AACHM Oral History: Shirley Beckley
Sun, 09/11/2016 - 12:57pm
When: May 5, 2015
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Shirley Beckley was born on July 30, 1942. She was raised by her mother on Wall St. and attended Jones School, Mack School, and Bach Schools in Ann Arbor. Shirley started as a housing manager for the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, later becoming housing director in Lansing and Muskegon. She reminisces about working at Jacobson’s, dances at the Dunbar Center, businesses on Fourth Avenue and Ann Streets, and tense racial incidents in the schools. Shirley continues to be deeply involved in social justice issues at the local level.
- [00:00:16.17] INTERVIEWER: So, good afternoon. We're starting our third phase of our Living Oral History Project. And it's a collaboration with the Ann Arbor District Library and the African-American Cultural & Historical Museum. And phase three, our first person that we're interviewing today, is Shirley Beckley. And we're so glad that she agreed to do this. So Shirley, we're going to start with demographics and family. And so I'm going to ask you some simple demographic questions. And these questions may jog your memory but keep your answers brief and to the point for now. And we can go into more details later in the interview.
- [00:00:55.05] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: OK.
- [00:00:55.65] INTERVIEWER: So first of all, please say and spell your name.
- [00:00:58.82] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Shirley Beckley. S-H-I-R-L-EY. B-E-C-K-L-E-Y.
- [00:01:05.82] INTERVIEWER: What is your date of birth, including the year?
- [00:01:09.16] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: July 30th, 1942.
- [00:01:13.03] INTERVIEWER: How would you describe your ethnic background?
- [00:01:17.44] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I'm African American, among some other things.
- [00:01:21.51] INTERVIEWER: Like most people.
- [00:01:22.43] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Like most people. But African American.
- [00:01:27.49] INTERVIEWER: What is your religion, if any?
- [00:01:30.01] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I grew up in Bethel AME Church as a little girl. And that was Bethel AME. African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- [00:01:43.77] INTERVIEWER: What is the highest level of formal education you have completed?
- [00:01:47.81] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I completed some college. I became I started working for the Ann Arbor Housing Commission. They had a program where they trained you to be a housing director. So I went and got my certification, and became a housing director.
- [00:02:09.40] INTERVIEWER: And what was the time involved in that? Was that like a year or two years in terms of-- to get that certificate?
- [00:02:16.49] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well actually, they took us to a hotel in Detroit. And we were in there for two weeks. And after they did our training, then we had to take a test which was our certification. And if you passed the test, you were certified to be a housing director. So it was a two week program.
- [00:02:40.19] INTERVIEWER: OK. So what is your marital status?
- [00:02:45.41] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I am single.
- [00:02:51.64] INTERVIEWER: Do you have any children?
- [00:02:53.08] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I have three children.
- [00:02:54.33] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:02:55.35] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I have three children. Shireen Jackson, Richard Jackson Jr., and [? Kamako ?] Gulley.
- [00:03:04.94] INTERVIEWER: Oh.
- [00:03:05.40] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I have, I believe, 11 grandchildren. And I have five great grandchildren.
- [00:03:13.11] INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow that's wonderful.
- [00:03:14.45] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes it is. I enjoy them.
- [00:03:17.64] INTERVIEWER: What-- How many siblings do you have?
- [00:03:21.05] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I have no sibblings.
- [00:03:22.43] INTERVIEWER: You're an only child.
- [00:03:23.45] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I was an only child.
- [00:03:25.04] INTERVIEWER: Wow.
- [00:03:25.93] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes. I asked my mother about that.
- [00:03:28.74] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:03:30.02] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: She was 35 when she had me. She said she labored 52 hours. And I weighed 11 pounds when I came out. So she decided never to have any other children.
- [00:03:45.11] INTERVIEWER: That was enough, huh?
- [00:03:46.06] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: That was enough. But she made sure I grew up with all of my cousins, my father's side and my mother's side. So I was with my cousins and grew up with them.
- [00:03:57.97] INTERVIEWER: Well, that's good.
- [00:03:58.91] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes, it was.
- [00:04:00.14] INTERVIEWER: What was your primary occupation? You just talked about that a little bit. You can talk a little bit more about that if you like.
- [00:04:06.32] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I-- As I said, I started as a housing manager here for the Ann Arbor Housing Commission. And then I became a housing director, and went to Lansing and was director over the Okemos Senior Housing. And from there I went to Muskegon Housing, as the housing director.
- [00:04:28.43] INTERVIEWER: That's interesting. Because I grew up in Muskegon, and I lived in Okemos.
- [00:04:32.35] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Did you really?
- [00:04:33.34] INTERVIEWER: I did.
- [00:04:34.46] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Okemos is a different place.
- [00:04:35.91] INTERVIEWER: It certainly is. If you retired, at what age did you retire?
- [00:04:44.71] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I retired in the 80s. That's quite a story, that I won't go into right now. But I ended up having to sue the Housing Commission in Muskegon. And the HUD office. As a result of that, I lost my career.
- [00:05:08.41] INTERVIEWER: OK. And so you can elaborate on that a little bit later then.
- [00:05:12.45] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:05:12.81] INTERVIEWER: OK. That will be good. OK, so that completes part one demographics and family history. Now we're going to go into memories of childhood and youth. What was your family like when you were a child?
- [00:05:26.29] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well my mother-- I started living on Wall Street, which is across Broadway bridge. And it was just my mother and I. I remember being four. But I have pictures of me being a baby there. My father died when I was two. His name was Jimmy Beckley. And then my mother remarried when I was seven. And we moved over on Kings-- West Kingsley. And that's where I grew up, on West Kingsley. I went to Jones School. From there, I went to Mac School. From there, I want to Ball School. And then I want to [? Clawson. ?] And then Ann Arbor Pioneer High.
- [00:06:16.00] INTERVIEWER: So you really have been here, through your whole educational--
- [00:06:19.79] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: For my whole life.
- [00:06:20.83] INTERVIEWER: Your whole life.
- [00:06:21.83] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:06:22.40] INTERVIEWER: That's why we're interviewing you, Shirley.
- [00:06:25.03] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I have been here my whole life.
- [00:06:26.62] INTERVIEWER: OK. All right. So what sort of work did your parents do?
- [00:06:32.10] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: My mother and stepfather worked. My mother was a cook. And my stepfather, Mr. [? Tangston, ?] was the gardener and chauffeur for the Bonisteels. And the Bonisteels, Mr. Bonisteel and his son, also were lawyers here in Ann Arbor.
- [00:06:56.95] INTERVIEWER: I was going to say, because there's something on campus named after the Bonisteels, is there not?
- [00:07:02.03] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: On north campus, there's a street named after Roscoe O. Bonisteel.
- [00:07:06.70] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:07:07.36] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:07:10.65] INTERVIEWER: So what is your earliest memories as a child? You just mentioned four. But what are some of the things that you remember at that age?
- [00:07:22.14] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Oh wow. I remember when I lived on Wall Street I went to-- before I went to Jones School I went to Northside. And there was a little girl, on Wall Street. Her name was Helen. And I remember down the street was the island park. And we weren't supposed to go down there, because it's the Huron River down there. But we took our dolls down there and tied strings around their neck. And we threw them in the water, so they could go swimming. Until our mothers came marching down the sidewalk.
- [00:08:02.04] [LAUGHING]
- [00:08:03.54] I got myself all tore up for going down to the river.
- [00:08:09.83] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:08:10.49] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And that's one that's when I was on Wall Street. I also remember when we moved over on Kingsley, across the street. Now I didn't know this at the time, but we came-- I don't remember. I think it was on Williams Street. But I'm not sure. But there was a laundromat we used to go to. And we went to the laundromat, and there was this lady and her little girl there. Well come to find out, it was Diane Thompson McKnight Morton. And she lived across the street. Now Diane was the daughter of DeLong. Who had the DeLong Bar-B-Q. So we grew up together. And she was an only child, and I was an only child. So we kind of adopted ourselves as sisters.
- [00:09:02.26] INTERVIEWER: And I do know Diane. Diane has been here all her life as well?
- [00:09:06.20] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Diane has been here all her life.
- [00:09:07.96] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:09:08.44] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes. And she serves as a trustee. I know, at Washtenaw Community College.
- [00:09:14.13] INTERVIEWER: Right, right. Were there any special days, events or family traditions you remember from your childhood?
- [00:09:27.34] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: We just all did-- The family always got together. We had a large family. I had a large family on my father's side, which was the McFadden's. And Carol McFadden. And that was my father, Jimmy Beckley's sister. And he also had a sister, Louise Beckley. So when he came here from Tupelo, Mississippi he brought my aunts and my uncle and my grandmother up here to live. So I had that family that I always-- And they lived on Fifth Ave. Right around the corner from Second Baptist Church. On Beakes. And then I had my mother's side, which was the Perkins family. And from that family was Frank and Bebe Walker. Bebe was a barber here. Frank became a teacher. He didn't teach here. He taught in Flint.
- [00:10:28.40] And so his grandmother, who was Grace Jackson, who was my great aunt we always went to their house for all of the holidays. So I was with my family. We always did things together. We had picnics together. And I can't leave out Bethel Church. We grew up in Bethel Church. And Bethel had a youth program. And so we were in the youth choir. And of course we had to usher. And I think that's pretty much it. And go to Sunday school.
- [00:11:07.72] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:11:08.61] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But what I liked about Bethel at that time, at that youth program. We were always doing things there. We had a basketball team. We had cheerleaders, of which I was a cheerleader. Francis Parry was one of the cheerleaders. And Gwen Day was one of the cheerleaders. And my mother made our culottes, which were dark green. And we wore white sweatshirts, and white gym shoes.
- [00:11:37.28] INTERVIEWER: So your mother was a seamstress as well.
- [00:11:39.35] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: My mother was the seamstress as well.
- [00:11:41.43] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:11:41.88] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: As well as a hairdresser.
- [00:11:43.40] INTERVIEWER: OK. She had many talents, skills.
- [00:11:46.06] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Many talents, many skills.
- [00:11:48.15] INTERVIEWER: Now you mention the McFadden's. I know there was a lot of McFaddens that came through the school system.
- [00:11:53.68] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:11:54.27] INTERVIEWER: Is the big family of the McFaddens still here?
- [00:11:57.40] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well, not-- Well, there's three left.
- [00:12:00.13] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:12:02.17] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Brenda, Michelle, and Scottie. Scottie McFadden Scottie lives in Texas, and Scottie graduated from the U of M. He plans to come back here. Brenda's in Mississippi. And Michelle is still here. And the rest have passed on. Now Carol McFadden, who married my aunt Annette, they had eight children. Carol worked as a custodian for the school system. And went to Eastern Michigan at night. And he graduated and got his teaching certificate. And ended up teaching at Clay Middle School.
- [00:12:48.90] INTERVIEWER: That's wonderful.
- [00:12:49.82] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: It was really wonderful. Now when he was a custodian he was at Pioneer as a head custodian. I didn't like that, because he was always looking at my grades.
- [00:13:03.30] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:13:03.71] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And always getting on me
- [00:13:05.76] INTERVIEWER: Checking on you.
- [00:13:06.64] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Checking on me, telling me I saw your grades and you got to do better. So he always kept all of us in check, which was a good thing.
- [00:13:14.67] INTERVIEWER: It's a good thing now when you look at it.
- [00:13:17.08] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes. But as a teenager, he was nerve racking.
- [00:13:20.08] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:13:20.92] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But we respected him, so we of course, did what he said.
- [00:13:25.41] INTERVIEWER: All right. But you also mentioned that you went to one-- aunt's or uncle's for family traditions. Where was their house located, in what part of town?
- [00:13:38.05] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well Annette and Carol lived on Fifth Ave. My aunt, my great aunt lived on Fountain first. And then moved to Gott Street. And from Gott Street, lived on Brooks Street.
- [00:13:59.43] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:14:00.32] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So it was in the west part of Ann Arbor. So in fact, Brooks was right around the corner from Mack school. And that's where I spent most of my time, except-- Well on weekends. Now during the day, when we got out of school we went to the Dunbar Center. The Dunbar Center was named after Paul Dunbar who was a black poet. And that's where we all went when we got out of school, until our parents got out of work.
- [00:14:33.92] INTERVIEWER: And tell me where that was located, what street.
- [00:14:36.66] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: The Dunbar Center houses Washtenaw Legal Aid right now. And that sits on the corner of Fourth Ave. and Kingsley. And so, when we would go there we would go upstairs, and Mrs. Ellis would tutor us. We would do our reading, our writing, and our arithmetic first. And then after that was done, then we would go down in the basement where there was a ping pong table and a pool table. So the girls and boys played ping pong and pool. It got to be, it was a small area. But that's where we went and it didn't bother us. On Friday nights we'd have dances.
- [00:15:21.25] INTERVIEWER: At the Dunbar Center?
- [00:15:22.05] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: At the Dunbar Center. And like the older group, they would have their time there. And then the younger, once we got to be like in junior and senior high, we would have our time to go there. And that was our hangout out, until we kind of got crowded. And then they built the Ann Arbor Community Center for us to go to.
- [00:15:49.98] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:15:50.39] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So as a teenager the Ann Arbor Community Center was built and we went there.
- [00:15:55.21] INTERVIEWER: OK. And when you say built for us to go to, who are you referring to?
- [00:15:59.08] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: The black students. At that time.
- [00:16:01.86] INTERVIEWER: At that time, right. All right. So we're going to move on to part three. And part three is I guess there's a little bit more in this part. OK. So we'll continue with this part. What holidays did you did your family celebrate?
- [00:16:24.86] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: We celebrated all holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving. We always were together at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was the big dinner. And that's when you drew names so that you would bring your gifts at Christmas time. So we drew names.
- [00:16:42.20] INTERVIEWER: At Thanksgiving. So you had a month to shop for your--
- [00:16:45.23] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Right.
- [00:16:45.73] INTERVIEWER: Your gift for Christmas.
- [00:16:46.87] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And because none of us had a lot of money.
- [00:16:48.97] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:16:49.24] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: We drew names, rather than try to buy for everybody.
- [00:16:52.73] INTERVIEWER: Right. That's more practical.
- [00:16:55.67] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:16:56.38] INTERVIEWER: So in terms of those gifts, did you buy them, did you make them? Or, how did--
- [00:17:00.82] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: We bought them.
- [00:17:01.47] INTERVIEWER: You bought them. OK, all right. I thought maybe you had some artistic talents, and people just made things.
- [00:17:08.60] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well, we do.
- [00:17:13.43] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:17:14.22] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But we didn't exchange those. We just gave those as just little trinkets.
- [00:17:20.65] INTERVIEWER: Trinkets. OK. All right. So we asked you which holidays did your family celebrate. The next question is how are holidays traditionally celebrated in your family? And you sort of talked about that a little bit already. Anything else you want to add to that?
- [00:17:37.37] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well, I remember we also-- Halloween was a big time.
- [00:17:41.75] INTERVIEWER: Oh. Talk about that a little bit.
- [00:17:44.45] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: The city used to open up one of the parking lots down on-- I don't know if it's First or Ashley. I can't remember. But somewhere in there. And I remember going there dressing up and going there for a Halloween party. We used to have parties in the parking structures.
- [00:18:06.19] INTERVIEWER: In the parking structure. OK.
- [00:18:07.69] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: That the city would open up for the teens. And I remember going to my great aunt's house and at that time she lived on Fuller. And because they worked for different families, they had all these gowns. And my aunt had this white ermine fur coat. And they were just sitting around in bags. And so I was like, can we wear-- can I wear that for Halloween? And they were like, yeah. So we would dress up in all these furs and gowns, and go to the dance at the--
- [00:18:50.90] INTERVIEWER: Dunbar.
- [00:18:51.79] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: No, not the Dunbar. The parking structure.
- [00:18:54.56] INTERVIEWER: Parking structure, right.
- [00:18:55.33] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: The parking structure. So Halloween was big too. Trick or treating was a big time for us to go out.
- [00:19:01.85] INTERVIEWER: OK. Now I'm going to ask you about that. But I'm going to step back for a minute. And when you said they worked for families. Talk about that. So they got these gowns and furs from--
- [00:19:11.87] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: The families that they worked for.
- [00:19:13.31] INTERVIEWER: OK. All right.
- [00:19:16.62] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: My mother worked for-- I said she worked for the Bonisteels. She also worked for Mrs. Tash. Mrs. Tash I found out later owned the Treasure Mart. She was-- I went in the Treasure Mart with my aunt one day and there was this very old lady sitting there. And her grandchildren were running the store. And they were talking to her. And I asked her what her name was, and she told me her name was Mrs. Tash. She didn't remember me, but I remembered going to her house with my mother. Several times my mother would take me with her. So she worked for Mrs. Tash. And she worked for the Bonisteels.
- [00:20:08.67] INTERVIEWER: OK. And so she worked in the capacity of helping make the food, as a cook.
- [00:20:16.13] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:20:17.03] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:20:18.01] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: She was a cook. Now she was the cook. They hired someone else to clean.
- [00:20:23.59] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:20:24.12] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: My mother was a great cook. She was a gourmet cook. My father, my stepfather, Mr. Tangson, she got him on as the gardener and the chauffeur. So he was the chauffeur and gardener for the Bonisteels. And my mother worked for them until her death in '66. She worked there over 20 years.
- [00:20:52.80] INTERVIEWER: Long time.
- [00:20:53.54] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: A long time. There's still I think Bonnie Jr.-- Roscoe Jr.-- Bonisteel Jr. is an attorney. I think he's still here in Ann Arbor.
- [00:21:06.28] INTERVIEWER: OK. OK. And when you talked about the Thanksgiving dinner. You talked about coming together, obviously around lots of good food.
- [00:21:16.55] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Oh yes.
- [00:21:17.04] INTERVIEWER: And one of the things I realize for a lot of older African-American women, when they cook for their families, it's like a gift of love.
- [00:21:25.41] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Oh yes.
- [00:21:25.72] INTERVIEWER: A gift of love to their family, by fixing these great meals. So you said your mother was a gourmet cook.
- [00:21:30.89] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:21:31.46] INTERVIEWER: So I imagine she got a lot of pleasure out of cooking for her family.
- [00:21:36.73] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: My mother enjoyed cooking, and enjoyed eating her cooking.
- [00:21:41.35] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:21:43.03] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: My mother-- To a fault.
- [00:21:44.85] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:21:45.48] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: My mother had diabetes. And so that's what killed her.
- [00:21:50.89] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:21:51.83] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I remember arguing with her and telling her, mom you can't eat those pies, cakes. And she said, I cooked them and I'm eating them.
- [00:22:01.50] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:22:02.65] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So it was a losing battle.
- [00:22:04.30] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:22:05.10] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But she died happy. So I guess I have to keep that in mind. At least I have kept that in mind.
- [00:22:13.72] INTERVIEWER: Yeah.
- [00:22:14.44] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: She's someone that I miss terribly, still. And she taught me everything I know. Even my forwardness. My mother was very forward. She didn't take any mess off of anybody. And I learned that from my mother.
- [00:22:32.78] INTERVIEWER: Very direct.
- [00:22:33.67] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Very direct. But it has helped me.
- [00:22:37.03] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:22:38.91] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: It also has hindered me. But I've learned in my older age to tone it down a bit.
- [00:22:45.56] INTERVIEWER: OK. Very good. So did you play any sports, or join in any other activities outside of school?
- [00:22:57.54] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I did sports in school. And out. When I was at Ann Arbor Pioneer I was on the girl swim team and the synchronized swimming team.
- [00:23:08.51] INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow.
- [00:23:13.00] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: As an adult, when I worked for the city I was on the city's softball team. That was co-ed, men and women. And I enjoyed that. So I was very athletic, because I was a tomboy. I would climb trees and my mother would yell at me and tell me to get out the tree. But I could see a lot up in those trees and people couldn't see. And they couldn't see me, so I enjoyed climbing the trees.
- [00:23:43.97] INTERVIEWER: So synchronized swimming. Were there any other African-Americans? Cause swimming isn't something traditionally that African-Americans really got that involved in. So were there--
- [00:23:52.95] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: No.
- [00:23:53.31] INTERVIEWER: Anybody else other than you?
- [00:23:55.16] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Nope, just me.
- [00:23:55.92] INTERVIEWER: Just you.
- [00:23:56.60] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah. I remember when I would go swimming, of course my hair you know. I'd get my hair done over here on Fourth Ave. where all the ladies had the shops on Fourth Ave. And then when I'd go swimming, then my hair would curl up tightly. And I remember some of the white girls asking me, so what happened to your hair? I said it's magical. We have magical hair. It's straight sometimes and then it curls up.
- [00:24:32.78] INTERVIEWER: That was a good response.
- [00:24:34.58] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: That's the only way I knew to respond to that. But I enjoyed school. I enjoyed going to school here. And now we had racism. And we knew it was racism. But I think because of our strong family and we were grounded with our family-- My mother was always there for me when things went wrong at school. And she was there when I was wrong. And I would be punished. But I got through that part of it. It was just something that we just accepted, because there wasn't anything else that we knew to do at that time.
- [00:25:24.82] INTERVIEWER: So I wanted to talk a little bit more about I often hear about the African-American businesses on Fourth Ave. You mentioned the ladies on Fourth Ave. You'd go there to get your hair done. Talk a little bit about the businesses and who had businesses in that area when you were growing up?
- [00:25:43.05] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well when I was growing up Mr. [? Marney ?] had a barber shop. And then--
- [00:25:48.52] INTERVIEWER: He was African-American?
- [00:25:49.55] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah, these are African-Americans. We couldn't go anywhere else.
- [00:25:53.16] INTERVIEWER: OK, so the businesses-- in the area were all African--
- [00:25:57.23] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: African American on Fourth Ave. and Ann Street. Ann Street had the restaurant. And then there was a couple bars and a pool hall. That's when I was a teenager. But, and of course we weren't allowed on Ann Street then. I didn't go on Ann Street till I got grown. But--
- [00:26:17.74] INTERVIEWER: Because of the bars.
- [00:26:18.75] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Because of the bars. Yeah. And I have pictures of-- That I got from my dad's photo album of him holding me on Ann Street. And he would take me up on Ann Street. So I have a lot of pictures of the business district. It was the black business district. And we were protected when I did go there. I didn't have to worry. I mean the older blacks looked out for us. Not hanging out on Ann Street. But if we came up Fourth Ave. And on Fourth Ave. there were several barber shops and beauty shops. Some of the ladies were in with the barbers. And some of them had their own beauty shops on Fourth Ave. And I don't quite understand now, right now, but I remember going to different like across the street and get my hair done. I guess whoever had the appointment open, wherever you could get your hair done.
- [00:27:27.75] INTERVIEWER: They kind of collaborated?
- [00:27:30.23] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I don't know if they collaborated. They must've, because they don't seem to mind. But I remember going to different-- Like I went to Sadie. Ms. Sadie. She did my hair. And Mrs. Dorothy Mack. She did my hair. And there was a Mrs. Patillo. She came a little later. And Mrs. Patillo. I believe was in Mr. Marney's barber shop in the back.
- [00:27:52.21] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:27:53.29] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So that's where we went and got our hair done.
- [00:27:55.33] INTERVIEWER: OK. So I'm probably going to come back to that in another section just to elaborate more about the businesses, and also the area where African-Americans lived. Because I know that's changed now.
- [00:28:08.05] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Quite a bit.
- [00:28:08.71] INTERVIEWER: Right, and we'll talk about that.
- [00:28:10.45] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah.
- [00:28:11.28] INTERVIEWER: OK. What about your school experience is different from school as you know it today?
- [00:28:25.95] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Unfortunately, it's worse today than it was when I was coming up.
- [00:28:34.25] INTERVIEWER: And talk about what you mean by worse.
- [00:28:38.12] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well, I have-- I worked for the school district. And at one time I worked for Dr. Potts. And that was the ombudsman's office. And that was located in what is now what was Jones School. And what is now Community High. And so his office was there. Also the title 1 program, which was a preschool program, run by Marvin McKinney and I can't think of her first name. But her last name, Evelyn. Evelyn Moore. And they ran a preschool. And that's where our kids went. Like my kids went to preschool there, at Jones School. But when I worked for Dr. Potts in the '70s. In fact it was 1971, there was a disturbance by some white students. And they came into the school to do harm. And they came-- They marched in with rifles.
- [00:29:46.65] INTERVIEWER: Is this Jones School?
- [00:29:47.99] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: No, this is Pioneer. At Pioneer.
- [00:29:49.76] INTERVIEWER: Oh, Pioneer. OK.
- [00:29:51.66] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: That's when I worked. Worked.
- [00:29:53.40] INTERVIEWER: That's right, that's right. OK.
- [00:29:55.78] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And the ombudsman's office was to try we worked at the secondary level schools to make sure that there wasn't any racism to try and put a cap on the racism. But there-- I don't know why these young, white students were angry. But they were and they came into the building, and started a fight. But they came in with weapons. They had nun-chucks, and they had rifles on their shoulders. And they-- And my job was to keep the black students in the cafeteria. But when the white students came in, they were chanting using the "n" word and saying that their blood was going to run in the halls. So the closer they got to the cafeteria, then the black kids came out. So I couldn't keep them in the cafeteria. And so there was a fight. The white students attacked the black students. The black students didn't have weapons, but the police ended up arresting seven students and myself. And took us down to City Hall. But we went before the judge and the charges were dropped. As a result of that I lost my job.
- [00:31:23.13] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:31:24.07] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So that was the end of that part. And I bring that up, because we still are having troubles in the schools. And it hurts my heart very deeply that we can't get a handle on this racism. And have our schools be like it was when I went to school. We went to school. The teacher might not have liked you, but you did learn. And we don't have too much of that going on. They want to put it off that the kids don't want to learn, or the kids don't want to do this, talking about the black children. But I remember as a student at Ann Arbor Pioneer you were never made to be felt like you were part of it, part of the school. And I can remember in history class my teacher, my history teacher, was asking everybody-- the other students-- when their ancestors came over here. And the white students were saying, oh they came from Germany or they came from France or wherever they came from. So I raised my hand and asked were we always here? We being the black people, because I couldn't say where we came from. I had no idea.
- [00:32:48.91] INTERVIEWER: There's nothing covered in the history books.
- [00:32:50.53] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Nothing was covered. He didn't ask me either. And so when I asked, he kicked me out of class. And I couldn't come back into class without writing 500 times that I would not disturb-- disrupt the class-- and I didn't want to do it. I didn't think I needed to do it, because I was asking in a sincere way. And then my mother came and told him that I didn't have to write it, because I asked a legitimate question. And because he couldn't answer it or wouldn't answer it, was not a reason to punish me. But I was not allowed in the class. I had to take it in summer school so I could-- would have enough credits to graduate.
- [00:33:38.91] INTERVIEWER: That leads me right into some of the other questions here. And it just talks about, was there elementary school near your home when you were growing up? You mentioned Jones School earlier. Was there a high school for black students in the same area? How did you get to school? Who were your teachers? So I'm gonna stop at that. And I'll come back to the other two in just a second.
- [00:34:03.80] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: OK. No. There was one high school and that was Ann Arbor Pioneer. And it was out on stadium. So our class, when I say our, my class. We went in '57, 1957. We were the second to enter-- They just built it. So we were the second class in Ann Arbor Pioneer. That's what they called it back then.
- [00:34:25.49] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:34:27.57] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: We had two black teachers. Mr. Ellis who taught biology.
- [00:34:33.86] INTERVIEWER: He passed recently.
- [00:34:34.93] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah, he just passed. And his wife, Virginia Ellis, was the one that taught us at the Dunbar. She was the assistant director.
- [00:34:43.46] INTERVIEWER: I was going to ask you which Ellis that was. So it was Virginia. OK.
- [00:34:46.26] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Virginia Ellis. And she was, they were just lovely people. And I don't remember the other teacher. I can't remember his name right now, but he was--
- [00:34:58.79] INTERVIEWER: African-American.
- [00:34:59.46] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: He was African-American, but he wasn't from here. And he was the other teacher. The elementary school-- And we walked.
- [00:35:12.24] INTERVIEWER: You walked to the high school.
- [00:35:13.52] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Walked to high school. All of us walked to high school. They told us we didn't live far enough for the school to give us a bus. So we all walked.
- [00:35:26.89] INTERVIEWER: How long a walk was that?
- [00:35:29.12] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Oh, that was quite a walk.
- [00:35:30.58] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:35:31.03] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well it seemed like quite a walk. I guess you could say it is. West Kingsley and Fourth Ave. and Fifth Ave. And Beakes. And we walked down Main Street, all the way out Main to--
- [00:35:45.44] INTERVIEWER: Ann Arbor Pioneer.
- [00:35:45.85] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Ann Arbor Pioneer. So we didn't have buses. In fact, we didn't have a bus. We didn't even have a city bus. I remember my mother, on weekends we had family in Ypsi. So we would take the Greyhound to Ypsi. And walk and visit all our relatives in Ypsi. So that that's how we got around.
- [00:36:06.62] INTERVIEWER: Got around.
- [00:36:07.38] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: By the Greyhound bus.
- [00:36:09.45] INTERVIEWER: OK. And Mr. Ellis's son is Jeff Ellis. I don't know if you know Jeff.
- [00:36:15.60] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I know of Jeff. I don't know him personally.
- [00:36:17.73] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. I sit on the board with him. So--
- [00:36:19.59] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Do you? OK.
- [00:36:20.70] INTERVIEWER: I'll have to tell him that his parents name came up. So were there restaurants or eating places for blacks where you lived? And how were blacks or visitors accommodated in terms of hotels and that kind of thing?
- [00:36:34.96] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well they didn't have accommodations for blacks. As a matter of fact, I remember my mother saying Duke Ellington came here, but because there were weren't places for blacks, I believe-- Mr. Seeley.
- [00:36:54.44] INTERVIEWER: I know Mr. Seeley.
- [00:36:55.40] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Mr. and Mrs. Seeley. They lived on the corner. Well she still lives. On the corner--
- [00:37:00.20] INTERVIEWER: She's like 93 or 94 right now.
- [00:37:01.89] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:37:02.21] INTERVIEWER: We interviewed her for--
- [00:37:03.26] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Did you?
- [00:37:04.03] INTERVIEWER: Phase one.
- [00:37:04.84] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: She's a lovely lady.
- [00:37:06.38] INTERVIEWER: She really is.
- [00:37:07.55] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And they would put them up. And they would put any black people up. The Elks sometimes put people up, because they had rooms up stairs. But that was the only place that black people that came here--
- [00:37:25.62] INTERVIEWER: Where they could stay.
- [00:37:26.48] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Where they could stay. There were no places. And there were places we couldn't go. Like on Main Street was a Sugar Bowl Restaurant. We weren't allowed in there. The white Elks, we weren't allowed in there. For a while. And then they had a restaurant there, and they refused to serve a black family. I believe this was in, it might have been in the '80s or the early '90s. I'm not sure.
- [00:38:02.12] INTERVIEWER: That's not like years ago.
- [00:38:03.50] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: No. But they refused to serve them, and so they brought a suit against the Elks. So they opened up a little more, but when we would go there we weren't well received. So we stayed in our own Elks. But now it's opened up where, in our Elks it's white and-- more white and black.
- [00:38:29.66] INTERVIEWER: So it's integrated.
- [00:38:30.79] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: It's more integrated.
- [00:38:33.18] INTERVIEWER: So--
- [00:38:33.73] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But we didn't have-- The only restaurant we had-- We didn't have any restaurants.
- [00:38:37.46] INTERVIEWER: I was gonna ask you about restaurant, yes.
- [00:38:39.28] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: We-- When I was-- Other than the restaurant we had on Ann Street. And then when I became a young girl, it wasn't there anymore. But the only restaurant we had was DeLong's Bar-B-Q.
- [00:38:56.08] INTERVIEWER: And that's Diane's--
- [00:38:57.29] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And that's Diane's father. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson opened up DeLong's Bar-B-Q. And so that was where we all went. And we miss DeLong's Bar-B-Q right to this day.
- [00:39:10.36] INTERVIEWER: Right there across from Kerrytown.
- [00:39:11.78] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Right across. And across from
- [00:39:14.30] INTERVIEWER: Community High.
- [00:39:14.87] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Community High. My grandson was telling me, said I sure wish I knew that recipe of DeLong's Bar-B-Q sauce, cause he said, I used to come out-- He went to Community High.
- [00:39:26.91] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:39:27.50] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And he was like, I used to go over there grandma and get some french fries with that barbecue sauce on it. He said, that was the best barbecue. I said, well he's not going to give you that recipe so you can forget that. But that's all we had at that time.
- [00:39:43.60] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:39:44.35] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: At that-- And it was there a good long time before he retired. But they're still here. They've been married 70 years, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson.
- [00:39:54.83] INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow.
- [00:39:55.73] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And they're still here.
- [00:39:57.13] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:39:58.19] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Adeline and Robert Thompson.
- [00:40:00.20] INTERVIEWER: So we need to interview them.
- [00:40:01.49] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes, you do. Hurry up.
- [00:40:03.28] INTERVIEWER: OK. We'll talk about that. So let me go back just a bit. So we talked about the business. You know, it was a black business district. So I know that people talked about that whole area, in terms of the homes like where Zingerman's is. And
- [00:40:20.09] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Oh yes.
- [00:40:20.61] INTERVIEWER: And where Treasure Mart. Those are all places where African-Americans lived. So talk about that a little bit.
- [00:40:28.02] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well we had-- Well Zingerman's was Diroff's. And Diroff's, he had his own meats.
- [00:40:36.88] INTERVIEWER: And this is African-American?
- [00:40:38.25] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: No.
- [00:40:38.81] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:40:39.23] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: No. Diroff-- I don't know what he was.
- [00:40:43.75] INTERVIEWER: OK, all right.
- [00:40:44.96] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I don't know if he was Greek, because we had a lot of Greeks.
- [00:40:47.41] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:40:47.79] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I don't know if he was Greek or Jewish.
- [00:40:49.98] INTERVIEWER: All right.
- [00:40:50.71] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But I do remember having a note and my mother giving me money, and I would go there to get-- That's where our parents got their meat.
- [00:40:59.37] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:40:59.62] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Was from Diroff's.
- [00:41:01.35] INTERVIEWER: Where Zingerman's is located right now.
- [00:41:03.56] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Now located.
- [00:41:04.37] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:41:04.77] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And then across from there was Mr. Patterson owned apartments. Those brick-- Are they still there?
- [00:41:11.93] INTERVIEWER: They're there. They look like brownstones.
- [00:41:13.59] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes, they look like brownstones. And Mr. Patterson, he and his wife owned those. And he was black.
- [00:41:20.29] INTERVIEWER: And he was. OK. I understand those places are fairly expensive now.
- [00:41:26.04] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:41:26.58] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:41:27.42] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Everything's expensive. Do you know they got four, they have four condos in Old Bethel on Fourth Ave. Those start out, I believe, at $400,000.
- [00:41:38.34] INTERVIEWER: I didn't realize that old Bethel-- I attend Bethel as well, so I didn't realize that old Bethel had--
- [00:41:43.28] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes, they uh--
- [00:41:44.70] INTERVIEWER: Changed them into condos.
- [00:41:45.85] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes, I took some university students on a tour of the old neighborhood. So I rang the bell and asked could we come in and see. And the young man let us in. So he took us up to his condo, which would have been the sanctuary of the church.
- [00:42:04.72] INTERVIEWER: At Bethel?
- [00:42:05.16] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: At Bethel.
- [00:42:05.76] INTERVIEWER: Wow.
- [00:42:06.84] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And they had to keep the front of it, because it's historical. It's over 100 years-- well over 100 years old. And he took me, he let us come up. And we went up. And I told him I said, now you know there's some spirits around here. Floating around up in here. My momma is one of them. He said, yes I do know that.
- [00:42:28.49] INTERVIEWER: Was he serious?
- [00:42:29.69] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah, he was. He seemed to be serious.
- [00:42:32.27] INTERVIEWER: All right. OK.
- [00:42:33.33] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I told him I said, but they're good spirits and they won't hurt you. And he said well he was glad to know that. But he did know.
- [00:42:40.64] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:42:41.02] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: There was some spirits. I didn't ask him how. I didn't get into that. But it saddens me that Bethel, our church, has these condos that we could never afford to live in. That saddens me. All of our neighborhood, it kind of saddens me, because when we were in them we couldn't get help, a lot of help to fix, to restore our homes. The home I lived in there were three homes that the city tore down for the Beakes-- what was it, the Beakes bypass. But they never put the bypass in. I guess-- Someone told me that Mrs. [? Wycliff ?] was the reason. She stopped that. I heard that today, so I don't know if that's gospel. But that's what I heard today. But I know they never did finish that bypass. But I guess they're getting ready to build something there.
- [00:43:45.88] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:43:46.83] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But DeLong lived across the street. And that side of the street is still there. DeLong's house. There's a house to the left of him. And then Mrs. Irene Harrison, her house is on the right hand side.
- [00:44:03.98] INTERVIEWER: And Mrs. Seeley is still down in--
- [00:44:06.21] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And Mrs. Seeley is on Beakes and Fourth Ave.
- [00:44:10.64] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:44:11.16] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And so across from her is the Jones family. And Ernie Jones has since passed, but his brother Richard remodeled that house.
- [00:44:21.08] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:44:21.60] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And he still lives in that house. And Claude Baker still lives on Fourth Ave. So we still have some families still there.
- [00:44:32.74] INTERVIEWER: And Claude was a person that I attempted to interview, but we still need to work on that.
- [00:44:40.01] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: You haven't gotten him up here yet?
- [00:44:42.77] INTERVIEWER: No.
- [00:44:44.71] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well, the Bakers were-- Mr. Baker was a part owner in a foundry here. And that's where, he gave a lot of the black men jobs at that foundry.
- [00:44:58.41] INTERVIEWER: Well Gwendolyn.
- [00:45:00.77] BOTH: Calvert Baker.
- [00:45:02.25] INTERVIEWER: She's agreed to maybe, when she comes in the fall to be interviewed.
- [00:45:06.26] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes.
- [00:45:06.97] INTERVIEWER: And I have a book that she just wrote as well.
- [00:45:09.38] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: She-- What is it called, the?
- [00:45:12.83] INTERVIEWER: Hot Fudge in a White Paper Cup.
- [00:45:14.53] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Hot Fudge Sundae in a White Paper Cup. Yes.
- [00:45:17.64] INTERVIEWER: Yeah.
- [00:45:18.21] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I'm going to-- I talked to her a couple weeks ago. And I told her I was going to get the book.
- [00:45:26.11] INTERVIEWER: OK. Right. I've started it, it's good.
- [00:45:29.74] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But Gwen was a Calvert--
- [00:45:31.56] INTERVIEWER: I know, that's what I wrote.
- [00:45:32.54] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: --before she married the Baker.
- [00:45:33.32] INTERVIEWER: I made that connection. So Russell was her-- We interviewed Russell. That was her baby brother.
- [00:45:37.84] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah.
- [00:45:38.09] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. So I'm making a lot of connections.
- [00:45:40.41] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes. There's a lot of connections here in Ann Arbor.
- [00:45:43.85] INTERVIEWER: Yeah.
- [00:45:44.07] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Of families.
- [00:45:44.86] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:45:45.38] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And we're finding out they were connected in some way.
- [00:45:48.78] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:45:49.30] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Also.
- [00:45:49.78] INTERVIEWER: All right. OK, great. Well, we're going to move now to part three.
- [00:45:53.61] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: OK.
- [00:45:53.99] INTERVIEWER: Which is adulthood, marriage, and family life. So some stuff might be repeated. And if so you can just elaborate, or we can just keep right on going. OK. This set of questions cover a fairly long period of your life, from the time you completed your education, entered the labor force, to starting a family, until all of your children left home. And you retired. So we might be talking about a stretch of time spanning a number of decades. So we're going to start. After you finished high school where did you live? Did you remain there, or did you move around through your adult life? And what was the reason for these moves?
- [00:46:38.04] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I lived in Ann Arbor-- well, I left Kingsley and moved out, and bought a house. I married Hathaway Gulley. He was my second husband. I married Richard Jackson. That was my first husband. And I had two children by him, [? Shireen ?] and Richie Jr. And then I married Hathaway Gulley Jr. and had Kimako Gulley.
- [00:47:12.22] INTERVIEWER: What does Kimako mean?
- [00:47:14.60] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Kimako means to be very alert. There's a funny story about Kimako, the name.
- [00:47:23.62] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:47:24.64] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: When I-- I had my children at St. Joe. At that time, St. Joe was on Ingles. And my husband, Hathaway, came up and he said, we gonna name her Margaret Christina. I said no, that's not going to work. So I told him, I said, we're gonna name her Kimako. He said, now there you go with that African stuff. He says, you always got to have the last word. I said, well I'll tell you what, I'll compromise. Excuse me. I said, we'll compromise. I said, we'll name her Christina Kimako. I said, can you live with that? He said, he could live with that. So her name is Christina Kimako.
- [00:48:14.65] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:48:15.32] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I call her Kimako. He calls her Kimako.
- [00:48:18.51] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:48:20.17] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Christina calls herself Kimmi. We called her Kimmi, but she calls herself Kimmi.
- [00:48:26.29] INTERVIEWER: OK. All right. OK.
- [00:48:28.31] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But Kimako came from LeRoi Jones, who was one of the Black Panthers. His sister was named Kimako.
- [00:48:39.37] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:48:40.02] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I named her after his sister.
- [00:48:42.29] INTERVIEWER: After his sister. OK.
- [00:48:43.78] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: That's where I got the name. And my children still all live here. Shireen lives in Ypsi. Richie lives in Ann Arbor. And Kimmi lives in Ann Arbor.
- [00:48:56.25] INTERVIEWER: So they went to elementary, middle, and high schools here.
- [00:49:00.23] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: No. I left here in 1979 and moved to Lansing. And I got my job working as housing director in Okemos.
- [00:49:12.10] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:49:12.47] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And so I was there-- I was away from here for about 11 years. And then we came back.
- [00:49:20.02] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:49:20.94] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: To Ann Arbor.
- [00:49:21.82] INTERVIEWER: But all three of them were born here.
- [00:49:23.98] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: They were all born here.
- [00:49:24.88] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:49:25.66] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes. And Shireen-- When we left here, Shireen went to high school in Lansing. But because she started in the middle of the year or something-- Anyway, she came back here and graduated from Pioneer High.
- [00:49:43.99] INTERVIEWER: Pioneer, OK. Oftentimes if they have gone up to a certain point they can come back, and graduate with the class that they've been with for all those years. Which is nice if they choose to do that.
- [00:49:56.34] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And she chose to do it.
- [00:49:57.64] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:49:57.90] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I thought it was very nice.
- [00:49:58.86] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. Yeah. Now you sort of got into your children, and you talked about your marriage, your first and second. So I think you kind of covered that. So your family, in terms of you and your kids, what did you enjoy doing together? While they were still at home.
- [00:50:17.37] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Oh we did all kinds of things. I have always been a I guess what you call a community activist.
- [00:50:25.85] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:50:26.18] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So my children went with me on marches and pickets. I remember meeting with Dr. Wheeler, him and his wife, at his home. And we would do our strategy. And at that time we were marching and picketing against the school board to have more black teachers and black administrators, because we only had two.
- [00:50:56.54] INTERVIEWER: The two that you mentioned earlier?
- [00:50:57.88] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Earlier. And then we started to get-- I think we had Mary Taylor. She was at Pattengill, I believe.
- [00:51:05.55] INTERVIEWER: I remember Mary.
- [00:51:07.10] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But we wanted more blacks. And we wanted to make sure our children were exposed to black teachers and black administrators. So we marched and picketed. And I brought my children right along with me. And we went-- We enjoyed the pools. I would take them to the city pools, and we'd go swimming, because I was a swimmer. I was determined that my children would learn to swim, so I taught them.
- [00:51:36.76] INTERVIEWER: Which is good.
- [00:51:37.62] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Oh, yeah. I taught them and my grandchildren. Everybody had to learn how to be swimmers.
- [00:51:42.66] INTERVIEWER: Forget about the hair and just swim.
- [00:51:44.24] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Right, we ain't worried about hair. My momma tell me, don't worry about your hair. Just go on! But that's a big thing with the kids, the girls especially. They don't want to-- You pay a lot of money to get your hair--
- [00:51:59.63] INTERVIEWER: Styled.
- [00:52:00.50] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Styled. And so you don't want to mess it up. And teachers don't understand that. But I really-- I just didn't worry about it.
- [00:52:12.72] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:52:13.37] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: It wasn't something I worried about.
- [00:52:15.51] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:52:16.44] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Because I liked to swim.
- [00:52:16.65] INTERVIEWER: It still exists now.
- [00:52:18.44] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Oh yes, it still exists. The kids don't want to swim.
- [00:52:22.12] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:52:22.95] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: You know. But we used to have a beach. Ann Arbor had a beach out on across-- Let's see, where am I? Across Broadway bridge. Wait a minute, no. Out Main Street. Where the canoe-- Where you rent canoes now.
- [00:52:44.08] INTERVIEWER: Is that where NEW is now? Non- Enterprise at Work?
- [00:52:48.11] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I don't know.
- [00:52:48.81] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:52:49.34] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I don't know what's out there.
- [00:52:50.45] INTERVIEWER: All right. Go ahead.
- [00:52:51.52] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But it used to be Lansky's junkyard.
- [00:52:56.06] INTERVIEWER: I think that's where NEW is now.
- [00:52:57.41] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Dr. Wheeler was very instrumental in getting rid of that. And then we had the-- We used to go down on Depot and Fifth. No, on Fifth and Summit, where they had the Peters Sausage. We'd go and get cracklings. You could get them for free.
- [00:53:16.98] INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow. People pay for those now.
- [00:53:18.98] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I know. But we used to go down and you'd hear those pigs. You could hear pigs squealing all day long. Them slaughtering the pigs.
- [00:53:26.89] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:53:28.70] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And we go down there and get our cracklings.
- [00:53:30.86] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:53:32.49] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So it was-- And we in what is now Wheeler Park which was Summit Park. We went there, because at that time the city would freeze the grounds. And so we went ice skating. We ice skated. And there was a little shanty. And we'd go in that shanty. When I say we, I'm talking Russell Calvert, Tommy Clemons, Dianne Thompson, me. Just all the kids in the neighbor. The Joneses, the Scotts. Just all the kids. The Jacksons. And those were big families. The Scotts had a large family. The Pattersons that Willis C. Patterson is a member of. They lived on Fourth Ave. The Bakers. I mean we just all went. And ice skated together. And we don't have that anymore. I just-- I don't know what the reason is, but they don't have the ice skating. They don't freeze the grounds and have ponds anymore for the kids to go ice skating. Which that was a time for us to get together. You know, that's how you got together you knew one another. Course we knew one another from the churches.
- [00:54:49.17] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:54:49.87] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: You know, and we did things together. And we're spread out more now so you kind of don't know who's who like we did back then.
- [00:55:00.45] INTERVIEWER: And also, I think there's more activities for students to participate in now. They're just into computer or whatever it is. And all different kinds of sports. So that could be some of it, as well.
- [00:55:13.08] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: That could be some of it. But they don't have a lot for them to do, like we had. Dances. They don't have dances, or entertainment such as that for students. Like we had. And it's kind of too bad, because I look-- I tell my grandkids, you don't know how to communicate with one another because you're on those computers and you're on those cell phones. Those are tools. That's a machine. You got to be with each other and talk with one another, and interact. I went to a-- I dropped my grandson off at a dance and I went in. And the boys were standing on one side. And the girls was-- And then when they danced, they didn't dance together. I said, well we danced together. Y'all don't dance together? They were like, no grandma. But that's how we got to know one another, because you dance slow dances. But they don't have slow dances like we did.
- [00:56:10.67] INTERVIEWER: So everybody was just on the floor, just moving, huh?
- [00:56:13.09] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah. In fact, they were behind one another. I don't know what the name of that dance was, but I mean it wasn't anything vulgar or anything.
- [00:56:22.71] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:56:23.11] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But they just don't-- They don't connect like we did.
- [00:56:28.29] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:56:28.97] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Because I remember falling in love and it was just such a good feeling. You know, and they don't have that like we did. They don't know. They don't know. They're missing out of a lot.
- [00:56:42.58] INTERVIEWER: Well as a grandparent, I'm just sure you can share some of that information with your grandchildren.
- [00:56:47.71] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Oh I tell them a lot.
- [00:56:48.91] INTERVIEWER: Oh, do you? OK. I kind of figured that.
- [00:56:52.14] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I tell them a lot about my day. And I'm also into our culture. And so I have lots of books on culture. And they used to tell me, grandma do we have to learn black history? And I say yes, you got to know from where you came. But as they've gotten older they tell me that they're glad I taught them, because-- My one grandson when he went to Slauson, he said, grandma when a boy called me out of my name, called me the n-word. He said, I knew what that was, because you taught me that. He says, so I just want to thank you for teaching me my history. So I know how to deal with that. I just think it's something that we as the older generation owe our children. To help them to understand, to know how to deal with it. It's a hard thing to deal with, period. But we need to be there to help them. That's our job.
- [00:57:59.26] INTERVIEWER: I have an aunt that says that you plant a seed, and you know, you might not see it then. But it can grow later. So he came back. You planted that seed. So that was good.
- [00:58:10.70] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah, I have a lot of faith in our young people.
- [00:58:17.21] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:58:17.58] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Because they're the ones who are going to carry on. So we've got to help them.
- [00:58:21.91] INTERVIEWER: This is true.
- [00:58:22.49] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Because we got to depend on them.
- [00:58:28.71] INTERVIEWER: OK. So you talked about things you did with your children when they were growing up. And you also shared earlier about special family traditions that you had when you were a child. Were there special family traditions with you and your children?
- [00:58:47.20] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well, we celebrated Christmas, all the holidays we celebrated together. And we still do get together. To us Thanksgiving and Christmas is coming together as a family. We-- Money is more tight. And jobs aren't as plentiful. And even if you have a job, you don't make so much money. So we don't focus around the gifts so much, as we do the getting together.
- [00:59:26.65] INTERVIEWER: Spending time together.
- [00:59:27.54] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Spending time together, and sharing food. And we like doing that. Now I have one aunt left. She's really a cousin, but we call her an aunt. And she's 94.
- [00:59:40.74] INTERVIEWER: She lives here?
- [00:59:41.48] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And she lives here. And so together some of my-- Well my oldest daughter and myself, we keep an eye on her. Just to make sure she's OK. And she's a member of Fountain Street Church. And her mother and sister were members, and it just goes back. And when they were on High Street. I remember going there when I was a little girl on High Street. And so we try to keep an eye on her and include her in some of our festivities. What she feels like doing.
- [01:00:22.89] INTERVIEWER: So how is she? Is she-- For 94, is she pretty mobile and she alert?
- [01:00:30.67] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: She's mobile, she's alert. She has some dementia.
- [01:00:36.18] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:00:38.47] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I didn't want to believe that, until she asked me who my mother was.
- [01:00:42.36] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:00:42.63] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Last month. Now she and my mother were very close. And she very well knows who my mother is. So that let me know, that she's getting a lot more Dementia than what I want to admit I guess.
- [01:00:57.09] INTERVIEWER: Right. Well then she's done well, if she's 94 though.
- [01:01:00.07] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah. But she still, she talks and she remembers some things. She gets a little some things mixed up. But when I go visit her she pulls out the pictures, and we reminisce and go back in time.
- [01:01:15.42] INTERVIEWER: It's good that you do that.
- [01:01:16.55] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah.
- [01:01:17.45] INTERVIEWER: Because time is I think, what the elderly-- They really value you taking the time. So that's great. OK so we're gonna move into part four, and then onto five
- [01:01:27.65] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: OK. We've got, OK.
- [01:01:30.39] INTERVIEWER: We got two more sections here. Part four is work and retirement. And once again, this might cover a fairly long period of your life. From the time you entered the labor force or started a family, up to the present time. So you mentioned earlier about your main field of employment. And how you first got started with this tradition or skill or job. And what got you interested. I think you really shared that. Do you want to add any more to that at all?
- [01:02:00.46] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well I started-- As a teenager, as a high school-- In high school I started working at Jacobson's.
- [01:02:09.93] INTERVIEWER: Love Jacobson's.
- [01:02:12.53] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And at that time Jacobson's had one elderly black lady that was a sales person. I believe her last name was Jones. I believe. And the rest of us that worked there worked in the stock room. But when they were short handed they would always ask us to come out and sell. So at that time the man-- I don't know if he owned it or ran it, but his name was Mr. [? Friedrichson. ?] And I remember going to him and saying well if I can fill in and sell, how come I can't be a sales person? Well he didn't have an answer for me. But I stayed on him.
- [01:03:07.71] So they created-- they gave me this job. He said, I'm going to take you out of the stock room, and give you a job. So he- I was the telephone operator. Course not only was I the telephone operator, I had to do other jobs too. And I told him that that was a start. But that wasn't what I was talking about. That's a not selling. But he wasn't quite ready to put me on the floor. So I tried to push, but I didn't make it. But we did get Joan Adams. She was a Wilson. And Joan came there, and she started working as a sales person. So then we had two. But it was hard to break those lines.
- [01:04:03.80] INTERVIEWER: So when you say he wasn't quite ready, you meant in terms of having an African-American doing sales.
- [01:04:09.20] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Right, to do sales. Even though we could do it. It wasn't anything to do it. But I must say I worked in the home-- I guess it was home goods, it was the towels and sheets. That department. And my manager, when my mother died, I remember when they called me she was in the hospital. And they called me to tell me that she had passed. And my manager at that time, was very supportive of me. And she bought my suit and my hat, and my shoes. And she just told me not to worry about anything. That she would make sure I had everything I needed for my mother's funeral. And so, they had good people there. It was just trying to break through and let them know that black people were capable of being more than just in the stock room. And I remember my salary was $1.10 an hour. And I thought I was doing something, making $1.10 a hour.
- [01:05:25.44] INTERVIEWER: It's like when you're talking earlier about that car you bought. You might want to share that again. Because we were talking before we started the interview.
- [01:05:31.86] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes I bought a car when I was in high school. And because my father was in the Navy and he had gotten sick in the Navy, so he had a medical-- What is it?
- [01:05:43.62] INTERVIEWER: Discharge.
- [01:05:44.15] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Discharge.
- [01:05:44.91] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:05:45.65] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And so I got this money. I got an allowance my mother gave me. And so I saved, because this car cost $250. And it was a '52 Chevy, and I wanted that car. So my mother said you can have it, but you got to buy it. So I saved my little allowance and bought my car.
- [01:06:06.11] INTERVIEWER: For $250.
- [01:06:07.29] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: For $250. And back then gas was only $0.25 a gallon. So it wasn't nothing to drive my car around. And then I'd go and pick up Russell and Tommy. And my girlfriend Donna Gene. And we'd all go to the high school.
- [01:06:23.29] INTERVIEWER: All right. Wow. You were the big person on campus with a car. Weren't you?
- [01:06:30.10] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: People used to think, oh you've got money. I said no I don't have money, but I saved my money. Because my mother always taught me. My mother taught me-- She always taught me to buy good clothes. So I would put things in layaway, because I didn't have enough to buy outright. So I'd used the layaway and put it in there and pay on it till I could get it out. Because she said the good clothes will last longer. If you buy cheap clothes, when you wash them, they'll fall apart. So she instilled in me buy the best. And that way it'll last longer. But then she also told me, she said now you got a champagne taste with a beer bar budget. I said, well you taught me that, so I learned it from you. I still have it.
- [01:07:21.71] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:07:22.14] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: It don't help when you don't have any money.
- [01:07:27.83] INTERVIEWER: OK. So I know you spoke earlier about the jobs you had and housing. And so the next question talks about, what was a typical day like during your working years of your adult life? You talked about Jacobson's. So do you want to go back into that a little bit or not?
- [01:07:44.91] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: From Jacobson's I went to-- I worked at Jacobson's about four years. And then I got a job at Huron Valley Bank, which is now Ann Arbor Bank on Fifth Ave. And I was a teller there. I was a teller at the window.
- [01:08:08.11] INTERVIEWER: Was that unusual at that time for an African-American to be a teller?
- [01:08:14.16] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: There were a few of us. You couldn't be a secretary. I couldn't ever move out of the tellers.
- [01:08:24.99] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:08:25.82] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But it was OK. I also worked at St. Joe, as a desk clerk, for a little while. But I didn't last there too long, because I couldn't read the doctor's writing. And you had to chart what the doctor-- And I would tell the nurse, I don't know what that says. And then she'd kind of get angry with me. But she couldn't read it either. So I was like well you can't read it either, so why are you getting mad at me? So I left because I couldn't take all that, without saying something and getting fired. So I just thought, well I'll move on. And then from there I worked at legal aid. And then Dr. Wheeler and Ezra Rowry and Mr. Hill who was the director of the community center, they got together and brought in Model Cities. And so I worked as a community person at Model Cities. And I enjoyed that while I was there.
- [01:09:30.30] INTERVIEWER: Why don't you talked about a little bit of Model Cities, because some people listening to this might not know about Model Cities.
- [01:09:35.78] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well Model Cities was a federal program. And they gave money to different cities that applied for it as a grant. And we did things-- We had the Model Cities Dental Clinic. We had the Model Cities-- I can't think. Well Ed Pierce had started his- He had brought his practice, his medical practice as a doctor, into the black community. And Model Cities Dental Clinic was upstairs on Spring Street, over his health clinic.
- [01:10:22.77] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:10:23.22] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But I think Model Cities had a health clinic, too. But it was a program to help the kids. And one of the things we did was get kids to go into different businesses to learn the business. Like on the job training. So it was a good program for kids, it was a good program for us. And I remember Brian Westfield was involved, and Shawn Martin was involved. And it was a good time. And we all worked together to help our kids have jobs, have on the job training.
- [01:11:04.90] And I wish there was some way we can bring that back, because I think our children need that. That on the job training. There's nothing like it. I think the way I made it, I just wasn't a school person. And I try to tell our school board right now, everybody isn't academic. That should not be a detriment. They have skills. And when I was in school, we had vocations. And so, we need to bring the vocations back. Because we need the plumbers, and electricians, and the mechanics, and computer programmers, and all of that. So just because someone isn't academic, you don't throw them away. They still have some skills, so let's find what that skill is and enhance that so that they can be prosperous in getting jobs, or even starting their own businesses.
- [01:12:03.58] INTERVIEWER: You know when you call a plumber and some of those skilled tradesmen, you pay quite a bit to have them come to your house and do something.
- [01:12:10.54] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yes you do. And so-- And you've got young people that can do those things, but everything is geared towards going to a university. There's nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with that. But everybody isn't there. And I just-- I don't think we should throw our children away just because they're not interested in academics. I consider myself someone that made it without having academics. And I learned from on the job training. And I learned from working with the house- Well first of all the legal services, legal aid. I learned a lot about the law.
- [01:12:53.87] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:12:54.32] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And then going into housing, I learned a lot about the housing. And both of those fit together. And back then, you could do that. You can't do that now. Now you-- And even working with Dr. Pierce. He taught me how to be a Medical Assistant.
- [01:13:12.68] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:13:13.34] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But I didn't have to go to school for that. He just taught me. He taught me how to give shots. Allergy shots and everything. But now you can't do that.
- [01:13:23.20] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [01:13:23.47] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Without some type of certification. But I must say that I think we have a very good community college. And our I try to tell kids, even my grandkids, if you can't make it this way you can go to community college. And you can do something that isn't academic. Just academic.
- [01:13:50.02] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [01:13:50.72] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well, and the community college does help you.
- [01:13:52.91] INTERVIEWER: Right. Cause with WCC you can go and get an Associate. Or you can go and get some kind of certification.
- [01:13:58.12] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah.
- [01:13:59.00] INTERVIEWER: So you have multiple paths. Or you can go and then transfer onto Eastern or onto U of M. So that makes it nice.
- [01:14:05.93] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: It makes it very-- I think we have a very good program. And so, I try. I even-- I went last year, because I'm over 65. I can go for free.
- [01:14:17.79] INTERVIEWER: Right. Take different classes.
- [01:14:19.04] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And so I went and I didn't take it for anything but to learn what I went to learn. I didn't take any tests. I had what they call an audit.
- [01:14:29.04] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:14:30.38] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I didn't intend to take the test. I wasn't trying to get credit for anything. I just wanted to learn what I needed to learn.
- [01:14:36.77] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:14:37.59] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I found it very refreshing.
- [01:14:39.85] INTERVIEWER: That's great.
- [01:14:40.40] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I think I'll go back.
- [01:14:41.79] INTERVIEWER: OK. I have friends that have taken different classes. Be it, piano or calculus or whatever. Just to take it.
- [01:14:49.72] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Just to take them.
- [01:14:50.63] INTERVIEWER: Which is great. So I'm going to ask you this question under work and retirement. When thinking back on your working adult life, what important social or historical events were taking place at the time? And how did they personally affect you and your family?
- [01:15:09.62] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Wow, that's a loaded question. Well, Dr. King was doing his march in Selma. And we all-- Now even though I admired Dr. King, I was more in Malcolm X's camp. Because I wasn't one that was going to turn her cheek. If you hit me, I'm gonna hit you back. So I knew I didn't fit with Dr. King, because that wasn't his-- He wanted us to be more passive. And I didn't fit in.
- [01:15:50.20] INTERVIEWER: Peaceful protests.
- [01:15:51.06] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Right. I didn't fit in there. So even though, Dr. King, I admired him, I also admired Malcolm. I thought Malcolm had a lot to offer. And we started here-- When I say we, I wasn't a member, but I supported the Black Panther Party. Because at that time the Black Panther Party wasn't what they thought it was. It had the breakfast program. It was about feeding our children. And a lot of people don't understand that. They just think that they were rebels. I mean they had to be rebels, because that's how the government treated them. But it was about taking care of our children. And that's where I-- I care a lot about our kids. And I still care about our kids. I think they mean a lot to me. I think they have a lot to offer. And I still will go and advocate for our children, because they keep talking about the educational gap.
- [01:17:07.75] INTERVIEWER: The achievement gap.
- [01:17:08.58] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Achievement gap. And I have-- I won't get all into that, but it doesn't have to be like it is. And it just seems to be getting-- The gap is getting bigger and bigger, rather than closing. Even though they keep trying to come up with programs to close the gap. They're not doing it the right way, I don't think.
- [01:17:32.32] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:17:34.20] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Now I know you have worked for the schools, but that's how I feel.
- [01:17:39.25] INTERVIEWER: I'm an interviewer right now. And we want to hear your thinking, so that's absolutely fine. I'm trying to see if there's any-- That was the last question under that section. And so I'm going to move into part five. Which is our last section. And I'm going to ask those. And then I'm going to ask you if there's any final thoughts or comments you want to make that we haven't maybe addressed. So this last section is on historical and social events. Tell me how it is for you to live in this community. How it is, or how it's been for you live in this community?
- [01:18:16.20] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well in all it's been a good experience, I have to say. Ann Arbor-- I'm a little outdone with Ann Arbor right now.
- [01:18:26.47] INTERVIEWER: Ann Arbor in general? Ann Arbor schools? Ann-- How would you say that?
- [01:18:29.74] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: The schools.
- [01:18:31.02] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:18:31.63] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: The politics. I've been involved-- Well I was just at a march, Friday night, for the Aura Rosser-- Aura Rosser is a black woman, that the Ann Arbor Police shot. Now he might have done that as a mistake, but it was a big mistake.
- [01:18:52.41] INTERVIEWER: That was earlier this year?
- [01:18:54.71] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: That was done in November.
- [01:18:56.22] INTERVIEWER: November. OK.
- [01:18:57.84] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And so we had a march on Friday. And the Neutral Zone did a fundraiser. They had a little program there. They had some bands. Well not bands, but some entertainment.
- [01:19:13.99] INTERVIEWER: And the Neutral Zone is on Washington now, is that right? OK.
- [01:19:17.19] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And so we marched from the Liberty Square to City Hall. And we couldn't march to the Neutral Zone because that was too political they said. So we broke up at City Hall and we walked over to the Neutral Zone. But the fundraiser-- Aura Rosser had three children. Now they want to talk about she was a crack head, and she was this and that. She did not deserve to die. That's how I feel about it. And the group I belong to feels that way.
- [01:19:55.85] INTERVIEWER: And what group is that?
- [01:19:56.97] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: It's called the Ann Arbor to Ferguson.
- [01:19:59.29] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:20:00.53] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And it's a group of a few of us community people, Eastern Michigan and the university students, and some students from Washtenaw County. And that makes up the group. And we meet every Friday. And what was wonderful about the fundraiser that the Neutral Zone they raised over $2000 for Aura's children. She had three children. One of our demands was to ask the city to pay for Aura's funeral. And of course that demand-- None of the demands have been made that we've asked for. And-- So I was very pleased that we raised that money. And we will-- I will get in touch with the grandmother, Aura's grandmother. And be happy to turn a check over to her, for over $2000, for her children, her grandchildren. So I'm still involved. I must say the Ann Arbor City Council has not been nasty to us, but they're just not listening.
- [01:21:17.48] They let us talk and they let us say what we have to say when we come, but they're not answering any demands. And they're not going to let the police officer-- They're not going to remove him, which we asked also. So I'm a little disturbed about that, because it's going on all over. I'm not quite understanding how the police are getting up until these six in Baltimore. But it's very disheartening to me, that we live in 2015 and our people are being murdered. And getting away with it. I thought we had done that fight, we had fought for civil rights. And it just looks like to me that we're being pushed back. And I'm not quite understanding the reasons behind that. I mean I have my own reasons, but it just seems like such a heartless thing. So I'm involved in that. And I'm just a person that's in the community. And I will be involved for justice for all people, and especially ours. I just think that's important.
- [01:22:37.88] INTERVIEWER: It is important.
- [01:22:39.07] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I don't care what Aura Rosser was or did. She did not deserve to die the way she died.
- [01:22:50.26] INTERVIEWER: All right. So when thinking back on your entire life, what important social historical event, had the greatest impact?
- [01:22:59.25] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: You know, the way I got involved in community activism when I was 14, Emmett Till was 14.
- [01:23:12.29] INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow.
- [01:23:14.14] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And--
- [01:23:15.62] INTERVIEWER: Just in case, you might want to talk a little bit about Emmett Till.
- [01:23:18.55] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Well Emmett Till was a young man, young boy at 14, that lived in Chicago and went to visit his cousins and his grandfather in Mississippi. And they said he whistled at a white woman, and they just tortured him. They killed him and tortured him. And when I read that, I remember asking my mother could I go to Mississippi. I just felt a need to go, and she said I couldn't go. It would not be safe for me to go. I didn't understand that then, but I since have understand. But it just hurt me so that his mother came. And they didn't-- They had him in a pine box and they wouldn't let her see her son. But she insisted and she asked for a hammer, and she opened up that box. And seen her son, all disfigured like that. And put it in that Jet magazine for the world to see. That turned my whole life around. I don't know if that's what it was supposed to do, or if that was written for me. But I decided that I was going to fight for our rights.
- [01:24:42.05] INTERVIEWER: To be a community activist.
- [01:24:43.21] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I was going to do it, and however I could do it. And when I became a housing director and would be over tenants-- Now you know it put me in a position where I could help tenants. Now it took them a while to trust me but I would meet with them so that they could understand that they could trust me, because a lot of things had been done through that program with the tenants. So I tried to make sure that I would be fair. Now I had to let them know you got to pay rent.
- [01:25:23.54] INTERVIEWER: That's important.
- [01:25:24.09] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Everywhere you go, you got to pay rent. Now if this was my program you could live here free, but it's not my program. So you got to pay rent. But I will give you every break I can give you to catch up, before I will put you out. Not to say I have not put people out. But it didn't set well with me. But if you-- You couldn't live for free. It taught me a lot. And when I lost that job, it humbled me. It humbled me in such a way that I-- because when I fought for my rights, my civil rights, I just knew I was going to win. Because we had civil rights. That's when I found out, that's only written on some paper. You better have some money or you're not going to win. And it isn't that I didn't win. I won the fight but I lost the war. And they settled with me, but it was a small amount of money. But at that point, I was mentally ready to give it up. It was just too much. And it taught me that no matter how much-- what do I want to say? Evidence you have of how they mistreat you, you can't win. It's a hard thing to win, for your civil rights. So that-- Once I got over that, it just refueled me to continue this fight.
- [01:27:09.47] INTERVIEWER: As a community activist.
- [01:27:10.48] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: As a community. Yeah. My kids sometimes say, mom maybe you ought-- You sure that's what you want? I can't help it. That's what I am and that's what I do. I don't do it because I want you to see my name. That's not it. Somebody has got to continue to fight. We don't have our leaders anymore. The Wheelers are gone. Mr. Hill, he's older. Ezra's gone. We don't have any fighters. So somebody's got to stand up and say something. And so, if it's me then it's me. And so, that's what I do.
- [01:27:48.82] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:27:49.75] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I can't say I enjoy doing it. Because it's not always a joyful thing, or a joyful situation. But it's something that needs to be done. And so, I was talking to some kids earlier at Community.
- [01:28:06.95] INTERVIEWER: Community.
- [01:28:07.83] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I told them I was 72. I said, but I'm gonna live to be 100. So whoever is out there, you still got some time with me. I'm gonna be here until I'm 100. Til I can't be here any longer. Fighting for our rights.
- [01:28:24.58] INTERVIEWER: OK. That's great, that's wonderful. So what advice would you give to the younger generation? You just sort of talked about it a little bit here.
- [01:28:34.14] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I want our younger generation to learn to communicate with one another. And I also-- And I think they need help with this. And this is where we need the help. And I've talked to some people about mentoring, because I think they need some mentoring. But to be more respectful. Be respectful to your elders. Because you need us, and we need you. And we can work together. We don't have to have this separation. And it's very important, because we were taught to respect.
- [01:29:15.47] INTERVIEWER: It's true.
- [01:29:16.74] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And we need to get back to that, to respect. But I don't put it all on our kids, because they've been kind of kicked to the curb. And sometimes they don't have their parents to give them what they need. And so, we can't just say, oh well they don't count. They do count.
- [01:29:37.75] INTERVIEWER: True.
- [01:29:37.99] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And if their parents-- Like I've told some teachers. They say well, I'm not their parents, I'm not supposed to be baby sitting. Well that's what you got to do. If the parent isn't there, then that's what you gotta do. We have to step in. Somebody's got to help them. They're out there lost, and we need to be there to help them. I think.
- [01:29:57.26] INTERVIEWER: Yes.
- [01:29:58.50] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So I'm not willing to give up on our children. They need working on. And we need to be there to help them to do that. So I think there's good in them, and we did to bring it out.
- [01:30:11.41] INTERVIEWER: That's true. That's true. OK so I got two final questions.
- [01:30:17.34] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: OK.
- [01:30:18.69] INTERVIEWER: More comments than questions, I guess. Your thoughts on having-- Did you ever think that you would see the first African-American President in your lifetime?
- [01:30:34.66] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: No.
- [01:30:35.61] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:30:35.98] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Not one that we know about.
- [01:30:37.78] INTERVIEWER: OK. OK I understand.
- [01:30:43.68] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I say that because we've had some folks that have passed.
- [01:30:47.88] INTERVIEWER: I know what you meant.
- [01:30:49.82] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So he's not our first African-American President. But he's the first we know of.
- [01:30:53.89] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:30:54.59] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: But no, I didn't.
- [01:30:57.13] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:30:57.69] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: And I remember my mother telling me, "I'll never see civil rights, but you will." And now I'm telling my grandchildren, "I won't see it, and I don't know if you will." But I don't know. I don't know. It has to do with power and money. And that's a hard thing to deal with. And I think if we teach our children to be proud of themselves, and that they're not beneath anybody-- anybody. They're just as good as the next person. If we can get that thought across to them, then you can move on. That's what helped me to move on. My mother telling me that I was as good as the next person. And that's what I think, we need to get across to the children. Because there's a lot of negativity going on. And so they need a lot. They need some positive input, to let them know--
- [01:32:04.24] INTERVIEWER: Positive reinforcement.
- [01:32:05.70] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Yeah, to know that you can do it. They have much more out here than we had. Because I sit back and I say, wow when I was coming up-- I remember when I was graduating I applied at I believe, Delta Airlines. I wanted to be a
- [01:32:27.16] INTERVIEWER: Flight-attendant.
- [01:32:27.64] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Flight attendant. And they sent me back a letter saying, they didn't hire colored women. And so I've lived to see that they do hire them now. We've got black pilots. So we've made you know--
- [01:32:46.41] INTERVIEWER: Some strides.
- [01:32:46.80] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: We've made some strides. But it seems like we're making some steps backwards, too. Because we're being pushed. But we can't let that get us down or deter us. We gotta keep pushing ahead, and bring our kids up along with us.
- [01:33:03.27] INTERVIEWER: That's true.
- [01:33:04.43] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: Because when I do get where I can't move around, I want
- [01:33:09.38] INTERVIEWER: Them to be able to help.
- [01:33:10.68] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: I want them to help me. I don't wanna be out here, and don't have any help. But I have faith in our children. I know they're a little rough around the edges, but that's all right.
- [01:33:23.13] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. We love them anyway.
- [01:33:24.68] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: We love them anyway. And we never been afraid of rough edges.
- [01:33:28.53] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [01:33:29.27] SHIRLEY BECKLEY: So we can deal with it.
- [01:33:30.77] INTERVIEWER: That's true.
May 5, 2015
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Bethel AME Church
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Ann Arbor to Ferguson
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