Category Archives: memories

The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr April 4, 1968

Detroit March to Freedom down Woodward Ave. 1963. My father is in the 2nd row, looking serious.

On April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr was murdered, I was a senior art major  at Wayne State University in Detroit.  I was walking across campus with Jim, who is now my husband, when Rufus and Brenda Griffin  stopped and told us what had happened. They offered me a ride home. I lived in the house at 5397 Oregon with my mother and Henry.

I remember going to school the next day and being in my printmaking class when my mother, who NEVER appeared in my classes, walked into the room to tell me riots were breaking out. Duffield, her school had closed (she was a teacher) and we left. We passed a small group of high school students marching down West Grand Blvd. but no violence.

Either that night or the next I was taken to the airport before the curfew so that I could meet my sister Pearl, who was coming in from Howard University, which had been closed due to the disturbance. She was a sophomore. We spent the night at the airport hotel. This assassination, both in itself and coming after so many others was so depressing. I was 21.

A Feeling of Home

This picture comes from a book belonging to my Graham grandparents ‘The Young Folks Treasury – Ideal Home Life.’ I always thought of it as being in one of the big houses on East Grand Blvd. we drove past on the way from the grandparents to Belle Isle. I didn’t know it was a Swedish. When we lived in the parsonage on Chicago, we had dining room furniture that was big and heavy and looked sort of like this. We only ate one meal there, the Thanksgiving dinner before my parents separated in 1954. It may still be in use in room off of Fellowship Hall at the Shrine of the Black Madonna on Linwood. Anyway, it always had a feeling of ‘home’ for me, even though I never witnessed a scene like this in real life. I probably read too many old books.

When I was growing up, home was where my family lived. I didn’t think about how long we’d be there or where it was, it was home. And when we moved again (as we regularly did), the new place was home. Our familiar furniture and books were there. We ate together  in breakfast or dining room, the familiar food.  My sister and I did our same chores.

When I was 13 we moved into the first house we bought. We lived there almost 10 years, longer than any place else I lived up to that point.  It was at 5397 Oregon. Because it was where we lived the longest, memories of home often center on this house.  When I was a senior in college we moved to a 2 family flat with my grandparents. By that time I was planning my escape out into the world and that flat always felt temporary. In 6 month I graduated and was gone.

Drawings and photographs of 4 of the 20 houses I’ve lived in.

During my early years on my own, the house I lived in wasn’t always “home”. In my early 20s, I moved 7 times in 3 years. Living in back rooms, attics, other people’s houses, temporary apartments, always waiting/watching for the next place to go.

It usually takes a certain amount of time for a place to feel like home to me. Some places feel more friendly than others. After a year it begins to feel permanent, even though none have been forever so far. Although we usually move everything, or most everything, with us, several times we have not been able to and then home feels bare until we can replace the missing things with different ones. I still wish I could go back and get some of them – the roll top desk, the dressers.

Family, both in the house and in the area, make a house feel like home. A dining table where the household sits and eats meals and plays games. Puzzles, plants, paper, pencils, tools and photographs are always there.  Space to work on projects.

Here are some links to posts I wrote about all the places I lived and other important streets in my life.  Index to streets in my life.

Index to Streets In My Life – 1946 – 2014

Dates are approximate

A is for Atkinson – 1951 – 1953   Atkinson paternal grandparents home – 1949 – 1987

B is for Broadstreet, Detroit – 1969 ( Spring – fall)

C is for Calvert, Detroit – 1954 – 1958

Chicago Blvd, Detroit – 1953 – 1954

Cascade Rd. SW, Atlanta – 9/1972 – 9/1974

D is for Dexter, Detroit

E is for Elmhurst – 3/1969 – 11/1969

F is for Fairfield – summer 1968 –  January 1969

G is for Grand River, Detroit – fall 1970 – spring 1973

Glendale, Detroit – Spring 1970 – Fall 1970

Hogarth & Linwood – Church

I is for Inglewood Court, St. Louis – Williams home

Idlewild Cottage – 1943 – 1992

J is for Joy Road, Detroit

K is for King St. Springfield, MASS – 8/1946 – fall/1948

L is for Linwood

Layfette – 1968

Lovett – Cleage Printers & Cleage Clinic

M is for Monterrey – early winter 1971 – early spring 1972

N is for North Martindale, Detroit – fall/1970 – early winter/1971

O is for Oregon Street, Detroit, MI – fall 1958 – summer 1968

Old Plank Road – 1960 – 1967

P is for South Payne Drive, Idlewild, MI – 1981 – 2004

Q is for Quiet Street – Watermill Lake – 2004 – 2007

R is for Route 1 Box 173 1/2 – 1976 – 1983

Rt 1 Box 38 – The Luba Project 1975 – 1976

S is for Sixth Avenue, Mt. Pleasant 1974 – 1975

Scotten, Detroit – Paternal grandparents 1919 – 1948

T is for Theodore St. Detroit – Maternal grandparents home 1922 – 1968

Third Avenue, Detroit – 1966

U is for Union Street – 1948 – 1951

V is for Venetian Drive – 2007 to present

 W is for Wilkins Street – 1971 – 1972

X is for eXcelsior Springs, MO – 1983 – 1986

Y is for Yates Township – 1986 – 2003

 Z is for Zamziwillie – endless

Two Sisters – Braxton, MS & Atlanta,GA – June, 1980

In June of 1980 my sister Pearl and her daughter visited us in our home on St. John’s Road Mississippi.  My husband, Jim, took this photo of both of us and our children. The one with her eyes closed is Pearl’s daughter.  I thought it would be interesting to take an entry from her journal, as it appears in her new book “Things I Should Have Told My Daughter – Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs” by Pearl Cleage and, since I wasn’t keeping a journal at the time, take old letters and put something of what was happening in my life at the time.

Pearl, Ife, Ayanna, Jilo, Deignan, me holding Tulani. June 1980, St. John’s Road, Mississippi.  We must have been saying “Cheese!”

Pearl had recently moved to her own apartment, leaving her husband and devoting her time to writing and figuring out freedom. From Pearl’s journal about her life in Atlanta …

“June 5, 1980

I have just discovered the only advantage to freelancing.  You get to be stoned while you earn a living. Unfortunately, that is also true of rock and roll stars, actors who are lucky enough to be cast in Robert Altman films, Rastafarians, and particularly foolhardy circus preformers. I think it also applies to the construction crews that do most of the renovations that I know about.  It also applies to artists of all kinds, but since I was talking about freelancing, which is a way of making money, let’s leave the art out of it, shall we?”

Meanwhile, several states over in Mississippi…June 17, 1980  from a letter to my father

Dear Daddy,

How’s it going?  It’s hot, hot, hot here.  It’s been a strange weekend.  Kibibi – the 25 year old woman who lived a weird summer with us at Luba when we first came to MS was shot 3 times in the head by her 10 month baby’s daddy during an argument. It was such a ridiculous, unexpected, stupid thing. 

I remember Kibibi sister’s husband coming up the stairs of the house on stilts and telling us about the shooting. Given that the civil rights violence had barely ended, it seemed horribly sad that she was shot to death by her daughter’s father.

You can read more about my life during this time in R is for Route 1 Box 173 & 1/2

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For more Sepia Saturday posts, CLICK!

Ipperwash Canada – 1960


My sister and I running by the dunes at Ipperwash, on Lake Huron in Canada. It was 1960. I was 14 and would start Northwestern High School in September. Pearl was 12 and would start McMicheal Junior High School.  The lake is in the background but the strange distortions at the top make it difficult to tell what is there.

My mother and Uncle Henry had been trying to find a place to spend weekends and vacations out of Detroit. That weekend we had driven through various towns and country to reach Ipperwash. There was a wide beach and cars could drive on it. The beach itself was all open to the public.  I remember the house we looked at was like a big farm house and had beds all over, in the attic and in the several bedrooms.  We spent the night at a cabin the realtor had and left early the next morning. They decided not to buy there because of the cars on the beach and the public.

I remember driving either there or home through a rainy day, looking through the window at the towns we drove through, everything summer green, but grayed by the gloomy day.

Lake Huron Ipperwasy beach
Lake Huron Ipperwash beach – a Wikie Commons photo.

The Ipperwash Crisis – While looking for photo of the beach, I found that during WW 2 the Canadian Federal Government expropriated the land of the Stoney Point First Nation with promises to return it after the war. The war ended, the land wasn’t returned. In 1995 members of the Stoney Point First Nation occupied the land in protest. There was a cemetery located in what was now called the Ipperwash Camp.  During the protests an unarmed member of the protesters was shot and killed.  The land was to be returned to the Stoney Point First Nation but it hasn’t been completed yet.  You can read more about it at the link above.

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Birth Story – Ife

header_ifebabyI wrote this soon after the birth of my second daughter, Ife in 1973.  We had been in Atlanta almost a year. Jim was printing and I was working at the Institute of the Black World doing clerical work. My sister Pearl and her husband lived within walking distance. Jilo attended preschool at Martin Luther King preschool.

Birthday. Why isn't she wrapped up like a little burrito? Poor baby.
Birth day. Why isn’t she wrapped up like a little burrito? Poor baby.

March 29, 1973 – 9am – 8lbs 3 ounces – Holy Family Hospital, Atlanta, GA

 I continued working at the Institute of the Black World until Monday, March 27, when the braxton hicks contractions were too uncomfortable. For the next three days I slept until 1 or 2 PM or later. Jilo was at school and Jim at work.  We were living in a duplex at 2600 Cascade Rd. SW in Atlanta.

At midnight of the 28th the contractions became regular.  I threw up.  They were not too hard.  Jim timed them.  He’d read a chapter of a book about birthing this time.  Daddy called about 12:30.  At 4:10 we called Dr. Borders. Contractions were 8 minutes apart.  Pearl and Michael took us to the hospital.  Jilo stayed with them. I had one contraction on the way, about a twenty minute trip.

I was checked in, shaved with a dull razor, given an enema. It seemed like the contractions were gone forever.  They weren’t.  Jim was a lot of help saying don’t panic, don’t breath so fast. I really didn’t need to pant except when they were checking the dilation then it was so cold.  In fact the room was freezing and next time I’ll wear a sweater.

Dr. Borders checked every half hour. At 8:30 am, I felt a mild desire to push and told Dr. Borders. She said go ahead and I was moved to the delivery room.  Although I had been drowsy I immediately woke up alert and not at all tired. However once again the contractions disappeared.  No one panicked though, they just sat and waited.  At this time I kept expecting Dr. Borders to say it was taking too long and she’d have to give me a spinal. The nurses tried to help find the right breathing breath, breath push and confused me at first. The contractions were mild and not strong, they said, so gave me something to strengthen them.  The one nurse pushed down on the stomach while I pushed. Jim was there in blue but didn’t get to say much.  I was quite discouraged, but Dr. Borders said it was coming along and finally THE HEAD CAME OUT!  I didn’t feel it come down or anything, it just popped out, I had an episiotomy.  The cord as around her neck, but Dr. Borders got it off and out came Ife.  It was something as I said before. They showed her to me and they hit her heels and she started crying. She had dark hair.  They took prints, cleaned her nose, etc.  And it was cold again. I got a heated blanket and we all congratulated each other.  It took awhile to get stitched. I felt fine. I didn’t go to recovery, just to the room.  Ife was supposed to come with me, both my doctor and her pediatrician okayed it, but the nurses never brought her.  They told me her temp had to stabilize.

I felt fine, excellent, never really bothered by stitches. Roommate was weird, had a c-section and kept saying morbid things and complaining. A real drag.  I had rooming in. I nursed her when she wanted and was never engorged.

I hadn’t realized before that my first daughter’s birth had been so messed up by the hospital staff coming in every five minutes like it as a public event, my Doctor’s lack or interest and knowledge of natural childbirth, Jim’s absence and lack of knowledge of how to help, the length of labor.

 In Ife’s birth all of these things had an influence on me, which I hadn’t realized until labor really started.  If I had known I was only going to be 4-5 hours in labor at the hospital instead of 14 and that Ife would indeed get herself born without forceps, etc. I would have been more relaxed and could have enjoyed it more.  Things to remember next time-take a sweater, take a bag or breath under covers to avoid hyperventilation, which puts you out of it. THE BABY WILL COME OUT!  Get a single room, leave as soon as possible, the hospital that is.

Memories of the Detroit Main Library

When I was growing up, this was the entry way to the Detroit Main Library.  It opened onto Woodward Ave. We probably started going soon after we moved back to Detroit when I was 4.  There was a man who stood there, a very friendly older man who looked at your books when you were going out to make sure you had checked them out. Younger than I am now, he was very friendly and always smiled at my sister and me. He wore a blue suit and had a round head, with little hair.

Woodward Entry.  Click to enlarge.

To the right was the check-out counter. The door you can see to the right led into the children’s room. The picture books and early reading books were right inside the door to the left. Straight ahead, against the back wall were the books for older readers – “Invisible Island”, the Narnia books and others.  My mother brought us here often, interspersed with trips to  libraries closer to our home.At the time I don’t remember noticing the high ceilings and the murals specifically, but they were the background for my library experience.  In 1963, an addition was added on the Cass side of the library.  With building and lawn, it occupies the entire block.  For reasons I don’t understand, most of the books were moved into the new area, leaving the old one behind.  The book checker moved to the new side of the building and continued to sit there all day and look at books. He was there when I studied on the new side all through college and he was still there in 1972 when I started taking my two year old daughter to the library. I wonder what his name was.

New addition.
Cass addition.

To read more about the Main library

  • I Met My Husband in the Library “I usually studied in the sociology room of the Main Library, which was in the middle of Wayne’s campus.  As I was leaving to go to my next class that day, a guy came up and asked if I was Rev. Cleage’s daughter. I said I was.”
  • Detroit Public Library  “Designed by Cass Gilbert, the Detroit Public Library was constructed with Vermont marble and serpentine Italian marble trim in an Italian Renaissance style. His son, Cass Gilbert, Jr. was a partner with Francis J. Keally in the design of the library’s additional wings added in 1963. Among his other buildings, Cass Gilbert designed the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC, the Minnesota State Capitol and the Woolworth Building in New York City.”
  • Historic Detroit Library  “In March 1910, after some surprising opposition, the Common Council voted to accept an offer from steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to provide money to go toward improving the Detroit library system. Following two years of court cases and legal mumbo jumbo, the city finally got the go-ahead to start issuing bonds and moved ahead with building a replacement for the structure downtown, a building that was still only 35 years old.”

2254 Chicago, Halloween

2254 Chicago Blvd.
2254 Chicago Blvd.

I don’t remember hearing memories of childhood Halloween celebrations from my parents. I do have a few memories of my own. When I was about 7 years old and we lived in the parsonage at 2254 Chicago Blvd in Detroit, the Youth Fellowship met in the basement. They were having a Halloween party. I remember my sister and I watching them come in all dressed in various costumes.  I don’t know if it was the same year as this photograph was taken or not.

From the 1956 Youth Fellowship Yearbook
From the 1956 Youth Fellowship Yearbook

That same year we dressed up and went over to our cousin’s house to help distribute candy to the trick-or-treaters. I remember wearing my Aunt Mary Vee’s skirt and dressing as a Gypsy.  We never were allowed to go trick-or-treating, but enjoyed passing out the candy. When we were highschool age, we would sometimes leave town for the day to avoid the whole holiday and passing out candy by not being home.  I have no pictures of us in any Halloween costumes.

When my own children were old enough to know Halloween was happening, we did not live in the city. I remember my very young daughter’s going with the older neighbors up and down our short block trick-or-treating in Mt. Pleasant, SC. It was unseasonably cold and they had to wear winter coats over their homemade costumes.

We moved to Mississippi the next week, where we lived out in the country and there wasn’t any trick-or-treating, instead there would be an evening carnival at the school. The students would dress up and there would be booths with games and treats. In Excelsior Springs, MO I don’t remember my kids going trick-or-treating but two had paper routes and their customers gave them so much candy! Way, way more than anyone needed in a year.

The next move was to Idlewild, MI, in the middle of the Manistee National Forest. Some years there was a school carnival. Other years the kids went to town and trick or treated the 2 block business area. A couple of years my Aunt Gladys and Henry had a get together with cider and doughnuts for Halloween. The year when I was librarian at the Yates Township library we had a community party  with bobbing for apples, a fishing booth and refreshments. Here is an article about it from the Ruff Draft, our family newsletter.


This post was written with both Sepia Saturday #201 and The Book of Me “Halloween” prompt in mind.

The Ludington Lighthouse, 1956

 My grandfather, mother, sister and I were spending several weeks at my Uncle Louis Cleage’s cottage in Idlewild.  We made a day trip to Ludington, on Lake Michigan, about 30 miles from Idlewild. We had walked out to the light house, which was no longer in use. 1956 was the year I wore glasses.

Pearl, Poppy and me. Ludington, Michigan 1956.

My mother, Pearl, me.

In this picture, taken facing land but on the same pier, you can see how the cement walk slopes down toward the lake.  There was a flat part down by the water where fish had washed up and they were flopping around trying to get back to the water.  My sister Pearl and I climbed down and were throwing the fish back in the water until our grandfather noticed and told us to come up and stop it before we fell in the water.  We did it but we were not happy about it.

Poppy rowing on Lake Idlewild.

Patio. My mother, Pearl and me. Notice the face in the trees to the left. It looks like my grandmother in her younger days. It doesn't look like it belongs there.
Patio in front of the 2 cottages. My mother, Pearl and me. Notice the face in the trees to the left. It looks like my grandmother in her younger days.  Is it really there?

Close up of face in the trees.
Close up of face in the trees.

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Ice Skating in 1986 and 1961

Out on the ice – James (or is that Kamau?), Jann, Ife, Shashu, Tulani & Ayanna.

This photo was taken in 1986 during the first winter we lived in Idlewild.  We used a variety of shovels to clear the ice – new red plastic snow shovels, ancient metal snow shovels and a coal shovel we found in the garage.  My aunt Gladys and uncle Hugh were in their 60s then and out skated all of us. They had racing skates and glided around with their hands behind their back looking so cool. You can see a photo of them in earlier years here – Skating Champions.

For most of the 20 years we lived there, the ice was frozen solid, 4 or more inches deep by Christmas and remained frozen until early spring. Ice fishermen came from far and wide to drill holes and sit on buckets or in little huts and fish through the ice. Once a car drove across from the far side to our side. This year Idlewild Lake hasn’t frozen at all because of the warm winter.

When I was in High school my sister and I would walk up to Northwestern High School and skate on the rink in a corner of the field. I found several articles in the Illustrated News from December 1961 and January 1962  about the lack of a warming shelter or place to leave your shoes while you skated at this same rink.  I was in the 9th grade that year and I do remember this.  Click on the pages below to enlarge and read the articles.

Part 1 of the story – the problem is raised.


Part two of the story…citizens become involved.



The Illustrated News_Dec_25_1961Part three of the ice skating shelter story – problem solved.