Mr. Wayne Casey
Our spotlight for the month of December 2010 is Mr. Wayne Casey, former Deputy Director and Interim Director of the District of Columbia’s Department of Human Services/Youth Services Administrator. He later became the Deputy Director of the Fulton County, Georgia Human Services and afterwards ran the Seniors Program at the County of Fulton’s Office on Aging. We will spend some time discussing Mr. Casey’s life and insights.
Destiny – Pride: Good morning, Mr. Casey.
Mr. Casey: Good morning.
Destiny – Pride: Destiny – Pride thanks you for accepting its invitation to be the Spotlight of the Month for the month of December. I’ve known you for some time now and would like our visitors to get to know something about you, your endeavors and your life’s journey. We will begin by getting you to tell us about yourself – your place of birth, your parents and siblings, if any. Also are you married, any children?
Mr. Casey: Well, let’s go back. I was born back in Southern West Virginia in a small coal-mining town in 1942, March 31st. In the tale of two cities, it was the worst of times; it was the best of times. Of course, when I was born, it was the best of times. I am the only “Spring” baby born to Conston and Mary Casey, and I have ten brothers and sisters. I grew up in West Virginia; was educated in West Virginia; went to high school and college in West Virginia. I moved out of West Virginia, when I was about 25 or 26 years old, to Hartford, Connecticut, where I lived for about 20 years. I then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where I presently reside with interim trips between Washington, DC and Atlanta, Georgia.
Growing up in West Virginia was indeed a unique experience. My dad was a coalminer, which makes me a coalminer’s son. I was 7th/8th in a family of eleven; the first-born was born deceased. My greatest experiences have come from my brothers and sisters. All the things I learned, I learned from them, and all the pains and joys I’ve had, I’ve had from them. I call that a unique experience in that in large families you get a lot of love; you get a lot of being taken care of; you get a lot of good feelings; you get a lot of “do this,” “do that,” “do the other.” So it’s been a good experience in terms of my family and my family members. I have three sons. My oldest son, Wayne, still lives in West Virginia – born in Charleston, West Virginia, and still resides in West Virginia. I have twin boys from my present marriage – Brandon Casey and Brian Casey – members of the recording group, “Jagged Edge.” Both of them are outstanding singers and are still singing. So I’ve had a full life.
I worked 17 years for the Travelers Insurance Company, which was my first job out of college in West Virginia, and transferred to Hartford, Virginia in 1969. I worked for Travelers Insurance for 17 years. I worked for Head Start five years. I worked for a nonprofit community organization [CRT Community Action Agency] – the largest nonprofit in the country at the time – for six years. I worked for almost ten years in the District of Columbia and almost ten years in the state of Georgia, in local government. So that’s a profile of who I am, where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing for the last 68 years [laughter].
Destiny – Pride: Okay. You’ve touched on this. You have had a very talented family line. Tell us about the talent that runs in your family.
Mr. Casey: I have a cousin, which probably everybody knows, but who is more like a brother to the family – that’s Bernie Casey, who is an actor and an electrifying artist, a painter by trade. Again, my sons are recording stars. My brother was a newscaster on WPIX Television in New York for many, many years. I have a sister who is a retired school teacher; a sister who is a nurse; and one who is an office manager. We have had a family who has always been involved in work, getting the job done and making sure that we took care of each other.
Destiny – Pride: You have already talked about the higher learning, but what schools of higher learning did you attend and what were your majors?
Mr. Casey: I attended West Virginia State College, which is in Charleston, West Virginia – actually Institute, West Virginia, and which was a previously all black school, but is heavily integrated now with an 80% white population. My major was secondary education. I wanted to be a coach and a teacher. In 1967, when I graduated from West Virginia State College, there were no jobs for black coaches because integration killed what jobs African Americans had in education.
I was the first black quarterback in the state of West Virginia back in 1957. Those were unique kinds of experiences for me at age 14 and 15 – trying to break the color barrier without any intent of trying to do it. All I really wanted to do was play football, and I chose to go play it at an all white school. I was not received well by Anglo-Saxons [laughter]; not received well by blacks either. They thought I was trying to be “uppity;” white folks didn’t want me in the school [laughter]. So I was at a crossroad – not sure where I was going to end up, but I stuck it out and had some marvelous experiences. Several times I thought I would actually be killed. They threatened my life on a weekly basis. They called my house on a weekly basis and told my mother “That nigger boy of yours won’t be home tonight. You won’t see him again.” That happened on a regular basis when I was in high school.
My experience in college was unique. I played football, basketball, baseball with the intent of being a professional athlete. That was my intent, and is the reason I went back to school [laughter]. I wasn’t looking to be an academic scholar. I was looking to be an athlete, and I thought the only way I could do that was to go through college and have an opportunity to play professional ball. My best sport in high school was basketball; my best sport in college was football. Between that, the best sport that I liked was baseball – I just couldn’t hit the curve ball [laughter]. If you can’t hit the curve ball, you can’t play baseball [more laughter].
Destiny – Pride: What position did you play in football?
Mr. Casey: In football, I was quarterback in high school.
Destiny – Pride: And in college?
Mr. Casey: In college, I was a tight-end and linebacker; I played offense and defense. And played a little football in the Canadian Football League in 1964, which I thought was going to get me to the NFL. I called Bernie up, who was with the San Francisco 49ers at the time. I said, “Bernie, can you get me a tryout with the 49ers?” He said, “No man. No, No. One Casey out here is enough!” [laughter] “No, you’re going to have to figure out another way to do that. I’m not looking for you to take my spot.” And Bernie was an outstanding football player, an all pro wide-receiver. My college experience and my high school experience were very unique experiences. I’m in the process of writing a book about my high school experience, being the first black in the county and the tri-county, and I’m trying to recapitulate all of those things that happened to me when I was 14, 15, 16, 17, and put it into a book as a coalminer’s son.
Destiny – Pride: Who would you include on your list of persons who have played major roles in influencing you to be who you are today?
Mr. Casey: Well, believe it or not, it’s my family members. My sister, Imagene. I had a chance to visit West Virginia State College when she was a senior. My brother invited me down, who was also a senior. That experience opened my eyes to going to college because I hadn’t really thought about going to college at that point. I went down to the campus and she was there, working on campus. I’ve always tried to model myself after both of my brothers, Drake and Charles, and pick up their styles: their walk, their mannerisms, their everything. So, my experiences come through my brothers and sisters.
I have seven sisters, so I learned a lot about women, and I learned a lot about men through them, because I would listen to their private conversations when they didn’t know I was listening, about how men dogged women. What I learned from that was that I was never going to be that kind of man who was just mean towards women. I was always compassionate and understanding, and tried to make women feel like they were just as important as I was. I learned those things from my family. They were my best teachers. People don’t realize it, but sometimes people think you’ve got some kind of hero that you have to model yourself after. Well, my models were my brothers and my sisters.
Destiny – Pride: What about your parents?
Mr. Casey: Well, that’s another story [laughter]. That’s another story [more laughter]. I’m a mama’s boy. I have always been a mama’s boy.
Destiny – Pride: Is that the reason why you are a “Cool Moe Dee”?
Mr. Casey: Yeah, that’s the reason I’m a Cool Moe Dee, because I’m a mama’s boy. I love my mama! My number one goal in life was to see my mother smile, and I did everything I could to make her smile and make her feel good about me and what I was doing. My daddy was a different kind of fellow. He was a coalminer. He was a hell raiser. He was a drinker. He was just a different kind of fellow. Not compassionate. Not loving. Not caring. Not tender. Go to work. Do your job, and get your ass out of the way [laughter]. That was the kind of man he was. He was mean spirited, hard, but I understand it. He had eleven kids and he worked in the coalmine on his knees eight hours, everyday. That kind of experience will make you mean. He drank every Friday for all of his life. He was drunk every Friday, all of his life. But his job was to provide for his family, and he was a provider. That’s what he did. He didn’t show much love to any of us, but I understood who he was and why he did what he did. He left home – got out on his own – when he was 13. His mother treated him harshly and he learned to do the same thing with his kids. He laid that strap on me a few times [laughter] – whether I thought I deserved it or not. He thought I did. But it was a good family experience.
Destiny – Pride: You have an aura about you. Even when you talk, it’s almost like in the black experience – with the rhythm, not like a motivation speaker, but preachers, pastors. From where did you get that?
Mr. Casey: Preachers! [Laughter] That’s exactly where I got it from [more laughter], because there’s nobody more stylish and more eloquent in speaking than preachers. When I was a young kid, the preacher who got my attention was Rev. Staples. He got my attention in more than one way – he had a pretty daughter.
Destiny – Pride: Who is Rev. Staples and from what church?
Mr. Casey: He’s in Beckley, West Virginia. In Stotesbury, West Virginia, there’s one church. It was Elizabeth Baptist Church. On first and third Sundays, you were Baptist and on the second and fourth, the Methodists had the church. I was a Baptist, so I went to church on the first and third Sundays.
Destiny – Pride: What was his first name?
Mr. Casey: Nelson. Nelson Staples. He has a son who is a minister now somewhere in the Maryland area, doing quite well. He has one of those mega churches. Sometimes you’re gifted, and you don’t have anything to do with it. It’s your gift. I always thought my gift was my ability to speak in the way in which I have spoken and the tone I have used, just trying to get peoples’ attention. When I was in the sixth grade, my principal said to me, “Wayne, we’re going to make you the president of the 4-H Club,” just because of my voice. She asked, “What’s your first order of business?” I said, “The meeting is adjourned”! [laughter]
Destiny – Pride: That’s cute!
Mr. Casey: She said, “You can’t kill the meeting before it starts!” When I went to high school as a football player, the coach said to me, “You have the deepest voice, so I’m going to make you the captain, because everybody can hear you.” I have always loved poetry. I’ve always loved reading and English, and so through that process I sort of trained my voice by watching black preachers – and some white preachers – on television and picking up that style by which they mesmerized the audience. That’s the gift I think I was given.
Destiny – Pride: Now describe for us your career path, both before and after your involvement with the DC Government.
Mr. Casey: As I indicated before, it was 17 years with the Travelers Insurance Company right out of college. I was the first African American hired by the Travelers Insurance Company in Charleston, West Virginia. I spent two years there as a management trainee. I had a choice of going into one of three fields: I could be a claims adjuster, a personnel administrator, or an underwriter. I chose immediately to be a personnel administrator because what I had observed in my very first week there was that there were no other African Americans in the office; I was the only one. I had that same experience through high school, and it gets lonely. There’s nobody that looks like you; there’s nobody that acts like you; and there’s nobody you can talk to about your common experiences.
So I decided that I wanted to go into personnel, and I said to my office manager, “When I go to Hartford for my training, I’d like to meet with the Senior Vice President of Personnel.” My manager thought “Now who do you think you are? You must be crazy!” I said, “I’d like to meet with him because what I’d like to do is develop a plan to recruit other African Americans to the Travelers Insurance Company.”
I went to Hartford; I met with Senior Vice President Ed Bradley, and I told him what I wanted to do. They said, “We’ll get back in touch with you. When you get back to Charleston, we’ll let you know whether this is a doable idea or not.” The idea was to go to black schools and recruit African American students to come to Hartford. They called me back in about a month and said, “Okay. You can develop a College Relations Program for blacks.
I did it. I recruited numbers and numbers of blacks, and I placed them all across the country. Seventeen of them I brought to Hartford. Ten of them were from the school I graduated from, so I knew the caliber of people I was trying to get. I had in mind a specific kind of person who had to stay focused. I had to make sure they understood what the trials and tribulations were; to make sure that they understood that they were not going to be greeted friendly – and they were not. Many of them would come to me and they would say, “Casey, man this is racism!” I said, “Yes, and it’s going to be racism across the street, too! It’s going to be racism at the Phoenix [Phoenix Mutual Insurance Company]. It’s going to be racism at the Hartford Steam Boiler [Insurance Company]. It’s going to be racism everywhere you go, so you might as well get it here. Get it on your resume that you have worked three years for a major 500 company. You can go anywhere in the country once you’ve gotten that experience on your resume. So I’ve been that kind of role model – leader, if you will – in trying to get African Americans in the workplace, and that was a unique experience.
Destiny – Pride: So where did you go after that?
Mr. Casey: In my 17th year at the Travelers Insurance Company, I was the highest ranking black person who worked for the company. I was the Director of Public Affairs. I, obviously, wanted to be a Vice President. We had no African American Vice Presidents. My goal at that time was to be the first. One day I was coming down on the elevator with the President, a young guy, Ed Bud. He asked, “Why don’t you just call me Ed?” I wasn’t that comfortable with that, but that was what he wanted me to do. I said “Ed, what are the chances of me being Vice President?” This was ’81 or ’82. He looked at me and he said, “Wayne, the timing isn’t right.” I asked, “What do you mean, the timing isn’t right? It’s 1982.” He said, “Well, it’s just not a good time.”
At that time, a newspaper – The Hartford Current – was doing a story on Blacks in Corporate America: Where are they? Who are they? Why aren’t there more of them? Well, they came to me and they asked me: “Why aren’t there more blacks in corporate America?” I said, “My own experience tells me how difficult it is to reach the glass ceiling.” I said, “There is another person like me, who is also a Director, who had been with the company for 20 years: Norm Edmunds.” I said, “Norm Edmunds left this company just four or five months ago to go across the street to the Phoenix Mutual, as a Vice President. They wouldn’t make him one here. He had been here 20 years; he was my mentor.” I said, “So what’s that message to the African Americans who work here now? They don’t feel they have a chance of becoming a Vice President. I don’t feel I have a chance of becoming a Vice President, and I’ve been recruiting and talking to black workers for the last 15 years about the opportunities here at the Travelers Insurance Company.” I said, “But your message and my message are not the same.”
Destiny – Pride: And what was their response?
Mr. Casey: Their response was one that I wasn’t expecting. I had said in the article, “You could shoot a bomb to the top of this building – the Tower Building, the tallest building in Hartford – and you wouldn’t hit one black person and you wouldn’t hit one female because there are no black Vice Presidents and there are no female Vice Presidents.” I said, “You wouldn’t hit anybody up there!”
Destiny – Pride: They couldn’t have been happy about that.
Mr. Casey: They were not! [Laughter] They were not! They called me in on Monday morning, and they said “Casey, what’s the matter? You weren’t happy about something?” I said, “Well, yeah, I’m just speaking as an employee of the Travelers Insurance Company.” They said to me, “Well, you know, Casey, only Vice Presidents can address the media. I said, “Well therein lies my story. You mean we don’t have a viewpoint as African Americans who work for this company because we can’t speak.” I said, “That’s my point! We buy insurance just like everybody else does. You sell your insurance to black people all the time, but we don’t have a viewpoint about how we’re going to last with this company.”
We eventually ended up going our separate ways. They came in my office one day and said, “Wayne, here’s a check for $25,000. We’d like for you to clean out your desk.” Just like that. I said to them, “If you want me out of the company, I know you can do better than $25,000, because I’ve seen you buy out other people. I’ve seen you give people the handshake that you don’t want around, and you’ve given them whatever you wanted to give them. I said, “Twenty-five thousand dollars; I’m not leaving here for that!” I said, “I’m going back to my office. You let me know when you come up with something else.” [Laughter] Well at the end of that conversation they said to me, “Well we can’t do any more than that; we’ve done the best we can do.” I said, “Well I’m going back to my office to go to work; you let me know when something else comes up.”
They called me back the next week, and they say, “Casey,” and they have their attorney in the office. I don’t have one with me. “Here’s a check for $40,000.” I said, “Well you just told me last week you couldn’t do but twenty-five. How’d you manage to get forty?” “Well, we think we owe you that much.” I said, “Well, I’m going back to my office” [laughter].
Destiny – Pride: No you didn’t!
Mr. Casey: Yes, I did. I said, “I’m going back to my office. You let me know whey you’ve got something that you think you and I can talk about.” So, they call me back [laughter]. They said, “Casey, this is all we have to offer. Sixty thousand is the best we can do. We’re not going to do no more than that.” I said, “Well, the next time you talk to me – because I’m going back to my office – it will be to my attorney. I don’t want you talking to me about anything else. The next time you want to have a conversation, I’ll give you my attorney’s name. You can contact him, and the two of you can negotiate, because I’m through talking.” So they said in the closing document, “If you don’t say anything else about us, Wayne, we won’t say anything about you.” So we settled on a figure – one that they didn’t think they could do [laughter].
The way it happened is that I called my brother in New York. I said, “Frank, they’re trying to get me out of here.” He said, “Well, get a Jewish lawyer” [laughter]. “Get you a Jewish lawyer and do what you have to do.” And that’s what I did. I got me a Jewish lawyer; we fought the battle; and I went my way and they went their way. They had obviously black-balled me. I couldn’t get a job in Hartford. They black-balled me and made sure I couldn’t get a job in Hartford.
Destiny – Pride: Did they make you sign a confidential . . .?
Mr. Casey: Yeah, I had to sign a confidential agreement.
Destiny – Pride: Because I’ve known you for many years and, confidentially, I was going to ask what the final figure was [laughter].
Mr. Casey: I’ve never told anybody and, of course, they said “Well, we’ll sue you if you ever say anything about us.” And I said, “Well, I’ll sue you if you ever say anything about me.” But I’m going to put it in my book – it will be in my book as to how it all happened. They called me in, and they were livid. They were like, “Who do you think you are?”
Destiny – Pride: You have worked in the human services field for many years. What are some of the changes that you would like to see implemented and that you believe would make a difference in the lives of those who need those services? Let me add that you have been across the whole gamut, so please start at where you first began to make the transition from the Fortune 500 Club to human services.
Mr. Casey: Well, I started at a nonprofit community organization in Connecticut [CRT Community Action Agency], and at Head Start – as a Head Start Administrator – which gave me a focus and a viewpoint on black women raising their children. I never saw a black male come to the classroom. I never saw a black male bring a child to school. I never saw one. It was always women taking care of children and taking sole responsibility for the children. I’ve always felt guilty as a black man that black men didn’t take their responsibility seriously in raising children. “Having” babies doesn’t make you a man – you know that. “Taking care of” children makes you a man. So I had a personal vendetta against black males for not standing up and taking care of their children. This carried over into the many experiences I had here in the DC government.
One of the things I’ve always wanted to do in order to strengthen the family was to wrap the services around the family; to give that mother who had some issues with mental health the childcare; to give her the job training necessary to take care of her family. As you know, you and I worked with the population of young males in the DC government, and our goal was to connect them with their fathers – to teach young men through the Fatherhood Program that you had a moral obligation. Your child wants to know who you are: “Who’s my daddy? Where is my daddy?” That has always been the thing that I’ve wanted to accomplish – to make sure that fathers understood their role and responsibility – and wrap services around the mother, because without those services, there’s no way they could survive.
And you see that everyday in the DC government. You see that everyday with somebody trying to make it on $300. It’s impossible. It’s an impossible task. But you get so sucked into that that you don’t want a job; you’ll take the $330 a month because you don’t want to go look for a job. You don’t want to be trained. This is the easy way out. Somebody’s giving you that. So there does need to be a time period on receiving TANF. When you think about it, it is “Temporary Assistant to Needy Families.” “Temporary” doesn’t mean “permanent.” But there are a lot of people who think, “I can get this for the rest of my life.” It would be nice if I could get a social security check and an unemployment check every week, but that’s not going to happen. It runs out at some point! So, with this system, that’s what needs to happen, or at least there should be a strengthening of the system for the wraparound services that you and I fought to get. I don’t know that there has been much progress made since then.
Destiny – Pride: Well, not a lot – and this is the first time I’ve interjected myself into this conversation, but no, we made some tremendous strides under your taking over the Youth Services Administration. I think the judge at that time – Judge Mitchell – said that that was the first time that the planets looked like they were in alignment.
Mr. Casey: That’s right. That’s exactly what he said.
Destiny – Pride: We did make an “inclusiveness” of the vendors, the providers, the monitors, the plaintiffs – everybody sat at the table. Judge Mitchell at that time said, “Mr. Casey, I have to be careful with you because you’ll be getting me to write a court order against myself,” because he was intricately involved.
Mr. Casey: That’s right.
Destiny – Pride: But we have not made a lot of strides since then.
Mr. Casey: I saw Marion Barry – I still call him “the Mayor” – on TV just yesterday, talking about this has to be an “inclusive” concept: the providers, the private sector, the job training – all of these have to come into place in order for this to work. It has to be a “regional” concept. Virginia and Maryland have as much at stake as we do, because they’re sending us their population of people who are poor as if they have no responsibility for them – and they do! So I’m anxious to see where that goes, because I know that Marion has the right idea and he may be met with some people who don’t want to see that happen. It’s like “term limits.” You shouldn’t own something all of your life; you should be able to get some new blood infusion in there and make things work differently.
Destiny – Pride: So, you went to Atlanta, and you became the Deputy Director . . .
Mr. Casey: I became the Deputy Director of Fulton County Human Services, through the state of Georgia. The state of Georgia has 350 counties. Fulton County is the largest. I was responsible for TANF, Childcare and the Workforce Program for six years. We had one of the best programs in the nation. As a matter of fact, I used to travel all over the country talking to other cities about how we did it in Georgia and what was so unique about our program. I left there three years ago and went over to the County of Fulton and ran the Seniors Program – Office on Aging – for the last three years, working with seniors and trying to get them the services that they deserved and needed, and tried to make sure that their needs were met.
Destiny – Pride: What were some of the challenges that you found there?
Mr. Casey: Well fortunately – as opposed to unfortunately – the City of Atlanta respects its senior population. They have some of the best programs in the nation. People come from all over the country to look at the senior programs and the senior facilities of which we have we have five, what we call “multipurpose” centers. You can go in that center and receive any of the services that you want and need. Now, with those multipurpose centers, you have to find your own way to get there as opposed to us picking you up and delivering you. We have 17 senior centers, where we pick up seniors and deliver them for senior programs. Those are some of the best people – people from Japan, people from Sweden. We are always entertaining somebody who wants to come and look at the programs we have put in place for seniors, and it’s probably one of the best in the country. That’s one of the things that I can say that the city of Atlanta does well.
Destiny – Pride: What are your feelings regarding the state of the black male as it relates to education, crime and their high numbers in our penal institutions?
Mr. Casey: Well, you know just as well as I know, it’s outrageous. It gets to be more outrageous everyday. The numbers are ridiculous. There’s obviously more men in prison then there are in higher learning institutions. We’ve missed the boat, and we continue to miss the boat. The quality of education in public schools has a lot to do with how our black males end up, and where they end up. If we don’t do something different, if we keep doing the same old thing, we’re going to keep getting the same result. And you see it time after time after time. They continue to build prisons. You don’t see them building universities the way they build prisons. The prisons are designed for a specific population. The African American population has made the prison business good. We continue to be destructive to our own race. We don’t do a good job with our children. We don’t do a good job with our women. It’s a national disgrace if you’re an African American male.
Destiny – Pride: Early on, you talked about how integration broke down the black institution. The question here is, if I made you an unlimited Monarch, what would you do to get the train back on the track as it relates to the reunification of this whole black experience of the family?
Mr. Casey: Well, obviously, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that it starts at home. And it starts with two people. “You don’t have the right to walk out on me. I didn’t ask to be born. I didn’t ask for any of these trials and tribulations. You brought me into this. You have an obligation to make sure I get through it. If you can’t do that, you’re less than a man. You shouldn’t be even calling yourself a man.” That’s where the struggle is for me. Manhood starts with the man, and it starts with two people – man and woman, working together. “You don’t have to love me to take care of my children. Send me the check! If you’re not going to ‘do’ the right thing, then make sure my kids ‘get’ the right thing. It’s your responsibility; it’s your obligation to do it!”
Destiny – Pride: Normally, it has always been the man that has been shunning his responsibilities. In my experience, I am amazed because even when the black man didn’t step up, you had the mother, you had the grandmother. But now, we are looking at situations where the “great” grandmother is forty-one years old, and females are now walking away from their responsibilities. Would you address that?
Mr. Casey: It’s hard for me to really understand. One of the hardest things for me to understand – and I see this all the time – is the black middleclass females saying to themselves, “I don’t need a man to raise my child. I want to have the child on my own, without a man.” What is the message there? It is tormenting for me when I see it, and I see it in Ebony, or I see it in Jet or I see it in a magazine. I see it in Essence, where some female – doing well – says “I’m going to have this child without a man. I want a baby.” It’s hard enough to have a baby with two. Why would you want to have one by yourself? What’s the point? It’s just disturbing to me, and I see it all the time. Unless we turn the pendulum around, we’re always going to be at the bottom of this totem pole, looking up, struggling to survive.
Destiny – Pride: I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “Colored Girls . . .”
Mr. Casey: Colored Girls Who Consider Suicide When the Rainbow Was Enough.
Destiny – Pride: So you know about it?
Mr. Casey: I saw the play thirty years ago. I saw the movie last Saturday. My observation is it’s not about black men. It has nothing to do with black men. Black men think it’s about black women beating up on them. It’s really about the “choices” that black women make in their selection of black men. They choose the men they had. In each case, they all had the kind of man that you wouldn’t want. But if you think you’re going to find love in the right place, you say, “This might be the one. I’m going to take the chance on this one.” Now there are certain scenarios in the movie where one particular female had the man come back three times. Well, you invited that on yourself. And the scenario where the man was on the “down low,” you knew that in advance, and stayed with him. So it’s really about women making bad choices, and confusing love and sex as the same thing – and they are not the same thing.
Destiny – Pride: I’m going to leave that alone . . .
Mr. Casey: Yeah, leave that alone [laughter], but it’s interesting. And there was one black man that I saw get up and walk out. He thought it was “man bashing.” It wasn’t “bashing” you!
Destiny – Pride: What types of community focused programs or activities are there in your area in Georgia?
Mr. Casey: Georgia is – I guess you could call it – the “New York” of the south, or the “California” of the south. It’s a unique financial situation where blacks do fairly well in the corporate structure. In the law structure, in the education structure and in the health field, African Americans do really, really well. The resources are there, even in these tough times. There were some budget reductions that had a direct impact on me. It’s a tough time for community programs. It’s a tough time for community programs to be able to survive in this economy and in this environment. We’ll see what President Obama does over the next two years as to whether we can survive as a race [laughter]. It’s all contingent on how he does and what he does. It wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t get two terms of his service – it wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Destiny – Pride: Have you kept up with DC politics since leaving here? If so, what are your thoughts about where we are today and how do they compare to the politics of Georgia?
Mr. Casey: Well, when I get a chance to see a story in USA Today – in that section where all the states are highlighted – my first look is at DC. Through you and other people that I know – my sister who lives here, people that I’ve grown up with, people that I’ve worked with when I was here – I get a profile and I can tell you this: hasn’t much changed. The players are still the same. The people who were running it fifteen, twenty years ago are still in the seats, and I think some of the issues are the same. The budget time is crunch time. There’s an issue about where the money is going and about how much money do you have. There’s an issue on jobs. There’s an issue on education. Those things never go away. I don’t care who the mayor is, those things never go away.
Destiny – Pride: We all experience highs and lows, both in our personal lives as well as in our careers. What would you consider to be among your life’s greatest accomplishments, and, on the opposite end, your major disappointments?
Mr. Casey: That’s a tough one. I have always looked back on the time that Mayor Barry and Michael Rogers – the City Administrator – called me on the phone on a Sunday morning, and said to me, “Wayne, we’d like to meet with you on Monday.” I was sure they were getting ready to get rid of me [laughter].
Destiny – Pride: Where were you at the time?
Mr. Casey: I was in Parks and Recreation, with Betty Jo Gaines as her deputy. They called me and said, “Can you meet with us on Monday morning at 9:00, or 8:00, or something like that. I said, “Yes, sure.” So I went in to meet with Michael and the Mayor. The Mayor said, “Michael and I have had discussions over the weekend about who we think the new Interim Director of Human Services should be.” I said, “So why are you talking to me?” [Laughter] “What’s that got to do with me?” So the Mayor said, “I asked Michael to write on a piece of paper the person he thought should be that person, and I’m going to write on a piece of paper the person I think should be that choice.” So they both wrote it down and handed it to each other, and it said “Wayne Casey.” I said to the Mayor, “I thought you said you liked me.” [Laughter] He said, “I believe you can go over there, and based on what I’ve seen in your tenure as a Deputy in Parks and Rec, I need you to go over there and put a lid on things. It is out of control. They’re getting ready to get rid of Vernon, and I need somebody who can just hold the fort down, put a lid on things and keep it quiet over there. Both of us think you are the person who can do that.”
I was obviously pleased with how they thought about me in my short tenure, because I hadn’t been here that long. I had worked for Sharon Pratt Kelly in the Kelly Administration in Public Housing, as a Deputy in Public Housing, but I came back as a Deputy in Parks and Recreation. It had never had a Deputy. Marion had created a Deputy position for me in Parks and Recreation because that’s what I wanted to do and be – working with young people; so he created that.
That was a unique experience, and do you know what made it unique? I’m a graduate of West Virginia State College – a predominately black institution, as well as Vernon Hawkins was. The Director of the Health Department was a guy who had graduated from Yale. One of the other Directors had graduated from Harvard, and one of the other guys had graduated from Princeton. Now, I was their boss [laughter]. A boy from West Virginia State College was the boss of three Ivy League graduates in the Department of Human Services! I used to laugh at that all the time – “you guys are taking your orders from me!” They couldn’t figure out how in the hell that happened! They were like, “What happened?” They just knew that one of them was going to end up as the Director of Human Services! So that was a unique experience.
Now to back to childhood and my experience in integrating an all white school was something I will never forget. It wasn’t something that anybody expected. It wasn’t something that I really wanted to do. It was just about making a choice: “I can do this. The law says I can do it, and I’m going to do it.” Those were two unique experiences in my life. And, of course, any experience I had in making my mother happy, was always Number One on my list.
Destiny – Pride: What about disappointments?
Mr. Casey: Well, when you live to be almost 69 years, I don’t consider any of them disappointments. I’ve had experiences that you learn from that you turn into positives. I have three sons and that’s been major in my life. I have seven sisters and three brothers. All the things that I have encountered, I just think they were meant to be. You cross that road when you get to it. And you do the best you can to get on the other side of it in a positive way.
Destiny – Pride: Okay. Now what do you enjoy doing that helps you to de-stress? Are there any hobbies or things that you enjoy doing?
Mr. Casey: I never called them “hobbies” because I like them. I love music and I listen to a lot of music. I like to read and I read a lot of books. I like plays, and I go to plays. I don’t like large crowds, so I stay in a lot. I’m a loner, for the most part. I stay to myself a lot, because I enjoy myself. I don’t have a hard time getting along with me, so it works out for me. I’ve got grandchildren – four of them – and that’s always fun. I have one who’s three years old; her name is Bella; she’ll be coming to visit us at Christmas. My oldest son has a child. My two boys, each one of them has a child, so I’ve had a full life and I look forward to each and every day.
I wasn’t ready to retire; it just kind of “happened.” There were some budget reductions and my position was eliminated. They asked me to take another one, and I chose not to. I said, “No. I’m not going to drive 50 miles to attend to a job.” So I chose to retire. I may go back to work – may come back in the District, or I may go back to some place in Georgia. But for the time being, I am officially retired and have been since February.
Of course one unique experience is relationships. My relationship with you over the years has been tremendous. It’s not a relationship that requires us to speak all the time, or to talk to each other. I know that if I need you, you’re going to be there. You know if you need me, I’m going to be there. Friendships really are: “Will you stand in the door with me when no body else will stand?” When the night has come, the land is dark and the moon is the only light you’ll see, you’ll need somebody – as I’ve said – to stand by you. Well, you’ve done that with me, and I’ve tried to do that with you. There were people who did not understand why I elevated you to the position that I elevated you to. To me, friendship is important. I would do for a friend what I won’t do for somebody else. It means a lot to me to have one, two, or three of what I call good friends.
Destiny – Pride: Just briefly, you talked about your sons being recording artists, but I think they are much more than that. Give us their names and . . .
Mr. Casey: Well my sons are story tellers. Through music there are stories to be told, and when you listen to music, it’s about somebody’s life. It’s about somebody’s story. It’s about somebody’s happenstance. It’s about somebody’s sorrow. It’s about somebody’s happiness. That’s what music is – it’s a short story about somebody’s relationship. “She broke my heart. Now what am I going to do?” That is what music is all about. That’s what the blues is. It’s a sad story about how hard the times are. That’s what country music is. It’s a story about somebody’s hard times. There’s another kind of music – inspirational music – which obviously is designed to inspire. But through music, there are numerous kinds of stories about somebody’s life and somebody’s love and somebody’s feelings.
Destiny – Pride: What’s the name of the group?
Mr. Casey: Jagged Edge: Brandon Casey, Brian Casey – twin boys, 34 years old now; just had a birthday in October. I always try to get them to let me do a line or two in one of their songs, but they have never been convinced that I could.
Destiny – Pride: Aren’t there three?
Mr. Casey: There are four in the group. The other two are Kyl Norman and Richard Wingo. They are what we call “backup” singers. I was the original member of Jagged Edge [laughter]. But they won’t let me get on any recordings. I did get in a couple of videos, though. Yeah, I made it through a couple of videos. But, yes, it’s been a good experience.
Destiny – Pride: Any last thoughts or insights that you would like to leave with our visitors?
Mr. Casey: Life is a marathon – it’s not a sprint. You can’t “sprint’ through life and win the race. It takes a long time to go through the trials and tribulations and the issues that you’re faced with on a daily basis. As long as you believe in the Creator – or whomever you think – I think we’re all blessed with inalienable rights. Your Creator and my Creator may be totally different. What you believe in and who you believe in – whether it’s God, Jesus, whoever your Creator might be – your strength comes from that, and my strength comes from that. I am not a religious person by nature. I am a person who cares about and is concerned about the life and love of other people. I try to give what I can give so that you might have a better life, and I may feel better about myself because I was able to help somebody else along the way.
Destiny – Pride: Mr. Casey, again, Destiny – Pride is thankful that you took the time to give our visitors a taste of who you are. Personally, it has been a pleasure knowing you all the years I have known you and I have appreciated and have grown from your friendship. Thanks again.
Mr. Casey: It’s been a pleasure. We’ll see if I can get a job after this [laughter]!