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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Consuella York (CN 397, T4) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations, such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers should remember that this is a transcription of spoken English, which, of course, follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Christopher Easley and Paul Ericksen, and completed in October 1992.
Collection 397, T4. Interview with Consuella York by Robert Shuster on November 11, 1988.
YORK: ...credit for what [telephone rings] you're doing, you can do it. I mean, I mean, [pauses] you...you have to take the brunt of the responsibility. Well that's what Jesus did. He humbled himself. You have to humble yourself, [voices in the background] and...and...and deal with those who are considered incorrigible, and whatnot. You have to be able to deal with them. Got to love people. And a lot of...and basically, a lot of the people who go are folk who've formerly been there. And then they're...then they're... sometimes they are those who have families in jail who probably want to help. But a lot of times if they go with that method...that reason only, they don't last long. 'Cause after they see...they think they see some of [text to this point overlap from T3] their family, they said, "All the other boys in there are wrong, but my good boy, he hasn't done anything." But when you realize that...that... that except by the grace of God it would be us, then you can deal with all of them consistently. I deal with all of them, you know. I said at the outset that...that...that the Lord said, "Suppose one of them was your sons. Well, now, but if you've been lackadaisical parent or you've been a spoiling parent who...(they had no concern), your child's out of order, you...you wouldn't fit in good because you find yourself giving over, bending over." But I've been a stern disciplinarian all my life, you know. My...my father was a disciplinarian. You obeyed. "Yes sir, no sir," and what not. I mean, so you...you...you make them to obey. So I tell them...I said," Now," [pauses] (but you've got to know how to do it in love), I said, "Don't try it in my class." You know, you've got to love them and those you love you chastise [reference to Proverbs 13:24]. I don't let them get by. See, a lot of folk got spoiling, I mean, and...and...and they ruined them. You gotta know how to, you got to know when to...to...to...to...to chastise. You gotta know when to rebuke, you gotta know when to show love, you gotta.... And the Lord has to give you that kind of wisdom to do that. You can't do it on your own. See, being a mother, I...I...the Lord told me how to...when to chastise them, when to embrace, and when to shut up and then when to speak, and then.... And you need all that. You need a good...good lesson in psychology, Christian psychology, God's psychology to deal with people on this basis. Because sometimes afterwards...after you rebuke they still don't do right. But the Bible said, "Some seed falls on stony ground," you know [Mark 4:5]. See, so if you got, I mean...and...and...and you gotta keep coming back, you gotta love people, and know that Christ is the answer, that He'll give you the victory, you know, that you've got to keep on. And sometimes you'll think a man has not paid any attention to it, and two weeks he'll come back and say, "Listen, you know what? I heard you say two weeks ago. You thought I wasn't paying attention. It rang a bell." So you start.... "I got in the penitentiary and I thought about that. I said, 'Uh. They were right.'" And, I mean, and...and...and that's what the [pauses]...the system needs. It needs consecrated workers who...who...and you have to live what you preach, 'cause they'll catch you when you slip. Yeah, I mean, you gotta...if you say, "This is wrong," that's as wrong for you as well as them. If you say, "I'll be back tomorrow," don't come back six months later. That's a lie. They'll say, "That lying preacher, that lying missionary, say you're coming back." I mean, you've got to be truthful with them, but you've got to really live right, because if they think...if you...of you're half doing it they'll soon...they'll soon tell you, "They're [pauses]...they're talking, but their not listening. They're...they're just dead as me. They got as much game in them as I got in me." And they'll tell you. They're...see, the inmates are very factual. They'll tell off on you; they'll tell off on you. If they think you're biased, they'll tell...they'll tell you, see. I mean, and [pauses] they know. I mean, if you're for real, they'll help you do what you're going to do. All the tricks of the trade they teach me. I say, "What's the new word?" They tell me what the new word is. "What's happening now?" "Well, this is the way it is." I said, "May backfire." "Yeah, I know it'll backfire on me, but I got to let you know so you...." I said, "Don't leave me out here in the dark. What's the new game they got coming up? What's the new word they're saying now?" So they help me to get on their case. And then the ones who are teach me, [whispers] they say, "You did pretty good today, Mother, you did pretty good," [Shuster laughs] you see. He said, "I thought you were getting soft," you know. And you...you can't...I mean, I try not to show my weaknesses. I show love, but I try not to show my weaknesses, you know. I try not to...I try to be unbiased when I respond to them, so they won't think that I'm just doing it for them because they're individuals, rather than because they need the help of the Lord, I mean that individual concern.
SHUSTER: Didn't you tell me once that Reverend Jackson used to go down with you, too, to preach at Cook County [Jail]?
YORK: Reverend...Reverend Jesse Jackson?
SHUSTER: Jesse Jackson.
YORK: No. He comes...he comes once a year. He comes every Christmas. He's been coming for years on Christmas. He always comes every Christmas. Regardless of where he goes internationally, on Christmas he comes to the county jail and deals with the men, you know, always. And then they...they...they look forward to that, you know. I mean, they...they...they...they look forward to that. I...I know him personally, I mean, but...but every year on Christmas, I mean, he comes. I mean... I mean...I mean, and...and it...and they can relate to him, and he...and he...he gives them an encouragement, you know. I mean, I mean, he...I mean, he [pauses]...he told them years back once, he said, "Now, if you all have any problems, you tell Mother York and she'll tell me." And so I told him once, I said...I said, "Reverend Jackson, [telephone rings], most of the problems those men have...." I said, "If a man brings me a problem, that's most of the time, maybe he's [telephone rings] the gang leader or he doesn't want to respond to authority," I said, I said. "But if you see all the facilities, if he says that they won't give him any movement," I said, "most of the time he wants to make some gang kind [?] movement and they stop it," I said, "because if a man wants to do better, there are facilities and offers that will help them to go to school, whatnot." So in all this time, not one of them has given me any word to take to Reverend Jackson, see. [Pauses] And when he comes, it's [pauses]... it's beautiful and they respond, you know. See, I mean, and...and if...if...if they have any problem, a man has a problem, I try...I go to the authority. There are some men who'd.... I go to the authority, I say, "What do you think about so and so?" "Well now Mother, he's just playing games." I said, "Okay." "Mother, well, he do...he wants to do better. He's not that bad. Maybe I can see if I can get him moved where they won't bother him." And officers will work with you on it, you know. They see you're sincere, you know. But you don't go in there dictating to the officers. You go in there being subjected to them, until you can get to the point that want to get to, and then you'll still respond, you know, see.
SHUSTER: Anything else you would like to add, anything else you'd like to say?
YORK: I...I...I really want to say that I've been intrigued and blessed by the Billy Graham Center and the [Institute for] Prison Ministry [ies] and Don Smarto [Director of IPM] and Dr. Shuster [Director of Archives, interviewer, not a Dr.] and all those involved. And I...and I see the outreach that you have and I've seen the films, I mean, and I'm just glad the Lord let me be able to be a part of what's happening. But I know that you all are making some deep inroads in the prison life as far as the transforming power of God. You all have the facilities, the means, the assets, and the know how, the charisma, and the Holy Spirit that directs. And this is going to make a difference worldwide, not just locally or, I mean, because folk will come to you. You will be like Solomon. They'll come to you [laughs]...
SHUSTER: I know...
YORK: ...after they see what's going on.
SHUSTER: ...I know Don Smarto, who's in charge of the Institute for Prison Ministries, main concern is just to be a servant to people like yourself who are in prison ministry and to help bring peop...different ministries together, and help and do what he can to help communications, provide training where necessary, and just also maybe recruit some people into prison ministry.
YORK: And...and I think it is so tremendous because you see this is a new day as such, per se. I mean, I mean, this sincere concern where you just go out, I mean, at...at the stake of loosing your own reputation to be a blessing, because most folk who are interested in jail ministries don't have the means or the facilities with which to do it. I mean, they...they...they...they have a zeal and not a college of knowledge, or they have the knowledge, I mean, I mean, and don't have the means. So you all are providing inroads for many more to fulfill, because the average person who wants to do jail work is limited in his means or doesn't have the transportation. They have the expertise, they've got the burning desire, but there's no carriage to take them to where they want to, I mean, and you all serve as the vehicle there. And then, then you serve as a training guide, because, I mean, you got to teach the folk how...how to do.... You're offering that. And I think it's just tremendous. And I...I...I've been trying to wonder myself, how did Don Smarto and, I mean, and...and...and the [Institute for] Prison Ministries from Billy Graham Center know about me from the outset. I just can't...I just...I just can't, you know, I mean...but I'm...I'm [unclear]. And then for the personal interest that you all have given me already, to allow me, such a one as me to be in your archives, and to...to be on your agenda. Listen, I...I...I...I just...and I just never cease to be amazed, and I never dreamed of anything like this, Dr. Shuster, coming. You know, you know, when you're doing...you weren't thinking about...I haven't done anything like that. I figure, well, I'm just at the County Jail. I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do, not knowing there was any...any...any widespread publicity. Just doing what has to be done. But I realize we wouldn't have a Bible if somebody had not recorded. And this archives will be a springboard for thousands more to see that...that it's workable, that it can be done, that [pauses] they are, like us, not pioneers. It was done in the Bible. But you just bring it down to...to twentieth century, you know. I mean, and...and the effort and the means and the whatnot involved to do it, I mean, it's worth the while, you know. See, I mean, I think about myself, I mean, and just in these latter years I've tried, well, putting it down what's been happening. They tell me at church, "Reverend, you need to write a book, 'cause nobody would ever believe what happened to us in the run of a day around this place," I mean, I mean. But...but [pauses]...and I thought about it, and I said, "Lord, well...." I started having some tapes to put down. But then for you all to come and share, and look at here...right out, you started. Now look what you did. You're a springboard. After you started, then here they're going to do this documentary.
SHUSTER: Linda Gerber productions.
YORK: That's right, that's right, that's right, and Beverly Price, those two together. I mean, I mean and it's going to be on the fourteenth of January in 19...[pauses] January fourteenth, on a Saturday at six o'clock on Channel Seven.
SHUSTER: I'll have to record that. [Videotape of the program contained in Collection 397.]
YORK: Channel seven. But you see, see [pauses] I...I attribute all of this to God, you know. See, now I say, "Lord," and listen, it comes at a time, Dr. Shuster, that.... I mean, my mother said to me...my spiritual mother said to me...she said, "The Lord will take you to all these channels." She said, "And by the time the Lord gets ready to...to give you what you've got coming, it won't even matter to you." She...I mean, she said, "When you're popular when your young," I mean, I mean, "you...you...you get cocky or funny," she said. "But when the Lord...when you labor for the Lord, He won't let you go to the grave 'til you get you what you got coming. But you're almost at the cemetery, so now whatever's going on, it don't move you, see. You see, the Lord didn't bring this early in life so you won't"...I wouldn't get grand, tell them, "Well, I'm so important." They said, "No, you're headed toward the cemetery. You're sixty-five years...more years on this side than on that side. So, so, and just whatever you know share it with somebody else, you know, because it's easy to get cocky and grand and important, but they won't let me be important, I'll tell you. I mean the jail folk got a mink coat for me about three years, two or three years ago, I mean, I mean, and so they said, "What are you going to do on this...?" I had to go to jail that Christmas day, and they dare say, "Well, what are you gonna do? You're not going to carry any bags and bundles with you?" I said, "What are you talking about? I gotta take my stuff to the jail." So here I am going down the corridor with a mink coat over a shopping bags and carts and things. But see, God knows, 'cause you see you can't be important. Jesus was the King of Kings, but yet he made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant [Philippians 2:7]. So it's just a servantry [sic] job. So listen, I got so many junk and bags, bags in and bags out, bags in and bags out, little bag here with something in it, so you...so you're not important, just a servant. And...and...and you're serving Him. And...and...and listen now, I knew...I'm sure I told you, I go by the day. Did I tell you that I live by the day? I mean, so...so if...if...if I...if I get ten thousand dollars a day, I owe eleven thousand dollars. So I gotta report to the Lord every night, but He just doesn't let the world know how...but I know and folk around me know. So that keeps you from running off, keeps you from getting top heavy, it keeps you in the servantry [sic] position. Somebody needs something, so you got to take your coat off and roll it up, I mean, and go on in there and do what you got to do, and...and you "Hallelujah" that God may be glorified. I'm working for the boss [pounds on the table] of the world [pounds], the man who owns the world. And listen, you can't [pounds] get a bigger job than this. I...I work for the owner of the universe.
YORK: And He knows what I need, right. And if He tells me to go to the jail, "Here I go. Give me some means to go, in the truck or the bus, any kind of way." And then He said.... "Now You tell me what to say." But He said, "I...you just get there. I'll tell you what to say to them." And then I said, "If I get too tough...." He said, "I'll make you shut up when you're supposed to shut up." Then...then, I said, "What am I going to give them?" He said, "I...I'll give you some means to get something to give to them so they'll have the means to listen," 'cause after Jesus got through preaching, He sat them down and fed them, didn't he. The disciples said, "Oh, let...take the folk home." He said, "They've been with us three days. They'll faint." [Luke 9:12-17] So, now my folk get so tired. They say, "We're gonna join the Do Nothing Baptist Church. See, 'cause you...you don't get a break. Every day you try to figure out how you gonna help someone." I said, "Well, that's the mission. That's the Lord's work. He was always...He went around doing good. That's it." I said, "Then our labor would not been in vain [paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 3:5]. Don't worry about it. [unclear phrase] the work to do, it will speak for you. Just do what you gotta do." I said, "And give them the best. God was at his best when He sent His only begotten Son, so," I said, "you know, give them some...give them the best, Land 'O Lakes buttercake. Give the best. Don't give them state stuff. They can get that anytime. Don't give them government stuff. They can get that.... Give them the best, what you want for yourself, stuff fit for a king. Well, He was a king who came low enough to reach us, so we've gotta have that same aspect. Now did He get [?] our best to those we served, the best will come back to us.
SHUSTER: Amen. Well, I know that this tape will be a real inspiration to others to let Christ work through their lives the way you have. And I want to thank you again for the willingness to be interviewed.
YORK: Thank you for letting me be interviewed, and I pray God will send many laborers into the vineyard. The harvest is ripe, the laborers are few [paraphrase of Matthew 9:37], and if a little old lady of my caliber can do it, all these young intellectual people who've got all the things necessary can do it without any restraint.
SHUSTER: Thank you again.
YORK: God bless you.
END OF TAPE