Monday, October 19, 2009

The Seventies - Part II

Stranger in a Strange Land
Robert Heinlein (A favorite author )

We moved to Ann Arbor in August 1970, and into our new home on our 16th Wedding Anniversary where we continued a moving tradition.  Moody goes to work on moving day and I stay with the movers.  He leaves from the old house and returns to the new place.  Instead of going out for dinner, a special home cooked meal is planned.

Moody with David and Corey

At the time, Ann Arbor's Black population was very small (It is still less than 9%.) and there had been racial incidents in the city and schools.  When our son, David, graduated from high school in 1974, he had less than 15 Black students in his graduating class.  By the time Corey and Cameron finished, there were more Black students.

Ann Arbor is kid friendly and very diverse because of the University.  We began to have friends from all over the world. We didn't realize it at the time, but the boys were being prepared for a multicultural world.

We were the only Black family in the neighborhood and the only problem we had was a neighbor next door.  He definitely wasn't ready for us.  He would lay down a string when he cut his grass to make sure he only cut on his property, watched the boys when they cut our grass or a serviceman came to work, told our friends not to park in front of his house, and came over often in an attempt to harass us. It was downright funny when he watered his lawn because he had a hard time keeping the sprinkler only on his property.  He was so distressed that he finally moved.

Cameron in the early 70s

The best neighbors in the world, part of the Ludema family

First day of school, 1971

Family - Mid '70s

Nineteen-seventy was the year six Black men were killed by local policemen in Augusta, Georgia and school desegregation was still being fought in courts.  Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, signed into law a bill that prohibited the busing of students "for any purpose or any reason without the written permission of the parent or guardian." Protests against integration were held in the North and South. This made Moody's job very relevant. Additionally, students at the University of Michigan had just staged the Black Action Movement, securing demands for 10% African American student enrollment and increased African American faculty.

Moody's job meant traveling to districts and universities all over the country.  He was conducting research and workshops, testifying in Courts, writing grants and continuing his study of Black Superintendents.  The following article can explain PEO much better than I can. (Click article to read full size.)

He finished his doctorate and instead of a party we went with a group of friends to see Muddy Waters at a club in downtown Chicago.  We didn't know that they were recording the session, and as usual asked Muddy for a particular song.  We had been following him for years in small bars and clubs in Chicago and he was familiar with our requests. Years later, I brought home a new album by Muddy, and gave it to Moody.  All of a sudden he shouted, "It's our song."  The album was recorded on graduation night and you could hear Muddy dedicating "She's Nineteen Years Old" to his friends from Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Wow.  We were overjoyed.

True riches can be measured by the friends one has and we have been blessed with many. The Moores went to Central State with us and they welcomed us to Ann Arbor as soon as we arrived.  They made sure we got to meet their friends and introduced us to their Church, Bethel A.M.E., which we promptly joined.

Our home was always filled with students and professors working on research projects, seminars, or just wanting to talk about a dissertation.

Moody and Freddie, one his doctoral students.  We loved to mess up Freddie's afro so he would have to pat it back in order.  Freddie was pretty and always had a beautiful woman on his arm.

By 1971, I had a full time job, working as a human relations specialist and assisting the social studies coordinator. A report was written our first year in Ann Arbor called the Humaness Report that sought more integration and inclusion in the district. Our focus was integrating multiculturalism into the curriculum.  This was extremely difficult at the time because some people were not ready to make changes to the curriculum and others didn't believe that people of color had done enough to be included.  Still, there were many who embraced the new ideas and helped Ann Arbor become one of the early districts to embrace multiculturalism. You'd be surprised at the ugly mail you get when you have a position like this, but it goes with the territory.

Party at our home to meet the new superintendent, Bruce McPherson, as he talks with the Moores.

After a couple of years a new superintendent came to town and he made me take a job as a building administrator.  When I said made, I mean it.  At first he asked and I said no.  So he looked at me and figured out how to do it.  He eliminated the job I had.  Therefore, I had to take the job.

It was a middle school with three houses (grades 6,7,8) and instead of principals, they called us House Leaders.  I kept that job for about three years.  Loved the kids but missed teaching and went back two years as a teacher at Burns Park.  That lasted about two years.  Bruce only stayed a couple of years and we became good friends. Then another new superintendent recruited me into central administration as Coordinator for Staff Development and Multicultural Education, a position I held until I was hired by Eastern Michigan University as an assistant to the Dean in the College of Education in the '80s.

Halloween was big at Burns Park.  Yes, that's me in my husband's uniform.

I was one of those teachers who liked to dress up when teaching a particular subject

As the boys grew, so did my responsibilities at work.  Since Moody traveled a lot, I was often responsible for cooking breakfast and getting the boys off to school, instead of him.  This was a tragedy in our house, because as I said earlier, I love my bed. They had to leave earlier than me and would wait for me to call them before they got up. They loved my running down the hallway, clapping my hands, and telling them to get up because we were late. They still imitate me when we have family gatherings. Their next words would be, "burnt toast" as they knew my rushing around would produce an ill-prepared meal.

We have always been big on entertaining.  I think it's because when I was little we always had a house full of people.  One memorable party was the one we gave for Jesse Jackson when he received an honorary degree from Michigan. This is when he was in his prime and over 200 people attended, not all invited.  People came from everywhere.  Fortunately, the weather was nice and we could use the back yard in addition to the house.  Friends helped prepare the food, people brought their children to meet him and have their picture taken, flowers were everywhere, the music was soft and smooth, and no one wanted to leave and go home.

Chris and Hank at the party

Lunch with two friends, Letitia and Joetta


  1. A lot of interesting history here. Was Jesse Jackson fun? What was the subject you were teaching when you wore the blue dress? - Yes, I took the picture in my last post - also the background picture for the blog title. I've become a fiend ever since I got my digital camera.

  2. Yes, Jesse and his entire family are fun. At the party it was so crowded that he ate his fried chicken standing at the stove. We've been friends since the 60s. Once, we were in a receiving line together and he introduced Moody as his father. No one questioned him. We cracked up afterwards.

    I was teaching about Africa. I got the dress as a gift from an exchange student we had from Nigeria.

    Your pictures are so gorgeous. I understand being a fiend. I have over 7000 photos on my computer, a notebook full of photo cds, and so many boxes of pictures that I'm scanning that I don't think I'll finish before 2025. Hope I live that long.

  3. You have touched and been touched by so many. Such a blessed life you have lived, Christella. Love your memories.

  4. Very interesting! I feel like I was reading a history lesson with a lot of personal touch!

    Driving from work today I heard a song that reminder of the 80s - thought I'd do a post about it, but I don't have history like you do!

  5. Wow! I love your blog! I have a blog that features African-American photos from the 1950s and 1960s. I'd love to do a post about this blog... your photos are amazing. Such history.

    Also, I'm from Chicago too!

  6. Thanks commenters. Can't tell you how much this blog is helping me make sense of my life. Of course, a lot is left out, but it helps an old person like me remember when we had a life.