I’m Alma Hueston and I was born and raised in the Bed-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. I graduated from Franklin K. Lane HS. My parents could not afford to send me to college, so I worked full time while I attended NYC Community College (now CityTech) and later City College.
During my college years in the late sixties, the civil rights and anti-war movements were in full bloom. I was active in the student protest movement led by Black and Latino students. We closed down and occupied the South Campus to protest, among other conditions, the lack of Black and Latino studies. I remember marching up to the main gate at City College and watching as the gates were chained shut. We occupied the campus for a number of days. People from the community would bring us food and water. As a result of these protests, City University established an open admissions policy that allowed more access to students of color, as well as the creation of African and Latino studies programs. Months after the demonstrations, FBI agents came to my house to question my mom and me. You know, at that time it was quite common for the FBI to come out looking for people. They did not come with guns drawn, but it was still a terrifying experience, especially for my mom. Now that I’m retired, maybe I’ll file a FOIL request and take a look at my file.
I’m essentially a New York City girl. I went to public school here, college and graduate school, and I taught and worked as an administrator for a number of years. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that I actually moved from New York City upstate to Albany to work for the Education Department.
I have a daughter, she’s my only child, and she lives in Delaware. She gets a laugh out of talking to my friends, because when we get together we’re always talking about things we did when we were in college. She just can’t imagine me being a rabble-rouser! Sometimes, when I think about it, I can’t imagine it either. But my daughter’s college experience was a lot different from mine as a result of things that my generation did. Oftentimes young people now think that they invented certain things; for example with music. They don’t realize that there’d be no Kanye West or Jay-Z had there not been a Lester Young, Billie Holiday or James Brown to come before them. I think that’s one thing that we need to teach young people today, that they do not exist in a vacuum; that they can’t understand what’s happening now unless they have some sense of the struggles and sacrifices made by their elders. A lot of entertainers died broke, and that’s why I admire young people like Master P, Kanye West, and Jay Z. They’re talented musicians, but they also know the business and they know how to do business. That’s very important.
I really feel that I’ve come full circle from my City College days, and from my years working in education. What we’re doing with the Tempest is teaching, but it’s a different form of teaching. The fact that someone has decided to put all these different groups together —you have community based organizations, professional entertainers, young people and seasoned people—to share a story that was written years ago, is an amazing event. It pulls all my different life experiences together. You know, I never took dance lessons as a kid. I can barely do popular dances now. But I love to watch dance; I like going to see Alvin Ailey every Christmas, but I’ve never been a performer. So for me to have this opportunity to be on a stage now, and a renowned stage at that, is pretty cool.