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Interview with Brigida, Charmeen and "Trey" Mack

Mack, Brigida
Mack, Charmeen; Mack, Claude III
Crawford, Vickie
Date of Interview: 
African American churches; African Americans; Family; Education; Religious life; Bible stories; Religious education;
The three Mack children talk about their involvment in their church, Friendship Baptist Church, and the influence of religion on their family life.
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed at Friendship Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC
Levine Museum of the New South, Amazing Grace Series
Collection Description: 
Vickie Crawford interviewed a number of African Americans about their experience in the black church in the South for the Amazing Grace exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South.
Interview Audio: 
VC (Vickie Crawford): Today is Sunday, August the eighteenth. I'm here at Friendship Baptist Church. I'm interviewing the Mack children, Brigida Mack, is that right, Charmeen Mack and Trey Mack. OK, why don't we start out with you Brigida, talk about your involvement in the church here at Friendship.
BM (Brigida Mack): OK, well, for starters, I am a member of the youth choir here which has about eighty members of young black youth, which is very inspirational and we also have a good time. We have a concert coming up today at five o'clock here at the church. I'm also a member of a youth mission group for high school students, which is CREW, that's the acronym but it's Christians Really Excited about Witnessing. And we do a lot of mission work. We used to do mission work with an AIDS patient who passed on recently, Michelle. And we were very close to her so it kind of hit us hard. We also have lock-ins for new members, just to catch up on one another. Eat--, we meet every second and fourth Wednesday of each month. And, we have, we give what we have, what we call "praise reports" where we talk about something where God has helped us throughout the week on a test, or if we got a good grade on our report card, or if we had been having any trouble in any type of relation, friendship, parental, romantic, whatever the case may be, and in some way God helped us out. Let's see, what else, I attend church faithfully, every Sunday. Sometimes, or, you know, every Sunday that we're here. And I'm active in the Sunday school class, you know, participation is, they stress it's very important. I speak out a lot in the church as far as the program goes, any type of appeal for mission or what have you. [Laugh] My parents are pretty well known so I think that makes an impact on us because everyone knows who we are, so acting up is, you know, it's, it's not an issue because it would go back to Deacon Mack and, you know, his wife, Stella. And, so I think that sets us apart from a lot of the other youth at the church.
VC: OK. You attend Sunday school, right, Charmeen? Could you talk about Sunday school and what you do there and some of your favorite Sunday school's, Sunday school lessons? [Pause] Oh, go ahead--. No don't worry about the tape. We're going to edit it out. You know, we're going--. Go ahead. You want to talk Trey? I mean, we just--. What do you like best about Sunday school?
CM (Charmeen Mack): Well, in Sunday school we have lots of fun and do lots of stories and planning for the future.
VC: How do you plan for the future? What, what do you do?
CM: We plan for the future of, we talk about of what we're going to do, I mean what we're going to be when we grow up. And are we going to stay that way or are we going to do a new, a newer job.
VC: What's your favorite Sunday school story, Bible story? Do you have a favorite one?
CM: Yes.
VC: What is it?
CM: When Moses led the [pause] Egyptians out of bond, bondage.
VC: Tell me about that story [laugh]. Somebody, another child told me that, that was one of his favorite stories. What is it about that, tell me that story briefly and tell me why you like it? (That's interesting, he said the same thing.)
BM: Um-hum.
CM: The story is about this man named Moses and he, he asked, that God told him to do him a fav--, favor and He, and He told Moses to go down to Egypt and free the Egyptians from bondage. And Pharaoh said no. And God sent all these plagues like to turn the water into blood and mosquitoes.
VC: And what's the meaning of that story for you? Why do you like it? What's the meaning of it?
CM: To be free.
VC: And how you see to be--. How do you see freedom? What, how does that work in your own life? I'm mean does that--? How do you use that story in your daily life, or do you?
CM: I don't use it.
VC: [Laugh] OK, what's you're favorite story, Trey? [Pause] Let's forget the tape recorder's here, I think we, we're getting kind of letting--.
TM (Trey Mack): No, no.
VC: Yes, because we can edit out the--.
TM: I'm thinking of which one I like the most because there are so many. [Long Pause]
VC: Is there a favorite scripture, a verse that you like? [Pause] Charmeen--. [Tape stops, then restarts.] Why don't you talk about your involvement with the church.
VC: Whatever you want to say about what church means to you.
TM: Well, I'm also in a youth mission group, Calvary Climbers. And what we do, what we do is sometimes we go out on missions and we visit hospitals and children nursing homes and like, senior citizens places.
VC: And what do you like about doing that?
TM: I enjoy the kindness and smiles that the people have over their, have on their faces. And I guess it kind of makes me happy that I'm doing something for someone else instead of myself.
VC: What does Jesus mean to you?
TM: Jesus means a savior who died for me and many other people, said that when we do sin, we can be forgiven. In the church I also speak a lot too. Sometimes on youth Sunday, I'm asked to pray for intercessory prayer. And I enjoy praying because it gives me a chance to express myself through God to the congregation.
VC: Give me an example, could you share one of the, some of your prayer with me, or--? Share some of what you've said one of these Sundays, give me a little, little taste of it, let me, share some of what you've said [pause] on one of these occasions.
TM: Well, sometimes I ask the Lord for forgiveness and to help people that are less fortunate, fortunate. Sorry.
VC: Um-hum.
TM: And to help us to just break away from, like, the world and all the madness and stuff and just settle down and give Him some time and to appreciate all the things that He's done for us.
VC: What's your favorite song? Do you have favorite song that you like? [Pause] Do you Charmeen, is there a favorite song you, you like?
CM: Yes.
VC: What is it? Share it with us?
CM: Jesus I Love You Because You Love Me.
VC: OK. Why don't you sing a little bit of that for me. Can, can you sing?
CM: [Laughter] Yes. [Sings song] Jesus I love because you love me, for all your blessings you've bestowed upon me, and how you keep me going day by day, Jesus I love you in every way. [Finishes singing]
VC: My goodness that's wonderful. [Laugh] What does Jesus mean to you?
CM: Jesus means a savior and an angel and particularly He means the earth and heaven and earth.
VC: Do you think other children that you go to school with attend church like you do? Or do you see yourself as different or the same?
CM: No, not all of them do.
VC: What's different about your family then?
TM: Many, many people that I know like friends, they're not forced to go to church. They really have their choice and sometimes the church is right by them and some Sundays that they don't want to get up they just won't go. And their parents don't have any problem of, they don't have anything, they don't feel there's anything wrong with doing that. And sometimes the parents don't even go. They stay home too. And I think that's really bad since this is the one, one of the most troubled times that the world has faced and there's kids that not even going to church, not even going to church. Their only, their only knowledge of, let's say, Christianity is that there's a God and that's there's Jesus. And some people don't even know why they celebrate Christmas. I mean, you ask them what they're doing for Christmas and they say they are getting a bunch of gifts. And that's one of their happiest moments and I guess that's what Christmas means to them. But in our family, we have to go to church. We don't really have a choice. And we've been taught that we need to go to church and it is important to attend church. So church or not, we willingfully attend it. So, I think that's what's different about our family that separates us from other African American families.
VC: OK. You want to add, add on to that Brigida--.
VC: Talk a little bit more about that--.
BM: Yeah.
VC: What makes your family unique and yet, yet representative of other families too?
BM: I think it makes our family unique because I remember that, you know, when I was younger, it was not an option whether or not that you had to go to church on Sundays. That was just, that was a given. It was not, you know, discussed and, whether you wanted to get up or not, you know, you had to. But now I think that I'm, you know, older and know, and understand the meaning of church and the influential effect that it has on your lives, especially in this day and time, I want to go to church, you know. I mean, yes, it's hard to get up early in the morning but once you get here and you get, you know, rejuvenated by the spirit, it just casts a spell about you that you could never achieve on your own. And, you know, we go to eight o'clock service so we can always come home and go back to sleep in the afternoon and get up that evening or whatever or later in the afternoon and play ball or, you know, go out somewhere or do whatever you have to do. But I think it's, it is essential that young African American children, you know, or youths as ourselves who on the brink of the twenty first century, we need a stable force in our lives like Jesus Christ. And there's nothing else like him. I can testify to that because when there is nobody else or when you think that no one else understands, He does. And you can't get that from not going to church. I think that we are representative of other families. You know, a lot of people look at us as like the "model" family and that's great but it just, you know, it doesn't come by just getting there, you know. It's, it's kind of like you have work at it, you know. We all work at living in Jesus Christ in a world where a lot of people don't believe that there is a God, you know, let alone a Supreme Being or what have you. So, I think it's just really great to have God in your life and once you go there, you can never turn back or whatever.
VC: Yeah, go on.
TM: And, one of the things that, one of the reasons why we have such a huge foundation is because I can remember when we were very young my parents would start out telling us Bible stories. I think the first Bible story that I remember, remember, was the story of Jonah and how God had called upon him to do something and he was afraid to go there. He was afraid to go, I forgot where, he was afraid to go there and witness to the people like God had asked him to. So he got on a ship but then a big huge storm started swarming up and Jonah was asleep under the deck. And so when they went to get him, he knew that the Lord was upset with him, and so he figured the only way that they could get the sea to calm down was to throw him overboard. So he was thrown overboard and he was cast into the belly of a whale. And he sit--. And he was in there for three days and two nights, right--.?
BM: Yeah, that's what it was.
TM: Three days and two nights and he was spit up on the sand. And then, while he was in the belly, he prayed the whole time. And some of these stories that you remember are used for morals for you in your life. I mean, I do know that God has blessed me a lot but I haven't really been through an experience, experience. So it's not very much I can, well, I can witness still a lot, but not as much as someone older than me could. And another reason is, another reason is our parents strive education very hard, very hard. And the expectations are way above the normal standard. I've seen kids go home with C's and get praised to I don't what. I've seen report cards with C, C, D, D and they're jumping up and down. And that's OK because that's their standard but our standard is way up here. And they're telling us that African Americans, male or female can not just be standard unless they want to be saying, "Would like fries with that?" for the rest of their life, you know. If you really want to be somebody, you've got to be above that. And that's the only thing, only thing, that's going to be accepted from us, and not just us, but Hispanics, Indians, Asians, foreign people. I mean, cause, in order to be up here, technology's rising and if you stay down here, how are you going to be able to survive in a world that's way up here.
VC: How do church teachings help you, Brigida, at school for example? How do you use the teachings in your school life?
BM: OK. Well, I think that, [clears throat] you know, at school we're exposed to a lot cursing, people just carrying on or what have you in any kind of way and I think that when we learn, you know, when we hear the sermons, when we're in Sunday school or what have you, we learn how to deal with that and how not to run with the wrong crowd or what have you because, you know, our parents are firm believers that you are known by the company that you keep. And that's why you have to be very careful at school who you run with because, you know the saying, "If you lay down with dogs, you will surely get their fleas." You know, and I believe that through learning the teachings of Jesus Christ, you can, He can give the strength and the faith that it takes to come through whatever they are trying to get you to do. A lot of them will try to get you to cut class. And, you know, you have to say, no, this, you know, education is a priority. And knowing that that is God's will, will help you through that. A lot of them want you to try drugs or to, you know, smoke marijuana. I mean the possibilities are endless in the Charlotte Mecklenburg public school system. I mean, really it is. And knowing that you have the solid foundation of Jesus Christ and all that He has done, is doing, and will be doing for you is going to help you to be able to withstand the peer pressure that you receive at school or what have you. And I think that, this, you know, in, the more Christ like you are, the better off you have a chance of surviving, you know, school life, which is very un-Christian like. I mean, people just carry on any kind of way because it's what they know, but we know differently.
VC: Did you go to Sunday school today?
CM: No, I went to this picnic but it had Sunday school in it.
VC: Oh, well tell me about the picnic and, and what you, what the lesson was for today. Just share it with us.
CM: The lesson was Christian team, I mean Christian teen camp. And, we had to write about what if we were on God's team at a camp what would it be like. He would be the coach and we would, all of us would be the players. And we would have to study the Bible on this team and work together as a group to make the goal, which we were reaching. Too, we were reaching--. A goal we were reaching was to win, to win the game but also to learn about God.
VC: That's wonderful, uh-huh Trey, yeah. What was last week's Sunday school lesson? Do you all remember any lessons from last week? Yeah, go on Charmeen.
CM: I did, we talked about Jonah and the, Jonah and the whale, as Trey has already said. And well, we acted out the play and I was the whale. And I had, I had paper whale over me. And I had to swallow my friend Jared. And what, what I learned, that in that part of the story you had to obey God and He will do good things to you.
TM: Another thing is, in the world today, parents aren't like they used to be. I mean, a lot of parents now have lost their backbone. I mean, they easily give in to their children. And that's why you find, like, a more of a variety of, let's say, spoiled kids. That, yeah, spoiled kids. And so, it's like they whine to get whatever they want, but when they go out there, I mean, and this doesn't have to be ten years later, this can be in middle school, and they think that if they whine to a teacher they're going to get what they want. If they whine to a friend, they're going to get what they want. And that's not what's going to happen. And a lot of kids think they can do whatever, I mean, because their parents just let them get away with it. And then they think they can hit people, punch people, kick people and they're not going to retaliate, they're just going to take it like their parents might have. And so, some kids do retaliate, and because some kids haven't been taught and brought up to learn how to ignore and how to know when to tell the teacher and when not to. But, some kids, not such physical but very verbal. There's a lot of kids that have, [whispers something] let's just say, verbal meanness and can go on and on, and on and on, and on, on somebody. And sometimes kids just can't take it and they explode and that ends up in a lot of physical contact and sometimes severe injuries and even death. And I'm saying that it's not always the kid's fault, it is some of the kid's fault, but it's some of the parent's fault too. Because, if they were brought up the right way, they should know, or have seen their parent's examples on how to bring up their child.
BM: I think that's where our family, or whatever, differs, you know, from what Trey has been saying because you will see a, a parent or an adult trying to bargain with their child. To me, if you are the child you're nowhere near the same level to be arguing or bargaining with that child. You see kids in the store where they say, "Mommy I want this candy bar." The child says to, you know, the parent says to the child, "I'm sorry. No Johnny you can't have that." And that little boy or little girl proceeds to have a fit. And I'm going, that wouldn't have been the Mack's because, you know, they would have given you that one look and you would've straightened up just like that. And I think that that's what is missing in a lot of [clears throat] the households. You know, we didn't, we got spankings or we got, you know, rightfully punished for whatever it is we did. And you know, you know, the scripture says, "You spare the rod, you spoil the child." So, you know, if you don't give them--. There are a lot of parents, "I don't believe in discipline." You're going to let those kids run buck wild and the minute that you try and touch them, kids today holler out child abuse, just like that. And we wouldn't dare do that to our parents, because it's just, I mean you know, you act up, you're going to have to pay for it. And that's how I think we differ from the rest of our, you know, peers or what have you.
VC: What makes you all strong as a family? What makes you a strong family?
TM: Well, I think it's our parents and how they help bring us together, and like molded like that. Because I know a bunch of people whose parents are divorced who ended up with premarital birth and didn't get married anyways. And so I know kids that haven't seen their real father, haven't met their birth father, haven't even talked to their birth father. And some, [pause] and some they get divorced like just right after they have a baby. And they, and some kids haven't seen their birth father since they were three and it's all types of varied ages. But it's like always in those low ages, when the kid doesn't really understand what is going on. He just thinks daddy or mommy's, [pause] he thinks daddy or mommy has gone on vacation. But, after a while 'till he's done got older, daddy and mommy still haven't come back and he's wondering what happened. And when he goes to his mother or father to ask him, ask them, why that is, and they have to tell him it just hurts so much. That his parents got married, had him and couldn't even get along. And some people are great little steady couples and just not ready for marriage but swear they are and they just go right into it and they can't handle it. And it's just so hard on the kid. Even as they get older, it's even harder because they're back in-between, between families. Let's say their birth father gets married and their mom gets married. You've got a step-dad and a step-mother. And sometimes it's like, weekend visitation rights for either the mother or father, which one the court decides more fit. And so you're in between families and sometimes you'll hear a friend saying, "Don't call tonight because I'm going to be over at my dad's house." And you're sitting there going, dag, I mean, cause, I didn't realize there were so many families that's broke, that's like broken, it's a mess.
BM: OK. Well, I think, you know, that it's not only the Christian background that we have, it's just our parents. You know we, we have that strong foundation but we also, you know, we also like to have a good time as a family. When we go out to eat at restaurants, you know, whatever, a lot of times we have a lot of people looking at us because we'll just, you know, be laughing and talking loud. And our waitress or whatever, or waiter's are always like, every time they come to us we're laughing about something different. And, I think that's what, you know, helps hold a family together. Like we have a favorite family movie that is, Coming to America with, you know, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. And we will take turn reciting lines from, that's how well we know it, we're reciting lines from that movie. And even though we've seen the movie thousands of times, and we know exactly what's coming, it's still hilarious and we're just, you know, laughing till we, until our sides ache in that restaurant. And I think that humor, you know, keeps us together also. Because with the stress, and we're a busy family, every morning we go five different ways, you know. And to be able to stay together and keep that type of closeness, you know, we have to, kind of have that type of humor, or just where we can sit back, you know, and hang out whether we'll be out to eat or, you know, at home laughing over something somebody did or whatever, you know. It just, it just depends. And I think that's what sets our parents, our family apart from anyone else because I don't think I'd rather be a part of any other family. And until you see how other, how your peers or friends or whatever, what kind of family that they are faced with, you realize, you know, you don't realize just how blessed you are to be in such a good family. And, you know, everyone's like, "Those Macks are crazy." I take that as a compliment because I would rather us be very prominent than to just blend in the woodwork and people say, "Oh you know the Macks", "Who?" That's not the case here at Friendship. "You know the Macks? Oh, the Macks: Trey, Charmeen, Brigida. Yeah, I know them," you know. And I think that's such a great quality that we are so, you know, crazy or what have you that we come out of the woodworks and we're different and we're unique and you know, kind of, in a class by ourselves.
VC: How does the church factor into that, into your family life that makes you--? How does the, the church and your religious teachings, how do they contribute to your strength of the family?
CM: Well, the, the church kids, well now, one thing my dad is the head deacon and my mama is a deaconess, and every first Sunday we're here for both services to serve communion and [pause] to have prayer and we find, find out that when we go to Sunday school every Sunday we find out new things about God.
TM: Since we've all learned like, different things from the Bible, sometimes when we're coming home we relate to each other about what we've learned in Sunday school that day. And we, we'll talk about one thing, this thing, and that thing, and everybody get all, I guess joins in together and keeps our family held together. And since, I've only been like, I'm just coming out of elementary and I'm going into, and I'm going into middle school, it's like a total different variety of people. I mean, we're different families and different problems. And every family does have their problems that they're still trying to work out, but some families have so many problems it's just hard for their family to be actually called a family. And it's very hard on the kids, and I've seen my friends depressed sometimes and you just ask them what's wrong and they'll say, "Nothing," and just keep walking. And you wish you could like reach inside of them and find out what's wrong, what's going on inside their mind and it's just so sad sometimes.