Tag Archives: #Idlewild

Idlewild 1945 – En route to Springfield

My Aunt Gladys sent word this weekend that my parents did, indeed, spend some time in Michigan before moving on to Springfield.  These photographs are in an album and labeled “En Route to Springfield.” Most of them were taken in Idlewild, at my Uncle Louis’ cottage. There were only a couple taken in Detroit, all of my cousin Dee Dee and her mother, Mary Vee in my Graham grandparents yard. My father may have been taking the photographs in Idlewild, because he doesn’t appear in any of them. Henry and Hugh are not in the photos because, I suppose, they were still on the farm.

Grandfather Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr.

Grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage











My mother Doris, Aunt Gladys, Lillian Payne (family friend), Aunt Barbara, Aunt Anna

Uncle Louis, Aunt Gladys, my mother Doris in the boat “Sassy Suzy”

Idlewild, Mich. 1945 Anna, Doris, Gladys, Louis, Paul, Barbara

Idlewild, Mich. 1945 Doris, Anna, Lillian Payne. Lillian was Paul and George Payne’s sister.

My mother, Doris

The Idlewild Clubhouse

In Detroit my cousin Dee Dee reads to her mother Aunt Mary Vee Elkins

Celebrating Kwanzaa

"Kwanzaa Table"

The Kwanzaa Table

When I was elementary school age our neighborhood was majority Jewish for several years.  We never celebrated the Jewish holidays but we learned about them.  I remember singing the dreidel song in school and learning about the menorah.


We have celebrated Kwanzaa in various ways over the years.  Once again I bring you a reprint from Ruff Draft 1991.  We didn’t celebrate it when I was growing up since it didn’t begin until the late 1960’s.  Our children grew up celebrating either at home or in community celebrations.  At one point we didn’t celebrate Christmas, only Kwanzaa but after the kids started school we gradually added Christmas back into the celebrations.


By Ayanna Williams

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday started in the U.S.A. in the 1960s.

This year on the last day of Kwanzaa, which was New Years Day, we had a big to-do and invited Henry over.  We dressed up.  Tulani and I in sarongs.  That is material draped around your body and hung over your shoulder.  James and Cabral wore baggy pants and African print shirts.  Jilo and Ife, who were home on winter break, wore long skirts.  All the girls but Jilo, wore geles (head wraps).  Jilo didn’t want to cover her dreadlocks.

When Henry got there we were downstairs in our regular clothes so we ran upstairs and after much losing of skirts and falling off of wraps, we finally went down.  As we went Tulani played the drum, James used the shakare, Cabral strummed the ukelele and I had to use two blocks.  We chanted “Kwanzaa, First Fruits!” as we came. We giggled a little as we went through the kitchen.  Black eye peas, sweet potatoes and rice were simmering on the stove for us to eat directly after the ritual.  When we got to the living room, all the lights were off except one.  By that light we, in turn, read the seven principles in Swahili and their meanings in English.  The introduction was read by Daddy.  Nia/Purpose was read by Henry. Umoja/Unity was read by Tulani.  Kujichagulia/Self determination was read by Ayanna, Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility by James.  Ujamaa/Cooperative economics by Ife, Kuumba/Creativity by Mommy for Cabral and Imani/Faith by Jilo.

Then we read the meanings explained in plain English that Jilo had written.  After we read the principles and lit all seven candles, Jilo read a story she had written about Kwanzaa with all of the principles included.  We then ushered everybody into the dining room while chanting the principles and their meanings.  Well, that was the plan, but nobody but us kids knew so the adults just sat there and watched us.  So we finally just got up and told them to come to the table.

After dinner Henry told tales about when he was a kid and about his uncles and cousins.  Some how the conversation went from reminiscing to the state of the world today. He and Jilo had quite a discussion that lasted for hours.  At the end Henry went home and we all went to bed.

Thanksgiving – 1991, Idlewild, Michigan – Part 2

"Idlewild house in winter."
Our Idlewild House

After I wrote my Thanksgiving 1991 post several days ago, I talked to several people about what they remembered. Some remembered nothing. Several others remembered the snow, Zaron with his head wrapped in a towel and the status discussion. Someone remembered it was Christmas but I was lucky enough to have the Ruff Draft article saying it was Thanksgiving.  A reason to keep a journal or a family newsletter.

Yesterday I was reading the post “Had to Walk Home in the Snow” on the blog A Hundred Years Ago. The blog is set up so that it always begins with a diary entry by Helena Muffy in 1911 and is followed by information her granddaughter, Sheryl, has found that relates to the entry.  This entry was about Helena Muffy walking home from church in the snow. Sheryl followed with a weather service report about conditions in that area on just that day!  Sheyl was nice enough to explain to me how I could find the information for Thanksgiving, 1991 in Lake County, Michigan.  I highly recommend this blog.

According to the chart from the National Climatic Data Center it started snowing on Nov. 24 and left us 4 inches. We got another inch on Nov. 25.  By Thanksgiving there were still 3 inches on the ground. By the following Monday the snow had changed to rain and the snow was all gone.

And for my daughter, Jilo, I add these photographs of Pearl in her yellow shirt and Zeke with his head wrapped in a towel.

Thanksgiving – 1991, Idlewild, Michigan

In 1991 we lived in Michigan on Lake Idlewild in an old house. Two of our daughters, Jilo and Ife, were in college  Jilo was at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and Ife was at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI.  The four younger children had been homeschooling for several years. My Uncle Henry lived several miles away on Water Mill Lake. My sister Pearl and her husband drove up from Atlanta.

My memories of this Thanksgiving begin with the snow storm that dumped at least a foot of snow on us. It started the day before and continued into Thanksgiving day.  I remember waiting for people to arrive, standing out in the yard looking through the woods at the road and seeing cars coming through the snow.  There were more people there then we had ever had before and everybody but Henry stayed for several days. The 29 pound turkey fed us all. I know we had a very big table in our small dining room and we brought another small table in so everybody ate in the dining room… or did some of the younger people eat at a card table in the living room?  My brother-in-law, Michael, video taped the dinner and conversation which lasted long after the meal was over.  I looked for the tape last night but it’s not here. I hope someone borrowed it and we can get it back.

The conversation was about race, responsibility, aliens from outer space landing on the deck, why black men didn’t turn the slave ships around, had we ever fought for freedom, the Status Theory (this was Henry’s theory and will have to have a post of it’s own one day.) The men did most of the talking and as the night wore on, became pretty heated.  Especially between college student, Isaac and my sister’s husband Zeke. I remember there being something of the young male challenging the older or maybe it was the older seeing a challenge and not giving an inch. Henry was right there in the thick of it. I remember asking several times, now that we knew the problem, could we make a plan?? What we were going to do? There was no answer because it wasn’t that kind of practical discussion.  It was about theory and well, status.  In fact, the whole discussion was sort of a proving grounds for Henry’s theory, which was in short that life is all about fighting for status.  At least among the males.

I don’t remember what we had for dinner but I know we had turkey with cornbread dressing, greens from the garden (I put up plastic tents over them and we got greens into January, whatever the weather.), fresh cranberry sauce, rice, sweet potatoes, rolls, pound cake and pumpkin pies (from our own pumpkins). We had these on the table because we always do.

I remember Isaac taking the family photograph with all of us sitting on the rug. I don’t remember where everybody slept. By Monday, the snow was melted and the visitors had returned homes.  Click to read Thanksgiving 1991 Part 2.

Below is an article from “The Ruff Draft” by Ayanna.

by Ayanna Williams

We are still recovering from our rip roaring Thanksgiving!  We had LOTS of people here.  Our Aunt Pearl and Zaron drove up from Atlanta, GA.  Jilo and Isaac drove up from Evanston, IL., Ife came from Ann Arbor.  They all got here by late Wednesday.  Uncle Michael and our cousin STeven drove up from Detroit just before we sat down to dinner on Thanksgiving.  Great Uncle Henry (Sage of Water Mill Lake) came for dinner too.

Henry led many discussions on The Status Theory and The Group.  Michael video taped one of them and has promised us all copies.  Pearl and Zaron brought some videos with them. We watched one called “Stormy Weather”.  It is an all Black movie made during the 1940’s.   We really enjoyed it.  We also watched some short films that Isaac and Jilo did.  One was called “Shoe Shine Rag” and the other “Metaphycosis of the Mask”.  They were experimental type films and a quite interesting.  Michael showed a video tour of his house in Virginia.

We got our turkey from the food co-op, who got it fresh from an Amish farm.  It was organically raised and weighted 29 pounds.  It was a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I hope we can get together again soon!

Dollhouse Fireplace and the Real Thing

This dollhouse is turning out to have features from several of our real houses. Yesterday I made a fireplace modeled after the fireplace in our Idlewild house.  I still need to add the mantel and the picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe and logs, of course.

I used a modeling compound made from toothpaste, white glue, corn starch and water. I got the color with food coloring added to the compound and then rubbed some paint that we used to do the dollhouse roof to make it look more stone like.  And threw in a few real ashes for realism.

Jim has been painting and cutting and nailing and there will be more photos soon.

My Detroit Rebellion Journal – 1967

My father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage & me.

I wrote this after the Detroit riot in July of 1967.  I was 20. I had been in Idlewild, MI at my Uncle Louis’ cottage with my Aunt Gladys and some of my cousins when it started. I ended up at my Grandmother Cleage’s house where my father, several uncles and cousins were also gathered. Her house was on Atkinson, about three blocks from the 12th street corner where the riot started. Aside from a little editing for clarity, these are my memories from 1967.


 The fire siren that night in Idlewild went on and on and on. Gladys got a phone call that a riot had started. We left that morning. The sky was pink with smoke as we drove into the city.

During the riot, when it got dark, we turned off the lights, put on black clothes and waited. The shots that had been going all day got louder, closer, smashed together. We sat on the porch and watched the tanks go up and down the street full of white boys wearing glasses, aiming their guns at us.

One during the day went by in a yellow telephone repair truck. He rode in the elevated stand, pointing his rifle. We looked back at him.

Lights from helicopters whirred over us. Troops went down 12th, down 14th. The street shook. Afraid to sleep because somebody might shoot through the window, we stayed up until the sky got light. My cousins cleared out the furniture in front of the windows, so they could shoot.

Should they let them get in or shoot before they reach the porch? They lay there on quilts, looking out the window. Seeing soldiers and armored trucks in flowerpots and dump trucks. Dale asked how the gun worked. Ernie shows him by the hall light.

The guns sounded like they were in the alley. I sat on the landing. Thorough the window it was dark and unreal outside. Blair came up, scared, so we went in the basement and turned on a program about Vietnam, but then off to a horror movie nobody watched.

Daddy came down, with a drink, to use the phone and dictate demands to the papers. Ernie showed us how to bolt doors if someone tried to come in the window.

They tried to get Grandmother down to watch TV, but she wouldn’t. She stayed upstairs, watched TV and came out only at times to turn lights on and silhouette everybody hiding guns as the soldiers were pulled back.

On the police radio: Fifty policemen wounded in one hour. They were run out of the Clairmont Square again. A woman turns in her sniper husband.

Dale was left on the porch when they flashed light on the porch and summer-salted in. Bullets were so close I was afraid and went back inside.

Grandmother turning on lights with armed flower pots aiming at us.

Turning Vietnamese guns up loud to drown out theirs. Jan and I, sleeping on the hard scratchy rug. Ernie wanting just a ring to show he was there. Dale taping, taking pictures to show his children. Jesus painted Black.

All that Sunday cars full of white folks went down Linwood past the Church. Windows rolled up. Sightseeing. Long, slow lines, car after car, windows shut tight. Troop Jeeps going by pointing guns.

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