Barbara Joseph Jones


Barbara Joseph Jones


Barbara Joseph Jones wrote a poem about her experiences in Detroit of July, 1967. She contrasts the tanks and turmoil of the city with her teenage memories of dancing to Motown music and cheerleading practice.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written Story


I had just turned 15 in 1967. We lived in Royal Oak, but my father's grocery store, Joseph's Food Market, which was his father's before him, was on the corner of John R and Hendrie. For me, the best way to explain my experience of those turbulent days is to put it in poem form.

"You Can’t Hurry Love"
July, 1967

"I need love, love to ease my mind
I need to find, find someone to call mine
But Mama said"

In the knotty pine paneled basement
with the random colored linoleum tiled floor,
I put the 45 rpm Motown disk, purchased the week before in the record department of S.S. Kresge,
on the old Motorola record player.
Eight drum beats, a ninth punch -
and the lyrics begin.
I mouth the words while
mimicking the motions and choreography
of the Fabulous Supremes.

"You can't hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don't come easy
It's a game of give and take"

Upstairs, I hear discord - voices of
fear, anger, tears and despair
because violence has shattered Detroit.
My father’s grocery store is now littered with
broken glass, empty bottles, cans and boxes
strewn across the old wooden floors, the same floors
where my grandfather paced for 16 hours a day.

"But how many heartaches must I stand
before I find a love to let me live again?
Right now the only thing that keeps me hangin' on
When I feel my strength, yeah, is almost gone
I remember Mama said"

Diana Ross’ sweet voice, while Flo and Mary echo
the yearning; a crescendo of strength.
The rhythm surges, pounding. And I,
swaying with the Phantom who holds me,
magically become enveloped in a perfect love,
born out of patience and an innocent heart.

"You can't hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don't come easy
It's a game of give and take"

The next day,
In the grassy lot next to the school,
we practice our cheers with precision and pep.
I imagine the captain of the football team
will notice me at the first game.
Through his face mask he will see
my smile and hear my cheers for victory.
How cute I look in my short blue skirt with the yellow pleats!
After, at the sock hop, a fantastic tableau:
we will dance to the Supremes, of course.
I will sing every word, because I know them by heart,
having spun my record until the grooves are deep.

"How long must I wait?
How much more can I take?
Before loneliness will cause my heart
Heart to break?"

We fall to the ground laughing
as our pyramid crumbles, and then
I hear the rumble of tanks on Woodward Avenue,
crawling toward the Motor City, sent by Johnson
to quell the violence which has engulfed our city.
No more “Go Team!” chants for the day –
back to the basement to escape what is real,
what will always be real.

"No I can’t bear to live my life alone I grow impatient for a love to call my own But when I feel that I, I can’t go on these precious words keep me hangin’ on"

At home, in the subterranean coolness, I pull back the player arm,
lifting the needle, gently placing it on my favorite song.
I sing softly; I’ve mastered my dance moves.
We converse; I am coy (or is it shy?).
My religion tells me,
“Love is patient; Love is kind.”
The City is in flames; lives lost, broken, destroyed.
Violently searching for love, oppressed and beaten.
Urgency and the pain of waiting.

"You can't hurry love
No, you just have to wait
you got to trust, give it time
No matter how long it takes"

I will listen to the song
over and over and over again,
before it is time to go upstairs
where the windows are open.
Next to my bed,
the humid July air oozes
through the screen,
and the wailing sirens lull me to sleep.
Drowsy with the hope of love,
wanting, wanting it to hurry.

Original Format


Submitter's Name

Barbara Joseph Jones

Submission Date





“Barbara Joseph Jones,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed January 17, 2022,

Output Formats