This is the 19th post in the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge. This week I am doing four posts describing some of the places I have lived that I didn’t cover in the Alphabet Challenge last year. Today I am remembering 3203 Glendale Avenue, Detroit.
In the spring of 1970 the Black Conscience Library was evicted from 12019 Linwood so that the League of Revolutionary Black Workers could have the space. We temporarily moved into the basement of friends, Stu and Gloria House. They had been members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked for voter registration in Lowndes County, Alabama.
That summer, we had high school students working with us. One of their tasks was to sell the Malcolm X posters you can see on the wall behind me in the photo above. Sometimes on Saturdays there was an organized trip to the rifle range so people could learn to shoot. I never went due to being in the last months of pregnancy. I remember all those steps from the basement to the attic and how many times I climbed them. We had received a grant from somebody and that summer two of us got paid.
Our living quarters were in the attic. I was about seven and a half months pregnant with my first child. My bedroom was in the cedar closet up on the third floor. It was large enough for a bed and the baby’s little crib later. I remember the light from the streetlight on the trees below my window those warm summer nights. There was another bedroom towards the front of the house. Phil had that room. Phil was a former Black Panther who worked with the library. He kept playing “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis all summer long.
There was a claw foot bathtub and a window that looked into the neighbors attic. We had globe top refrigerator and a hotplate in the hall that the two bedrooms and bathroom opened out to. I babysat the 2.5 year old when his parents were at work or school. There wasn’t a lot of library work to do aside from running off flyers and newsletters because we weren’t really open to the public. I remember lots of meetings. Meetings between the people that shared the house. Meetings between members of the library staff. Meetings about meetings.
Usually the house was full of people but the night that I went into labor, nobody was home. Jim was teaching a “Survival and Defense” class somewhere else. I don’t know where the other 5 adults and the 2 year old that lived in the house were. I waited and walked around and waited. Finally I called my doctor to say the contractions were 5 minutes apart and he said to come to the hospital. It was 10 PM. I called my mother and she came and drove me down and waited with me until Jim arrived. Baby Jilo wasn’t born until noon the next day so I could have waited a bit longer.
One night soon after I came home with Jilo and everybody had gone to bed, neither Jim or Phil were there, but the downstairs people were. A woman started to scream for help from the alley behind the house. Stu came upstairs looking for one of the rifles from the trips to the range. As I remember they had been broken down and cleaned but not put back together. He went back down and hollered out of the back door that he was going to come out there with a “30 aught 6″ and shoot somebody if the woman wasn’t released. She was and she came into the house and the police were called. I learned this later because I was upstairs in the bed with my new baby girl thinking about the dangerous world and glad that Stu had been there to shout out the door.
“I was happy to hear that Jim and Chris (sic) were well. In the times when I question my own dedication to the struggle i remember them up in that loft, with the child, cooking dinner on a hot plate. It is something i can never forget and it brings me back home when i begin to trip too hard. It is a constant source of inspiration.”
We were there about 6 or 7 months before a new location was found for the library. By that time everybody was happy to get their own space again.