black rock groups. I remember living color, they were a one-off. I remember way before that the busboys, back when I was living in New York, they were a one-off. But, especially when I was living in New York, I was aware of so many Black rock groups that were out there. It struck me. These few cannot be the only ones who deserve to be up at that level and I remember it was about a band, called buzz and the flyers, when I lived in New York, who was Black rockabilly band. I mean, there is things like that and not just that, but if I started to see more balance in different areas, a lot of different things. 

But, it is not even just the idea of equality; it is the idea of what to do to fight back against the history of oppression in this country. The things that have happened over the years, that have put Black people into the place, we are. I remember when I was years ago having a discussion with somebody, and they said something to me like, you know what is wrong with Black people, it is like people come from different countries around the world, like immigrants, they come to this country, and within a generation, they are like making money and wealth and doing fine but Black people cannot seem to do that, what is the problem? And at the time, I could not really much give an answer, but over the years, learning history, I was a historian for a while. I taught it in school. I have learned a lot more about the history and there is a lot that we are not taught. I think about things like I do not know if you saw the… god what was it, HBO thing, watchmen, that little series, it starts off. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Reggie Garrett 

It is sort of a comic book kind of thing but it starts off with the Tulsa Massacre, which blew me away. The thing starts, right up front the Tulsa, and I am not sure if you are aware what the Tulsa Massacre was. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

It sounds familiar but I do not know that I know. 


Reggie Garrett 

So, after world war one, a lot of the troops came back, there was a point, I cannot remember the name of the Black part of Tulsa, but people had shops, had businesses, you know, where a lot of people were not fabulously wealthy, but a growing middle class, growing merchant class of Black culture, and a white mob went through that part of the town, and massacred the Black population. I mean to the point that there was even a biplane, military biplane, somebody flew through shooting people down on the streets, they burned, looted and that happened in more than one place around this country, around that time and a lot of it probably had to do with the fact that there were Black soldiers who were coming back from world war one, who would seen more of the world and were not as inclined to roll over as they had been taught or had to for years. 

But, there were a number of those kinds of things that happened and what occurred to me was that as a race we were told in no uncertain terms that we would not be allowed to flourish like that, because it got stomped down. There was a history of slavery where families were broken up and that seeped into Black culture over the years, where we have so much trouble with families, staying together with parents being able to raise children, without all kinds of difficulties in the marriage and there is just so much crap that is been infused into Black society over the years in this country that there is so much to overcome. 

[40:10 – 45:28]

Reggie Garrett 

To me, it is not just a matter of seeing things that would make it equal, but actually starting to do things that would help to sort of turn those things around. I am not even sure what that would be. Education is one. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. Education, even, like I should know about this Tulsa Massacre, it should not be like, did I hear about that, just as everybody else should know about, you know, all the stuff that we are taught. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. The things that we are not taught and things like at the end of world war, World War II, when a lot of the GIs came back and the GI bill was there. The reason we had such a strong growing middle class in the 50s and 60s was because GIs would come back and they got GI loans on the GI bill. They could go to college, they could get educations, and they could get decent loans to buy homes. So, they could start to build wealth and things that were specifically in a lot of cases denied to Black veterans, who came back and so, when you start to ask questions like that, like well why Black people cannot do it, you look at the way the field has been tilted in the favor of one group over another and it starts to make a whole lot of sense why things are the way they are. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Absolutely! Yeah. That question of the systemic issues has come up a bit in conversations that I have had with people recently and I am still digging into like how I explain this in a way that is just clear. But, there is no clear way really, so… 


Reggie Garrett 

There really is not, and the problem is, we do not know our history. History is selective, we only know the history that is chosen for us to know and for the most part that is designed to give us pride in the nation. So, there are a lot of things like that that would never be talked about and so, it becomes really difficult to talk to people about it, to try to convince people that there needs to be change because they are really are not aware of what has happened and how it got to be this way. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. Well, Reggie, did we miss anything? 


Reggie Garrett 

Not that comes to mind, I know when we finish a billion things will come, but… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. I know. Well, that just means we will have to do this again, that is all. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. We might have to. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Let us see, so you recently put out a couple of videos online through the royal room, and different things that I have seen. So where can people find your music or anything else that you would like to share with listeners? 


Reggie Garrett 

If people are interested, go to YouTube, and do a search on Reggie Garrett. I am one of the ones that will come up there as a channel, one of the little round things with the big R in it. That is my channel and I have a lot of stuff that I have put out on there. There is also another channel that distribution company that I work with, put out of the last CD that I did called something new. So, if you scan down the list a little bit farther, you will probably come to that but that is a way to hear stuff. You go on Facebook, and do a search on Reggie Garrett; you can find my Facebook page, and also my webpage, which is just flat out www.reggiegarrett.com. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Wonderful! Thank you very much for joining me Reggie, I really enjoyed our conversation, and was great to catch up with you even virtually, after so many months. Last time I saw you, was at the royal room? 


Reggie Garrett 

Yeah. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah, so… 


Reggie Garrett 

A while ago… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. It was a whole weird lifetime ago. 


Reggie Garrett 

Yes, it was. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

So, thank you for joining me and thank you for sharing your story, I really appreciate it. 


Reggie Garrett 

Hey, thanks for asking, I appreciate it. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Thank you again Reggie for being one of my very first guests and for your generosity in time and stories. As a bonus Mr. Garrett sent us over an additional short story, if you are interested in being interviewed or in submitting your own short story, just email us at [email protected] 


Reggie Garrett 

My wife and I started reading the book cast, which talks about the status of society, particularly in the United States, but it also sort of makes reference to the caste system in India, and other systems of caste around the world and throughout history. As a way of explaining what we have tended to call race in this country, at any rate, there was a passage in there, that talked about dominance, and the way people on top behave, specifically it talked about how in southern society white people would address Black people in very demeaning ways. I mean one of the things that they could always do, if you were Black, was address you by your first name, or they would call you things like auntie or uncle or things like that. But, never Mr. Garrett or Ms. Smith or Mrs. Whatever, if you were white, you could always step into a person's personal space, and address them in any way that you wanted. 

And it reminded me of something that happened when I was a lot younger, probably around 12 or 13. I grew up in Cincinnati Ohio, and I remember at one point, I was driving somewhere with my father, actually he was driving, I was riding, I was not old enough to have a driver's license yet. 

[45:29 – 50:42]

Reggie Garrett 

At any rate, we were going down a long hill, and at a certain point I noticed that he glanced in the rearview mirror, and then he started to slow down, and eventually I heard police sirens, my father pulled over and stopped, and the sirens got louder and it could tell that the officer pulled up behind us, could sort of see the lights, the reflection of the lights flashing on the inside of the car. So, as you are supposed to do, my father sat there with his hands on the wheel, so it is not to disturb the officer or provoke him into doing something that might not be too pleasant for us. Anyway, eventually the police officer came up to the side and tapped on the window, so my father rolled it down, officer said; can I see your license and registration? So, my father took out his driver's license and handed it to the police officer and the police officer said; can I see your registration? And my father said; I do not have the registration in the car. 

Now you need to understand that in those days in the state of Ohio, you did not have to carry the registration for your car around in the car, you just had to present it at court, if you had to go to any proceedings. But that was the law, you did not have to have it, he looked at my father's driver's license and then he said, and I remember this. He said; Leonard, is this your car? And I cannot describe what that did to me to hear this man address my father by his first name, as if he were a child. Now I know a lot of people these days do not think that that is a big thing, but it actually is sort of a recent thing in the society that people have started to address folks by their first name, so much, so often, so early, in an encounter. When I grew up that was definitely not what you did, if you were introduced to somebody, you met somebody, you would address them by their full name or their title and their last name as is Leonard Garrett or Mr. Garrett. 

The same way that when we address the police officer, we addressed him as officer not as Charlie or whatever his first name. The other thing you need to understand is that in my culture, growing up, all of the older folks refer to your first name as your familiar name. In other words that is what people who were familiar with you could call you. It meant that a person had put in the time required in your relationship for you to become comfortable enough to allow them within that circle of familiarity and that is your decision to make, not theirs. I decide when you can call me Reggie. You do not decide that. I do. That is true of every person. Other than that, you were always formal; it was a sign of just mutual respect. Addressing somebody by their first name or familiar name would be like stepping into their personal space, uninvited. It is a very patronizing thing to do at any rate. This police officer called my father Leonard and it upset me. 

I mean, I did not do anything but I can remember to this day, how upset, how angry I got and the idea was to think about this guy treating my father that way in front of me. To think about somebody treating an adult that way in front of their child because it made a difference and I am absolutely sure that the officer knew it, at any rate. Actually, frankly, I am not sure if he knew about it in that way. I think that that was just his way of behaving. I do not know how he behaved to white people, but I am sure that that was just his way of behaving around Black people and it annoyed me to know in and to this day, I remember it and remember he said; is this car? And my father said; this is the family car, actually it is in my wife's name and so, the officer looked at the license again and he went back to his car and after a while he came back and he said; Leonard, again are you sure this is your car? And that was another thing that I heard that to this day, I have remembered, and I notice all the time. 

One that he called my father by his first name again which once again annoyed me, but the question is you sure this is your car. As if my father might not be sure that this is really his car and my father said; it is the family car, the car is in my wife's name. Yes, it is our car. But I noticed that too, I am somebody who grew up being really tuned into language and communication, how things are said, what is said by what is done or in addition to just the words that come out of your mouth or how they come out of your mouth. 

[50:43 – 52:55]

Reggie Garrett 

And to this day, at least in that moment, I grew to understand that in a sense he was suggesting that my father might be lying. Are you sure this is your car? And I have had people do the same thing to me over the years. Like are you sure that this is it? Of course! I am. It is me. Are you sure that is your name? Are you sure this is your guitar? Of course! I know. I paid for it with money I earned. I remember that I was upset because I felt so bad for my father and I was even at that age so aware that there was nothing he could do about it. Absolutely nothing, he could do about it. He had to put up with it in front of his son. Anyway, that is really kind of it, it is not a big involved thing, and it is just one of those little things that we have lived with over the years that I noticed. 

And since that day I have been hyper aware of, I was always taught when I meet people, you address them by their title and their last name, and you do that until such time, as they inform you what it is they would like to be called. Like when you get to that space that you can step inside that circle and become familiar. At any rate, it is not something that you take upon yourself and when you do, it is an aggressive act. Anyway, that is my story. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Thank you for joining us for 'Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories'. Please subscribe and follow us on social media, we are at Take Notice podcast; it would really help us out if you could take a couple of minutes to review our podcast. Thank you for your support. 'Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories' is produced, hosted and edited by Allison Preisinger-Heggins, co-produced by Amanda Rae, music by version big five featuring Darius Heggins. Thank you for being with us and thank you for taking notice you.