Arietha Walker

Title

Arietha Walker

Description

During this interview Mrs. Walker describes her childhood growing up in the West Grand and Grand River neighbor hood since she moved there in 1986. She discusses how the closing of local business and grocery stores has negatively impacted her neighborhood. She also discusses specific childhood memories that she experienced.

Publisher

Detroit Historical Society

Date

10/21/2018

Rights

Detroit Historical Society

Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Arietha Walker

Brief Biography

Mrs. Arietha Walker was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1982 and moved to the Grand River and West Grand Blvd. in November of 1986. She continues to live in the same neighborhood and has seen how it has changed in the last 22 years. She currently works at the Detroit Historical Museum in the Human Resources department.

Interviewer's Name

Jacob Russell

Interview Place

Detroit, Michigan

Date

10/21/2018

Transcription

Interviewer: Did your mother grow up in the neighborhood too?

Mrs. Walker: My mother grew up in the Ohio/Wisconsin area right off of grand river, so not far from where we live now but it may be one neighborhood over. It’s straight down Grand River it’s a straight shot.

Interviewer: Where and when were you born?

Mrs. Walker: I was born in [inaudible] Brooklyn New York in 1982.

Interviewer: When did you move to the Detroit neighborhood?

Mrs. Walker: So my mother was born here she had my brothers and I so mid 80’s maybe 85 or 86. We moved into that house the day after Thanks Giving 1987.

Interviewer: so you were about 5 years old?

Mrs. Walker: yes

Interviewer: what was the neighborhood like when you grew up there?

Mrs. Walker: It was a place of senior citizens and kids. You saw a lot of kids on my block and the surrounding blocks. I’m one block up from west grand Blvd. which was very family centered as well. So a lot of senior citizens and kids.

Interviewer: What were the demographics like of that neighborhood?

Mrs. Walker: It was definitely one race, African American.

Interviewer: and what is it like now?

Mrs. Walker: There is a growing Hispanic population among black. Most of the house were burned down/torn down or vacated. So of the people that still live there there are a lot of renters, not a lot of family’s that were there from 10-20 years ago. Just a couple of us.

Interviewer: when did the houses start being torn down?

Mrs. Walker: More recent this happen in the last 10-15 years that blight that happened. Kind of around the time of Kwame Kilpatrick.

Interviewer: What did you do for fun?

Mrs. Walker: I was a nerd I read books stayed around the home stead but my brothers would get on their bike go with their friends they would go everywhere. We are talking back in the day of ding-dong ditch, basketball. My family was really big into go-carts. My uncle would come and bring go-carts. There’s a school right behind us we would go in the lot or even in the streets and ride us around in go-carts. But really we had swings in our backyard so a lot of kids would come to our house and play on the swings and with the basketball hoop. Id stay by the homestead but my brothers would venture out and do ridiculous things.

Interviewer: What school was that? North Western?

Mrs. Walker: North western is across Grand River. The school right behind me was an alternative school for like if you injured your self, needed more time to finish, or even handicap accessibility that’s where kids went back than.

Interviewer: what were the stores like? Did you go shopping a lot?

Mrs. Walker: oh man all of them are all of the stores in that kind of one to two block radius are like gone now. There was a store on Grand River maybe three blocks down next to the fire station there and within the last five years it was robbed and the owner was shot so he sold it. No he didn’t sell it. They burned it down and probably took the insurance pay out on it. But I guess his family wanted him out of the neighborhood for a really long time now. It was a small liquor store where you could get snacks in it. There was a grocery store on the Blvd. that we shopped at for years because that was like our neighborhood store. And that went through ownership different owners and finally that burned down as well. Typically that seems to be the trend. We had a candy store that was right down my street maybe two blocks down and I think they tore it down within the last couple years. Its been vacant for about 10 years.

Interviewer: Do you think that closing of the stores caused a lot of the residents to move out?

Mrs. Walker: I think a lot of the residents moving out caused that. When family’s left the neighborhood. I don’t want to sound like my grandma but when the family’s left a lot of the rift raft came in. Living in a neighborhood where there are a lot of senior citizens. Those folks bought their homes. They owned them. When they left if their family’s or if they didn’t have kids or if the kids didn’t care about their property it became vacant so vacancy so folks are stealing, stealing property, taking pieces off the houses and reusing it. Than there’s broken windows there’s an infestation of rats. So there going to beg the city to come tear it down. So I think that’s what happen. People died and their family’s didn’t care about the houses or the houses went to the city. That ownership left with that generation.

Interviewer: Where did you go to school at? Was it in that neighborhood?

Mrs. Walker: Yes I did. On Tiremann there’s a school. James B Weber middle school was what it was called. Its called Weber Samson school of technology now and its still open there’s an elementary school right behind it but I think that’s been closed since I been in high school. But I went to weber from third grade to 8th grade and than I went Cass for high school.

Interviewer: Was North Western open?

Mrs. Walker: yes it was. It was different because now its called North Western prep or something I think it became a charter school. It was open. But it wasn’t a school my mother was going to send her kids too. It wasn’t the best school to go to.

Interviewer: did it close for a while?

Mrs. Walker: I think it might of have. From age 18 to 27 I was in the U.P. but I think they may closed down and than they put a lot of money into it and now it became a charter school I think. They have a football team and everything though. During the school year you know kids are attending the school cause you see them in the neighborhood. You see them everywhere.

Interviewer: Do you have any stories fro your childhood?

Mrs. Walker: It was a community so we could be walking home from school if we were fighting or just being loud and obnoxious when we got home my mother would know because folks called. We see your kid’s they’re doing whatever or just even you just got that sense of community. You could get a spanking from someone else’s mom. It definitely was a community. I remember one of the few times I went out with my brothers this is how I realized they played that lovely ding dong ditch. We ha d a Yorkhee dog. I was walking her I was with my brother and their friends. We were on a side street one of our side streets. We are walking and all of a sudden they are on this persons porch and I’m like what are you guys doing they are knocking and ringing the door bell and all of a sudden everyone takes off running and im a heft woman now and I was pudgy girl than and I had this dog and I was not going to go running what was I suppose to do so I just kept walking my dog and one of the people in the house got in their car and was driving around looking for the kids who did it which makes me think they did it often. He stopped by and said hello miss. He thought I was older I always looked older than I was so I probably was 10 or 12 and looked like I was in high school. So he was like miss have you seen any kids running this way and I was like nope just out walking my dog. We use to curse like sailors so I cussed my brothers out for that. Other than that it was just safety my brothers were normally. There was this huge house a lot of the house along west grand Blvd. are either really big two to four bed room flats. So there was a family right behind us next to the high school on the Blvd. there were siblings and there were cousins so it was a lot sides of the family in the house. We were all friends and I actually babysat a lot of there little kids when I was in high school. That’s where my brothers would always be or they would be in our back yard. It was a good environment to raise kids whether those kids were bad or not.

Interviewer: Was there a strong police presence in the neighborhood?

Mrs. Walker: No it was rare to see police and it was rare to see white people. If something happened my mom would throw block party’s where the old school way where they would cut off the ends of the blocks with trucks. And there would be games and just food and things people could play. Well it was nearing the end of the party and the trucks have been moved and someone came down driving really fast and hit a kid cause the kids were still playing in the street. So that was one of the few times I remember the police being in the neighborhood cause we just didn’t see them that often.

Interviewer: How has the neighborhood changed through the years? Has it slumped down and started to come back up?

Mrs. Walker: one of the areas I remember my mom driving around because it is very close to us is Dexter Blvd. and as a kid I remember thinking the houses are huge the grasses are green were just mowed. We were good with it but they were just great. I remember thinking kind of just how the grass was greener on the other side. That to were a lot of older not like the older people on my block but more people who were working and maintaining there home and you saw the kids and it was just a different world. Now you drive down there and it just different city its just like if its not ours they just don’t care for it. That’s what I see going around the city. Where before we owned it was ours and if it looked like crap we didn’t want it to look like that. Now they jus don’t care.

Interviewer: have you ever thought about moving away?
Mrs. Walker: I am prime location in the city. I wouldn’t mind being mid town adjacent I don’t want to be in midtown. I don’t feel like its welcoming to people I feel like I’m treated like I’m new here when actually I grew up here. I’m treated like I’m the visitor instead of a lot of the owners in their businesses now there the visitors so the (inaudible) is happening which doesn’t make me want to be in mid town but adjacent. But the house I grew up in and live in I’m close to all major freeways I’m centrally located its just great place. My friend’s come to visit and there just like this is awesome. Your not directly in the thick of it its just right off the city but you know its safe. The other side of the Blvd. we didn’t venture Toeben when we were kids. Its right across but not across the freeway its still on our side. Where they sold a lot for drugs they weren’t older they were younger on that side. Where you would be like in your mid 20’s with 6 or 7 kids. I’m not being generic I’m actually this is legit that was the setting it was kind of like mid town in the 70’s like you knew it was nothing but pimps and hookers they sold drugs over there. We weren’t allowed. We didn’t cross the Blvd.

Interviewer: what do you consider the perimeter of your neighborhood?

Mrs. Walker: so when you get to Tireman which is so I am two block up from Tirman. Two full blocks o our street so if you go up 5 blocks and than if you go up Tireman if you go up maybe three block that would be kind of like you knew the people living in those house you see them everyday. That sense of community if they saw you walking down the street and look like you have been beaten up they would pull you into their house and call the police. They knew you even if they didn’t always see you. So that sense of community as far as I am aware it might even be farther than that. The kids we associated with the senior citizens we knew id say that span.

Interviewer: How do you feel about the state of your neighborhood today versus when you grew up there? And what would you change?

Mrs. Walker: I feel that definitely with more community growing up that ownership was there. I feel like in the past couple years when I say about senior citizens I am like minded with them since coming back from college iv noticed that younger folks moving into the neighborhood because its affordable for them to rent, where something I never experienced before even as a kid some neighbors a few houses down at 4 a.m. their riding around in their car screaming and drinking I remember going what the hell what do we pay our taxes for I lived here for 20 years and never experienced this like its degraded its water down. Its not a neighborhood that family’s look at and want to move to and that’s what I wish would change. The American dream 20 years ago was to have a picket fence two kids and a dog and even though I feel like that might not have been the minority American dream it wasn’t a reality for them. I feel like that would be where I would like it to go back to. Where that owner ship goes back too.

Interviewer: So where would you go now to go grocery shopping? What is required of you to get groceries?

Interviewee: Actually its right straight off the boulevard more down by Rosa Parks area so right where the start of 67 happened there is a family foods is the closest that’s where I go. It’s a little market.

Interviewer: How far is that away from your house?

Interviewee: I think like a mile away. I’m not very good with that kind of a thing but I don’t believe its more than two miles. There is a true value hardware store on Grand River. I don’t frequent the gas station on grand river because they are ridiculously expensive. And they sell expire foods to you which is a big issue I notice in the city. I actually go off of warren that probably one of the safest places to go to.

Search Terms

Detroit, Michigan, West Grand, neighborhood

Citation

“Arietha Walker,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed April 12, 2021, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/774.

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