Denise Pease has been a resident of Corona for as long she can remember. The familiarity that Louis sparks in her comes from her memories gathering on Louis’s stoop with other children hoping to get the usual 50 cents Louis handed each of them for their college savings–which always ended up at the closest bodega in exchange for some candy!
The experience of having Louis as a neighbor created an influence only understood years later. Denise, who served as a Regional Administrator during President Obama’s administration, emphasizes the investment of Louis and Lucille in education, especially in times when schools were being integrated, encouraging the kids to work hard and never give up. He offered a grounded perspective of global presence that inspired both himself and the neighborhood kids to aim for equity and inclusion.
This interview is part of the documentary Un Maison, Un Artiste (“A House, An Artist”) by director Lionel Bernard, originally aired in France in the summer of 2019. Listen to Denise describe this relationship warmly, as she explains why for her and the children of Corona, “He’s like family.”
Thank you to Lionel Bernard for the use of this footage. If you have memories of Louis and Lucille Armstrong in Queens, please share them with us!
(The photo at the top of this post shows Denise with legendary trumpeter Jon Faddis and longtime Executive Director of the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center Andrew Jackson in the Armstrong House Garden in October 2019.)