[Voices of Cabrini raw: George Robbins interview]

Raw video shot for "Voices of Cabrini." Shot between 1995-1999, it documented the Cabrini Green redevelopment project proposed and carried out by the City of Chicago. This video was recorded inside George Robbins's barbershop at 456 W. Division Street and features a long interview with George Robbins.

00:00Copy video clip URL Static.

0:20Copy video clip URL Open to a young boy’s hand resting on a barber’s chair. He gets his hair cut in George Robbins’s barbershop. Robbins chats with someone on the phone.

1:24Copy video clip URL A series of still shots of the boy getting his haircut follows.

2:23Copy video clip URL Video of the haircut resumes. Robbins is still on the phone. Cut to a group of people waiting in line for their haircut. A man gets interviewed by the cameraman. He talks about his move out of the neighborhood.

4:31Copy video clip URL The boy finishes his haircut. The boy’s mother elaborates on another customer’s point about how gang violence in the area forces people to move out of the area.

7:33Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks her what the first years of Cabrini-Green were like. She says: “Ain’t nothing wrong with it!”

9:08Copy video clip URL Robbins makes change for the boy. Another customer takes his seat at the barber’s chair. They chat and reminisce. Close up shots of Robbins’s barber tools.

12:02Copy video clip URL Interview between Antonio Ferrera and George Robbins who describes the early years of Cabrini-Green: “It looked like a regular neighborhood where everybody knew everybody and just kinda lived together…” He talks about white flight and the housing crisis created by the Second Great Migration. He also describes how truant officers would police the neighborhood to make sure all the children were in school: “Kids didn’t have a lot of leisure time…there weren’t that many single-parent homes in those days…”

17:02Copy video clip URL Robbins talks about how young boys got introduced into gangs: “They decided to join one group in order to be protected from another group…” He then talks about his neighbors and the community when he first moved to the area. After the introduction of gangs, a new incoming population, and the drug trade, the community devolved.

21:19Copy video clip URL Robbins is asked by the camera man whether Cabrini-Green has served its purpose. He does not think it has served its purpose, because it has not been a successful public housing project. He details the gangs, violence, drugs, and lack of services. He thinks elevator operators would have been an excellent way to help overall project services. He has remained relatively safe from these problems, because he was adamant that his barbershop would not allows drinking or smoking or swearing. He says that some younger kids call him “Rev” since he insists on such good behavior.

28:48Copy video clip URL Ferrera asks Robbins what the most difficult thing to deal with has been as a business person. Robbins says that it has been difficult keeping loiterers (“loafers”) from swearing. He’s asked about the eviction notice, but says that he’d expected it for some time, though it is hard to leave: “It’s almost like starting all over again.” He says he’ll miss the familiar faces and good, clean fun.

33:35Copy video clip URL Robbins recalls the time he got lost on a bus in Chicago. He took the bus as far west he could. The bus driver didn’t offer any assistance. He stopped a white motorist who gave him a ride. The motorist explained to Robbins that he wouldn’t usually pick up a black man on the road, but he’d just come from church, and the preacher told him to help race relations in the city. When Robbins tried to pay the motorist for the ride, the motorist refused and asked Robbins to pay the good deed forward. The lesson stuck with Robbins since: “It kinda helped shape my life up…you do what you can to help people because you know it’s right to help people…”

37:47Copy video clip URL Robbins explains how it’s one family, his brother, Moe, and himself, who operate the barbershop. He recounts his work history.

39:17Copy video clip URL Ferrera asks Robbins whether he can remember the first time he had to move: “It was kinda good to get away from the south…we had been told there was a lot of good work here and it paid better.” He recalls working at a saw mill in Mississippi. He moved to Chicago on Sunday, June 3, 1953 and went to work the following day with his brother-in-law at the Chocolate Product Company, which made Chocolate Kayo Drink, chocolate powder, syrup, and other items for candy factories.

43:00Copy video clip URL Ferrera asks Robbins what the most exciting event has been in the barbershop. Robbins recalls Muhammad Ali’s visit to Cabrini-Green when Harold Washington was elected mayor of Chicago. He also met some players from the Cleveland Browns, Jamie Caylor, and Walter Robinson.

45:09Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Robbins what he thinks about the high-rise buildings getting demolished. Robbins: “It’s kind of sad in one sense and it’s good in another sense. The saddest part is the displacement of peoples. The good part is that…they won’t have a hard time getting it [city services].” Robbins talks about how it’s commonly understood that public low-income high rises were a disaster. He also says: “I don’t really feel that bad about them being torn down, because they should come down, because they’re too congested, but to think of all the people who are going to be displaced and won’t be able to come back…most of us won’t be able to live here, because we can’t afford it…You’re not forced out. You’re priced out…it’s kinda sad.”

48:26Copy video clip URL Series of still shots of Robbins in his barber’s chair.

48:54Copy video clip URL Tape goes to black.

49:04Copy video clip URL End of tape.

 

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