Alfreda Small

(Brownsville Recreation Center)Alfreda Small

My name is Alfreda Small and I was born in Harlem, New York. I grew up in East Harlem and lived in there for about twenty-five years. I was married for thirty-one years; my husband passed away in October of 2011. The closest thing that I’ve ever done to what we’re doing in The Tempest was about 45 years ago when I was a teenager; I did modern dance class in high school. Also when I was in high school, I was a violinist and I used to do concerts.

I went to Earlman college in Richmond, Indiana. That’s the first college I was in, and I was in the chamber orchestra. I was out of college for a long time, and eventually went back to college and graduated when I was fifty. After my early college years, I got married and had three kids, and then I got a job with the police department. I worked as the administrative aid for almost twenty years. I retired from there on September 8th, 2012 and have been retired for about a year now.

I have three grown kids. I have one daughter who is twenty-six, another that’s twenty-nine, and another daughter who’s thirty-three. My thirty-three year old used to be a pastor with her own church, and she works as a nutritionist now. My twenty-nine year old has an MBA, and I’m so proud of her, coming out of Brownsville with an MBA. She works for the federal government. And my baby works for Duane Reade. And she is trying! I give her her propers!

I’ve lived here in Brownsville for 25 years with my husband. I knew my husband since I was 8 years old; we both grew up in East Harlem. We had a little church, a little storefront church, and we grew up in the church together. I knew his mom, he knew my mom, and we were just little kids growing up together. When we were older, we went to separate colleges, and we didn’t see each other for a while. Eventually he dropped out of his college, I dropped out of my college, and we came back to Harlem and met each other again. And we just got back together. My mom was a sweetheart—she came from the South and raised us as if we were living in the South. However her parents raised her, that’s the way it was for us. We couldn’t run the streets, we couldn’t do any of that stuff. We just had to stay there and listen to our mom or do our chores.

As a New Yorker, every year I go to a concert at Prospect Park. When I go to the Philharmonic Concerts, I feel like a New Yorker. I don’t feel like I’m a Brownsville person or a Harlem person—I feel like we’re just one group. I felt that way during 9/11. After the towers went down, I went to 14th Street just to shop or whatever, and I felt really tied in as a New Yorker. At that time everybody was so crazy about what had happened. The ashes were still coming down, and we were just wandering the street, but we knew that we had a connection to that whole event and that we were really Americans, we were really New Yorkers.

At the prospect of dancing in the Tempest, at first I said to myself, “Alfreda, there’s no way you can do this! You have been to the rehearsals, but there’s no way you can do it.” But then I just keep coming and keep coming and keep coming. I just have to keep myself focused, because I’m not a professional. But I’m kinda artsy, yes!


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Founded by Joseph Papp as the Shakespeare Workshop and now one of the nation’s preeminent cultural institutions, The Public is an American theater in which all of the country’s voices, rhythms, and cultures converge.
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