Tamara Perrin


Tamara Perrin


Tamara Perrin worked for the Michigan Bell Telephone Company and was a single mother living above a white woman in July of 1967.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written Story


In 1967, I was 21 years of age living in my first home away from home on Dequindre off McNichols. I lived in a three room flat above a Yugoslavian widow woman name, Sophia Rugola. She had been the only person who would rent to me; as I was a single parent, mother of a two year old. It's also important to know who owned the majority of the land or housing at this time and how that came to be (read Colored Property). I did misrepresent myself and pretended to be married to my best friend Fenton French at the time and told her he was in the military; which would justify his not being there with me after I moved in. She later found out and told me that she knew I wasn’t married, but that I was a good girl I could stay.
At that time I was working for Michigan bell telephone Company as a long distance operator and I was also attending cosmetology school at Virginia Farrell to become an entrepreneur. My working and going to a vocational school was made possible because of my Grandmother who babysat my daughter for me during the week and I had full responsibility on the weekends.
In the summer of 1967, I got word there was a race riot and that I should not leave my home. My fear was that I was living at the same address as and above a white woman, who in my opinion didn’t understand the dangers we would both be subjected to. Her being white and I being black, and what others didn’t know about us as people of a peaceful nature and the harm they could do to us for just being in the same residence. I recall telling her not to go outside or near the window… And also thinking should I stay and go, because I didn’t want to be harmed. I also knew I had to go to work and that my only transportation was via public transportation.. On the bus!.
It was a true dilemma for me, because I didn’t fully comprehend the race problem. I had a healthy education in the Detroit Public School system and was double promoted twice. As a child I had never really experienced racial prejudice beyond name calling. And that was something children did if you looked different from them. Half-breed was more common of the name calling I received until I moved from one the downtown area to the north east side of Detroit. And I was only called the “N” word once as a child by a playmate of another ethnic group. I didn’t know what the word “nigga” meant. And looked it up in the dictionary. What I found was niggardly meant stingy.
I had experienced discrimination due to being a unwed mother. In fact the law at that time refused to put the name of the father of the child on the birth certificate if you weren’t married. I experienced being ostracized by my many of great aunts and uncles, for not marrying the father of my child. I was naïve to a lot of social dogma, stigmas and standards in the year of 1967.
However, they would all become my significant emotional events to change my direction in my life’s journey. Being raised in the north I never knew what the southern experience was until I became much older and more informed through movies, books, and dialogue with others what the 67 riots really meant. It was like a boil coming to a head. It pulled the scab off of years of economic oppression and suppression opening doors to a new conversation regarding the true race riot that happened years prior in Detroit about blacks and whites. A conversation with one of my cousins revealed that one of my relatives son was shot and killed for violating the curfew. I wasn’t injured in the overall process of the 1967 riots per se.
What I can say is that it did bring attention to an ongoing problem regarding equity and quality of life for many of the disenfranchised. Race and culture have a significant role in what opportunities have been made available and what those that have not. The riots have caused many to feel empowered and others powerless, some advantaged and others disadvantaged; it has brought life to some areas and demise to others. Its unfortunate we all have not learned from our past faults and mistakes to endeavor to embrace a better quality of life for us all. Since God's not making anymore land we should be trying to preserve what we have as best as we can collectively. There are win win solutions that exist to improve the quality of life in Detroit.

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Tamara Perrin

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“Tamara Perrin,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed March 3, 2021, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/360.

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