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0:12 - Journey to UD

2:28 - While at UD: Diversity

12:16 - While at UD: Things to do

16:25 - While at UD: Student Demographics

17:38 - After UD: Reasons for Transferring to Howard University

19:04 - Sports

21:25 - Journey to UD: Mothers' Influence

23:49 - While at UD: Faculty

26:22 - Setting Goals

28:28 - After UD: Self Employed

39:54 - Preparing for the Workforce

46:12 - While at UD: McCormick Gymnasium


0.02 GG: This is Garrison Grubb interviewing Mr. Fleming, today is November 22nd, and this is being conducted face to face for the oral history project University of Dubuque. Good morning, um since you were only at the University of Dubuque your freshmen year. What was it like approaching the university?

0.20 PF: Um, what was it like?

0.22 GG:Yes.

0.23 PF: It was different.The reason I attended the school was because it was closest to where I lived. Versus where I stayed Chicago, and so it was maybe at that time a four and a half hour drive, and so that's why I attended because "fam-U" had also given me a scholarship to attend. But that was in Florida so my mom had suggested that I stay close to home. Only because at that time, I think I had just turned 17. So actually I could've graduated at 16, but I wanted to stay back and play sports at Thornton township high school in harvy IL. and so I stayed back a year, um needed half a credit, um played baseball and football at Thornton, um then I was given a scholarship for baseball and football to the university of Dubuque. So when I went up to visit, um it was closer to home, and my parents were the ones to push me, you know, to a different school you need to do this, um you know, that's how I got to the university of Dubuque.

1.38 GG: Alright, who recruited you, and how did they pitch the school to you?

1.41 PF: Um, the football coach. Um name escapes me its been 30 years now. But um he had come to see me play at one of our games, and had approached via a letter to my parents. And so you know, that's how I came to see the program. Yeah.

2.04 GG: Did he mention anything else about the school, or its size or environment?

2.07 PF: That it was a small, a small school. And um, really didn't mention anything else because most of the students especially African American students that attended back in the 1980's were athletes so they came to play football, or um a couple of guys played basketball. And no one played baseball, I mean I was the only African American student on the baseball team. We had some challenges, as freshmen coming onto the university from the city. Um with the other students that attended there from all over. Um and as freshmen this was a time of that, I don't know if you remember there was a movie out about Alex Haley called "Roots". And "Roots" had come out like a year or so before that, or somewhere in the same vicinity. And um, I came from a high school, that I played with other nationalities, in sports. Some of the guys form Chicago, from the inner city schools they didn't have any other ethnicity on their squad. So they weren't use to being interaction. At the same time in Iowa a lot of the Caucasian athletes had not had interactions with anybody other than themselves. So the first week that the athletes got down to the dormitory, and you know, we were hittin' practices you had an exchange of ideas and philosophies from both sides. And they crashed, and they fought, and a lot of guys left, and decided that I'm not going to take this, I'm going to go back to JC, Junior College, Imma leave here and go back home, or whatever, cause I'm not going to stand for this. And, didn't understand necessarily at the time, but as I grew older that I realize that the experience that the Caucasians had, their perspective was they saw things like "Roots" and they saw things like, things of that nature, and they thought it, they didn't know how to deal with African American students. On the other hand, the African American students didn't have interactions with Caucasians. And they didn't have an understanding of how to deal with them. I on the other hand was okay because I interacted with other nationalities through sports and through going to my high school. And so that was what my saving grace was, you know, and I didn't have an issue um when we would go to Davenport, or that we would go to Northern, or something like that. Growing up playing baseball I had no issue being on the bus with nothing but Caucasians, or playing ball or nothing because I had interaction with them. But for some of the other guys it was a problem, on both sides. You know cause some of the White guys had never even seen Blacks before, they never been through Iowa, they never went to school with them, never played with them, or did anything. So you had all these ideological view points and philosophies came together and they crashed man. Like for 18 and 19 year olds starting off in college, you know, so it was, it was, it was a big deal. And at that time we had um, two African American females at the school, that's it. You know we had Donna Cooper we had Cynthia um Slader now, you know. But that was it, so you had about 20 African American men, you had two African American females, then you have of course some Asians that came from Malaysia. One of my real good friends worked in Martial Arts with name Chu Lee, he came as a um table tennis scholarship, on the table tennis, which is ping-pong. And also he got a scholarship for Martial Arts, so the country sent him to the university of Dubuque on a full scholarship. Because he was a champion in those two sports, and he had to give them two years once he got back so you had people coming like that. But the experience was a good one for me. You know, um, the school didn't look like anything like it looks today. I mean I, I got a chance to go there for homecoming and realized that if there is an athlete or student just interested in getting into a college and they visited the university today hands down there's no way they can leave there and say, "I don't want to attend this school." Dubuque has everything now, we didn't have any of that. They have everything now, I was really impressed with the school. I mean I could go back to the school, get back on pilots just to hang out on campus.(Laughter) And play ball with these facilities, it was really cool, I really appreciated the homecoming.

7.25 GG:Um just to back track a little bit, they called it the Caucasian students being witness to the mini-series "Roots". Um could you elaborate on what you mean by that?

7.35 PF:Well what happen was in the movie of course African Americans were called the "N-word". And that transferred from the lips of the Caucasians, athletes, to the African American males because that's all they knew. So at that time, it didn't, or maybe it did, I mean they really didn't understand, or maybe if they understood, maybe they did it on purpose. And so the African American students, they weren't accepting that. Its like there's no way in the world you going to call me that we fighting. And that's exactly what they did, the dorms went up in fights all the time. You know so if you trade with me, if, if you on the field, and you know, something happens you don't get your way, you don't get something happens, you know whisper that name, ah its on and poppin' . I don't know, we not having that so the ones that had an issue with it, you know, um they, they challenged them. I mean you could walk around town and you could have you know, we weren't allowed to do a lot of things back in 83. I mean you couldn't go to some of the local, well first of all, you weren't old enough. Um I think the drinking age would have been 18, but of course I didn't drink, but you couldn't go to the bars, you couldn't go to any clubs, I don't think there were any clubs. Clarke which is the neighboring school, which was all girl school at the time, so that's where we would go to have, if they would have a party we would kind of go in a group. We would go over there because we only have two girls at our school, we go over there and kind of go to their dances. And they'd kick us out after a while cause we try to sneak in there. But um, the, the, the locals they weren't use to use either so you'd have people staring at you, have people saying things to you that they weren't suppose to be saying. And so you had to pretty much stay close to campus at that time, because you pretty much never knew what was going to happen. And if you went anywhere you kind of had to go in groups. I remember my roommate Tyron, he was a Quarterback. And um he had gone to visit some girl over at Clarke and he got chased back to the dormitory. He got back and his clothes were ripped, he was jumping fences and all kind of stuff because the local guys saw him out there all by himself they chased him all the way back to the University of Dubuque. So it was a crazy time, you know, during that time, you know so. And, and that's just the time the sign of the times that were prevalent back in the 80's when you're going into these small towns, trying to go in there and get an education, you don't know anything and you know just going where you're asked to go and doing what you're told to do. And um so you had some challenges, you had some issues.

10.46 GG: Um, would you be aware of this it, it was 83 correct?

10.49 PF: Yes.

10.50 GG: Did you know how the "Pac" and the economy of Dubuque was doing at that time? Because I know the "Pac" was closing down in the late 80's.

10.57 PF:Yeah, I don't know about the economic financial economics in Dubuque at that time, but when I left they were just building the dog track. They have a dog track now, where they were racing greyhounds or something like that. That was just coming into play, yeah I think it came in 84. When they build it that was one of the first, there was no casino, there was none of that stuff out there at that time, it was real small, it, it was small. And we just had one football field and um, and the old building where they played basketball, um that was the gym. That was it, and everything happened right center of campus there, there, the things you guys have today hands down, it's a good felling to go and see the buildup that's happen at the university, we had very limited resources. Um all the athletes probably still today, um we ate together, um most of us stayed in the same place together, bunked together. Um and um, the teachers were real cool, there weren't any issues with professors, um the course schedule was simple, it wasn't hard. I remember in the student hall, in the student hall, what do you guys call it the student?...

12.32 GG: Are you talking about Peters Common?

12.34 PF: That's where all the students kind of all get together? Um its underneath, lower, its underneath.

12.41 GG: The Underground?

12.41 PF: Yes. Its, its, its in the building but you go around you go down.

12.45 GG: Yeah! Its no longer there, but, it was..

12.47 PF:What was the name?

12.48 GG: It was the Underground, when it was there while, because it closed in 2012, 2013, and yeah they re modified it.

13.00 PF: So I remember when um, Michael Jackson's "Thriller", we all went to that underground complex and watched the video, it was filmed in 15 minutes. That was huge, I mean the hole school would go down there, we had a big screen TV down there floor model. And everybody would sit around and watch this 15 minute video with Michael Jackson Thriller. And that came out at that time, so you know, we did things like. We had a house too. We had a um, the African Americans had a little house we would go and do some studies in, if we wanted to have a little party or something, that we'd have it have that, at that little house. I remember we had a toga party. Um and um, there were some of the Asian girls who asked some of the athletes, "What's a toga party?" So we said "Its when you wear a sheet and you just come and rap a sheet around like Bam-bam or something and come on out." And so I remember one of the girls I know, I told her what to wear so she came to the toga party with nothing on, but a sheet. (Laughter). And so when she got there the girls told her, "What do you have on?" She said, "Well they told me to come" and so "girl you better get out of here and go put you some short on and put you a bra on or something." Cause we had it out there bad man, she didn't know what was going on cause she never heard of no toga party. So we use to have fun like that, then there was the "Rocky Horror Picture Show". Where I think the building is still there, they gave us like a poncho, some tomatoes and we went in and watched this in a little theater room. And they allowed us to throw the potatoes, tomatoes at the screen at the each other. So it was a lot of fun, so they tried to create an atmosphere that was inclusive for everybody in spite of what was going on in town. You know the university knew it had to, in order to keep these students they had to provide them with something. To take their mind off the stuff in town, you guys stay here we're going to provide some activities for you. Um there was always the ping-pong to play or the big screen to watch, or you know sports to play, um study groups to have. You know little parties at the house, or there was always something so you really didn't have to you know travel too far to try to you know to find something to do. Now I don't know what's going on intown. But I would eventually think , there's a lot more around town that you can do, yeah. But we didn't have it at that time. And that's 31 years ago man, 83, this is 2014.

16.17 GG: Well the town has gotten a lot more inclusive now, you can go to bars now. But to get back, wh, what was the rest school population like? Was it, it sounds like the administration was very open and trying to be inclusive toward.. and the athletes were kind of exclusive didn't really.. what was the rest of the student body like?

16.39 PF:It was small, I mean you had like a lot of people who were in aviation, um school of aviation. You had a hand full of Asian students, um very few maybe 25, 30 at the most African American students, and it was just a small school. And then you know you had the Caucasian students, it was small I can't remember, it was never huge not like the amount of student that might be available to the school today. I remember, think we were under one thousand. I would think that we were under 1000 students, but we made it work. And so I transferred from there and went to Howard University, in Washington DC. And um I got to that school and coach ask me if I want to play football, and I saw a fashion show of women and decided to sit out for semester, and it never resurfaced. It was a rap, it was over with, because I went to school with professionals that you see on television, their kids. You know, I was in class with certain name, that's who attended that school, that was like our Black Yale our Harvard. The who's who of African American students at that time attended Howard University. It was out Princeton, our Yale, our Harvard for African American students and it was a tough school too, cause they put a lot on you to get into school, and they made sure to keep the pressure on you while you were in the school. That's why I transferred from the university, I mean Dubuque, didn't really have negative experience at the university. I didn't stay, cause some of the other people stayed and graduated, um but after that first year I went and transferred out Yeah.

19.02 GG: How'd you switch from football to baseball? What was the main..

19.05 PF: Well I played both in high school. Yeah, so I always played Jackie Robinson league since the age of 7. So you see the young men that just won the state championship, or the championship just this past summer? That's Jackie Robinson league. Well I did that at the age of 7, that's when I started playing baseball. So was in me every summer, we played little league every summer during the school year, during high school I played on the baseball team. And football was the same way. So those two sports I played all the time they kept me out of trouble.

19.47 GG: I was just a little curious because you had like kind of playing football in your college years, and just switched over to baseball.

19.53 PF: When I had transferred out of Dubuque I didn't play either sport.

19.57 GG: Oh you didn't?

19.57 PF: After Howard I didn't play ball at all, I played with the girls. I didn't play ball. I mean I'm talking about, I decided to sit out for a semester I thought and would get back to it, but never got back to it.

20.11 GG: Okay, that's what you meant when you said you were through. Okay.

20.17 PF: It was a different time then man, the girls were so pretty it was like oh my God. You know so I just decided to just go to school. And you know it was good because once you're trained, you know, when you leave your parents, to go to school. You know in high school as a senior, senior cut day and all that stuff I never, I had perfect attendance. I didn't do any of that, I played ball, and you know there were two scholarships give out that year, I got one, and one of my buddy's got one. But we won the state championship in football and they hadn't done that at the high school in 25 years. So of course the team had to be good enough, good athletes in order to win the state championship that hadn't been done in such a long time. But why weren't those guys able to go and get a scholarship, or be able to go to a university of their choice? Cause the grades weren't there. So you had to be discipline, so I was thankful to my parents. You know I went to school I did what I was asked to do, I attended school every day. And so by the time I got to Dubuque I remember calling my mom one day at about 11 o'clock at night. And she asked me, because normally I'm in the bed 930,10 o'clock, in high school, so she ask me "What are you still doing up", and I had to think about it "Yeah right what am I still doing up?", I said wait a minute,"I'm in college, I can be up". But um, but that discipline though. Is what carried me through university, you know, and um so I have to take my hat off to my parents man. To my mom for keeping us rounded, cause I'm one in three kids, I'm the youngest of three. But all the while this stuff was going on in the city like Chicago with the gangs and the drugs, and the things that still go on today. She had her house in order, so by time I got to the university of Dubuque it was nothing to me. To deal with you know, prejudice-ness, or you know going to school when I was suppose to being, you know, listening to authority, doing what I was asked to do. You know, and because it was what I was use to doing. So if you coming from a home that's kind of broken, or you able to be what you want to do when you get down the university, and their giving you structure and rules and you're fighting against that because you didn't have it before you got there, then it, it becomes a problem. And then to have someone else put more pressure on you then things are going to blow up. I went through with flying colors because I was use to doing that already. You know even when I transferred to the new university that same level of discipline followed me, and that's why I made and was able to get through. And you know you need that discipline once you graduate, you need, once you graduate because you gonna get on a job. And there's gonna be supervisors you don't like, gonna be manager you don't like and their gonna tell you what to do. And unless you can hold your own and, and, and, pull it from a place that you're familiar with you're gonna get fired you're gonna lose your job, you're gonna get written up you're gonna do all kinds of things. But the educational system, and the good professor that were there, you know they would pull you aside, and say I know this is what you're doing, but I know this isn't who you are. You need to, you'd be better served, or you'd be better served and yourself if you do this. You know, you know if you had any goals, you know, you would listen to what they would say and you know. And that one little conversation could straighten out your grades man, and it was important, especially for an athlete who had to maintain a certain GPA in order to keep a scholarship. You know you gotta listen to somebody, so I think it was, I remember I had some good professors at the university man. You know as a freshmen starting out I think that's a necessary as a freshmen you know that might be that one thing that makes you believe you don't need to go to school. You I'm getting this from professors and they won't give me a break, umm forget it but you know if you have good professors that are teaching these freshemen and planting some seed in them and giving them hope, it makes a big difference in their academic career.

25.22 GG: Uh, you mentioned faculty, did any professor stick out? Or was there a favorite?

25.26 PF:I can't remember, it was an English teacher. And um I can't remember her name, and, um it escapes me, you know my major was English and Philosophy. And you know my goal was to learn those two subject s, and take that on to law school. I wanted to become a lawyer, because the people I admired were lawyers. That's one thing and I knew that they had to, um, be creative, and you know, and go before the judge. And be the case, and know the kind of law you were trying to do, and be good litigators, and you know they make good money, some of the ones that I knew. I learned differently later, but my goal as a freshman was to learn English and philosophy, go to law school, become this lawyer, and by time I reach thirty years old I wanted to make at least 100,000 a year. That was a goal, like imma get myself to thirty. I also set a goal that I didn't want to have any kids, I didn't want to be married, I didn't want to do any of that until I got my career going. And that was going to be around the age of thirty. So I knew this before I got to Dubuque, even as a freshmen. Because I knew what I wanted to do, and so, uh, by the time I transferred to Howard, um let me back up. At the age of 16, before I got to University of Dubuque I got trained by a fellow by the name of S.B Fulla, you can Google him, you'll see him. But he was one, uh, he was instrumental in training Marry Kay, and Mr. Johnson, of Johnson, Johnson, products and a lot of other people. And at 16 I worked him over the summer, as a door to door sales person. And um I leant a lot of things over that summer, I was a top teen seller. So by the time I got to the University of Dubuque, I had set some goals for myself, those things that Ijust mentioned. And I knew that, um, that if I stayed the course everything would work its self out. But it was mainly due to that fact that may family made okay money, you know we weren't, you know middle class. But we were kinda blue collar, we were, um, we did okay. You know and um, so you know I wanted to make money so I could be able to help my mom. So I chose that career because I knew that career would lend a certain amount of money versus just having a job. Um well from the ages of 16 to 17 till now I've been self employed, I've never had a job. Even going through school, when I went to Howard I had, I uh was regional Vice President of, had my own agency for, uh network marketing company. And um I've started business from scratch built them up, and sold them. Even today I have two businesses, but I've never had a job, so I've never punched a clock. I don't know what that's like. You know because I learned at the age of 16 that someone had to create the job, and someone had to work the job that was created. And I had to look at who was the person who made the most money, the person who worked it, or the person who created it? That person was who created it, so I always created work. You know, now I never, now I'm coachable, I can be the employee, but I can only be the employee of someone I think can lead me. If I feel like you can't, or I feel like I know more than you, or work harder than you, or anything like that. Then its going to be very difficult for you to lead me, cause imma run circles around you. So it had to be someone who's very thorough and can make things happen. But because of that um I've been that person, and I've employed a lot of people, and I still educate and help people, and have you know coaching and mentoring, imma mentor to a lot of people and (Laughter from other room distorts a couple of words here 29:52). In the business that I have people who've just never learned, they have goals, um, they have dreams and they just to dust them off and activate them again.