Joanne Martier

Title

Joanne Martier

Description

In this interview, Joanne discusses her life in the Old Redford neighborhood of Detroit. She describes her childhood, changes in the area, and her current experience of living in Old Redford. She discusses race relations, perception of authority, and the different organizations fighting to restore many Detroit Neighborhoods including the Old Redford neighborhood.

Publisher

Detroit Historical Society

Date

10/10/2018

Rights

Detroit Historical Society

Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Joanne Martier

Brief Biography

Joanne “Joni” Martier was born in 1953 in the Old Redford neighborhood of Detroit, MI where she has lived all her life. Joni is an activist in the revitalization of Detroit neighborhoods that have been affected by blight and other misfortunes.

Interviewer's Name

Bogdan Bratu

Interview Place

Farmington Hills, Michigan

Date

10/10/2018

Transcriptionist

Bogdan Bratu

Transcription

[Start of Track 1]
BB: So, my name is Bogdan Bratu and I will be int- interviewing, uh, Joni Mortier- and this interview is taking place in Farmington Hills but she is a resident of the old Redford area- and so, we’re just going to start off with some questions, um- So, where and when were you born?
JM: I was born in 1953 in Detroit.
BB: And, um- were you born in the Old Redford area?
JM: Yes-
BB: Ok
JM: Yes, in fact I currently live- I’m the third generation in the house.
BB: Oh, ok. So you guys have been staying in the old redford area?
JM: Yes, yes. So I’ve been there 65 years.
BB: And so what was it like growing up in the area?
JM: um- uh- you know- my memories of being a kid in the area are good memories. We pretty much did what we wanted. Perhaps that was- you know- there were four of us kids, and my mother couldn’t keep track of all of us, so- so yea, we, um- you know- we went out to Grand River Lasher area, you know- played in the neighborhood, um- There was, you know- we’re right by the old Redford golf course, so that wa-, I mean, we weren’t supposed to trespass, but we would. Uh- They also- they had a skating rink down by their clubhouse. It was edgewater park, you know- So a lot of- lot of stuff going on.
BB: And so, did you, would you say that you felt safe growing up in that area?
JM: Yes.
BB: And was there ever a time that came about where you didn’t feel safe at any point in your life living in that area?
JM: Actually when I was like, 15, I believe, there was, uh- [pause] an incident where some woman or girl-I don’t know- was abducted while she was walking in the neighborhood. And that was kind of the first inkling that, you know- maybe I’m not always safe wherever I go. So, that incident occurred, I mean, it was, it was a very rare thing to happen, but I would say that.
B: And so what year was that? Do you remember?
JM: ok well- 15- 53. So 68’.
B: Ok, so only in 68’.
JM: Yea... Yea. Now after that, um- you know- Yes. I would say- I mean, Detroit started changing, you know- crime started going up at some point, and, um- so yea, you know- the doors are loacked- but that may have been-that may have been later. You know, maybe in the 70’s? Because again, I never left the house, you know? My mom and stepdad moved out and I just kept the house. I started buying in at that point. So maybe in the 70’s? You know- Again, living in the house alone I started just being generally more cautious and things, you know- Detroit was changing.
B: Ok. So that could be the reason as well. And so, um- I guess back to your childhood um- I know you mentioned you guys would go to the skating or even this golf course, um- what other things did you like to do as a kid? Um- did you guys feel like you guys could go anywhere during your childhood?
J: Yes. Yes. Certainly felt like we could go anywhere, and [pause] I- you know, as far as like, I mean, when I was a child with my parents, you know, we’d walk up to the Redford Theatre and see a movie, um- in the evening I would walk with my dad up to Grand River Lasher to get the newspaper, um- but you know- as just us kids together, we- you know- go to each other’s houses, we’d ride bikes, we’d- you know- again, go to the skating rink, we’d go to Edgewater park.
BB: And, so, was, uh, the Redford Theatre kind of like a significant, uh, landmark of the area or at least to you and your friends?
J: I would say it was a significant landmark probably to everyone, you know?
BB: And then- so, uh- during you childhood as well, where did you go to school?
JJ: I went to Holcomb for elementary. And then I went to Emmerson for junior high and then Redford High for high school
BB: And so how was your experience in those schools?
JJ: Well, Holcomb was a little traumatic cause I was, you know- very shy. Took me a while to you know- leave mom. But, you know, it was, I mean, School is school. I had fun. In junior high I started getting in a little trouble, like, you know- what kids do
BB: Mhm.
JJ: Highschool- you know- high school I kind of hung out with a few people. I was kind of more a- kind of leaning towards “hippiness”.
BB: Of course, of course *both laugh*
JJ: You know- so I kinda- you know- didn’t fit in, you know- with kinda the other big groups, like the frats and the greasers-
BB: of course.
JJ: Basically. Yea.
BB: Ok. And so, kind of related to that I guess uh-, as time went by and the 60’s came about, um- how did that kind of influence your life. Because I know that was a- or was it a time of change in the area? Uh- not only for the area but for you as well? Um, anything notable?
JJ: You know, not really. I mean, I can remember in 67’- I would have been 14. I can remember hearing stories that- you know- and it’s embarrassing to say, that- that blacks were marching down Grand River towards us, you know? Lighting fires- and hearing stuff like that which- you know- of course it wasn’t true, but, um- you know, so being a little afraid, but not really feeling unsafe, um- my mother, I don’t know if she told you, she took me and a couple girlfriends- she’s a very curious woman- she took us down to where the riots were happening, and, um- and- and- I don’t- I forget exactly where we were, but at some point four or five police cars pulled up and they were all aiming- you know, these long weapons up at the, um- rooftop of a building, and that’s when she realized this probably wasn’t a good thing to be doing. So- so, that’s what I remember about the riots, um- really more , any kind of like racial division that I experienced happened in high school with busing. You know- I had a number of black friends, but that was kinda when I was first aware- maybe it was just because I was older, but- you know, as far as racial divisions- So, the riots actually didn’t impact me too much.
BB: Well, do you think that maybe it would have, uh- or did you notice that it might have impacted maybe the community itself? Like the fears that you were talking about? Or other people? Do you think it might have- or do you- did you notice an increase in tensions, or, uh- cause people to view the city in a different way?
JJ: Well, again, I was fairly young. So- I don’t know that I was aware of it that much, um- you know- I know there was [phone interrupts]. Sorry
BB: It’s fine.
JJ: You know I know there was a lot of white flight but I don’t recall friends of mine and their families moving out or that kind of thing. I just- I don’t recall that.
BB: And so, I guess that goes to our next question. Was there change that you experienced while you lived in old Redford? (Change) To the neighborhood itself?
JM: Certainly, You know? Right now it’s a very diverse neighborhood, um- which personally I like, um- you know- So I think- you know, I suppose as people were moving out other people were moving in and- you know- my neighborhood is now probably- I don’t know, 60% black? 70% black maybe? Um- but we’re getting white people moving back into the neighborhood, and you know I always hate to talk in racial “things”, but that’s big in Detroit. So- so in that respect the neighborhood did change racially. You know- and- and- I mean it did get- you know, everyone locks their doors and theirs cars stolen and there are break ins and that kind of thing but- you know, for myself and my husband, the benefits of being in the neighborhood outweigh that.
BB: And so- uh= I know you mentioned that there’s always kind of been a reference to race in Detroit, um- Did you always remember it this way, or was there ever like a specific point where you- where you noticed that things started- a lot of the rhet- rhetoric that people used to be more concentrated on race rather than, uh- maybe other economic, or- sort of things.
JM: I would think again it was busing, because that was when, um- you know, I had this- this one guy I knew in high school who was black, and he didn’t like the idea of busing, and of course it was the whole idea of busing where- you know, they’re going to start moving students around so that things were more integrated. And um- you know- no one seemed to like the idea of having a- you know, go somewhere else to school when your used to going to school right here in your neighborhood. So that’s probably when I became kind of more aware of racial tension. Um- mean- I don’t recall- again, white friends saying “oh no there are going to be more black people in this school” I don’t remember anything like that. But I can remember that there was a difference; something changed.
BB: And so, I guess on terms of that as well, um- are there any other changes that occurred over the years, uh- besides, like, the population or other things like- that- like maybe economics, uh-government influence over the area, like, local government? Have you noticed any changes in terms of those aspects?
JM: well I certainly- I wouldn’t say really economic changes so much. Not in our immediate neighborhood. Um- you know, I think it’s still basically a middle class neighborhood, um- but with Mike Duncan coming in and all these kind of- you know, changes in the news about Detroit, um- the old Redford neighborhood is getting focused on. They’ve got the planning department; they’ve got a team working on this- what they call the Grand River northwest corridor. A lot of focus on the old Redford area- kind of, um- making it like a performing arts area because there’s already the theatre there, and um- there’s another area Blight Busters is in that area and they have this whole kind of art center where they get a lot performing arts over the weekend. Um- and- and so- you know, it’s pretty exciting what’s going on with the city right now in our particular neighborhood they’ve purchased the old golf course from the church that owned it- you know, and they’re going to be doing a big park with trails and walking trails and- you know, so there’s a lot of really exciting things going on, and- you know, I’ve become pretty active in the community and I feel like- there’s like- this army of people working to really lift Detroit- which has been down for a really time.
BB: And so, um- then would you say that during that period where Detroit really kind of did go down I guess more in the 80’s and 90’s, um- did that, uh- affect the area of old Redford, uh- at all really?
JM: Yes. Yes. Yea, it started looking - I mean when I was growing up besides the theater there was a candy store and Woolworths and- you know, Albert’s Hamburgers, and, um- Cunninghams- you know, there was kind of really all this- like, activity there, and that started to go down- you know, businesses moved out, basically shut the door behind them, left empty buildings, um- so, it became what I’d call a blighted looking area. It still is kind of blighted looking, but there’s some positive changes and- and of course because I’ve been more active and I know kind of what the city is doing and and- and, um- you know- so- again, I can kind of see the future of that area in my mind and it looks really good.
BB: Oh well that’s great, and so, um- I know that you said the area became- the area kind of was blighted due to this kind of dip in Detroit’s history-
JJ: Yes.
BB: Um- and in relation to that you mentioned the- I believe you used, like, the Grand River Northwestern Corridor. Is that what you referred to it as?
JM: Yea, yea. Grand River Northwest Corridor. This is what the planning department team calls the area that they’re working on and it’s along Grand River from basically Southfield to basically Telegraph.
BB: Oh, so they’re really trying to make like a bigger impact with this movement, really.
JM: yes, yes.
BB: And so in your experience with kind of working on that and, uh- working on the issues of blight in the neighborhood, or however you make like to refer to it- what have been some of the biggest obstacles for you in this fight to restore the neighborhood- if there have been any (obstacles)?
JM: I would say- well- you know, government still works pretty slowly, um- but it does work. So there’s that. And the other is kind of cynicism on the part of- of people who have lived in Detroit a long time who are having trouble kind of seeing that things are getting better- you know, it’s like they’re living in the mindset of 20-30 years ago. So I think- you know, that’s a problem.
BB: And do you experience a lot of these types of people specifically in the old Redford area?
JM: Um- I would say there are more positive people than negative people- you know- but I also in the neighborhood tend to hang around with people who are more active. You know- we have a community organization and- so those are the people that show up at the meetings and attend the events, those are the people I tend to see more and talk to, and they are mostly positive about what’s going on, but you know- there’s other neighbors that you talk to and they’re still kind of like “oh the police won’t come” or “oh the city doesn’t do anything and…”
BB: Was this idea of having trust in the police- or (rather) having distrust in the police and the government something that was always there or did it only emerge as Detroit kind of hit the decline?
JM: I would say that it was not always there. For sure it was not always there, and- I guess when I was more aware and even had that mindset myself, it would’ve been kind of through, um- Kwame Kilpatrick’s terms where- where things just- you know, again- I mean it’s not all his fault, but things were just kind of starting to slide in the city and that was for a long period of time, you know, so it’s going to take people a while to get out of that mindset that the government that “the government doesn’t care”, “the police don’t care”, “nobody cares”, “got to take care of myself” kind of thing.
BB: Well then, do you see yourself- I guess, staying in the neighborhood, or have you ever thought about moving out, or-?
JM: I have never thought about moving out- you know, again, I’ve been there 65 years, I’m kind of a stick in a mud.
BB: *laughs* exactly
JM: (I’m) Not real adventurous- you know, so I can’t see myself moving out, and besides that- at some point our house- I believe our house is going to be fairly valuable, because we’re right across the street from the golf course, um- and Old Redfords going to really come back and be a great neighborhood- and you even see it now- you know, houses go for sale and they sell quickly. Um- it’s kind of shocking, um- you know- from the low point, as far as- you know, market value of homes go, our- our house has probably increased- I don’t know, I’m trying to do the math here- you know, five or six times- you know- In a relatively short amount of time. Yea…
BB: Well that’s great to hear, and- so I just wanted to touch back again on your childhood, um- since we’ve kind of covered the modern, um- issues or concepts. Um- do you have anything in specific from your childhood or any stories that- that you would like to talk about maybe? Um- that- maybe that kind of encompasses your experience of living in the area, um- what is was like to live in the area? Or just general interesting stories that you would like to share with me?
JM: you know I was trying to think of that, and I really- I really can’t think of anything specific, um- you know, it was- it was a good area to be a child, um- you know, I was mostly in the area all though you know my mom- my mom always took me shopping for new clothes down at Hudsons downtown before the school year started. I still get urges to go shopping in September, which amazes me, that muscle memory there, um- you know, we would- I mean we would go to Ice Capades and we would go to Bob-Lo and do all those kinds of things, but really- you know, as far as being in the neighborhood it was just kind of being in the neighborhood.
BB: Ok. Well thank you so much. The insight has been really helpful, and so I think we should be all set for the interview.
JM: Ok.
[22:24]
[End of Track 1]

Search Terms

Detroit, Michigan, 1967 riots, Bussing, Urban Renewal, Old Redford,

Citation

“Joanne Martier,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed December 2, 2020, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/737.

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