Al Calvert, July 18th, 2017


Al Calvert, July 18th, 2017


In this interview, Calvert recollects his childhood growing up in the Jim Crow South and the impact he believes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had. He the discusses his move to Detroit and how he fell into a life of drugs, parties, and prostitutes. He and a friend were at the blind pig at Twelfth and Clairmount on July 23, 1967 but managed to get away before the police rounded everyone up. As they were getting away, they had a tense interaction with the Big Four. He then shares how his life changed after the week and about his time in the Navy and how his life changed after a stay in prison. He concludes with his views on the state of the city today and his new worldview.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Oral History

Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Al Calvert

Brief Biography

Al Calvert was born in Alabama in 1945. He moved to Detroit to live with his aunt in 1964 and got a job at the Dodge Main plant. He then became a self-described pimp and frequented clubs and after-hours joints. He and a friend managed to flee the raid at Twelfth and Clairmount on July 23, 1967. He joined the Navy and was honorably discharged. Later, while he was in prison on drug-related charges, he felt called by God to preach against his former life style and has written a book about his conversion.

Interviewer's Name

William Winkel

Interview Place

Detroit, MI



Interview Length



Matthew Ungar

Transcription Date



WW: Hello, today is July 18, 2017. My name is William Winkel. This interview is for the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67 Oral History Project. I am in Detroit, Michigan. This interview is with –

AC: Al Calvert.

WW: Thank you so much for sitting down with me today, Al.

AC: It’s my pleasure, Billy.

WW: Can you please start by telling me where and when were you born?

AC: I was born in Brighton, Alabama on November 1, 1945 somewhere around 7:45 in the evening.

WW: Can you talk a little about growing up?

AC: Well, I grew up into Jim Crow in Brighton, Alabama. I grew up under the auspices of segregation, complete segregation, the water fountain said “colored,” that’s what we drank out of, because it was a way of life. The counter in the, I forget its name, it’s like a Kresge, a Walmart store, I forget the name of the store at that time, anyway, where we ate, if it said “colored,” that’s where we sit. We rode in the back of the bus. It’s the part that said “colored,” we’d walk to the back of the bus. “Boy!” was what you were called, and so we adjusted to that, because it was a way of life. When you’re born into something, you don’t really question it. You adjust to it, so that’s how I was raised in Brighton.

WW: Are there any memories you’d like to share from growing up down there?

AC: I have fond memories. School was everything. My teachers, I remember Mrs. Rancher, who was my dance instructor, who was my, I think, history teacher, she was everything to me. I go back to the first grade, Miss Austin. I was the May Day king, and my mother was very active at the PTA, they made me the cape and the satin knickerbocker pants, and I remember my little queen was Joyce [Lumboyd?], and we sat on the throne as the May Day – so that gave me a sense of leadership, I think, that I have obtained all of my life, but it began in Brighton, at Brighton Elementary School, where our teachers were our role models, and they were great people, very instrumental in a very positive upbringing. Ultimately, I veered from that, but it was internalized at a young age to be somebody in spite of the conditions, because at that time, our parents who were born before us under Jim Crow, they did not allow their conditions to control our lives. They controlled the conditions our lives were in.

WW: Growing up, did you see the civil rights movement firsthand?

AC: Yes. We were in Brighton High School, I think it was around 1963, I think it was, and Dr. Charles Allen Brown was the principal, ran a very tight ship, and of course we had the utmost respect for our instructors, our teachers at that time, so we were, you know, not perfect children, but, you know, we were disciplined, so to speak, and somebody ran down the hall and said, “Dr. King is in Birmingham!” They shouted it out, and I know now it was an act of God. It was a spiritual movement, because we would not have aberrated from the day’s course to run to Birmingham. Now, born under Jim Crow, now, fear of the Klansmen, bully policemen, racist policemen, we lived under that, but we ran from Brighton, took every mode of transportation we could, to get to Birmingham, where they say Dr. King was, and we ran into what people see now, the dogs and the hoses and Eugene “Bull” Connor, who was the ultimate racist at that time. And you’ve seen it on TV, the policemen, the dogs, the water hoses, et cetera, et cetera, we ran into that and confronted that without fear. It was just lifted off of us, and Dr. King was definitely sent from God, because when I went back home, I think around 1986, and I went to the mall and young white girls, I wore jewelry at the time, the young white girls, “Oh my God, look at his jewelry,” and when I left Alabama, you would get killed for that, you know [laughter]. But when I went back, the whole atmosphere of Alabama had changed. I went to a jazz club, I remember, and I saw a young white guy, kind of looked like you [laughter], he’s sitting with this black girl in the jazz club, hugged up, so oh my God! So, all of that happened as a result of that day that Dr. King came to Birmingham.

WW: After you graduated high school, is that when you began your way north?

AC: Yes, I had an aunt that lived in Detroit, Vera Patterson, who lived on Cloverlawn, and her husband, Pat Patterson, worked for Dodge, and I contacted them. Can I digress?

WW: Mm-hmm.

AC: What really necessitated me coming to Detroit, I found out when I was a child in the interim of growing up that I was born out of wedlock, and that my biological daddy, who I had no relationship with, was somewhere in Detroit, so I found out that he lived down the street from my Aunt Vera when I contacted her, so that was the motivating factor to me coming to Detroit. First to get a job at Dodge Main through Pat Patterson, who was a union guy in Dodge Main Hamtramck, in the foundry, and they said my biological dad was living down the street on Elmhurst and Cloverlawn, which was like literally a block down the street, so the combination of those two was the contributing factor to me moving to Detroit, and ultimately I did right after high school.

WW: And what year did you come to the city?

AC: I came in 1964.

WW: What was your first impression of Detroit?

AC: My first impression of Detroit was, coming out of the South, Brighton, Alabama, where there was one traffic light [laughter], you come to Detroit, you say, “wow!” You know, the city, and especially beginning to work in Dodge Main, in Hamtramck, in the foundry, I was making more money than I had ever seen in my life, so Detroit was everything to me. And then you have to understand that the Motown sound was just blossoming. I remember Marvin Gaye “Pride and Joy,” you know, and the Supremes and the Temptations, that whole genre of music has just began to burst into our soul, and so that was just exciting times to be able to make money and buy things for myself, and growing up, to look forward to being a productive man in my life. But then I went over on Twelfth Street one night with a guy I was riding to work with, and he went upstairs to buy some drugs, and so he said, “Hey man, come on up here with me.” You know, I’m a young buck out of Alabama, so I went upstairs with him, and it was a place where the prostitutes were, and ultimately I saw this pretty girl, and I found out what she was doing, so I, what they called at that time, “turned a trick” with her, and that changed my whole life. That changed my whole life in a moment of time. I saw the pimps parked downstairs in the Fleetwoods, the El Dorados, it was like fast things were going on on Twelfth Street at that time. You have prostitutes, you know, “ten and two baby, ten for me, two for the room,” you know, yada yada yada. Just things were moving, and I saw this, and I wanted to be one of those guys, and ultimately I did. My book is about Born a Bastard, Now Born Again, from pimp to poison, ultimately the poison, the drugs, which landed me in prison for five years and nine months federal prison, where God called me to preach. And I thank God that today my life has turned around, and I use all of these sordid parts of my life to help other people, especially young people, not to go where I have gone.

WW: Backtracking just a little bit, after you first went to Twelfth Street, so you continued operating out of Twelfth Street for the next few years then?

AC: Operating?

WW: Or interacting with.

AC: All over the city.

WW: Okay.

AC: Especially Twelfth Street. Wherever that the party was, that’s what we did.

WW: During your few years in Detroit before ’67, did you have any interactions with the Detroit Police Department?

AC: None, none. Never. I heard about the Big Four, but had never had any interactions with them. I knew one time, we were on Twelfth Street, and they drove up to the corner and said, “Now, we’re going to go around this block, and when we come back, you so-and-so-and-so better not be here.” And of course, everybody scattered, and I found out then that even the players at that time, the street guys at that time had the ultimate respect for the Big Four, but personally encountered, never.

WW: Going into ’67, did you anticipate any violence, or did you feel any tension going into it?

AC: Living in the underworld, personally I felt no tension. I knew that there was a problem, because black people were talking about and depressed about how they were being treated, even from merchants, because they were talked to any kind of way, they were being sold bad meat, and just being treated like, you know, third-class citizens. And, of course, contributing to the economic—let me digress a little bit. Money was flourishing in Detroit. The factories were paying good, the number game was popping at that time, the prostitutes, man, I mean, they were getting money, the pimps and the players were making money. There were no hard drugs, you know, just weed and a little cocaine, you know what I’m saying, but that stuff was mainly recreational. And it was just a party time, once again, the Motown sound, you know, the 20 Grand on Fourteenth and Warren, the Driftwood Lounge, the Gold Room, the bowling alley, I think it was owned by Bill Kabbus, and had the 20 Grand Motel behind with the Chit Chat Lounge. We had the Drome’s Show Bar, all the jazz musicians, I mean, the famous guys. I don’t care who, name one, they came to the Drome. You know, we had Esquire Corned Beef, you know, the Greenleaf Restaurant, I mean, it was just a good time in Detroit. Mr. Kelly’s on the east side, you know, it was just a good time in Detroit during those days. And so, living the fast life that I had entered into, we did not one-on-one feel the tension that was brewing in the city, but you know, through conversation, you know, you hear people talk about, you know, I’m sick of this, and so on. You know, deadbeat down here, they’d talk to me over there, gave me bad meat, et cetera, et cetera.

WW: Going into ’67, you were there that night?

AC: Absolutely.

WW: Can you take me through that night, how you got there, where you were?

AC: Well, during those days, being raided was not a big thing. Being in an after-hours club and being in a raid was no big thing, because the house man would tell you, “I might get raided tonight.” Okay, no problem. They would pull up in a paddy wagon, take the men downtown to 1300 Beaubien, we paid $27.50, get out, go back and party again. No big thing. Nobody was shoved around or talked about, you know. I’ve even seen the police come up in the after-hours club and get his payola. The barman would hand them an envelope, he’d stick it in his pocket, and go on about his business, plainclothes policeman, so no fear of being in a raid. But this night, after leaving, we would go to a club, whether it was the 20 Grand or the Chit Chat Lounge or wherever, you know, because the clubs stayed packed. It was like what you see now, the disco thing going on. Well, Detroit was like that, you know, with the clubs stayed crowded, with people just partying and having a good time, ub the black community especially, that we frequented, and so we left the club, and my buddy Westside, who passed a couple of years ago, he said, “Man, let’s go up to Billy O’Neal’s joint. There’s a little joint on Twelfth and Clairmount; let’s go. Let’s try this one tonight.” Because there were several after-hours clubs around Detroit. I mean, you know, Stokes had a joint, somebody else had a joint, you know, but let’s go to the new place that’s just opened up recently, so we went up there. You would go upstairs, I remember that. Went upstairs, and I took a seat, like you’d go upstairs, and the bar was here. And I sit right here at the corner of the bar with my buddy Westside. And when the police came up, they came up, you know, and so, no big thing, we’re thinking it’s, you know, the normal raid, you know. We expected if we don’t get away, they’re going to take us downtown in the white paddy wagon, sometimes guys would be smoking weed in the back of the paddy wagon, I mean, that’s how it was, that was the atmosphere. But this particular morning, the club closed at two. Three-something in the morning, it was a Sunday morning, July 23, these guys began to push people around.

WW: How many people were in the club that night?

AC: I can’t say numerically.

WW: Packed?

AC: Yes, it was packed, and people were constantly coming, but it was packed, and these guys came up, the police officers came up and they began to be irate. Well you know, hey, you’re not going to push a player around in front of his woman. That bird ain’t going to fly, and you’re certainly not going to push his woman around in front of him. That bird definitely ain’t going to fly, so it was a combination of, I would surmise to say, in my own perception, that the police officers could not take the fact that it was crowded with blacks, dressed well, guys with nice jewelry, beautiful cars outside, beautiful women on the inside, people drinking, partying, and having fun. Don’t get me wrong, that after-hours joint is illegal now, but they were getting paid over for this kind of thing, I mean, come on now. Detroit was just like that, it’s a plug-in town. But these guys came up and in my opinion, having witnessed racism all of my life, the racist attitude came up, because they began to push people around and call people names. The owner kept telling them, “Man, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to do this. If you’re going to take them out, let them walk out down through the back,” – got a back way, which I was unaware of – “let them walk out, and take them downtown, do whatever you’re going to do. You don’t have to do them like that. This is not that kind of place. It’s not a violent place. These people just here partying.” So, they began to get more irate, the policemen did, began to, man, grab people and twisting arms, and man, they’re going to lock you up and calling you names, and you know, and the n-word, and yada yada yada, and the mf-word, and you know. And so, the brothers began to challenge that. “You don’t push me around, man, you don’t have to do me like that, I’m up in here partying, I’m clean, I’m, you know, jeweled up, hair processed.” During those days, you know, it ain’t that kind of party. “Man, you don’t have to take me downtown. Everybody up here got $27.50 and more than that to get out.” But it got out of hand, I remember the owner kept yelling, “Man, don’t do that. You don’t have to do that.” Then he began to curse the policemen out, “You so-and-so, so-and-so, you know, you don’t have no business coming up in my place, treating people like that, you know, these are my people, yada yada yada.” And ultimately what sparked the whole thing into a flame, where the city was on fire, lit on that day. A young lady, sister, black girl, was pushed down the stairs, it was a banister there, and this stick from the banister went through her leg, and when the brother saw that, all hell broke loose. My buddy Westside, we managed to get out the back way, past all of the stuff, and on top of the car yelling to them, you know, just cussing them out, to be candid with you. And we went across the street, and we began to see people coming out breaking in windows. There was a couple of pawn shops on Twelfth Street, I remember that. They began to knock the windows out and taking the jewelry and stuff out of the pawn shop, and people starting coming out of their places, and it just, you know, it just spread. Just like that, and so my buddy Westside, “Man, we got to get out of this area, because this is really getting to be kind of rough over here.” I mean, we pimps, we don’t want no trouble, you know what I’m saying? And so, we began to go back to the west side, up on Northlawn where he stayed, and the Big Four stopped us. My first encounter with the Big Four. Three plain-clothed men and one uniformed officer driving this big Plymouth. They stopped us, doors opened, you know, they out with their guns, and the uniformed cop got the shotgun to my buddy Westside’s head. Well, he’s not afraid of any police, so he start cussing them out like crazy. And it happened so fast, I didn’t have time to fear, and I saw the Big Four take a pistol out of his pocket and lay it on the seat. After they got us out of my buddy’s ’66 green Oldsmobile convertable, he laid the gun on Westside’s seat. Now I believe today that they were going to kill us, because that’s why they put a gun on the seat, got a shotgun to my buddy’s head, they’ve got pistols drawn. When he put the pistol on the seat, all the doors are open on the car. Over the radio, they got a call, up by the console area, they got this little radio, little microphone thing, I remember that, and they got a call saying that that was a problem on Twelfth and Clairmount, where we had just left from, and they got a call to go there, like an emergency call. And the officer looked at me and said, “This is your lucky day, nigger.” And they got in the car and left, and I think that was the only thing that saved our lives and allowed me to be here with you today is that call, because I do believe they were going to hurt us. They were going to kill us.

WW: That night in the blind pig, did you see, like, any Vietnam vets? The story that’s often said is that there was a party that night for two Vietnam vets, which is why it was so crowded.

AC: That’s a possibility, but I am unaware of that. We had heard that there was a new place that was happening, you know, and, you know, players are going to go where the women are, so that’s a possibility. My buddy had got wind that something, you know, exciting was going on there on the party side, so that’s why we went up there, and it was crowded with the women and men. That’s a great possibility – but I hadn’t been there that long to get familiar with who was there. I’m just up in an after-hours place, after-hours joint as we call them in those days. I was just there to hang out, because that was, that was us, that’s what we did. We hung out until the crowd thinned out, we went somewhere and got something to eat, we’d go to somebody’s home after that, kept partying [laughter]. If someone would say, “Hey man, let’s go over to my house,” you know, it was like that. And you’d go to another player’s house and his woman would get up and cook breakfast, you know, we’d sit there, smoke weed, snort coke, you know, whatever. You know, talk crazy, you know, and that was just the atmosphere during those days.

WW: Where did you and your friend go after that encounter with the Big Four?

AC: Went to his home. I think it was on Northlawn. Went to his home and we turned on the TV, you know, and went to sleep, and we turned on the television later that day, and half of Detroit was on fire, and we just looked and said, “oh, my God.” Okay, I remember the state troopers coming to town. We get a call from our dope girl over on Blaine and Twelfth Street that told us there was a young lady over there, she had been a part of the looting, she had some diamonds, and she had some cases of whiskey that she had taken from somewhere. So, she said, if you guys want some jewelry, you know, get over here, because, you know, she has a lot of jewelry. So we weeded our way through the blocked areas in Detroit. They had most major areas blocked to get to certain routes. We weeded our way through, my buddy knew the neighborhoods real good, so we weeded our way through. We had to stop at one of our friend’s houses named Harry Cash, I remember that. We witnessed people peeking out of the window and the troopers would shoot the building. You know, I mean I guess their orders were to completely control the black neighborhoods in Detroit.

WW: The National Guardsmen?

AC: National Guard, yeah, I said state troopers, I’m thinking about the police I just saw on the way over here. Yeah, the National Guard, I’m sorry.

WW: No problem.

AC: And they were somewhat vicious people, little bit overbearing, I would say, but I guess that was their orders. You know, you’re in the military, you do what the military leader tells you to do. I mean, spending four years in the United States Navy, honorably discharged, okay, I know you follow the orders of the leader. So we weeded our way through the different blocked areas, we made one stop, I remember, over to Harry Cash’s house, where we witnessed they shot up the building and stuff, and made it over to our dope girl house. Matchbox of weed we called the deuce pack, you remember the little matchboxes that had the little wooden matches in it? Little box, that was a deuce pack in those days, two dollars would get you some weed, smoke a couple of joints, you know. And we made it over there, and the young lady who had the jewelry and the liquor, she wound up, in those days, it’s called a woman would “choose” a guy she wanted to be with a pimp. So she chose me, and I ultimately wound up having her as my woman for a while, and so that was my experience during those days. I was just a young pimp, 22 years old, had just turned out in the game, the fast life, and just following the lead of my buddy Westside, you know. And I remember his sister got with me, and she was my first real prostitute, you know, so that was my experience.

WW: Just really quick: what years did you serve in the Navy?

AC: I was in the Navy after the riots I went to the –

WW: Oh, it was after?

AC: Yeah, I went to the Navy May –

WW: Oh, we’ll get to that.

AC: Okay, okay.

WW: How did the rest of the week play out for you?

AC: After the riots?

WW: No, after you’d been to that house, where did you go from there? Did you just stay hunkered down in the house?

AC: From the drug house? No, we went back to, I was living with my buddy Westside at the time over on Northlawn, and so we went back to his house and began to monitor the situation on television, and then after that – and it was so insignificant it seems, at the time, because there was so much going on, but that was a killing at the Algiers Motel, and at the time, to be honest, to be very candid with you, I really didn't associate that with the National Guard or the police, because it was so vague, the reporting of it. It was just some kids that had gotten killed, and they were black, so that was a concern, at the Algiers Motel, and as the news began to progress, because it was somewhat under the National Guard auspices at that time, you know, you couldn’t just maneuver and get all the 411 on everything, but as the news progressed, it related to, as I recall, and I’m not very, very sure, but it related to the police or the National Guard or somebody having something to do with the incident that happened there that resulted in, I think, a few people being murdered. I think a young lady was involved, I think, I’m not sure.

WW: The police and the National Guard raided the Algiers Motel.

AC: Okay.

WW: And they were acquitted, but it’s heavily believed that the Detroit Police Department murdered three young men at the Algiers Motel.

AC: Yeah, right. That’s what it was. Yep, that’s what it was, and I think it was a girl there, that she got away.

WW: There were two women there.

AC: And they lived or something like that.

WW: Two women and seven men survived.

AC: And the rest of them were murdered.

WW: Yeah, three were murdered.

AC: Well, I can’t say, because I don’t have a definitive answer for that, but the atmosphere, in my opinion, and for what I witnessed just weeding through and being stopped by the Big Four during that morning, that killing was in the air, that violence was in the air, that fear was in the air. That was the atmosphere, and it all resulted from a few crazy cops pushing people around in an after-hours joint, where people were just having fun. Now, I was there, I saw that much. The after-hours joints in Detroit, nobody was violent, there was no fights, nobody getting killed, usually the joints would have, like, a bar and sell whiskey, they would have a kitchen, an older woman or whoever was back there frying fish and chicken, another room with a gambling table where guys could shoot craps if they wanted to, a drug boy might have been up in there, a couple of them, might have had some weed and some coke, because we’d snort a little coke to stay up cause we’re partying, we’re just partying, but it wasn't a violent atmosphere. When I went to the military and would get information from the streets, the violence only started after I left when the heroin moved into the city, because after the riots, the heroin moved in heavy, and that’s when violence broke out among everybody, especially blacks, in the city of Detroit.

WW: Did you leave the city because of ’67?

AC: I left the city because the FBI. I went to my Aunt Vera’s house, who I initially moved to Detroit to live with, after the riots I visited her, and she said that the feds came by here looking for you as a draft dodger, and they left a letter saying that I either report or pay a $10,000 fine and five years in Leavenworth Prison. So, I had an uncle, my uncle Arthur Calvert, who was already in the Navy, I went down somewhere in Michigan, Detroit, to take the test to go to the Army. Now watch this: I failed the Army test, which is easy, but I passed the Navy test. I believe had I gone into the Army, I would have come back in a body bag like many young blacks at that time, but fortunately I went into the Navy, worked in a very technical rate as a radio man, and was honorably discharged. From ’68. May ’68. May 28, 1968 to February 2nd, 1972.

WW: When you came back to the city, did Detroit look differently?

AC: You see, I anchored down in California when I got out of the Navy.

WW: Oh, okay.

AC: And I stayed in California for about 15 years before I came back to Detroit, and of course, the whole atmosphere had changed when I came back. Because people, you know, had moved on, doing different things, you know. It wasn’t as vibrant, I would say, as it was during those days, when I came back in ’86, I think.

WW: Are there any other ’67-specific stories or memories you’d like to share?

AC: I can’t think of anything significant, because things went downhill for me after the riots. Things went downhill to the point where I almost became homeless. That’s when I went to my Aunt Vera’s house, because I didn’t have anywhere to stay, I think. I thank God that my life was like that, because it pushed me into the United States Navy, where I had a chance to see the world under the expense of the government. I mean, I traveled: Australia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, I mean, you name it, the Navy sent me there, and so that changed my life completely, but going overseas and witnessing prostitution was more prevalent overseas [laughter] than it was in the United States. Like in the Philippines, prostitution was a way of life, it was a way of life, and I said, “Oh, I’m not such a bad guy after all, they do this everywhere.” [laughter] So that helped my sordid life to continue, because hey, you know, this is the way of the world. I mean, the girls in different ports would be waiting on us. They would know when the ship is coming in before we did, and they’d be in the clubs waiting, and so this one girl in the Philippines, she took care of me, so Olongapo City was like home away from home. I mean, she took complete care of me, which I was used to from the streets of Detroit, so you know, it’s a lot of things that, wow, I could just go on and on [laughter]. I mean, I’m in Hong Kong, China, I’m walking across the street, and this beautiful girl, high pants on, I mean during those days, I’m just walking across the street in Hong Kong, and I said, “Hey, sweetie.” She say, “Sixty American.” That’s all she said. She didn’t say hello, how you doing, you know, she said, “Sixty American.” Now that was my whole pay for being in Vietnam for 30 days, to give her 60 American dollars, you know. I think at that time, it was like 360 yen to one American dollar. She said, “I want sixty American.” So prostitution, it’s everywhere. Somebody said it’s the oldest profession in the world. Not pimping, they say prostitution is the oldest, so women were doing this way before the pimps started pimping, so not casting all the aspersions on the pimps, because the women were doing it first, and they just chose the guys to be with, so let’s get that understood. [laughter]

WW: Just a couple quick wrap-up questions.

AC: Yes.

WW: What do you think about the state of the city today?

AC: The state of Detroit?

WW: Yeah.

AC: Obviously, downtown is coming back, and I think it’s going to rise far beyond and above all of our expectations, because of the venues that’s being constructed downtown, when you have all those sports venues, that’s going to bring about businesses, and Detroit is going to prosper again. The automobile factories are still putting out beautiful cars, so we got no problem there, but the stratification process of economics is going to be, I think, far beyond and above all that we have ever expected for a few. It’s not going to be for everybody, it’s not going to be for the common man, it’s going to be so expensive that the common man won’t be comfortable downtown. I’m hoping and I’m praying that the deterioration in other areas of the city will become affluent again, because I wept when I saw the blonde colored buildings off of Dexter and Livernois. I mean, the four-family flats that were so beautiful in our time, when I saw the destruction and the degradation, and of course the crime that goes along with it, which you can say what you want to say, but it’s all about the drugs. The only thing right now that will make a man lose everything right now, today, the only thing that will cause a man to lose everything is drugs. Drugs. So, somehow it was moved into our society, the crack, the heroin, the whatever, and it has caused the moral fabric, pardon me, of our society, not only in Detroit, but in all of our major cities, all across this country, all across this world, beyond human repair, and being a spiritual man now, being called to preach while in prison by God, under the inspiration of God’s spirit, I believe that since it has deteriorated beyond human repair, it has to be divinely repaired, and that’s what we really don’t want, for God to come back and say, hey, you know, here’s a famine, in the days of Noah it’s going to rain. There’s some countries now that don’t have food. I was watching a story on TV the other night that South Africa, and not trying to cast any aspersions on anyone, but the wealthy people of South Africa, not all of them, but the wealthy, wealthy, they are still behind gated areas and living lavishly, but the other wealthy people are living worse than animals, and now the blacks are living wealthy, and so I’ll say all that to say that if we don’t get it together, then God is going to have his way in aiding us to get it together. We can’t continue with wickedness, racism, killing, and just doing our thing on God’s green earth to God’s people. We can’t just continue that way, because he has a way of making the first last and the last first. I just saw it on TV the other night in South Africa. When there was apartheid, the black folks lived like dogs. Now, the whites are living like dogs, and the blacks are riding around in BMWs and Mercedes’ in the parks having fun, and you know, so we don’t want God to divinely repair this thing, and He’s able to come through and just level it all off and build it up again. You know, Rome tumbled [laughter], as powerful as Rome was, it’s no longer the Rome of old, because God got tired of the wickedness of Rome, and He destroyed it.

WW: Thank you so much for sitting down with me today.

AC: Man, it’s been a pleasure. This is one of the best interviews I’ve had in my life.

WW: I’m glad to hear it.

AC: Thank you.

WW: My pleasure.

Original Format



46min 04sec


William Winkel


Al Calvert


Detroit, MI




“Al Calvert, July 18th, 2017,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed July 14, 2024,

Output Formats