Life Story Workshop: Snippets from PSS Senior Centers

May 4, 2020

We had our first Life Story Workshop with PSS earlier this week, and our small group had great time and shared a good laugh as we swapped stories about the silly things we did when we were kids.

Near the end of the workshop, we shifted gears to a more serious topic with the question: What was the greatest historical event you lived through? Not only were the stories this question led to wonderfully captivating, but they also give a snapshot of the absolutely brilliant community that exists at PSS. We figured it was only appropriate to share some of these stories with the larger PSS community. And if you’re a member of the PSS community and would like to join us, we invite you to do so!

The PSS Life Story Workshop meets online/over the phone on Mondays at 1pm–we hope to see you there.

Our meetings take place over Zoom.

  1. You can join via video chat by downloading the Zoom software (  then clicking on this link at the scheduled time (
  2. You can join via teleconferencing: Call 301-715-8592. Then enter 4507174121#, which is the meeting ID followed by the pound key. Press the pound key a second time when prompted.

Here are some snippets of life stories from the workshop (a big thank you to our storytellers who agreed to share their story!)

Jacob A., Member of PSS Kings Tower

I was born in Africa. Nigeria was under British colony, so as a kid, in grade school, we were told that the Royal Family was coming to Nigeria.

I lived really downtown, where everything is. There was a playground. Houses surrounded it and a lot went on there. That was the place for everybody to congregate, so school children were told to be in their best dress, best behavior. We were handed flags. At the time I had no clue about flags of any nation, but we were given British flags. We were there to welcome the Queen to Nigeria.

It was the first time outside of school that I had to see kids from—I can’t even tell you—from everywhere. This was a football field and different schools congregated there. She came, going around to everybody. Plenty didn’t have the historical knowledge of what the Royal Family was all about. At the time, we were told that the queen was coming and that I will always remember.

Queen Elizabeth's Visit to Nigeria: History & Details

Queen Elizabeth was Queen of Nigeria from 1960 – 1963, the time between the nation’s independence and when she became a republic. Source: Queen Elizabeth’s Visit to Nigeria: History & Details

Tina A., Director of PSS Manhattanville

For me it was when Shirley Chisholm announced her presidency of the United States. So she was the first African American, period, that I really saw speak, and speak so intelligent and eloquently. I met her in person, maybe two blocks from home. She was in front of the pizza shop. Then, a lot of the local politicians–David Dinkins, Denny Ferrell–would go and eat pizza there because they lived, maybe a block and a half from there on Riverside Drive. And she came in.

In the beginning, I didn’t pay attention to her speaking, but she spoke with such power I had to take notice even as a young girl. I was like, wow, this lady is intelligent. She’s just speaking so you know eloquently and intelligently.

And she took her time with the young people and asked them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “You can be anything,” and was just encouraging.

And she said she was running for president. Prior to that there wasn’t that many black people that spoke out. And then when I came home and I asked my parents, “I met Shirley Chisholm. I’ve seen her on the TV. Who is she?”

And the first thing my father says to me is, “If you want to know, well what do we do when we want knowledge? We go to the library and find out. You write a book report and then we’ll talk about it.” I was like, “No, but I want to know.” Then he said, “If you want to know now then you go to the library, like I said, and see if you can find some information and then we’ll talk about it. But first try and find out on your own.” They always used to send us to the library to find out our own information, then we’d sit down as a family and talk about things.

That was my first historical big event that I lived through. And after that, I started following things a little bit. I said, “In our lifetime, we will never see a black person in the White House.” And to live through Obama was something historical for me because the first historical event that was important to me was Shirley Chisholm running for the president.

Her slogan was, Unbought and Unbossed, and the way she spoke, you could kind of feel that that’s how she was. That she didn’t have any tie to anybody. She was a little woman in stature, but she had a big powerful voice.

Before Hillary Clinton, there was Shirley Chisholm - BBC News
Shirley Chisholm announced her historic run for the White House in 1972. The slogan, “unbought and unbossed” appeared on Chisholm’s campaign posters, one of which resides in the collections of the National Museum of African American of History and Culture. Source: Smithsonian Magazine