Jerome Pikulinski, August 14th, 2015


Jerome Pikulinski, August 14th, 2015


In this interview, Pikulinksi discusses his work with the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations and running the Community Action Program. He discusses the goals of this group, its successes and failures. He also talks about conflict resolution and other broad concepts.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Oral History


Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Jerome Pikulinski

Brief Biography

Jerome Pikulinski was born May 20, 1955 in Detroit, MI. In 1967 he was a contract training director for the City of Detroit’s War on Poverty. He was living in Dearborn, MI in 1967.

Interviewer's Name

Lily Wilson
Noah Levinson

Interview Place

Detroit, MI



Interview Length



Robert Lazich

Transcription Date







LW: Today is August 14, 2015. This is the interview of Jerome Pikulinski by Lily Wilson. We are at the Detroit Historical Museum in Detroit, Michigan. This interview is for the Detroit 1967 Oral History Project and the Detroit Historical Society. Jerome, can you start by telling us when and where you were born?

JP: I was born here in Detroit, Michigan in 1938 -- born in a house, not a hospital.

LW: In July of 1967, where were you living, specifically what neighborhood?

JP:  I was, at that time, in Livonia, Michigan.

LW: What were you doing for work then?

JP: At that time I was an employee of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, Wayne State, University of Michigan. I was deployed as a contract training director for the city of Detroit’s War of Poverty. I was based on the Wayne State University campus and developed a core training staff there to later carry out the mission.

LW: What was your day-to-day job like during that time?

JP:  Well, I had an all minority staff except for one lady, a white lady. I had to train people to be trainers. I had all the resources of Wayne State University, the various departments, to deal in general semantics, to deal in the perception laboratory, to deal in the video training facility. I had done some work earlier with Michigan Bell Telephone. They had asked us to work with their white staff who were having difficulty training new minority members. I put together a program that changed the perceptions and attitudes of trainers. It gave me some credibility in behavioral terms and on working on this complex problem.  We also involved community people in the sensory reactor element. We used to use the term “training up.”  It was an opportunity for people in the community to speak to others about what they felt, what they thought what was needed in the way of training and the like.

LW: So how did you go about changing the perceptions of the people you were training to work with minorities?

JP: Well, the first thing we did is have regular meetings with them --- personal, it was more like let’s have lunch, let’s have somebody be a speaker, let’s plan an event. But we had people on campus people who were experts on general semantics. So we played games with them about what do things mean and what are the different meanings of things, how do we give expressions to our feelings, how do our feelings affect how we name things. Then we also had on campus a person who had access to a laboratory where again it is perception. You know this room with the false dimensions and it is the rotating, wobbling figure that shows we are conditioned to perspective since birth. We ran them through all those kinds of things and we were really raising doubts in them about “what do you know?’ We weren’t telling them anything, we were asking them how do you know, can you be sure, how do you feel about what you’re doing. The graduation program, we went into the television facility and we fed them back images of themselves responding to various teaching situations. We got a general recognition on the part of the people that, “my God, we’ve got to look at this differently” and they were looking at it differently. Well, we didn’t have any long term follow up but it was perceived to have been a success.

LW: This would have been white people that you were working with?

JP: Yes. Ladies.

LW: All white women?

JP: All white women.

LW: You were attempting to – what was the end result, what was the end goal of the project?

JP: We wanted them to accept the differences that they were experiencing with the new black candidates things which they had not experienced before with the previous white people they had trained.

LW:  What year did you begin that project?

JP: That was done about the spring of ‘66.

LW: From your perspective, what was the biggest challenge between the white and black communities in Detroit right at that time in 1966?

JP: I think Detroit was reacting to the immigration (laughs) migration of so many people from the south who were coming in and the statistics were explosive and phenomenal. There were other problems but this was a new experience for Detroit to have this migration. In the literature today there are many analyses of how migrations affect culture and give rise to conflict.

LW: So you felt that what later happened what happened in July of 1967, do you think that was also –

JP: You know, I was very much surprised and the reason I was surprised --- coming out of Wayne State University and the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations I thought we all had a pretty good handle as to what was going on. I mean, the Community Action Program was in place and we really had guys like Ron Haughton who had negotiated in California under Pat Brown the Cesar Chavez Protests. Here we had in our own community an outstanding leader in terms of racial economic issues and I think we were really surprised. I don’t think we expected that. I will say this, though – these are now only commentaries. One of the things that was of concern as we look back on this was the political decision making with respect to the use of force in conflict resolution, an optimism that somehow this would work itself out and it did not work itself out. It was inflammatory and explosive. That was one part of the picture. The other thing that we learned later is that groups like SLCL, SNCC, Core, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Congress on Racial Equality. Later, when I was involved in the spring of 1967, there were people who asked me to help them identify which of these groups might be operating in Detroit. This is a problem we have in managing what would ordinarily be very difficult relations with a minority group, whether it’s a black community or a Latino community you add the element of political activists you have an explosive situation. You do not have a rational alternative. You like to believe you could compromise but there isn’t any end state; it’s an ongoing conflict. Those groups have an investment in a staff point of view and a charter point of view in continuing their activities.

LW: Tell me a bit about those groups and your knowledge of them.

JP: Much later I came to understand that but early in the spring to help identify at least one of those groups. I don’t recall which it was because some people went to an organizing meeting of one of these groups and identified their work.

LW: What were they doing?

JP: Well, community meetings were very difficult -- this even goes into ’66 into ’67. There would be public meetings when government officials tried to explain things to people and there were activists who would take the stage and take the microphone. It was very conflict-oriented, so I don’t know what more can be said about this but the tactics that these groups employed were violence – not full force, but they were inclined to use violence.

LW: These were predominantly black or white groups?

JP: No, these were black groups.

LW: So, the Southern Christian Leadership, you said?

JP: Southern Christian Leadership Conference, I think – SCLC.

LW: Student Nonviolent --

JP: Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Congress on Racial Equality.

LW: Those were actually groups of black people in this area in Detroit who actually did use some form of violence to make their case.

JP: You know, the interesting thing is I think they were promoting this. It’s just like Al-Qaeda. There is a core management group that trains the next cadre to go out and shed blood, so to speak – to engage in conflict. So it’s very hard to say that those groups themselves were exercising violent techniques but they were encouraging it and feeding it. It’s like what we see in Ferguson – In Arlington, Texas we have a problem right now, in fact I’m going to meet our police chief at the end of this month. This black youth problem is very difficult. It’s a sense that youth is hard to deal with and minority youth is even harder to deal with. Where drugs and alcohol and the like come in to play it can be even more complex. We have a situation in Arlington, Texas where we had a guy who must have been under the influence of drugs running into a Buick dealership and jumping on cars, driving his car through a gate, finally driving his car into a dealership. But the people who are going to look at this, they discount all that. “Black Lives are Very Important.” So, no matter what, you never shoot anybody. From the point of view of law enforcement and the like -- just like these trainers, for example. We got a problem that we need to train police officers in psychiatric concepts. That’s one of the things I’m going to talk to the police chief about in Arlington, Texas. I’ve run for office in Arlington many times so that was one of my planks the last time around, which was to train a new special class of police officer. They said, “Well, we have people who are negotiators.” I said, “No, not negotiators. People who understand how a body of energy, a person, translates in anger, aggression, hostility and all these things and how you can possibly diffuse some of that.” The problem of the people who carry out violence is a spectrum. It’s anything from people who are promoting it to people who are likely candidates among which or among whom violence can be encouraged.

LW: Did you feel that groups that were condoning violence were condoning or encouraging violence in the ‘60s, do you think that was a major challenge against the type of work that people like yourself was doing to try to break down some racial barriers? Or what do you think the biggest challenge was if not that?

JP: This really started with the strategies that civil rights groups were using in the South to provoke violence. It’s the whole thing of “I’m innocent. I didn’t do anything. But you came and beat me on the head.” But of you march down a Southern street it’s like yelling “Fire” in a theater. Culturally, these people who organize this … there’s a legend that LBJ suggested to some of these black leaders that he needed something like what was taking place in the South to carry out a civil rights legislative program. It really gets to be hairy.

LW: So, in terms of violent activity, you think that some of that, that the precedent for that was set down South?

JP: I really do. I think that was the staging area for that. Because there were people who fled the South. They brought with them their attitudes and hostility.

LW:  I want to go back to the project you worked on back in 1966 in the spring.

JP: We had a staff of about … there were four key trainers and I had 4-8 of these community people. That lent credibility to what we were doing. In race relations you always get this thing of “You don’t know what we’re doing. You’re trying to teach us and tell us what to do. We will teach you.” That’s a “training up” kind of concept.  I had this group and I had a house on the Wayne State Campus. We would hold regular meetings and sessions and I would have people that were faculty from Wayne State come over as my resource people. So some of the same sorts of things that we did with the Michigan Bell trainers we tried on this group. We really wanted to get their perceptions as clear and clean as we could possibly do it before they went out. In other words, I was in conflict with a number of people at that point because they said I was irrelevant and I was not really promoting change.  I was so much of a technician that what I cared about was training a group of people who could go out and work within the community. I jokingly say this was the establishment counterrevolution program that never really succeeded. This is also the period of Vietnam and enclaves and a lot of social experimentation and thinking about culture and its effect and conflict in war. We exposed these people to all these operations. I was in conflict. I had a white woman, a staff member, several people said she was a well known communist in Russia. This is why I don’t put some of this stuff in my resume. I started out doing some doctorate work at the University of Michigan. They didn’t like me. They told me they didn’t like my association with things I had done – you’re not the type of guy we have in the business school. Maybe that’s another discussion.  Anyway…

LW: Sorry to interrupt. The Wayne State faculty, were they black? Were they black faculty that came and contributed?

JP: No, they was only one guy – Leonard was his name – a political science guy. One political science guy was always looking in and offering advice and suggestion. He’s the only minority faculty member. These faculty members were all white.

LW: The people you were training and the community members…?

JP: Were all black.

LW: The workers you said were actually going to train were an all white group, majority white women.

JP: No, I was preparing a core black staff to work with the community action centers and groups out in the community. The curriculum was “Culture of Poverty,” the next one was “Communication and Communication Skills.” We even had a communication specialist who had a philosophy that was really neat. She would persuade people that they were not being changed, they didn’t need to change. Their personalities were fine; you are wonderful. She did a great job of bringing people out as communicators. So in the communications thing, we really tried to build confidant communicators. So if we put messages out into the community these people would do it. Now you have to remember there are people around me who are saying “Hey, we need change. We need action! We need political stuff.” Here I am going, “Now wait a minute. I’m training these people to be in effect change agents.” We didn’t use that concept at the time. But I was in great conflict because I was taken on and said that I was irrelevant and I wasn’t doing my job.

LW: Who was saying that?

JP: Primarily my black communist staff member undermining me. Because it was a real issue. The discussion at that time was what role does structure play in our communication and is it just a matter of process. That was one of the things that she was driving home. Here I am structuring. We need to have more handholding meetings. Those are the kinds of things that explode all over the place. They are much harder to manage and they aren’t well directed or easily directed. So actually I had to put together with the help of some of my staff, my secretary, documentation so that I went before a number of administrators who wanted to hang me but they couldn’t hang me because we were doing the job. They want to knock me out of this chair.

LW: With regard to the way you were training the black staff to go out into the community, what were some of the things you found to be more effective in terms of not necessarily training them, but what were some of the things that they could do once they were trained and going out into the community?

JP: We got this far: before you train in the community, you train the community action staff. We actually had first meetings of community action staff.  We were training the war on poverty people to think through the problems that they were confronting. We were creating the next level of people. What’s the culture of poverty? It involves aggression, it involves hostility, it involves despair. So even side-by-side you have some of the most heart wrenching problems in society, some of the most vicious kinds of problems that you have to deal with. We wanted to discuss with the staff people that they were working in this environment of a culture of poverty. These are the things they are dealing with. These are the givens, the things we want to change. We really want to move behavior in the direction of constructive ends. We didn’t get that far. Let me go back to my story. This conflict was so great that I overcame the resistance from administrators and the subversive element on my staff. I beat that. The next thing I couldn’t beat was all this sentiment that “this is irrelevant, that this has nothing to do with solving our problems.” I was the victim of a community tribunal. You wouldn’t believe that this would happen in America. This is the problem with collective bargaining and conflict resolution people. They believe they can negotiate the settlement. We might be heading in the wrong direction but we’ve got peace today. Are you with me on this? People with interest in conflict management what they want to do is get the fire down to controllable levels. They don’t expect that they will ever be able to put the fire out.

LW: So what were you being accused of?

JP: I was irrelevant. I was not addressing the problems that the community felt were important. That’s where that stage of the community people became the spokespeople, not the administrators, not the rational people.  

LW: So there was resistance to the method of training black community action staff to go out into the community? There was resistance against that?

JP:  Yes, in a structured way. What they really wanted was, let’s have more meetings. Let’s have people discussing things.  Well, what the hell are we going to do? We’re going to put people out there who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about? We don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re going to be out there as agents of change? What the hell are we doing? I would not buy that. I said we have to know where we’re going and what we’re doing.

LW: Who in particular was resisting this? You don’t have to name names if you don’t want to. But who was resisting this program? It sounds like there was sort of an overhaul of the program.

JP: Well, I’m going to jump ahead and say that the guy that they chose to replace me was Conrad Mallett. I don’t know if you know Conrad. Conrad was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court at one point. My claim to fame was it was under Mallett’s leadership that things in the training program fell apart, the violence and everything erupted. I had frequently said my claim to fame was “the community never rioted while I was there. They were too busy beating me up.” That’s not intended just to be smart. From a collective bargaining point of view, it is necessary – and I still believe this today, whether you are talk about the white community or the black community – once they have a constructive, sound program they have to stay with it. Even at the price of violence you have to do that. Because if you don’t and you agree to a sham or a shambles, which was what happened in Detroit in terms of conflict resolution, that eventually the whole process just went out of control. Now that’s my editorial.

LW: So you think from your perspective that there was a link between the demise of this community action program and rioting that took place in July 1967?

JP: No, I don’t think the community action program … I was the second to the last white guy to be driven out of that program. The last white guy was a Jewish guy. He was head of a youth program. Finally, the community action program was a totally black program. It seemed that to me the white community, including guys like Mayor Cavanagh, were just like backing off. I’m saying that when you’ve got an explosive situation, you don’t back off. Excuse me. I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve gone through formal sensitivity training, combined faculty, University of Michigan, Michigan State psychiatrists and the like all involved in stripping you down and pulling your plug. On the way to authenticity and the like there are many steps, many masks that people wear. The Community Action Program in a more authoritarian regime, we probably would have gone after the activists and the organizers as they do in Turkey and Syria. We democratically minded people don’t like picking off the disruptive activist group.

LW: So the groups more inclined towards violence like you mentioned …

JP: If you prune the trees the crop will come in a whole lot better. As a person, I really wanted this opportunity to speak because subsequent years I’ve gone through many years reflecting back and I don’t put this in my resume. This is part of one of the most significant life experiences that I had as a man 25, 26 years old. I think I didn’t know what I was getting into. In fact, when I took on this responsibility they called my wife in and they told my wife, the two of us together, “Jerry is in a very dangerous position.”

LW: How long were you working for the Community Action Program?

JP: What’s that?

LW: How long were you working for the program?

JP: It was probably from the time we formulated it, all this took place in a six month period. We moved the operation from the Wayne State University campus over to a community action center on West Grand Boulevard. Now during that time my office was broken into here on campus and all my stuff was gone through. Then we moved to the other location and it was broken into and all the films and any of the graphics and things we were doing there it was all disrupted. So I had two break-ins.

LW: Why do you think there was such resistance and such hostility over what was presumably a positive program to get people employed and to give them resources and tools?

JP: It might have been better if we really had the employment objective. The Community Action Center philosophy was more like returning government to the local level and to the people and hearing the people.  That’s why I say the Vietnam policy of creating enclaves where in fact there are communities that are peaceful and orderly. That was too high minded. It might have been better to be training them for jobs, which is where it all went. You know, I’m jumping ahead, from that experience I was appointed Deputy Director in the Michigan Department of Labor by Governor Romney. Then I became Governor Romney’s Manpower Planning Staff Director. I went out and tried some statistical techniques in the Muskegon area and got a lot of recognition for a non-political approach to allocating resources. Milliken came in – I was invited to join the governor’s office. I’m not a politician even though I play with all those guys. I don’t make political decisions. I’ve always been a staff guy. My friends in Texas were looking for a guy to put Nixon’s Manpower Revenue Sharing into Dallas-Fort Worth and I was invited by a Democratic governor to come down to Texas. We did set … we got local elected officials to understand that they were responsible for the employment Manpower development training of people in their areas. I set up centers, just like Community Action Centers but they were employment centers, through North Central Texas. I’ve gone a long way to answering the question. Did we have the right objectives in the Community Action Program, could we have done something better? Yeah, I think we could have. We made a mistake. But we should have pruned the bushes, taken out the bad guys.

LW: The bad guys in this case were…

JP: It’s very hard to get these bad guys in our system.

LW: Who were the bad guys, in your opinion?

JP: This is strictly a value judgment. There are no bad guys. Those people who contributed to increased levels of conflict and promoting conflict are the people we need to contain. The reason I hesitate is because I’m not a fascist. I’m not a Nazi. I really do believe in our republic – notice I said “our republic.” We need to pursue the best, fairest most honest policies with respect to how government operates. I think we have failed miserably.

[phone rings]

[recording resumes]

LW: I believe that you were talking about the people who resisted this type of program, this community action plan, the people you felt were sort of the biggest challenge to you implementing this program. We were talking about the people who created conflict.

JP: It’s very hard because I was irrelevant to their doctrine, to their beliefs.

LW: I just want to clarify, we’re talking about groups like the Southern Christian Leadership, the student non-violent youth groups, right? These committees and groups who you felt were using violent tactics …

JP: They were promoting --

LW: They were promoting violence, condoning violence, whereas the community action groups were much more about community outreach -- at least that was the intent.

JP:  Community outreach and sharing government. One of the things I did with my budget is I arranged a conference with the University of Michigan  with key political leaders, white brothers and black brothers, there were discussions about how single member districts could possible help. I don’t recall clearly whether we had single member districts back then. But one of the offshoots of this community strategy philosophy was to create more awareness about bringing government down to the local level. One of those alternatives is the electoral process and single member districts. That was one of the offshoots of this whole effort – I wish I could recall of their names but they were key guys. One of the guys involved in it became the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Manpower.

LW: I just want to clarify: this was someone who was part of –

JP: At that time he was head of the Office of Economic Opportunity here in Michigan. He was one of the guys who participated in that. I don’t know if you think this way, but you know there are people who operate in fronts – are you familiar with that kind of political logic of fronts?

LW: Explain to me what exactly what you mean.

JP: Well, what it means is there are some guys over here running around yelling, Black Panthers and they have guns and carry clubs. Then we have some other guys that organize marches. Then we have some other guys who are having inflammatory meetings. They go and engage the political process. Then we have some guys that work with the business community, like B’nai B’rith and the like. This then becomes a front; B’nai B’rith benefits from having these guys who carry clubs. To understand how all those organizations spread out and what they do.

[phone rings]

[recording resumes]

You know, I have had so many blessings about experiences. I also worked in Saudi Arabia under – I worked in a kingdom. I was loved by the Saudis. They would have gotten me a Saudi wife and everything. I had to decide whether I was an American and a Christian. Very few men decide that.

LW: I want to wrap up by talking about because we’re just about out of time. I do want to talk about how you think some of the activities and the upheaval that it sounds like you experienced and occurred within the community action program, how you think that may or may not have impacted the events of 1967?

JP: It could have. This was an arena of conflict where they were winning. The control of the community action program as a whole was a victory. Taking the whole, we want it all. So you have this unbounded, unbridled kind of aggression that grows. It’s really hard to say what happens when you are a nice guy. I told you I went to sensitivity training. There’s a time not to be a nice guy. There really is. [People enter the room]. I’m sorry. You see, the ladies in our family are interested. [Introductions made] This has been an exciting discussion.

LW: So, just to sort of wind down. Is there anything else that you remember about Detroit specifically in ’67 or in relation to you work in ’66?

JP: I mentioned I was replaced by Conrad Mallett. He was a favored son of the black community. Eventually he was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court. At the time Conrad was a really nice political guy. I think your questions and comments help me a little bit. We covered a great deal. I’ll tell you what the riots meant to me. What they meant to me was that I went and got my shotgun because of our family store. It was on the west side of Detroit, just up there in Grand River and the like. You could hear the gunshots and the firing. The burning did not necessarily move into our shop at that time, though my uncle was later a victim of a robbery and an aunt was murdered. We experienced that racial conflict. A 15 year old with a 38 special is a very dangerous entity. The climate was such that one time we took arms. We took a shotgun out and maybe like the Koreans – maybe because we’re Polish or something, I don’t know – but like the Koreans in the Los Angeles area we stood on top their stores with shotguns.

LW: So this was something that you participated in during the riots in ’67

JP: Yes. This was happened most recently in Ferguson. People now were about to be victims a third time have armed themselves and were standing by their property and shops.

LW: So what property – you said you were living in Livonia in July of 1967.

JP: But my uncle and aunt had a family store in the west side of Detroit – Campbell Avenue. In fact, I drove through there on the way here because that whole community is just a bunch of empty lots.

LW: What kind of store was it?

JP: It was a grocery store. It was a grocery store in which many members of the family had worked over the years.

LW: What was the name of it?

JP: It was Joe’s market.

LW: It was on Campbell Avenue, you said?

JP: Campbell and Rich.

LW: So, during the rioting in ’67, how was that store affected?

JP: I don’t know how to describe that. The riots affected us as individuals. The business was not affected.

LW: So when you were talking about what the riots meant to you, you got a shotgun and went armed to the family store. So explain that a little more to me.

JP:  There’s not much depth to that. That is really a feeling that it is over within a quarter of a mile of where you are, if violence is a quarter of a mile away or less, you are well advised to take action.

LW: Did you ever have to shoot your gun?

JP: What?

LW: Did you ever have to shoot your gun?

JP:  No.

LW: So the store was not rioted. Was it near stores that were rioted, that were looted?

JP:  I don’t understand.

LW:  Was Joe’s Market, the grocery store that your family owned, was it in an area where there was looting and rioting going on?

JP: No. What was true at that time was that all these small grocers on the west side of Detroit were being robbed. Black youth were robbing these stores. That was one of the reasons.  That’s where the retail business goes by the board. That’s part of the deterioration of a community. That’s about all I could say about that.

LW: Is there anything else you want to share why we’re still on the record?

(New Interviewer: Noah Levinson): One of your positions – you might have talked about this while I was out of the room --  you worked in you said you were appointed by Governor Romney I believe to head up – I forget.

JP: There were two things: first off Deputy Director in the Michigan Department of Labor.

NL: Yes.

JP: Lansing-based, legislative oversight and some other oversight functions. And then I did some work with Census data and the like. We put together a resource allocation scheme for a given geographical area not political decisions. Not political decisions but decisions with respect to educational requirements, unwed mothers and all. It was very well received. I got a certain amount of recognition. So the governor moved into a role where I was staff planning director. Well, it wasn’t the governor who did it, it was one of his staff guys. It was a black guy who did that – a very fine man, Dave Dunfitt. Was a critical resource -- He’s an example of what you want in the way of a black leader. He later became a controller, budget director for the Manpower Administration in Washington.

NL: Did you work closely with the governor in your role in the state labor department?

JP: Nobody really works that closely – the question is how many governors are there? There are people who exercise influence on decision making. One of the things I did do and am really proud of – I drafted and lobbied with the Farm Bureau an agricultural labor commission board.  The reason I did that is that Michigan really had a lot of conflict with respect to the migrant stream. The U.S. Department of Labor was creating issues with respect to housing, child care, education and pretty soon the government’s good intentions stir up the people because they want political support. I figured that the way to settle that down was to create a body within the state where we talked to migrant people and their representatives, farm groups and the like. I lobbied that. Nobody else knew it. I just did it. I did it with the Farm Bureau. When you get the Farm Bureau to agree to something like that it’s no problem. No, Governor Milliken came in, Romney went to HUD. Governor Milliken came in and I was invited to join the Executive Office and to leave Labor. As I mentioned to you earlier, I have always seen myself as a policy program specialist, not a politician. I don’t do much lying. I don’t like it. But ’67 it was just a nightmare. Excuse me, that’s not very analytical; ‘67 was not expected, going back to earlier conversation. That was not supposed to happen. We had a plan. There was a community action program and the federal government was funneling money in. I had the first OEO tactical assistance grant for training in the United States. Detroit was the first such experiment. That’s probably worth noting. Also, when I was interviewed by some people – I don’t know who they were with, Congressional committee, CIA. I had a day long intensive interview with a recorder. I’ve been interviewed that way a couple times. That was the end of my role with the community action program. That’s the last thing I did.

NL: So, with your background being in policy and programming, could you speak to – were there certain policies that didn’t exist or that were in place that you can see in hindsight being key contributors to … oh, okay, cool, I guess we already talked about that.

LW: Do you have anything else with regards to programs that maybe did or did not work?

JP: Well you know, I think that what happened in the country was that the country saw a need for HUD - Housing and Urban Development. The policy framework then moved  – you know, the policy part of that had been, “Let’s put expressways in and let’s have urban renewal.” Housing and urban renewal was another whole approach, a political approach, to let’s find some housing for people, let’s have a more humane approach to how we manage central city people.

LW: You also mentioned too had the community action program continued or been re-evaluated that employee or employment driven programming would have---

JP: We did say that, we did cover that in the sense that, were jobs more important, a better incentive, you know? The one thing that is so true, it’s a political reality, there is no one single black person. There is no generic type. We need to understand just as there are these fronts – there are fronts, Black Panthers over here with clubs and the B’nai B’rith kind of thing, businessmen, Jewish leaders working to build good will and then there are other groups around there.  There’s a whole spectrum of political approaches to addressing the needs of the black community –There is a whole spectrum, some of them totally led by the black community --the Black Panthers. If you have a Black Panther policy, “White Charlie shouldn’t be voting. We should promote more Black voting. We should have more control. We can decide where we go.” The B’nai Brith kind of thing is “We all need to work together. We need to build cooperation. We all live in the same world.” The black people you meet are spread throughout that spectrum so there are probably four or five different strategies. One of the things that troubles me very much is we lose the good black kids. In fact, when I meet with the police chief I want to talk about gang management. Gang management – well, there’s another whole thing to this period. The student unrest and student demonstrations, that’s a tactic used in civil rights is to get the students all stirred up and angry and demonstrating.  It’s a lot easier to do that and we had student demonstrations that were going on in that period of time.  I think that really we should have come away from that – and this is where your work is valuable – we should have come away from that with lessons learned. You say, “Well yeah, we did learn something.  Jobs are more important than trying to build community good will.” Yes, improving housing and urban development is another building block. But I don’t think that it’s all through. We’re not done with it. We have not solved this racial problem here in the United States. But your work will point to that.

LW: Perhaps. I hope so. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us?

JP: No, I would just say that Dean William Haber, Bill Haber at University of Michigan School of Arts, he was a guy who passed on my employment with the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. He interviewed me and he said, it was one of his favorite sayings, “If you’ve got the answer, you’re wrong.” The reason your wrong is that it is a process. It’s something that will work out. There is no answer to this. This was Bill Haber’s idea -- just the opposite of who I am and how I am. I really think that Bill Haber may be right but there needs to be people who will bring about structure and take the risks. I told you I paid the price for trying to set some quality standards in the process. No, I don’t have anything more to say. I’m just pleased you guys are doing this study and really would like at some point to be able to learn more about what you have learned so that I can add it to my background. What do you envision in the way of production and the like?

LW: I’m going to take us off the record now. I’d like to thank you while we’re still recording for your time and we can wrap up off the record, okay? But thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

JP: Well, you are quite welcome.


Original Format





Lily Wilson
Noah Levinson


Jeromone Pikulinski


Detroit, MI




“Jerome Pikulinski, August 14th, 2015,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed September 24, 2023,

Output Formats