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October 09, 1967 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1967-10-09
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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THE POOR OF THE ALL-AMER/CAN CITY
By MARK LEVIN

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homes of the other half

Ann Arbor is an All-American city,
so the Junior Chamber of Commerce
proclaims. It's also as American as
cherry pie, as Rap Brown would put
it.
And in that All-American urban
tradition, Ann Arbor has within its
midst a densely-populated Negro
ghetto rarely penetrated by the
white community and composed
largely of low-income families. And
Ann Arbor's ghetto, like Detroit's
12th Street, jives at night as the
bars, pool halls and rib shacks on
Detroit and Ann Streets begin to fill
up.
Isolated slum districts, by-passed
by modern thoroughfares and placed
conveniently outside the city limits,
also are found as one turns off Miller
Road past a street ironically called
Hatcher Crescent. The deserted
shanties there stand in sharp con-
trast to the new section of the I-94
freeway in the background.
And in the style of American sum-
mer fun, following the Detroit riots
local residents were rudely awaken-
ed to the harsh reality that their
police force was on an around-the-
clock alert. No one had to inform the
Ann Arbor white community where
the trouble was expected. Suddenly,
they knew. As the bars on Ann Street
were closed, tensions rose.
Although a relatively small per-
centage of the community's popula-
tion, low-income families present a
formidable problem about which a
supposedly socially responsible and
exemplary community has almost
entirely forgotten.
As one mother receiving Aid to
Dependent Children (ADC) pay-
ments acidly comments, "They over-
look poverty in Ann Arbor because
they think they're so cultured and
intelligent. It simply can't happen
around such people. Well, all they
have to, go is go into the ghetto and
see the tenements with the smelly
toilets and the heat out of commis-
sion. Go into the hills and the crev-
ices outside the city and see the tar-
paper shacks with pipes that freeze
In the Winter and big gaping holes

in the wall. Then they'll say, my
goodness, what's happening to our
community?' "
Most of the houses of the Ann
Arbor poor are found in the ghetto
which branches out in both direc-
tions from the railroad tracks on the
north side of town. Many of these
frame houses have foundations
above the ground, a sign the house
is at least 30 years old. The roofs are
usually leaky and have been patch-
ed over numerous times. Plumbing
fixtures are a recurring problem due
to the age of the pipes. Until recent-
ly, the stench coming from a local
packing house would cling in the air
all afternoon. One resident reports
that the house he lived in last win-
ter was split down the middle so
that there was a gorge between the
two sections. "The winds would whip
through our house every night. It
was miserable."
Out in the Foss-Fulmer area on
the west, which the city line neatly
skirts, knee-deep flooding is com-
mon when the snow melts in the
spring. Out-houses are still to be
seen and there are times after heavy
rains when waste can be seen run-
ning in the streets. What one can't
tell as you walk down the; streets of
the ghetto or the dirt paths of Foss-
Fulmer is the number of people liv-
ing in each house. The families of
the poor more than often average
six or seven children. One dwelling
consists of a frame house connected
to a trailer, in which- the children-
sleep. The yard of the local office
of the State Highway Department
serves as their playground.
There are no recreational facili-
ties for these children of the poor,
either.. As one local poverty official
explains, "For fun the kids steal
bricks from the construction pro-
jects and take crap from the junk
piles around their homes, It's great
fun."
Housing is athe toughest problem
for the Ann Arbor poor. Almost all
the\ poor are working. But rents are
high. Food costs eat up the rest of

their paycheck. There is almost no
way to save for the future.
In Washtenaw County there are
continually over 70 families waiting
for emergency housing facilities.
While waiting, many families have
been split between different apart-
ment buildings. In one case a woman
lived with her daughter in a one-
bedroom apartment while her sons
were living at the 'Y.' They waited
there for three months. The father
has been gone for three years.
The tightness of the housing
market for both University faculty
and students is ultimately respon-
sible for the immobility and high
rents found within the ghetto com-
munity. The University has failed
to meet the housing needs of an ex-
ploding student population in the
last ten years.
Moreover it has failed to provide
housing for its lower paid faculty
and staff whose stay in Ann Arbor
may -be only temporary. Because
many of these persons will advance
to other colleges and universities
shortly, they don't wish to invest in
building a house. Most of them can't
afford to contract with local build-
ers even if they wish to invest in the
short run, so they take whatever
housing is available. Thus, private
sources have failed to build the nec-
essary amount if low-income hous-
ing. Construction has been -geared
largely to student apartments and
middle-income housing.
More important, it is the housing
that the transient faculty members
and the overflow of students finally
choose that in a normal housing
market would be taken by a low-in-
come family. Therefore, those poor
Negroes living in the ghetto or in
the Foss-Fulmer area o, Ann Arbor
township are forced to stay put.
Whereas older dwellings in Detroit
or Chicago are taken by the poor,
here they are taken by students.
Many of the Ann Arbor poor make
no bones about who is to blame for
the desperate situation in housing.
As one ADC mother put it, "So many
of the people in Ann Arbor living in.

Barton Hills have made their money
renting to us. They've made a for-
tune off the fact that there is no
housing and they don't want to
change the situation. You have to
pay their price or sit in the street."
Another Negro mother with six
children explained, "Landlords in
Ann Arbor are bastards and plenty
of them are colored bastards. If you
are a low-income person you have
no protection from them. They can
cheat you because there is no 'place
to live. You can't fight them or the
police will put you right into the
street."
OEO officials report that plans
made by the Ann Arbor Housing
Commission to build 200 units will
only meet the emergency needs of
the community.
Prof. Albert Wheeler, a microbio-.
logist in the Medical School and
president of the Michigan chapter
of the National Association for the
Advancement of- Colored People sees
another reason behind the fact the
poor in Ann Arbor have few places
to live.
"Lots of the poor folk work here
at the University but can't even live
here in Ann Arbor. The mechanism
of not providing housing makes the
problem appear less severe. Hell,
these ,people live in the slums of
other cities pandcome to Ann Arbor
to work. The poorest end up spend-
ing the longest time coming to
work."
About the plans of the Ann Arbor
-Housing Commission Wheeler is
skeptical: "The Commission eventu-
ally plans to build 200 units, which
is a step in the right direction. But
there is a stipulation that the occu-
pant must have lived in Ann Arbor
for at least a year. Most of the poor
haven't been . able to live in this
stinking town, even though they
have worked here for 10 to 15 years.
Everything seems to conspire to
keep these people out of the com-
munity.
"If -there were any desire on the
part of the community, there are
enough. federal programs to -make

Even though Folk Music itself has seen better
days in terms of record sales and mass audience
appeal, there-is still a place where its fans can":y ,g .
gather to relax and listen to the best of the new
and the traditional sounds.
This place is Newport, Rhode Island, where
each summer the Folk Foundation presents the
Festival.
No matter who they are or where they're from,
everyone ending up in Newport .the week of the
Folk Festival finds something they like.
The Festival was bothered this year by rain,
which threatened all week and actually did wash
out Saturday morning's program.
But no one's spirits were dampened, as favo-
rites like Theo Bikel and Judy .Collins put in
sparkling performances both in their evening con-
certs and in the afternoon- workshops. And theser-
informal afternoon sessions are what really make
the Folk Festival. For a fan can attend all the
evening concerts and hear all the music, but only
at the afternoon events can he swap stories with
Pete Seeger or sing a duet with Joan Baez. 4
Even though the threatening weather madew
accommodations available without reservations
for the first time in years, many of the festival
fans still chose to crash outdoors after the eve
ning concerts,. or on the festival grounds during
the afternoon sessions. Both the Festival Field's
specal police and the Newport gendarmes, touched
perhaps by the spirit of the summer of love, were 4
quite lenient this year with -people sleeping in
off-limits areas. (Some of the formerly "brutal"
police were even seen wearing flowers during this
Newport Festival week.) MUDDY WATERS' BAND AT A WORKSH(
isa
FRIDAY NIGHT CONCEI
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THE NEW LOST CITY RAM
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MUDDY WATERS ON STAGE AN AFTERNOON ON THE
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OCTOBER'67 THE DAILY MAGAZINE OCTOBER'67 THE DAILY MAGAZINE

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