People of Chelsea

(The following is one in a series of sneak peeks at the upcoming People of Chelsea additions by Photographer Darlene DeVita. The new work will ultimately appear on the fence of the Chelsea Public Library (CPL) this fall in a collaboration between the People of Chelsea project and the CPL.)

By Darlene DeVita

Annie Jones, Juneteenth Celebration in Chelsea Sq. June 18, 2021
I’ve been in Chelsea 13 years. Before that, Dorchester but I was born in Okolona, Mississippi, near Tupelo. I grew up with Elvis Pressley. Yes, I grew up with Elvis Pressley! [Do you sing?] Of course, my whole family in the South sings, my granddaughter is going to sing here today!  
I came here as a nanny for Peter Fuller, who owned the Cadillac/Olds on Commonwealth Ave. My aunt was here, and she was working for him. I had just got out of high school. I came here on the 1st of September, on a Greyhound bus in 1963. I worked with the Fullers for two years. It was a very good experience. They were very good people. I was treated very well.
[When] I was donating my time for the DNC [Democratic National Convention], stapling the signs on the poles, and I was working with this little man, and he said to me, “Annie, I’m so afraid”. [I asked him,] “What are you so afraid of”? He says, “ I’m afraid of the terrorists, the terrorists might come. Aren’t you afraid”? I said, “No, I’m not afraid. I’ve lived around terrorists all of my life, I was born around terror. Well, who are they? I said The KKK! They’ve been here and never left! We had crosses burned in our yard. It was a terror.”
Coming to Boston, I thought I was leaving the prejudice behind, but its more here than it was there!  You can’t hide it. It’s getting a little bit better. It’ll get there. The COVID really brought out a lot of stuff, things that were buried.
How did I get to Chelsea? When I lived in Dorchester I was applying for senior housing. I was accepted, but they’re (apartments) so tiny, like dollhouses, you can’t put nothing in there, you can’t even put a full-sized bed in them! [A woman who worked in senior housing] said I should come and see where she works in Chelsea. She said they’re HUGE. I said, oh, now it can’t be that big from the brand new ones I’d seen, but oh no, they were HUGE! The next day there’s the application in my mailbox. I came here with a friend, and we were astonished…everyone thought Chelsea was raggedy! I never thought there was a place that beautiful in Chelsea. I was astonished! They had this big utility closest. I fell in love with the closet, It was so large! I just stayed in the closet! I never thought I would find a place like this. That’s how I got to Chelsea.

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