Yvonne Anderson, March 19th, 2016


Yvonne Anderson, March 19th, 2016


In this interview, Yvonne Anderson discusses growing up in a multi-ethnic community including the black association in Detroit. She also discusses the discrimination and the extreme disturbance at that time.


Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI




Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Yvonne Anderson

Brief Biography

Yvonne Anderson was born on May 20, 1944, Detroit, Michigan, at Trinity Hospital. She lived in the city with her other six brothers and sisters. Then she moved to California and then come back. Growing up during the 1967 disturbance, today she shares what she witnessed, thought, and felt in that period of time.

Interviewer's Name

Bree Boettner

Interview Place

Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit, MI



Interview Length



Ahn Vo

Transcription Date



BB: This is Bree Boettner sitting down with Yvonne Anderson. Today is March 19, 2016. We’re doing an oral interview for the Detroit 1967 Oral History Project: Looking Back to Move Forward. Thank you so much, Yvonne, for sitting down with us today.

YA: You’re welcome.

BB: First we’re going to start with where and when you were born?

YA: I was born May 20, 1944, Detroit, Michigan, at Trinity Hospital.

BB: Fantastic. [You’re a] May-baby! I am too! Who are, or were, your parents and what were their occupations when you were growing up?

YA: My mother and father were John and Flora Paul. My father was a city bus driver, and my mother was a part-time nurse.

BB: Okay. Where did your mother work?

YA: She worked at various nursing homes. I’m not 100 percent certain because she had to stop working when I was nine.

BB: Oh, Okay. Do you have any siblings?

YA: Yes.

BB: What are your siblings’ names and their ages?

YA: There were six of us.

BB: Oh wow.

YA: And my oldest brother was William Moppet, he is deceased. And then there’s myself, and my next brother is John Paul, and next my sister, Yvette Sample, and then two deceased sisters, Claudette Paul and Cozette Richards.

BB: Okay. Do they all grow up in Detroit as well?

YA: Yes, we all grow up in Detroit.

BB: Okay. And where did you live in July 1967?

YA: 15925 Inverness.

BB: And that’s Detroit?

YA: Yes. 48238.

BB: Okay, and do you remember what you were doing that summer of 1967?

YA: Yes.

BB: Okay. Explain that a little bit for us.

YA: I had been a member of the job core. I went to college in California, and I had just come back. I was here for three days; I had gotten back here July fifteenth. And I went out with my brothers and their girlfriends that night. We had been to a couple of clubs and then we went to some after hour parties. The place that we were at was a little bit too confused—not confused but congested. And we decided to go over on Twelfth Street to the after hour joint. And when we got there, they were being raided. We came down from Grand River and Beverly, and we came down Joy Road, all the way to Clairmount—well, Joy Road turns into Clairmount—and we came down to Twelfth Street. At that time when we came down, the only police officers that we saw were the ones that were doing the raid. In the raid there was what we used to call Black Maria, which was a big black van that they were bringing the people out in and we stood on—where the van was there was apartments above where the after hour joint was. And there was a bank across the street. We stood across the street on the stairs of the bank to watch. And below the apartments were businesses.

BB: Okay.

YA: And right on the corner across from us was the Cancellation Shoes, and we were standing there watching, and actually I was ducking my then-fiancé. [Laughter] And he somehow appeared on the stairs with his friends.

BB: Oh.

YA: And we were standing there, and it was really hot that night. But there were always a lot of people out on Twelfth Street, because if you wanted to do something after hours that’s where you went was Twelfth street. You know, that’s where the restaurants were still open, the players and all of these the people would be out. And so we were sitting on the stairs, standing there laughing and my then-fiancé’s friend had a bottle of wine and he was drinking the wine. When he finished the bottle of wine, he threw the bottle, and the bottle broke the window at Cancellation Shoes.

BB: Oh goodness.

YA: And that was the first thing that was broken, and we’re still standing there watching them bring the people out, and this drunk guy comes down Twelfth. He reaches in the window and he gets a pair of shoes, and he turns around and he says, “Ah-ha-ha! I got a pair of shoes,” and he ran. When he did that it precipitated other people running over snatching stuff out of the window, and then people started going up into the store. And my husband was like, “Get her out of here!” And his friends said, “Come on!” And I was like, “I don’t want to go! I want to stay here!” My brother was there, so I got on the car with him—he had a little Volkswagen—and we’re going down Clairmount. When we get to Fourteenth—which is the next light down—as far you could see, in either direction were bumper-to-bumper police cars. And there was one police officer directing traffic. And we had just come that way, and there was nothing there, and he was standing there directing traffic and we stopped and we said, “Hey, you all better get down there. There’s going to be a problem,” and this police office—[I] will never forget his words—he turned and he looked at us and he said, “It’s their world. Let ‘em burn it down.”

BB: Oh goodness…

YA: And we turned around and went back. And we’re standing there, then people started running, and we’re like well what are they doing? So my brother’s girlfriend at that time goes up to—they start running down Twelfth south—and she ran up to the store called US Loans, which was a pawn shop. They had been on his motorcycle—she still had the motorcycle helmet on. She runs up to the window and she goes up like this with her head.

BB: She bangs the window with her helmet?

YA: Bangs the window because there were two guys who came down Twelfth before that, because all of those stores had gates with chain locks. And there were these two guys that had these long iron poles, and they were going to each store, taking the pole, and twisting it on the chain and popping the locks. And Sharon runs up to this window, hits the window with her head and the window breaks.

BB: Oh my god.

YA: And that’s the second store that got broken into, and everybody runs up into US Loans. My brother turns around—my younger brother—and he says, “You don’t steal, why are you out here?” But I was so—

BB: Mesmerized?

YA: Yes, blown away by all of these people, you know. We were watching as it started to be daylight and more people were coming out and they were rushing all of these stores, and breaking in. It was mind blowing.

BB: By your recollection, how many people would you guess were there when you first started staring at the scene, compared to when turned back around and went back?

YA: Okay, maybe there were about 20 or 30 of us standing on the stairs. And then there were more people on the sidewalk and people were starting to pull over in their cars. So there weren’t many of us standing there, but you know, then it started to be a magnet—an attraction—you know, and honest to God it was like standing at a party at first. Everybody was laughing and talking and not doing anything or not thinking of anything destructive, which unfortunately it turned to. And people were running into all other these store, and I’m like, “Oh my goodness!” And one lady came out of her house and Vison was the other store that had—you would compare Vison now to a combination beauty store [and] dollar store that had a lot of things in it. And they went into Vison, and she had her children, and they came out and she ran home and she back. She must have had six or seven kids, and they all went to a grocery store, and they all came out with carts full of groceries running down Twelfth. And believe it or not, you still didn’t see the wrong that it was, because at this point it was really a get-something-for-free thing. You know, because there were a lot of white people out there too. There weren’t just Black folks. It was a lot of white people. It was like a camaraderie. Some of the pimps, were like, “Let’s go up on Grand River,” and people jump in their cars, and there was like a caravan. The first ones went on Grand River and the Boulevard. There is a gas station there now, but there it was Charles Furniture. And they broke into Charles Furniture, and they were getting stuff and some of the guys went around the corner, and it was like a local shopping area: Winkleman’s, Kresgie’s, and some other stores. The only time I was ever tempted to steal was when the guys came out of the Winkleman’s with rack of mink coats.

YA: And I was like, “Oh my goodness!” But they ran across Grand River, and then people started going down Grand River, and they got to Joy Road and they were breaking in because that was a shopping area also. I remember they broke into the jewelry store, and there was Bond’s Clothing on the other side across from the jewelry store, and there was this lady outside and she had her Bible and she was, “Oh you all are so wrong! Don’t do this! Don’t do this!” and I saw the police coming. The lady didn’t see them. She threw the Bible down and went into the window too, and was stealing too. And I’m standing there—

BB: Oh god—

YA: [Laughter] Yeah, and my brother was like, “Fool, go home!” And at that time, mini-dresses weren’t really popular. You had to be a special person to wear a mini-dress and I had a mini-dress on, and my brother was like, “People are not looking at you on that dress! People are trying to get stuff!” And then my brother-in-law came and he was like, “I’ll take you home”, but at that time they’re going to another furniture store, and my brother-in-law runs up into this store, and I’m looking at him like, “Are you crazy?” And he’s pulling this very long console TV, and he says “’Vonne, come over here and help me!” And I’m like, “I can’t pick that up!” you know. So he takes me home, and we get home and I was telling my mother what was happening, and my mother was like, “Oh, well you all need to stop,” and I was like, “Well I’m telling you.” So by that time my brother comes, and we get my mother and we take her up on Dexter and H. Rap Brown was on Dexter standing on a trailer platform giving a speech and my mother was like, “Oh my goodness!” It had spread and people were running and just breaking stuff, you know, and we were like, “Listen, Mom, listen to what he has to say!” and my mother was like, “Nuh uh, take me home!” and by this time, some guys went to tip the car over and they set it on fire.

BB: Oh my gosh. Okay.

YA: And my mother was like, “Alright, that’s it. Take me home!” So we take her home and then my brother said, “Let’s go back on Twelfth street!” We go back up to Twelfth street and by this time there is a guy—many stores, just about everything had been broken into—and there was one guy that came down the middle of the Twelfth and he had a five gallon can of gasoline, and he was pouring it down the middle of the street. Coleman Young and some of the other dignitaries came down the street in a police car and they were trying on the bullhorns, telling people, “Go back in your homes! Everybody stop!” and they bricked the car and broke the windows out. When this guy pours the gas, the two guys that had the long poles in the beginning came out with rags wrapped around the top of the poles like a torch. They threw a match and it lit the whole line of gasoline up. They stuck those poles into the gasoline and started flinging them, and the wads of cloth were going into the buildings. So, my brother was like, “Look, it’s really time to go.” So we go on Linwood and we see them starting on Linwood. So I said, “Well I’ve got to go home and change.” We go home, and we change, and then my brother and his friend says, “Ok we’ll take you one more time, and don’t get out of the car.” I get out of the car; by this time Martial Law had been declared— and I’m not sure whether had been the next day or the day after, but Martial Law had been declared. The National Guard bivouacked at Central High School, and they came down Linwood, and all of these soldiers were in the back of the trucks. And I distinctly remember a very young white soldier standing on the back of the truck—there were lots of them standing with their guns pointed at everyone, and they said, “All you Black so-and-sos, get your asses back in your house,” and the guy shot in the air. That is the first shot I remember hearing. When they did that I didn’t need to be convinced to go home. We went home and the next day, the soldiers would literally come in and they were raiding a lot of peoples' houses. And they came in our house and my mother was frustrated. I guess someone—there were a lot of apartment buildings on the corner so I guess they had seen the comings and goings of my brothers and I and they had called. But during that time a lot of people say, “The demise of Detroit happened because of the riot,” and I do believe that. But I also know that the fear that people said was prevalent was not there. I know that there were caravans of people, Black and white, that were coming down to the Twelfth Street area to see what was going on. People were more curious about what was going on than really having a safety factor, and then there was no killings at that point.

BB: Okay.

YA: I remember we were sitting on the porch, and it was just a stream of cars coming; of Black and white people. Because our neighborhood was still—the majority was white on the one side of Puritan, and on one side was Black. And they were pulling up and they were like, “Do you know where can we can get a color TV from?” And the guys would go, “Hold on,” and they would run off and they would get people a color TV, and then my older brother—God rest his soul—but I do know for a fact that he was being paid. Like people would come up, would get the Black guys in the neighborhoods to set their buildings on fire.

BB: Okay.

YA: And they were paying them between one and five hundred dollars. My brother was interviewed for one of the show which was in [The Shadow ?]. And he did tell that story. You know, but most of the time, people were not being asked what really happened that night. And in places like—I know you’ve heard of [redacted]?

BB: Mhmm.

YA: I shouldn’t have mentioned their name, can you edit that out?

BB: [Laughter] That’s fine.

YA: But they used to be on Livernois and, I think, Midland. Out of all the looting and breaking in [redacted] was a very expensive store then, as it is now. [Redacted] was never broken into, but it was burnt down which doesn’t make sense. All of this looting was going on, why didn’t they get the most expensive store? Because you would see people running with couches on their backs? As a matter of fact on the Avenue of Fashion on Livernois and Seven Mile, we went up there and there was really nice shops up there; Grinnell Music was up there. We saw a lady pushing a baby grand piano up Outer Drive.

BB: [Laughter] Wow!

YA: At first before it got to be deadly. It was more of a circus atmosphere where people were like, “Oh, I’ve got this! I’ve got that!” And when the National Guard came to our house, by me having just come back here from California, I had a boat load of brand new clothes hanging in the closet, right? And they were taking my clothes. These are brand new clothes! I was a garment district shopper. We got into it and I had to show them my plane ticket and everything that I had just come back, which is the reason why they didn’t take my stuff. But basically, I was not scared. I was not scared, and I know my brothers weren’t. And when they declared a state of emergency, the National Guard also took over and commanded all the buses in Detroit. And my father was a bus driver. [cell phone rings] My father was not allowed to come home for about three or four days, because the people that they were arresting—they took over the city buses and the city buses had to drive the prisoners from wherever they had them at, to the fairgrounds because the fairgrounds was where they were holding them—all the people that were arrested. So my father was essentially stuck doing that.  

BB: Okay, wow.

YA: And when he finally came home, he came home with a bag of sea rations. [Laughter] That’s what they were basically feeding him.

BB: Oh goodness.

YA: My dad was like, “Look, don’t go out the door.” My mother was like, “Well she’s so stupid, she wants to see everything.” And he was like, “Don’t go out there because it’s really getting bad.” And by that time, the fires had started. And a lot of the fires were because the fires caught from one building to another and burned down things. But it was the most amazing thing that I had ever seen. When I left Detroit and went to California, three month after I left, the riots broke out in California, in Los Angeles, in South Central. And I wasn’t close, but you could see the smoke and everything. In here in Detroit, you could see the same thing. The worst part about the riots in Detroit is that no matter how bad it got, nobody lost hope that everything would be restored to what it was.

BB: Okay.

YA: And it wasn’t. It didn’t get restored, you know? And I think that’s what happened to the demise of Detroit, because people lost that sense of hope. Because our neighborhoods were being destructed by the building of the freeways so we’re getting split, and split, and split. And when the riots came, it just pushed that further because Detroit was basically a segregated city in many ways. Where we lived, Black people weren’t allowed north of Puritan.

BB: Okay.

YA: And they weren’t allowed west of Livernois, so we were like an oasis almost. Even though we went to school with mixed schools, it still was not an exactly blended neighborhood. So, therefore, when people lost hope, they lost hope in some respects, but Black folks were like, “Oh, we can get those houses over there now.” And it would be like the anticipation of being able to get something that we had not been able to obtain before I think was a prevalent thought in many people’s minds. And when white people started moving out it was an opportunity; an opportunity to improve your life. And it wasn’t so much hatred; it wasn’t hatred, it was just the way it was. I went to school with the majority of white children—as a matter of fact I saw a lady when my children were small and she says, “You’re Yvonne!” And I was like, “Yeah.” She said, “You were the only little black kid in our—in kindergarten.” I never knew that I was supposed to be different, because my parents didn’t teach us that. So I never knew that there was a difference because I play with white kids at school. But they weren’t allowed on our side of Puritan, and it was kind of sad. But as much as the riots polarized the city, it also did a lot for people to look at themselves to see that we had to blend, we had to blend in order to progress. And if we didn’t blend, we were going to fall apart, which is kind of like what Detroit is doing now.

YA: But it’s because of the polarization and people don’t understand you can’t be a polarized society and be a progressive society at the same time. I preach to my children and grandchildren that every society that has been in this world has always self-destructed. And that’s kind of what we’re doing, you know.

BB: So going back to when you were growing up in Detroit before you left for California, explain a little bit about how Detroit was as a city, and your neighborhood, what it was like before the riots and before you came back from California?

YA: Okay—

BB: What do you remember about your neighborhood? What did you enjoy? What was your favorite pastime with your family or by yourself? Kind of give us a view what you’re growing up seeing?

YA: Well, when we were kids, it was just like being a little rascal. I tell people that Puritan was most vacant lots. It was right after World War II, so there weren’t a lot of buildings. I tell all my neighborhood kids: I’ve been on Puritan since I was four months old. That was since 1944. I’m still on Puritan. And the kids call our neighborhood “P.A.” and you can’t be more P.A. than me because my last name is Paul-Anderson and I know everything about Puritan. They call me the Puritan historian.

BB: [Laughter]

YA: We caught rabbits; we caught frogs and turtles, because a lot of the area was swampy. And the buildings that were—most of them were apartment buildings—but below the apartments were stores, because there were no supermarkets at that time. You went to Eastern Market and you went to the little corner store. But being right after World War II, most of the stores were converted into living quarters for soldiers and their families that were coming back, so most of the time, people were more worried about taking care of their families, and families got along. Like, on the corner of our street was a huge apartment building. Blacks weren’t allowed to live in the apartment building, but we lived next door. We played with the kids. My mother had chickens in the back yard that we got in trouble for all the time; for farm animals. Detroit was probably the most relaxed, beautiful place a kid could grow up in and have total control of their imagination. Downtown was magical from here down, there were all these little shops—magic shops—the street cars were out there. You can jump on and off the street cars at different stores and get the things that you wanted. You didn’t necessarily have to go to Hudson’s. And you always hear, Hudson’s and Kern’s and Crowley’s and those were truly loved stores, but no one tells you about all the little stores that held the real magic for Detroit. Belle Isle was there and you could ride a horse in Belle Isle; you could have the buggy rides—the horse and buggy rides at Belle Isle. In the winter time, my family and I always walked to Palmer Park. In the winter time, we ice skated on the pond, and they had a concession stand where you got hot chocolate. When Palmer Park closed, you walk over to the fair ground, because they had skating lessons over there. Right on Bayless and Puritan we caught frogs and turtles, and we would bring them home. In the summer time—well in the spring—the city had all of these vacant lots, and they had big billboards in the lots mostly. And they would come with the threshing machines and cut the weeds down, and girls weren’t allowed to wear pants then so you have to have on a dress, right? And I would hear them, and I would jump up and run and I would be running in front of the threshing machine with the bottom—the hem—of my skirt like—grabbing the baby rabbits—and putting the rabbits in the hem. And my dad had to build me a rabbit hutch because I always collecting these stupid little rabbits.

BB: [Laughter] Oh goodness.

YA: We had a childhood.

BB: Yeah, yeah.

YA: It was like nobody ever thought about children would be where they’re not, you know. And unfortunately, this day and age video games and everything, but at seven o’clock in the morning we knew where every fruit trees was, everything. We would be on our bikes, and we would be riding and people would be after us because we would sneak in the yards and pick the fruit. I guess you would say it was idyllic because we never knew—even though our neighborhoods were polarized, I never knew prejudice. You know, I never knew that I was not as good as the kid next door. Now, our neighborhood was mostly Jewish, and I never thought in my life, you know as a child, that college was not what was expected of me. And this is how kids came up then. Unfortunately, the educational system in Detroit fell apart because certain things they took away. You had the shops in all of the elementary and pre-school so therefore, the boys came out, we—the girls didn’t have shop—but the boys came out knowing how to build an iron structure. Girls came out, unfortunately, with home-making skills, or either you went to Commerce. Commerce was down across from Cass, and Commerce taught business. So the girls that came out of there were able to walk over and get a job at Hudson’s in their business department. Those are the things that we don’t have now. They keep trying to improve it, but I think they need to look back.

BB: Yes, which is exactly what we’re trying to do. Look back in order to move forward. For sure, for sure. Well, you painted quite a picture of what Detroit was. I wish I could have seen it. So you talked about 1967—that you were there—and you mentioned briefly that you remember the first shot that you heard which really made the situation serious. Do you think that’s also a pivotal point of when it might have become a true riot or do you think the riots actually started that evening?

YA: I think that was the pivotal point. I think that’s when people stopped. Those that were going to be involved in something more serious made their decision at that point. Other people decided that it’s time to go home.

BB: Do you feel that it was a riot or a rebellion?

YA: I think it was a rebellion, because there was white people out there too. And we were not fighting each other. Unlike the riot that my mother told me about in 1943, when they were fighting each other, it was not that way. I’ve heard many people gave different variations of what happened. But I know that I was standing there. And I know that nobody was fighting at first. I know that it was not. A riot means that there’s some combat. It was a civil disturbance. It was more a disturbance against the establishment than it was people against people. There was no—like in 1943 they said there was a baby thrown off the Belle Isle bridge. There was nothing like that. It was [Theo Fitzgerald ?]—he’s dead now—threw that bottle. He threw it and broke the window at Cancellation Shoes.

BB: That’s good to know. What else do you still remember after the event happened? Obviously you know it got quite severe and military forces came in. What do you remember about the weeks after the event?

YA: When the riots were going on and the people that were in our neighborhood, the Jewish shop owners and everything. We was trying to protect them, we were running like, “Get out of here! Leave Mr. Klein’s store alone!” Mr. Klein will give your mother medicine when you’re sick and won’t charge. You’ve got to think about that. And what I remember most was being unable to go and get what you needed where you needed it from. During the time there was the Martial Law was down and you couldn’t get anything. I know one particular death during the riot, that was contributed to the riot, which wasn’t a riot death. My brother’s friend—I don’t remember his real name but we used to call him “Big Larva.” [Ruffling of microphone and muffled sound]…and some were barbecuing and they were arguing over pig feet.

BB: They were arguing over pig feet?

YA: Yes, and the cousin shot and killed him and that was attributed to the riot. It was not a riot death. But what I remember mostly is the dismay of people. Of people really like, “What happened to us? How did this happen? How did it get to this point?” And feeling sad, and [wondering] what are we going to do to change this? And looking around with their hands in the air in wonderment of what can we do to correct this? And a lot of the things didn’t get corrected. Some did, but it made Black folks stand up and say, “Wait a minute. We’ve got to take responsibility for a lot of this that has happened.” Because whether we take responsibility or not, we’re going to have the blame. And we can’t leave this as a legacy for our children. And I remember coming downtown and I remember my dad and I were walking down by Grand Service Park. And my dad was like, “I hope people don’t get afraid to communicate now," because my dad was kind of a pacifist. You know, and he was like, “I hope they don’t get afraid.” And I couldn’t understand what that meant at that point, you know? And I was like, “What are you talking about?” And he was like, “We don’t want this to separate us further." Which it did.

BB: Yes, I agree. Your dad definitely foresaw the future. [Laughter]

YA: Yeah, he did. My dad was a graduate of Tuskeegee.

BB: Oh, okay.

YA: But he never was allowed to work in his field. He was graduated as an engineer. And he never worked in his field but he drove that bus for 30 years.

BB: Wow.

YA: And consequently I wound up driving the bus.

BB: Really?

YA: Yes.

BB: For the city of Detroit?

YA: For the city of Detroit.

BB: Fantastic!

YA: For eight years and then I got crazy like the people out there so it was time to leave. To me, people are complaining about Mike Ilitch, Roger Penske, Dan Gilbert. I don’t. Somebody has to be a catalyst. If the catalyst for restoring Detroit to its former glory and bringing people back into it, you got to have something for them to come back to. You know, you complain about, we all complain about our neighborhoods. I do. I live right behind Marygrove College, which is getting a lot of attention. And from Mayor Duggan, and I appreciate it. But it didn’t take Mayor Duggan to come into my neighborhood for us to say, “We have to do things.” We have maintained a lot of things. I like Mayor Duggan, a lot of people don’t, but I like him because this is the only mayor since Jerry Cavanagh that I have seen with my own eyes riding through our neighborhoods. Without a police escort, without anything. He rides through the neighborhoods and waves—he lives on the east side. But he rides through our neighborhood.

BB: Really, okay, that’s fantastic. I did not know that.

YA: He pumps his own gas. This little bitty man, he’s not much—I don’t even think he is as tall as I am. He’s little. And then, to have somebody believe in us to that point.

BB: I was going to say it seems like you have a really positive point of view in where Detroit’s going. I want to ask before we wrap all of this up, how do you see how our past has affected our future and where do you think that it’s going to take our future of Detroit? Where do you think it’s going to go?

YA: Well I think Detroit is coming back, but I don’t think it’s coming back the way necessarily we thought it was. I think that if the auto manufacturers were to come back and truly re-invest in Detroit, we could be to the status that we were. But since we know that’s not going to happen, it’s up to small businesses to do whatever they can. I don’t think we will ever get to two million people again, and the only way that we will, is that there must have some kind of major manufacturing investment in Detroit because we do have the talent here. We do have. Unfortunately—my sister works for South-West Economic Solutions, where they're always in the job market, pulling people in and unfortunately many of the youngsters can’t pass the drug test because they have weed in their systems. Okay, if you want young people to get jobs and weed is a condition of not getting a job, why we got so many weed stores? You can’t have one without the other, because there is no balance of the scales. Until we learn how to balance the scales of what we want in this city. Either we want Dan Gilbert and Roger Penske and Ilitch to help restore, and I hate to say this word, but trickle-down effect. I don’t think it’s a trickle-down. I think it’s more of a [wooshing sound effect]. Because it didn’t have to come from Downtown to Midtown. Okay, sooner or later, there’s not going to be enough in Midtown so you have to go further. I distinctly remember as a child, Black people not being able to live off of Woodward.

BB: Really?

YA: Yeah, especially down around Chicago and—there were no Black people down there. I remember when Orchestra Hall was the Paradise Theater. I remember a lot of things. What I hate about Detroit is that the people that are decision makers in Detroit don’t preserve enough of what we need to see what has been. That is my major thing. Why are you tearing that down? Or at least let us see. I hate that the Children’s Museum moved from over there with that horse out there because we used to climb that. In this building, this was a definite part of my growth. The building next door used to be a hospital; used to be an art center. My father jumped out of the window over there. He was ill and he decided to catch a pigeon and fly home. And they had to put mattresses out there to catch him when he got older. It was around ‘77 or something like that. My memories of Detroit are not clouded with hatred, not clouded with—what word am I trying to say—"unhope," okay. I have hope and I try to teach my children since I have grand—great grandkids now—I’m always talking. I’m always telling them about what was. I take them to different places. There is not a place in Detroit, when my father was alive, that we did not see go up or we did not see come down. He took us to everything, and that’s what I’m trying to do with my kids.

BB: Okay, wow that’s fantastic. Well I really appreciate you sitting down with me today. I just want to ask before you go is there anything else you want to add to, you know, what you remember, what you saw, or where you are hoping Detroit goes?

YA: Well I really hope Detroit goes up, up, up.

BB: I agree.

YA: And I am—like a true believer—I will never give up on Detroit. When I lived in Los Angeles, there was no one more homesick than me. And I came back here and I still think that, because I’m here and there are others who are here like me that think Detroit still has a chance. I will never give up on Detroit.

BB: Yeah, we shouldn’t give up on Detroit.

YA: Never. And a lot of people have. I have four grandchildren who live in Scottsdale and Phoenix and all of that. And now they’re stuck out there because they’ve made babies out there. But we don’t give up. You do your part to help make it a better city. My biggest problem with Detroit right now is DPS [Detroit Public Schools], but I have hope for DPS. I have a granddaughter who graduated from DSA [Detroit School of Arts] in, I believe, in 2008. And she received the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship. Bill Gates is paying for ten years of education. She got her Masters this past November, right, she has three Bachelor’s Degrees. From December to February, she was in India. The graduation ceremony is May 12. She stayed in the United States because of the graduation ceremony. But right after the graduation ceremony, she‘s going to Japan to teach. So there is no such thing. I have a grandson with a Masters in Architecture. A granddaughter with a Masters in Psychology. There is no such thing as our children in Detroit cannot learn.

BB: Oh, I agree.

YA: It is up to us. And I used to be a radical parent; I used to be get kicked out of meetings. But as a Detroiter, we have to start standing up, we have to stop being passive and letting things be taken away from us. I don’t care if they call it a regional authority or state control. Whatever’s in Detroit needs to be controlled by Detroiters. Have I talked your ear off?

BB: No, no you have not talked my ear off! No this is fantastic. This is one of the things that I love about my job so no worries. Like I said, I really appreciate you coming in today and sitting down with me and I’m really thrilled that we have your input to add into our collection for the 1967 Project.

YA: I’m more than pleased, but if I have more, I’ll start to writing my thoughts down and email you.

BB: Okay. Sounds good, sounds good.





“Yvonne Anderson, March 19th, 2016,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed September 24, 2023, http://oralhistory.detroithistorical.org/items/show/248.

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