Karen Miller, July 27th, 2017

Title

Karen Miller, July 27th, 2017

Description

In this interview, Karen Miller discusses her memories of Detroit in the summer of 1967. She was a child who did not fully understand what was happening at the time but sees the lasting impacts in the city today.

Publisher

Detroit Historical Society

Date

10/26/2018

Rights

Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI

Format

Audio/WAV

Language

en-US

Type

Oral History

Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Karen Miller

Brief Biography

Karen Miller was born and raised in the city of Detroit and grew up on the east side of the city. She was a child in the summer of 1967.

Interviewer's Name

Edras Rodriguez-Torres

Interview Place

Detroit, MI

Date

07/27/2017

Interview Length

00:17:36

Transcriptionist

Kyle Phillips

Transcription Date

02/26/2018

Transcription

ERT: Hello, today is July 27, 2017, my name is Edras Rodriguez-Torres. I am at the Detroit Historical Society, conducting an interview for the Detroit 67 Oral History Project, and I am sitting down with—</p>
<p>
KM: Karen Miller.
</p>
<p>
ERT: Thank you for coming down.
</p>
<p>
KM: You’re welcome.
</p>
<p>
ERT: Let’s begin with when and where were you born?
</p>
<p>
KM: I was born in Detroit, Michigan, February 26, 1958 in Hermann-Keefer Hospital in Detroit.
</p>
<p>
ERT: And what neighborhood did you grow up in?
</p>
<p>
KM: I lived at 2282 Webb, 2745 Courtland, Calvert, and Nevada—that I can remember. Nevada Street—it was at the east side of Detroit at the time.
</p>
<p>
ERT: What memories do you have of your particular neighborhood growing up?
</p>
<p>
KM: The neighborhood was well kept. Grass was cut, everybody got along, neighbors were friendly—no problems that I can remember with any crime or break-ins or anything like that. It was working class people, like my mom and dad, and the schools were nice, never had problems with the schools. I can recall that the schools were mostly blacks. I can recall seeing not too many white students at the schools I had attended, so that’s what I can remember from when I was younger. Same thing with Junior High school—the neighborhoods were nice. I lived on 15431 Stansbury. The neighborhood, like I said, was nice and they kept their grass cut and the houses were maintained and it was blacks and whites in the neighborhood, I could say after the black people started moving into that particular neighborhood, then the white people started moving out. Later on, the neighborhood just started going downhill. The house I lived on Stansbury was the same house the Mayor grew up in.
</p>
<p>
ERT: Oh wow, the mayor currently?
</p>
<p>
KM: Yeah.
</p>
<p>
ERT: Mr. Duggan?
</p>
<p>
KM: Yes.
</p>
<p>
ERT: What neighborhood is that?
</p>
<p>
KM: That’s between Schaffer and Hubbel. The Finkel area—
</p>
<p>
ERT: Oh, yes, yes, so that would be like on the west side.
</p>
<p>
KM: Right. So that neighborhood is not the same now.
</p>
<p>
ERT: Of course.
</p>
<p>
KM: Everything has changed, and I remember I went to—
</p>
<p>
ERT: And this would have been when you were a teenager?
</p>
<p>
KM: Yeah, ’70 because we lived at 2282 Webb, and we moved to 2745 Courtland, which was between Linwood and Loughton. Lived in an apartment right there on the corner and left there—we moved to 15431 Stansbury, and that’s where we stayed. My mom passed on, but my dad’s still there, he still lives there, but the neighborhood’s not the same, and I wanted him to move because of the crime in the area, but he says he’s not going anywhere.
</p>
<p>
ERT: Getting back to when you were a bit younger, when did you first hear about the events of ’67?
</p>
<p>
KM: Like I said, I was living at 2282 Webb, and I had a cousin from Tennessee that came up to visit. Went to the store, and he came back and I remember him saying, “Oh my God, they’re burning up the streets, they’re breaking glass, they’re looting,” and at that time, being nine years old, I didn’t understand what was going on. I just remember my uncle—my mother’s brother—came over and I rode with him and my cousin, and we went down Twelfth Street. I just remember fire, people throwing rocks through the glass, and it was people that were looting. They were just running in the stores, grabbing whatever they could grab, and I remember a cash register right in the middle of the street, and actually there was a box of shoes laying in the middle of the street, and my uncle [laughs], he just picked up the box of shoes and put it in his car. I remember it was just a lot of people running up and down the street, throwing things and running all over the place, burning businesses, and just doing a lot of looting. I remember that just like it happened yesterday. Like I said, I didn’t know what was going on, being nine years old. Had no idea. I also remember the National Guard station in front of the schools, and I remember curfew was 6pm, and I was told if you’re not off the street at 6pm, they were going to start shooting. Anytime I had to go to the store to pick up a couple of groceries, my mother made sure that she made me go into the store early so I could be back, off the streets by 6pm. I remember that; it was horrible.
</p>
<p>
ERT: What memories do you have of your family members’ impact or how it impacted them?
</p>
<p>
KM: I can’t really recall how, because I don’t ever recall my parents ever discussing the details of that—because, like I said, I was too young to understand what caused it, what happened. From this day, they never talked about it, it was just something that they pretty much just kept under the rug. They never discussed it, so I never understood. Even growing up, I never went back to check to see what it was all about, and lately, since people are talking about the anniversary of it, I said, Well, maybe I have to take the time to read up on it, because I’m hearing different opinions about what may have happened, why it happened, why it started. I said, Well, everyone has their own opinion about why it started, and even to this day, I don’t actually even know how it started or why it started. Basically just hearing from other people, instead of just reading up on it—which I probably prefer to read up on it myself and find out what was going on. What happened, why it started.
</p>
<p>
ERT: What impact do you think the events of ’67 had on the particular neighborhood that you grew up in? For example, thinking about the time shortly thereafter, with all of the violence and destruction that happened? Did it have an impact on your particular neighborhood, or your school?
</p>
<p>
KM: No I didn’t, I just noticed that Twelfth Street was pretty much destroyed. As far as my neighborhood, it remained the same. It didn’t affect the street that I lived on whatsoever.
</p>
<p>
ERT: The next question has to do with language, specifically relating to the events of ’67. Some people call it a riot, some people refer to it as a rebellion or an uprising. What words would you use to describe the events of the summer of ’67, and why?
</p>
<p>
KM: I would probably say that it was a riot, I feel like something happened for this to take place, I’m not sure what had happened that angered the black people in that community, I’m not sure if it was being poor, jobless, hungry, homeless—I’m not really sure, but I would say it’s a riot, because mostly the riot people tended to just loot, set fires because they’re angry, go and take things that don’t belong to them, and I’m basing it on that. I guess I’m not really sure, but I call it a riot, because that is what it was told to me: it was a riot. I never heard any other expression other than the word riot. It just stuck in my head.
</p>
<p>
ERT: What sort of impact or legacy do you think that the events of ’67 have left on the city of Detroit and its people?
</p>
<p>
KM: In my opinion, nothing has really changed, it’s pretty much the same, except people are not doing the riots anymore, you still have the racism and other things going on. Detroit was my city, I love Detroit, and I notice a big difference in how the city is now. I mean, it’s not the same, the houses are not the same, it’s nothing the same as when I was growing up. Everything has changed. The attitudes of people, the personalities, no regards to people’s personal property, no regards to people’s lives. It’s just not the same anymore. There’s no jobs available for the people, they live in the city. [cell phone rings] It’s just sad. In my opinion, nothing has really changed.
</p>
<p>
ERT: Are you optimistic about where the city’s headed right now? I could see downtown looking pretty good, but some of the neighborhood—I even Googled a neighborhood that I used to live in, and when I lived at the corner of Courtland, 2745, that whole apartment complex was gone. That whole apartment complex that was not across the street, but was on the side, was gone. The neighborhood is just not the same. Where my father stays now, horrible over there. I’m sorry, but as going as far as to see my dad, I would never go over there at nighttime unless something happened to him and I had to go, but personally I’m afraid to even go in the neighborhood. Let alone to buy gas, or stop at the store to get some gum or a piece of candy, it’s just sad. I don’t know if it’s because there’s no jobs and I believe sometimes it’s the way these kids are raised, because I know when I was raised, I know—I came from a very strict environment so, as far as my disrespecting my parents, that never happened. I know how my parents felt about that. We took care of you, we raised you, we’re not going to have that. But what I’m seeing now—totally different. No one has any respect anymore, nobody values your opinion, it’s just sad. It’s to the point that even social media’s just getting ugly, people are just doing all kind of things on Facebook Live now, and you hear about the police officers killing unarmed blacks and people want to justify why it happened like, He should have put his hands behind his back, it’s sad. Everything is so negative now. I had to – it was to the point that I actually moved out of the city, because of the high insurance rate. I had a brand new car. I had it two weeks, I had it outside, and gone.
</p>
<p>
ERT: And where did you move to?
</p>
<p>
KM: At this time I was living at Seven Mile and Telegraph. And the I said, you know what, I had enough. After my fiancé moved out, I just decided it was time to go. I felt like I couldn’t have anything, so I moved out of the city—I hated to do it, but I didn’t have a choice, because I couldn’t afford the insurance. The insurance was higher than my car note. I said, It’s time to go. I can’t afford to live here. Although I love the city, and I wanted to drive back through the neighborhoods I used to live at, and it looked like a warzone, it’s horrible.
</p>
<p>
ERT: Before we wrap up, I wanted to give you the opportunity to speak about anything that we may have not touched on. Is there anything else you would like to add?
</p>
<p>
KM: I would like to see this city not so much Downtown Detroit, [cell phone rings] I see them building condos and houses and things like that Downtown Detroit, but what about the city? What’s happening with the city? Everything is bright and pretty in Downtown Detroit, but what about the city? It’s a shame that people can’t even go to the service station and get gas without being carjacked and robbed, and there’s no jobs for these young kids for them to earn a living, so the only thing that they know how to do is go out and rob people. I work two jobs, and I don’t want anyone take anything from me, and I shouldn’t be afraid to visit my dad. Regardless of whether it’s nighttime or daytime, but I’m just afraid. I don’t even want to go in the neighborhood, because my father’s friend got murdered for two dollars on the street. They shot him, and he was still alive, the guy came back and saw that he was still alive, and shot him again, right there. My father’s best friend. I fear for my father’s safety. I take him to the bank, and I look around to make sure no one is following us and watching us, and it’s just scary. I mean, you have to live like that. I know that a miracle can’t just change everything, but I would like to see some changes made within the city and not so much downtown. It’s good for people coming in to visit—I get that—but I’d like to see more changes in the city. I’d just like to see more of that. The housing in certain areas are bad, especially over there in my father’s neighborhood. Who’d want to move over there and live? Who would want that? I wouldn’t mind just buying a house and moving back to the city, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid that if I were to do that, somebody would just take advantage of that. I shouldn’t have to live like that, but things happen all over the world, all over the city. I mean, no city is safe in my opinion, but I have to say where I’m at now, I feel a little bit safer now than when I was living in the city. I would like to see some changes made in the city, that would be a start.
</p>
<p>
ERT: Well, thank you so much for sitting down with us today.
</p>
<p>
KM: You’re welcome.

Original Format

Audio

Duration

17min 36sec

Interviewer

Edras Rodriguez-Torres

Interviewee

Karen Miller

Location

Detroit, MI

Files

MillerKarenImage.jpg

Collection

Citation

“Karen Miller, July 27th, 2017,” Detroit 1967 Online Archive, accessed November 21, 2018, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/647.

Output Formats