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Interview with Jessica Monique Brown

Brown, Jessica
Raczka, Andrea
Date of Interview: 
childhood adventures; relationships with people and places; then and now
Jessica Brown talks about growing up in Charlotte, NC and the changes she has seen in the area and in herself.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Andrea Raczka interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
AR (Andrea Raczka): Can you please tell me your full name.
JB (Jessica M. Brown): Middle name and everything?
AR: Yep. [Laugh]
JB: Jessica Monique Brown.
AR: Monique, how do you spell Monique?
JB: M-O-N-I-Q-U-E.
AR: Thank you. How old are you, Jessica?
JB: I am 20 years old.
AR: Twenty? You just had your birthday, didn't you?
JB: Yes, I did.
AR: You have fun?
JB: Oh, yes I did, very much so.
AR: What did you do for your birthday?
JB: I went to the Breakfast Club.
AR: The Breakfast Club? What's that?
JB: That would be an 80s club in downtown Charlotte.
AR: Eighties? Do you like 80s music?
JB: Yes I do, very much so.
AR: What's your favorite 80s music?
JB: What do you mean?
AR: Do you like a favorite group from the 80s or a favorite song?
JB: I have a favorite song.
AR: What's your favorite song?
JB: Take On Me "," by A-Ha.
AR: Take on Me"?" That's mine! I used to play that in band!
JB: You did really?
AR: On the bells. [Laugh] Especially the little part that went, "Da, da, da, da." We used to play that on the little bells. So, Jessica, what do you do for a living?
JB: I work at Chesterbrook Academy.
AR: What is Chesterbrook Academy?
JB: That would be a pre-school.
AR: A pre-school?
JB: Yes.
AR: Do you like your job? Hold on a second I don't know if we can hear over the truck. [Pause] [Noise in background] Sorry.
JB: Uh, most of the time I like my job.
AR: Most of the time? What do you like best about your job?
JB: I like children.
AR: You like children?
JB: Yeah.
AR: What age group is your favorite?
JB: Two year olds.
AR: Is it really?
JB: Yes.
AR: Aww. That's too sweet. Ah, what-.
JB: They can talk some, but not that much.
AR: [Laugh] No talking back, huh? Um, What don't you like about your job? What's your least favorite part about your job?
JB: Um, honestly? The administration.
AR: Oh, really?
JB: Yeah.
AR: Why?
JB: Um, I don't believe that they know how to run their business.
AR: Oh, OK.
JB: Well that's just about the gist of it. [Laugh]
AR: And if you, oh, I forgot to tell you if there's anything I ask that you don't want to answer, just say, "I don't want to answer it," or say, "Next question," or whatever. You don't have to answer anything you don't want to.
JB: I'm fine.
AR: Um, [laughs] what is your marital status?
JB: Well, I'm not married.
AR: [Laughs].
JB: I can tell you that much.
AR: Are you single? You seeing somebody?
JB: No, I am not at the moment.
AR: Not seeing somebody or not single?
JB: Not seeing anyone.
AR: Oh.
JB: Exclusively.
AR: [Laugh] Exclusively. Um, do you have any children?
JB: No.
AR: But you like children?
JB: Mmm-hmm.
AR: How long have you lived in Charlotte?
JB: Um, in the actual city limits of Charlotte, I lived there from birth until I was 12. And then, other than that, I've lived in the Charlotte area, but not actually in the city limits.
AR: Where do you live, what part of the Charlotte area do you live in?
JB: Um, now?
AR: Yeah.
JB: Oh, I live in Kannapolis, so that's greater, the greater Charlotte area.
AR: The greater Charlotte area.
JB: But I, I grew up in east Charlotte.
AR: OK. What's the difference between east and west Charlotte? 'Cause I don't, I didn't grow up here and I don't know the difference.
JB: It's just directional.
AR: Well, like you see where I'm from, Bloomington-.
JB: Yeah.
AR: -You have east Bloomington and you have west Bloomington, and west Bloomington was like upper class and east Bloomington was lower income.
JB: Well, I mean-.
AR: Do you guys have like that kind of stratification here?
JB: Yeah, I would say so, like east Charlotte is just like upper-middle class maybe, but I mean, even in every area of Charlotte I would say that there's, there's certain areas that are, some are upper class and some are not.
AR: Is it pretty, pretty evenly dispersed? Like it's just, // it's just like // sporadically here and there?
JB: //Yeah, but-. // Um, It's pretty evenly dispersed, but then all of your rich neighborhoods would be like south Charlotte, and like in the South Park area, and Pineville.
AR: Lake Norman.
JB: Yeah, Lake Norman.
AR: Yuppies? Oh! [Laughs] Sorry.
AR: Do you like it here?
JB: Yeah.
AR: What do you like most about it?
JB: I don't know, really, what I like most about it. Maybe just the fact that since I've always been here I'm comfortable?
AR: Do you, would you ever-.
JB: I like the climate.
AR: The climate, yeah, no kidding, it's gorgeous today. It's about time it stopped raining. And it got warm so we can go suntan and get some color. Uh, would you ever, would you want to stay here for like the rest of your life?
JB: Uh-huh.
AR: Or would you want to move?
JB: Uh, I plan on staying here.
AR: Staying here?
JB: Mmm-hmm.
AR: You plan on always living in, where do you live, Kannapolis?
JB: Yeah.
AR: You plan on always living in Kannapolis?
JB: No, I'm more comfortable in the Lake Norman area because that's where I've been for the majority, since I was old enough to have friends of my own [laughs].
AR: Yeah, you have a lot of friends that live up there, don't you?
JB: Yeah.
AR: Including me!
JB: And I have some family, some family up here in Lake Norman, too.
AR: That's right.
JB: The majority of them live in Charlotte, but the family I'm closest with lives in Lake Norman.
AR: That's cool. So you grew up in Charlotte then. In what part, east Charlotte?
JB: Mm-hmm.
AR: Did you like east Charlotte? Did you like growing up there?
JB: Um, well, I only lived there until, I mean, when I moved away I was still in elementary school, when I left my dad's house. So I didn't really know much about east Charlotte except for the neighborhood that I lived in, but, I mean, it's just, it's very, where I lived was very busy. I lived, my neighborhood was directly off Independence Boulevard. So, I mean, we couldn't, we couldn't, we couldn't go outside of my neighborhood to really explore because it was a big highway right there. So, I mean it's, I like it now, like, I like that area now that I'm, I can drive and get around, but when I was a kid, we couldn't go anywhere. So this side of my neighborhood was Independence Boulevard and the back side of it was Harris Boulevard, so it was just busy all the way around.
AR: You said your dad's house, so your parents are not together, right?
JB: That is correct. They divorced when I was nine.
AR: When you were nine?
JB: Mm-hmm.
AR: You have, you have one older brother, right?
JB: Mm-hmm.
AR: How did, how did you all handle it? Were you guys OK with it?
JB: Um, my brother's a lot older than me, and-.
AR: How much older?
JB: My brother will be 34 in September.
AR: Oh, wow [Laughs]. Oh, yeah. He's a lot older than you.
JB: So when all that happened, my brother had long moved out and been out on his own, but, um, I was fine with it. Like it really didn't bother me.
AR: It didn't?
JB: No.
AR: Was it kind of better?
JB: Yes, a lot better. I could, I mean when you're a kid you can still sense when things aren't right.
AR: Yeah.
JB: And after they, they split up it was like something, a lot of the tension had been released. So, I was happier.
AR: That's good. Who'd you end up staying with?
JB: My mommy.
AR: Your mommy, that's who you live with now, right, your mommy?
JB: Yes.
AR: Your mommy. Your mommy's very nice though, as a mommy.
JB: Why, thank you.
AR: You're welcome! [Laugh] Your mommy could be my second mommy. [Laughs] I like her. Where does, where does your dad live now? Your mom lives in Kannapolis, 'cause that's where you live.
JB: My dad still lives in the same neighborhood in east Charlotte.
AR: Oh, really? I didn't know that.
JB: Mm-hmm.
AR: Do you visit him often?
JB: Um-.
AR: Do you get along?
JB: Yeah, we get along, but I don't visit as much as I should.
AR: Just, no time or-?
JB: Yeah, and I live in Kannapolis and I work in Huntersville but-.
AR: You do a lot of driving.
JB: I do a lot of driving, and I don't really have a lot of free time on my hands. I'd like to see him more, but-.
AR: How often do you think you see him?
JB: Um, just not very often. The last, the last time I really went over there to visit? Probably December.
AR: December?
JB: January, maybe.
AR: That's OK. You don't have to feel bad about it, it's OK.
JB: It's not very often at all.
AR: That's OK. Do you guys talk a lot, or, no?
JB: Not really. But I figure it goes two ways.
AR: Exactly, that's what I was going to say.
JB: If he, if he was concerned about it, he'd be making an effort to call me and come see me. And he doesn't. So I try not to stress over it too much.
AR: That's a good way to handle it. So what was your childhood like? Like before your parents split, what was it like?
JB: I'd say I had a fairly average childhood. I mean, I went to the pool and I hung out with my friends and we had a swimming pool at my dad's house and a Jacuzzi.
AR: Ooh! A Jacuzzi!
JB: So, like my house was like where all, everybody came in the summer. We'd all just hang out and swim. So, I mean, I had, I wouldn't say I had a bad childhood. Just because my parents are divorced doesn't mean that it made it a bad experience.
AR: Uh-huh, sure it didn't.
JB: I had fun.
AR: Well that's cool. [Laugh] We're eating lunch. Take a break for a bite. Did you have, uh, any kind of like, anything that your, your friends and you did, like any fun games you played? Like we always played Ghost in the Graveyard at my house, like in the middle of the night, we'd go out, we'd sneak out and play Ghost and the Graveyard. It's hide-and-seek in the dark.
JB: Well, in, um, in my neighborhood there was like a creek, or what we thought was a creek, and, uh, we used to go down there and play, and there was a, a tunnel. Well, we ended up going in this tunnel and following it.
JB: [Laughs]
AR: And it, it was actually the sewer!
AR: Oh, no!
JB: Yeah. And we would end up underneath all the little drainage in our neighborhood, like underneath the street.
AR: Oh, no.
JB: We could look up and see all the houses.
AR: Oh, that was kind of fun!
JB: So that's what we used to do, but it was kind of hush-hush. Like it was one of those things you never tell your parents // that you did 'cause they would freak out. //
AR: // 'Cause you knew you'd get in trouble for examining // the sewer, touring.
JB: And we would swim at my house. And-.
AR: I thought I heard, I thought you were going to say swim in the sewer!
JB: No, we never swam in the sewer! [Laughs] We would make slip-'n'-slides out of Saran-wrap.
AR: [Laughs] Did it work?
JB: Yeah, it kind of, it tore up rather quickly but, um-.
AR: But it worked?
JB: It worked.
AR: So y'all hung out at your house, basically.
JB: Yeah, well there was, there was like a group of us in the neighborhood that always hung out, and there was maybe, we hung out between like three or four houses.
AR: Cool.
JB: But in the summertime we were always at my house because I was the one with the pool.
AR: Of course, you have to be where the pool is! See I'd have been over there in the winter too, because you had a Jacuzzi, [laughs] so either way, you had the best of both worlds!
[Sirens in the background] JB: Well-.
AR: Wait, there's a siren.
JB: Well, back then at that age you don't, you haven't yet learned to appreciate the Jacuzzi.
AR: [Laugh] I suppose! [Laughter]
JB: That's more of a high school appreciation. So all we knew was that the swimming pool was cool and the Jacuzzi was hot. Hmm and we were like, OK, let's go to the pool.
AR: Mm-hmm. [Laughs] Did you ever pull any fun pranks? We used to go 'TP-ing' all the time, we used to throw furniture up onto the roof. Actually that's about as pranky as we got.
JB: Actually, as a child, I was a goody-goody and I kind of, I tried to stay away from trouble.
AR: What about when you got up like in, in high school?
JB: I never really pulled pranks on people. High school was a totally different boat for me. I was concerned with skipping school and I did a lot of that.
AR: [Laugh].
JB: Quite a bit.
AR: Did you like your high school? Where'd you go to high school?
JB: North Mecklenburg High School.
AR: OK. Is that, I heard just recently that it has, that, that's the one that has like the highest crime rate around here. Is that the truth? Do you know?
JB: I don't know, I don't think so. But I know at one point, um, it was the most populated school in North Carolina.
AR: It's the one that had all the trailers out behind it, right?
JB: Yeah.
AR: Like they're a trailer classroom?
JB: Well, Lake Norman, this area has, has grown up so much that they weren't making accommodations as the population was growing. They just realized, "Wow! We're really overpopulated and we need to make some additions!"
AR: Yeah.
JB: But, my freshman year, I think we had maybe, almost 3,000 kids there and North Meck, at the time only had the capacity to hold 1,500.
AR: Oh, wow! So you had a lot of extra kids.
JB: Then they started building other schools. Like they built-.
AR: What's that new one that they just built?
JB: Hopewell.
AR: Hopewell? Is that, have you seen it, is it nice? I haven't seen it.
JB: Yeah, I have friends that go there. I'm actually going to the prom at Hopewell.
AR: Is that the one that you're going to? Eeee, how fun! Who are you going with?
JB: Lauren.
AR: Lauren, OK. I didn't know she was still in high school.
JB: She's a senior.
AR: OK. I didn't know that.
JB: Yeah, she's only 18.
AR: I knew, I knew that. I guess I just thought she'd graduated. I don't know, for some reason I was thinking she was a graduated person.
JB: My-.
AR: Wait for the cop.
JB: My senior or, not my senior year, um, my freshman year it was really crowded and then-.
AR: Your freshman year was really crowded?
JB: It was really, it was really crowded. And, uh, I think after freshman year, like before Vance opened-.
AR: What's Vance?
JB: Vance High School.
AR: OK. Where's that at?
JB: It's, um, right off Harris Boulevard. Near, it's near the University area. But they opened Vance , and, uh, that took a lot of the kids, so we kind of went back down to normal.
AR: How big was your graduating class?
JB: You know what? I'm not exactly sure, but there was a lot of us!
AR: [Laugh] But you were there and graduated [laugh] so, hey.
JB: Yeah, I don't care.
AR: It doesn't matter [laugh].
JB: Yeah. If you hadn't asked me, I could've told you.
AR: So did you like your high school?
JB: Yes.
AR: Besides the fact that it was overcrowded?
JB: Yeah, I had a great time in high school. I wish, I wish I had done some things differently, but-.
AR: What was your favorite part of high school? What did you like best?
JB: I can't really say what I liked the best. It's just the whole of it was fun for me.
AR: Were you involved in any clubs, or // any organizations? //
JB: // I wasn't, //wasn't in any clubs, but, um, I was in, um, concert choir.
AR: Can you sing?
JB: [Laugh] I don't know, some people might say yes, others might say no.
AR: What do you say?
JB: I'm OK. I'm not the best, I'm not the worst.
AR: I like the way you sing.
JB: Why, thank you.
AR: You're welcome.
JB: I was in concert choir all throughout high school.
AR: Did you like it?
JB: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
AR: Is concert choir like the one that we had, like took trips and everything? Did your concert choir take trips or-?
JB: They did and we did a lot of performances like at school and-.
AR: Do you have any that you remember the most?
JB: This is going to sound really terrible.
AR: [Laugh].
JB: But, no. I never went to any of them!
AR: Oh, no [laugh].
JB: I always bailed out on them. Like I would go to class, like I didn't mind going to class, but the dresses were hideous.
AR: Oh, no. Really?
JB: Like they were absolutely hideous. And I was like, "I'm not wearing that thing."
AR: What did they look like?
JB: They had a really high neckline and like it looked like they had huge shoulder pads in them like the-.
AR: Football player?
JB: -Shoulders were fluffy, and the sleeves were tight and it was like black lace.
AR: Eww. It sounds kind of skanky.
JB: It was like a big, like a long skirt that was kind of fluffy and I wasn't, wasn't being caught dead in that. There was // no way. //
AR: // I don't blame you. //
JB: No way.
AR: Hmm, hmm. I have to think. [Pause] What do you think you got out of high school, like what was your, [pause] I don't know, what did you, I want to say what did you learn, but like what experiences benefited you and how did they benefit you?
JB: Well before-.
AR: How did you think you changed, maybe?
JB: I moved up to Lake, the Lake Norman area in the middle of my eighth grade year. And like I didn't know anybody, and I'd always been shy, and then I met certain friends who kind of helped me come out of my shell. And I'm still in it sometimes, but I'm a lot better than I used to be and the whole high school experience helped me out a whole lot with learning how to be myself and not be so worried about what people thought about me.
AR: That's cool. Do you think that your, uh, your principles, like the way that you live your life changed at all, high school until now? Like your morals?
JB: No.
AR: Uh-huh.
JB: No, I've always had very strong morals and maybe I did some things is high school that I regret.
AR: [Laughs] //Who didn't? //
JB: // But it wasn't, // it wasn't ever for me ever a question of morality. I mean I did some dumb things, but [laugh] nothing to get all bent out of shape over.
AR: It was high school, you're supposed to do dumb things.
JB: Yeah, sometimes I think I just did a little bit more than others.
AR: [Laughs] Well, some of us lived a very sheltered life. [Laughs] And so, you know-.
JB: Some of us?
AR: Some of us had to wait until after college even!
JB: Some of us lead double lives [laugh].
AR: A teacher by day, a what by night? [Laughs].
JB: No, not now, in high school!
AR: Oh, OK.
JB: Everybody always thought I was the sweet innocent angel.
AR: Yeah, you were telling me how your family still has that, like your cousin still has that opinion of you.
JB: Oh, yeah.
AR: And how they forgot you're actually a grown woman now.
JB: Yeah, I still get treated like a child. But it's OK. Not that it's a bad thing because I am, I am the baby in my family. So it's kind of expected.
AR: Does it get frustrating?
JB: It can. I just think sometimes my family, they don't understand that I am 20 years old and I can make my own decisions and I don't need their help.
AR: All the time?
JB: All the time. I mean, when I ask for it, give it, but if I don't, just have faith in me and know that I have it under control.
AR: What are your, hold on I have to check this. So what exactly, how do you live your life? Like what's, what's your principle that you live your life by?
JB: Well, if something seems like it's the right thing to do, I do it. And if it seems like I shouldn't do it, then I don't. And most of the time if you just listen to your heart it will tell you what to do.
AR: [Long pause] So you listen to your heart?
JB: Mm-hmm.
AR: Well that's a good thing to do. You are a teacher at Chesterbrook Academy. Is that where you would like to have your career in like early childhood, I know maybe not at Chesterbrook exactly but-?
JB: Actually, no. It's just one of those things that I'm doing at the moment to get by so I can figure out what it is that I want to do. And at the time, I'm having fun and paying the bills so that's where I shall stay until I figure out what direction I'm headed in.
AR: Do you have any interests? Anything that you are thinking about now? That you might be interested in doing?
JB: Yes, of course.
AR: Of course?
JB: Of course.
AR: Your ambitions.
JB: I'm very interested in business.
AR: Business? Like what kind of business?
JB: I'd like to open my own one day.
AR: Ooh. Your own what?
JB: I'd like to open a restaurant, but I wouldn't want to have a hand in the whole like cooking and all that. I just-.
AR: You want to do the business aspect of it, not the food aspect?
JB: Yeah, I'd leave that up to others.
AR: [Laugh] Other people that might be able to do the cooking, and know more about it, huh? More experience, more years, more training in that area?
JB: Uh-huh. That's just my, my silly little dream.
AR: Aww, it's a good dream, though. It's not silly. At least you have ambitions. Ambitions are a very good thing to have.