Calebria Webb

Title

Calebria Webb

Description

In this interview, Calebria explains how it was growing up within Northwest Detroit within a the 80s to present day. She explains how the public services of her neighborhood slowly began degrading especially after the housing crises, and how crime has been rising within her area. She also notes that Northwest Detroit has been being overlooked in the “revival” of Detroit.

Publisher

Detroit Historical Society

Date

9/26/2018

Rights

Detroit Historical Society

Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Calebria Webb

Brief Biography

Calebria Webb was born on November 21st, 1989, in Detroit Hutzl Hospital, and grew up in Northwest Detroit, and still lives there today. She is African American and is focusing on trying to expand options for children growing up within her neighborhood.

Interviewer's Name

Michael Philip Ostrowski

Interview Place

Detroit, Michigan

Date

9/26/2019

Transcription

[Start of Track]
MPO: Michael Philip Ostrowski
CLW: Calebria Webb
MPO: Alright we are now recording, the date is Wednesday, September 26th here at Wayne State University at the undergraduate library and this is interviewer Michael Ostrowski who is majoring in economics interviewing Calebria Webb and we will be talking about her neighborhood and what it was like growing up in it. And thank you for answering my questions
CLW: No problem.
MPO: Alright, let’s get started! Where and when were you born?
CLW: I was born on November 21st, 1989. I was born here in Detroit in Hutzl Hospital.
MPO: And what neighborhood did you grow up in?
CLW: I grew up and still reside in Aquarius/Saint Mary’s community. Saint Mary’s and West McNickles area right outside of Rosedale park on Detroit’s northwest side.
MPO: How was it like growing up in your household?
CLW: My household is…it’s pretty funny when I talk to people about this. Because me and my mom we lived in one house and literally right next door my grandparents lived next door so anytime I kinda got sick of going from one place I’d say “ok, I’ll go bang on another door and be let in.”. So it was a very cohesive household, very supportive full and vibrant all the time always the tv going, maybe always some music going, always an activity to do. I’d say our community was probably the same with that. There were kids on the block and there were older people, you know lots of sitting on the porch, lots of community talks…things to do in the summer time, and the winter time would be so cold, but you would still see some of the same people. So very cohesive and supportive…much so a village taking-you know taking a village to raise a child mentality. So yea, I remember that as a kid.
MPO: Was it an integrated neighborhood?
CLW: Mostly black. You had a few white families left over from maybe the 70s, 60s or 70s my grandmother used to say, but mostly black. Id say in the 90 of percentile black.
MPO: Ok…you were saying as a kid that it was very like…villagey. And what would you say you did for fun, with like the other kids on the block?
CLW: I remember summers I had a friend that stayed about two or three houses down, she lived there a really really long time every year. And every summer we would be outside playing from maybe 9 in the morning to 9 at night when the street lights came on because then we knew, “Ok we gotta migrate to somebodies front porch or somebodies mother could watch us at the end of the day, or we had to just go inside at that point.” But we did that for basically the whole summer with the expectation of times where maybe somebody went out of town on a family vacation or being enrolled in a summer program, where most of your days you’d be somewhere else…but we stayed outside all the time so…it was a combination of we used to love to take dolls, and do their hair. And braid their hair and put all types of stuff…you know barrettes and beads and stuff like that, lil girlie stuff. We would paint our nails; one time we would distressed some jeans…on the side walk with some spray paint (interviewee laughs), we dug up dirt, you name it! All types of stuff, we played tag when some of the other kids…maybe they didn’t live in our community, but some other people in the community would invite their nieces or nephews or grandkids over. We knew who they were too. So we’d all be outside, red light green light, playing tag doing all types of stuff. I remember that in the summer, not so much in the winter cause nobody really likes the cold. But in the summer all types of kid games, you name it.
MPO: Seems very welcoming…would you say you felt pretty safe?
CLW: I would say so. I would say so.
MPO: What would you say that your parents just did for work while you were growing up?
CLW: My mom was-or still is an occupational therapist, and at the time she was working for the state. So it was a regular 9 to 5 types of job. My grandparents next door kept me most of the time when she was at work, during the day and I would of course visit on the weekends because they were right next door. My granddad I remember as a kid he worked at Chrysler and then he retired in 1995, so my grandma also a home maker the whole time. So I spent so much time with my grandmas, literally my roll doll still to this day. (Nods affirmatively to interviewer) So she was able to stay home…and I remember learning to read with her, learning to sew with her, seeing her cook and having to clean up and complain with her, go to the grocery store with her. She would pick me up from school, drop me off for school, go get ice cream with her after school. She would take me to some of my after school activities if they were off site…so yea, she was able to do a lot of that stuff.
MPO: Speaking of school, where did you go to school say, elementary, middle, high school?
CLW: Elementary and middle school I went to Chrysler king catholic school, which is on 6th mile and Grand River-or McNickles and Grand River. We call it 6th mile in the city anyway. And high school I went to Renaissance High School on Detroit’s west side as well.
MPO: Oh ok, what were they like?
CLW: Totally different. Private school, catholic school was very strict…it was a wonderful experience though. I hear a lot of people say they didn’t like catholic school, I liked it. At the time it was annoying to have to wear uniforms, but it really did teach you structure I think for the rest of your life. Very small class sizes, I think my graduating 8th grade class was 17 kids. In middle school, you know where everyone has lockers and changes classes? We didn’t have lockers…we took our books and we carried them across the hall, there were only three teachers in the middle school department…and then of course your specials teachers, your elective teachers too…but very different. We had to wear uniforms, I remember our earrings couldn’t be bigger than the size of a quarter. (Interviewee laughs) Your hair had to be neat, you know you had to wear a belt, your stocks had to be neat, shoes could only be a certain color, and…it was strict, but really really great! Excellent teachers that cared. It was an urban private school environment which I valued so much. So there were only a hand full of nonblack kids in my class, most of us were black. So you know you had every walk of life in there. High School and public schools much different. Obviously much larger…must of the kids went to other public schools before, so they came in knowing each other. I didn’t know a soul, because I was the only person who came from my school…much more independence, lockers…much more loudness in the hallways. We couldn’t be that loud in private school in the hall…public school was a lot more robust…I would say overall was a good social experience, it was just very very different. I didn’t struggle acclimating cause I was already too social probably for my own good, but very different night and day. Night and day. We went from having 17 kids in my class in private school. My graduating class was like 160 at Renaissance, which I hear is still small for public schools…like Cass tech is even BIGGER than that, I couldn’t imagine that…but I remember our class sizes at the time with DPS were off the chain. So my first two days of school at Renaissance, we had 50 kids in the computer class…5 0!
MPO: Wow…
CLW: And so they had to transfer some of these kids out, cause some of these kids in health…or some other gym that could hold that many kids…but yea at the end it was 35 kids, on 35 computers. Ill never forget that because that was crazy and a hot classroom to me…
MPO: Pretty much a full class!
CLW: Right Right Right! It was two classes, two of my regular private school classes so that was interesting. But totally different but both pretty good experiences for what they were.
MPO: Mmhmm, would you say that you have any memorable childhood stories when growing up through like…just in your neighborhood and in school and what not?
CLW: Hmmm…(Interviewee laughs) so many. Ooooh wow. I remember…my friend down the street, and I could probably say she was my best friend probably growing up, we knew each other from like 7, 8 years old up until…end of high school. I was maybe a year older than her,, so I left first. But she lived about 2, 3 houses down. Boy she had these cousins…that were crazy! Yea I remember getting into a fight with the boy cousin on-(interviewee laughs)-on the sidewalk, I remember that! I can’t remember…I had to be in middle school but, you know I’m sure now we’d be fine. I may not even know him if I see him these days, he might look different you know, but I remember he used to come over and he was ok. He was just a boy, and he was doing you know what boys do was irritate the girls when they in middle school, and…he would say some crazy stuff and I don’t remember what he said to me, but I remember…it may have been something I’ve always been short, and people teased me my whole life for being short, and one day I just got tired of it. I remember shoving him on the side walk and tussling with him…yea. And then kinda getting up a few minutes later…alright where we going next yall? Whatchall wanna do now? You know? Stupid stuff like that, I remember stuff like that, so I remember that…similarly like I said before I remember other peoples kids coming over, nieces and nephews, and they’d come over once a week. And I remember us…having this real massive game of Red Light, Green Light. 10 kids or something, which was rare cause normally there were about 4 of us, maybe 3. And boy we played out there…somebodies mamma had to come out on the front porch and yell at us to come in the house, it was after 10 o clock, I remember that. But good times…good times.
MPO: Mmhmm…sooo when you were growing up, did you venture out in the city a lot outside your neighborhood? Or did you mainly stay inside your neighborhood?
CLW: It was a mix. It was a mix. When I went outside of the neighborhood it was because, you know my grandma wanted to go somewhere, or I had some activity outside of the community. I did a lot of stuff in suburban neighborhoods, but not necessarily…in their neighborhoods. Maybe, take for instance I remember going to The Y as a kid. There was a Y near Grand River and Beach Daily, its not that anymore I think it’s a school now, and next door used to be a Kroger and its now a Spartans food store. It was a Y right there so that’s Redford going into Livonia, stuff like that. We’d go there and meet kids for swim class and other activities but…I didn’t go into their neighborhoods cause they-you know I didn’t go over to their houses. So it was a lil different.
MPO: When you were venturing around, where did you go for like shopping, you know for grocery stuff and clothes and stuff like that?
CLW: Alright grocery store was that Kroger. My grandma loooooved Kroger. Back then there was Farmer Jack too. Farmer Jack…you know they had one…it was like 7 mile and Livernois and they had one in Livonia too so we would pick one, that was where groceries were. You didn’t have all these extra grocery chains back then, you either went to Kroger or you went to Farm Jack, or the corner store…as far as clothes we went to Livonia mall, back when Livonia mall existed. Now it’s the little Walmart and the Sears is still there, but it was a mall with a movie theater in there.
MPO: Really?
CLW: (Interviewee nods) On 7 mile and Middle Belt. We went there, I remember also down the street, Wonderland Mall, that’s not a mall anymore. Wonderland is Plymouth and Middle Belt now. That’s the Target, the Chilis, the Walmart, that was a mall. They had a Jeepers in there…and I remember I think they had a movie theater in there too. Went to Northland a few times when Northland was open. I looooove Northland back in the day. And they had a Jeepers too, they had Macys, JC Pennies…I remember that, and Fair Lane is still there, went there. Value City in Westland, I think that was near Westland Mall. Value City doesn’t even sell clothes anymore, the few that they have sell furniture now, back then, Value City had everything. Burlington you name it. My mom is an extreme shopper, so we went to all those places. I got drug in there whether I wanted to go or not. So…
MPO: So you were saying earlier that you felt safe in your neighborhood. When you were venturing around the city or the nearby suburban neighborhoods, like when you were going around the in city, did you feel comfortable?
CLW: I would say so.
MPO: Yea?
CLW: You don’t really have any fear like that as a kid.
MPO: When you’re growing up?
CLW: Yea, its adulthood that you get the fears.
MPO: When you start recognizing it.
CLW: Mmmhmmm
MPO: Would you say back then to now that your neighborhood has changed in some way?
CLW: Greatly. Greatly!
MPO: How would you say so?
CLW: For one back then everyone owned their homes. Everyone owned their homes. You had a mix of…older people, younger working people, middle age people that might work, might not work. Everybody owned their homes so…some of the neighbors that we had lived there a decade plus. People like my grandparents have been living there since the 60s…you know? And now that’s not the case. You started getting a lot of the older people that started dying out or you had, I remember about 2007, 2008…was that big recession so a lot of people lost their homes. And a lot of people that worked in the plants, and when the economy tanked, they lost their homes. So then you got this influx starting in of a lot of renters. Which I don’t want to classify renters as being bad people cause everybody deserves and should have a nice place to live. But when you start getting renters in your homes, a lot of times they move out quicker because rent could go up…ownership of the home could change, you name it. It could be some issues that weren’t fixed and they found somewhere else better, you don’t know. So a lot of rental properties now, where people used to own those homes. So you may get new neighbors every year, you may get a new neighbor-somebody might live somewhere for 9 months, then you got somebody new. A lot of the people that we get, we have a lot of…hullett housing, section 8 now which that wasn’t the case with those rental properties. And again not to classify those people as being criminals or anything its just the different mindset, cause a lot of those people have bounced around in that community, they lived around the corner the year before that. Now they live on your block. Next year they live up by Evergreen. And year after that-you know its all kinda within that zip code. And so they don’t think long term. They don’t think about staying. Sometimes people-you will come home, people will get set out, and I don’t know if you know what that is but that’s when they evict somebody or someone has to leave quick, and they leave everything in the house. So now you gotta put all their furniture and all their essentials, whatever was left in that house on the corner…on the curb until the truck comes to get it that week. The balt pickup truck.
MPO: Yea…
CLW: So you get a lot of that. With so many transient people, there’s a lot more crime now. There’s a lot of car theft in my neighborhood now.
MPO: Yea…
CLW: Id say in the past 10…10 15 years lots of car theft. Broad daylight car theft, you name it. Night time car theft, the opportunity is right car theft, it doesn’t matter. There’s been a rise in…home invasions too. Again, daytime home invasions, nighttime-it doesn’t matter.
MPO: Yea.
CLW: Are you home or not? They don’t care, they’re coming in there, where that wasn’t the case. That wasn’t the case when I was a kid. You may have had isolated incidents here and there, you always had some sort of crime, but that’s normal. In every neighborhood you’re going to have an issue but now-
MPO: Of course.
CLW: Now it’s much different.
MPO: Wow, would you ever think about moving away?
CLW: I did move away.
MPO: Really?
CLW: I went to North Carolina for 7 years. I went to undergrad in Winston Salem North Carolina, Winston Salem State University, cause I was like “I gotta get out of here”. When I left Detroit, it was dying. Things were being burnt down or torn down. What was being built?
MPO: Mmmhmmm
CLW: Midtown now is this fancy thing…Downtown now looks good. It didn’t look like that when I left so I was like “I’m ready to go now!”, and I did miss it, cause I am not really a fan of the south to be honest but…it was ok to get out. Cause then you start realizing what you had and how you could make it better, and how much you actually miss it. So I ended up coming back here, obviously.
MPO: So when someone says the term “neighborhood”, what does that mean to you in your past neighborhood, and what it is now? Would you say…what does it mean to you?
CLW: Back then, it would mean more of community.
MPO: Mmhmm
CLW: Not just a living community, but a community in general. Where people come together…regardless of how they come together, they come together. Now…there’s some elements of community coming back, but not really. Now its just where you live.
MPO: So it’s just mainly where you live, would you say it’s a revolving door community? Like you were saying people were consistently moving around?
CLW: Mmmhmm, yep. Mmhmm!
MPO: I feel like you’ve kinda already answered this but…your state of your neighborhood, much crime. How would you want to change that? As in what would you like to do…as in like a project for your neighborhood.
CLW: Wow…well its funny you bring that up cause that’s kinda of what I’m in the process of now.
MPO: Really?
CLW: Mmhmm, I mentioned before, you know off record that…both of my degrees are in music. And they’re in voice, and I’ve started up a private voice study. When I originally was looking for a place to give lessons, of course it kinda started around the Midtown, Wayne State area, cause that’s where I was every day for like 3 years. I am very familiar with that neighborhood, but I got to thinking about it…why does everything we have in the city have to be either down town, mid-town, courttown, or any other cute lil town name that they call em? Why? Why? And instead of trying to find a place in the suburbs to give lessons, I found a church in our community. They used to be bustling with outreach stuff.
MPO: Really?
CLW: Mmhmm, when I was a kid, I used to go there for gymnastics for years. They had all these classes, parents could pay and there kids could come in on whatever weekday that class was and they’d take that class. And they’d go for weeks. They no longer have that stuff and the church is...suffering now. And I talked to one of the ministers and told him what I wanted to do and offered a contract of “Hey I wanna give lessons here, can I use this space here, I think this would be a really good idea. And I think it would help this community”. That’s where I’m starting, in the comm-literally about 6 blocks away from where I live. So it’s actually giving opportunities to students. A lot of our kids in our communities…our not exposed to classical music.
MPO: Mmhmm
CLW: Or they’re not exposed to private lessons. Take for instance I didn’t grow up poor, you know but it is a lil different, culturally for me. So private lessons are a normalized thing for our white counterparts. At 16 years old, they’re kids have been taking private voice lessons, this was year one or two for them. My first private lesson, was when I went to college.
MPO: Mmhmm
CLW: And I always feel like im playing catchup.
MPO: Yea.
CLW: And its just different. Most of our kids we don’t even think that’s a thing.
MPO: Mmhmm
CLW: But it can be a thing. But you have to show and implement better. So that’s my thing, I think if we try to put more…opportunities in our communities and expose our kids. You know I’m not so worried about the grown ups cause, it is what it is. Either they’re going to do it or they’re not going to do it. But you can always change a kid, you can always redirect a child. So if we kinda put things in to incentivize them…perhaps that will change the culture of the neighborhood and perhaps people will feel like they wont have to have a revolving door. They can come in and stay…and you know change the culture.
MPO: Do you think this will show more of an impact in the foreseeable future or more generationally wise? If this gets off the ground and what not.
CLW: I…I think a lil bit of both, in the beginning to get kinda something rolling. But I think it could make a difference…it takes just one ripple, to start a wave. Just one ripple. But eventually…other ripples grow from that, you know? So I think it’s a combination of both.
MPO: Ok. How do you feel about the state of this city today and where it’s going?
CLW: I have really mixed feelings about where it’s going. On one hand, I feel like there are wonderful initiatives. I think leadership is doing a good job of new startup projects for people. I think midtown, downtown, courttown is booming! There are some good restaurants here, there are some good cultural opportunities here. Museums, festivals, outdoor festivals, you know so many different programs that are happening, and some of them are a lil affordable, some of them a lil more costly, and some of them are free! I think that’s a really good thing for people to have access to in the community. However, my concern for Detroit is…why are only some of the neighborhoods are having this exclusive push? What is going on with that? You know if I’m at Wayne State…I’m not even going to put it there cause Wayne State I know has private police and they’re part of Detroit police but it’s still different. If I’m in North End, or New Center and I call the police, they’re coming. Because it’s the neighborhood with the hospitals, newer homes, young professionals are living there, some businesses are there. They’re coming. And they’re coming, relatively quick. But when I call the police from my neighborhood, there have been times where I’ve waited hours. After the home was broken into in 2015, we waited for about 4 hours for someone to come check it out. 4 HOURS! It’s unacceptable.
MPO: Totally agree.
CLW: Really 15 minutes is slow, but 4 hours is unacceptable. But why is it that certain neighborhoods are better patrolled than others? Why is it that certain neighborhoods have more businesses than others? Why are certain opportunities in some places? Why don’t we have some of that stuff in some of our other neighborhoods, some of our more neglected neighborhoods. And we are truly neglected in every sense of the word, the car insurance is higher where I live. I understand the formula has something to do with car theft and accidents and our roads aren’t good in the state period, and that they calculate all that, but when I move to specific neighborhoods my monthly premium goes down $100, what is that? And you already know the population of some of these neighborhoods in Detroit is poor. So you’re monopolizing off of poor people what is that? Its corporate greed, so why are some neighborhoods are profiting and others are not? And so I think, again, in one direction you have growth and diversity in Detroit but in another direction you know people are forgetting about who was here when no body wanted to be here. You know there is a population of people who did not leave whether they didn’t want to, whether they couldn’t you name it. Why is the same support not here for those people?
MPO: Mmhmm, and that brings up a good point of people still being here and there are people who obviously left. For those not living in Detroit say like in the state of Michigan, or maybe across America or maybe outside the world. If they go to Detroit or they think about Detroit, what would you like them…if you had a message to send about Detroit to others who’re not from Detroit, what would you want them to know?
CLW: We are not…Gotham. And I’ve corrected people very aggressively in public before because of their negative connotation. And they-sometimes they don’t even know what they’re saying is offensive but it is offensive. I corrected somebody at Hop Cat about 2 years ago in the bathroom when they came in and they didn’t think I wasn’t going to say anything to em. Hold on, we’re not living in Gotham here. You know this is not the Dark Knight movie. You know we are regular people, with regular jobs, some of us have more needs than others. Also one thing I would like to really say, and I’m perfectly fine with this being on record but…Detroit is majority black city, still does not equate to being Gotham because its majority black. That’s not why we have high crime. That’s not why we have blight in the city. That’s not why we don’t have certain amenities. It’s the choice in the connotation blackness in density is viewed as. So just because we are from the city, and just because we are mostly black, and just because there are even more minorities living here than black people, doesn’t mean this is a negative place, doesn’t mean you can’t thrive, doesn’t mean you can’t visit. Just like going to any other major city, you have to keep your guard up, and be watchful and be mindful of what’s going on around you. It’s a good place with a lot of history to visit. There are things to do, even in the snow. Just stop talking and come give us a try. And then perhaps your perception will be changed.
MPO: Well I am all done with my questions, do you have anything else you’d like to say before we end this?
CLW: I think that’s it!
MPO: Alright thank you so much for taking the time!
CLW: Thank you!
MPO: And this is the end of the recording.
[End of Track]

Search Terms

Detroit, Michigan, Northwest Detroit, Rising Crime, Rentals, Public Services, Public Renovation, Housing Crises

Citation

“Calebria Webb,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed January 24, 2021, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/769.

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