Interview with Dechaner Willis, September 24, 2010

Material Information

Interview with Dechaner Willis, September 24, 2010
Willis, Dechaner ( Interviewee )
Ellis, Candice ( Interviewer )
Brandon, Mike ( Interviewer )
Mississippi Freedom Project (MFP)
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Oral history interview


Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans ( fast )
Mississippi Delta Freedom Project ( local )
Civil rights movements ( fast )
Labor unions ( fast )
African American packing-house workers ( fast )
Oral histories ( lcgft )
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Florida -- Alachua


Willis talks of working in the catfish industry and about union organizing. People mentioned include: Rose Turner. Locations include: Indianola and Arcola, Mississippi.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Holding Location:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz 241 Pugh Hall Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor O ral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, re ligious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers refer t o both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available on the UF D igital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to refl ect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit http://oral.histor or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013


MFP 062 Interviewee: Dechaner Willis Interviewer: Candice Ellis and Mike Brandon Date: September 24, 2010 B: This is Michael Brandon with Josh Moore. We're interviewing Dechaner Willis, and it is September 24, 2010. So, when were you born? W: February 10, 19 B: Oh, I'm so sorry. W: February 10. B: Where were you born? W: In A rcola, Mississippi. B: Can you tell us a little bit about growing up? W: Well, growing up, I had a good childhood. I come from a stable home, loving parents. Here I am today, mm hm. Yeah. B: So, could you tell us a little bit about the work that you do? W: Well, I used to work a t Consolidated Catfish as a trimmer. I mean, it's a good place to work for your family, but it's not a place you want to be. B: What's the nature of trimming? W: Cutting bones out the fish, that's all. Unidentified female: Hello. W: Making sure the fish are clean, getting up. The blood and the guts off the fish. B: Would you say that it's difficult work? W: Well, really it is because your hands and things ache. Your bones and your shoulders and anything, your body be sore. B: Could you tell us a litt le bit about your interactions with the union and how that all came about?


MFP 062 ; Willis ; Page 2 W: Well, the union influenced me a lot. It made me a better person; a stronger person. B: How did that happen? In what ways did it make you a stronger person? W: Because of the r epresentative we have. She talks to us and let us know the right eous things of life, so: Rose Turner. B: Growing up, would you have imagined that you would be working with a union? W: No. No, sir. [Laughter] B: Well, could you tell us a little bit about the local, just general things? The day to day working? W: Well, we go out on home calls. We're trying to get an election out at America's Catch, but it's hard, because well, when we start off, it was good, but now it's getting harder and harder. But peo ple, we get doors slammed in our face and talk crazy talk and all of that. Now, I just think it's come to the end because we just getting lower and lower [Telephone rings] B: Could you tell us a little bit about the negotiations that are going on right n ow? W: I don't know about the negotiations. [Laughter] B: Oh, really? Okay. M: How did because I know what we're researched is that this area of town is very anti union. Did you feel any problems with the family life or community life, knowing that ther e's a union starting up with the catfish industry? Were there any issues with that? W: No.


MFP 062 ; Willis ; Page 3 M: How did you get started in the catfish industry? W: Well, I was just looking for a place of employment. They're the only thing hiring, so I went there and they hired me. I worked, and a lot of things went on. I got fired and Rose Turner had me with her, so. B: Would you mind talking a bit about the firing? How did that come about? W: No. I mean, I think it was all about favoritism. I was just helping out and I was the one that got fired and a lot of stuff. I really don't want to talk about it. B: Okay, understandable. W: Okay. B: Do you have any interactions with local politicians and their relationship with the union, or . ? W: No. B: Not at all? W: H m mm. B: When did you start working at the Delta Pride Catfish? W: It was Consolidated Catfish. B: Consolidated, I'm sorry. W: It was in October of last year. B: October of last year, okay. M: What are your exact feelings, like, toward the industry? W: I don't have any feelings toward the industry. M: Really? You don't have an issue with it or anything like that? W: Hm mm. I think it can be a better place, because .


MFP 062 ; Willis ; Page 4 B: In what ways is the union trying to make your work environment better? W: Better pay, better health benefits, and a lot. That's all. Right now, my mind's just . M: Do you have any family that also works in the catfish industry, too? W: Yeah. M: Who's that? W: My mother and my sister in law. Let me see. My cousins, a lo t of them. B: Are all they members of the union also? W: Yes. B: Do you feel that the civil rights movement led kind of into the union activity in this general area? W: Well, probably. It probably did. B: Do you feel that the work that the union's doi ng to make your work environment a better place is a direct correlation to the movement in the sense that there was a smooth transition and this is the representation of the civil rights movement today, is movement activity? Or would you say that these are separate struggles? W: I would say that it's the same activity for a better life, that's what I think. B: Yeah. W: Try. B: Yeah. I think that's actually a good place to stop. Thanks so much for your time. [End of interview]


MFP 062 ; Willis ; Page 5 Transcribed by: Diana Domb rowski, January 2014 Audit e dited by: Sarah Blanc, January 2014 Final edited by: Diana Dombrowski, April 7, 2014

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