Intergenerational Dialogue on the Great Migration: Jerene Calhoun
When: July 26, 2022 at African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County
- [00:00:12] TAYLA SMITH: My name is Taylor Smith and I'm interviewing you today with the Turner African American Services Council, also known as TAASC, to learn more about the Great Migration that occurred in the US from the 1910s to the 1970s. One of my interests for this project stems because since my parents aren't from the US, they're immigrants, actually, I thought that it'd be a perfect opportunity to learn more about the lives of African Americans and what their lifestyles were like during the early to mid 20th century. My interview is just a series of questions that I would like for you to respond to and to the best of your ability. Anything that you know or remember or heard from family members about your moving from the South to the North. It's just supposed to be a friendly conversation, so if at any time you feel uncomfortable with the question, please just let me know. I will also be taking notes. To start off, can I get a bit of background information, your date of birth and your age, and where you were born?
- [00:01:21] JERENE CALHOUN: My name was actually Jerene Boyens. I was born in East Point, Georgia. My birthday is October 19, 1939. I grew up in East Point, Georgia. I attended East Point Elementary and South Fulton High School. I graduated from South Fulton High School in 1957. I'm from a family of seven children. I'm the oldest of the seven. We grew up in East Point, which was a small town which was highly segregated. That's why I went to East Point Elementary in South Fulton. This was an all-Black neighborhood, an all-Black school. Out of the seven, Like I said, our chain has broken. And two years ago, I lost a brother, but the rest of my siblings are still alive. We live in several areas. I have a brother here in Canton, Michigan; him and his wife and family. I have a brother and his wife and family in Union City, Georgia. I have a sister and her family and they are in Atlanta, Georgia. Then I also have a sister that lives in Oakland, California. Her and her family. I have a son who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has four children, and I'm a great-grandmother. I have four grands and four great-grands. I've been in Ann Arbor since 1964, I migrated from Georgia to here. Since then, I have worked in the area doing several different jobs because when I left Georgia, I was working in the retail area. Then when I moved here, I had some banking classes, so I applied to work in banks in Ann Arbor. Didn't get hired right away. But I did apply. I went back to school and started working on trying to get an associate's degree so that I can further myself and find a work. I got hired at the University of Michigan. But of course, in the time between that I got pregnant and I had my son in 1966. Then after that, I got a divorce. My son and I continued to live in Ann Arbor. I got a job at the University of Michigan, working as a nurse's aide. I worked there a couple of years. But in the process of working at U of M, I got injured on the job, so I had to leave the University of Michigan because of the injury. Because of the injury was so severe, I was able to connect with Michigan Rehab and they sent me back to school. I was able to go back to Washtenaw under the rehab program and I was able to finish Washtenaw Community College and I obtained my associate's degree in business management in 1984. But in the process, I reconnected to our church, which happened to be Bethel AME. Me and my son, we migrated to Bethel AME. We lived on the other side of town, but we came to visit and we liked Bethel. We came and connected with Bethel AME. I've been in this area well over 50 years. All the things in between I moved from the west side of town to University townhouse and my son he went to Pioneer High School. In the process, he was going to Pioneer and I was going to Washtenaw Community College. This was our journey every day. When I graduated, he also graduated the same year. He graduated from high school and I graduated from Washtenaw Community College in 1984. Afterwards my son went to the service. Then I was still trying to find my niche or where I was going to work because I got hired again in a bank which was Michigan National. But that was turned out to be a dead-end job. I couldn't utilize my skills that I had trained for. I connected with family member of mine. She was a licensed daycare provider. I liked what she did and she showed me how to get involved in which I did. After that, I got my license, my sister moved away. I was living with her in the southwest side of town, which was Arbor Oaks, which they call Stoneybrook. I lived in a house there and she left and went to California. I stayed at her house. Then that's when I established my childcare. My first year in childcare, I had six young babies in my daycare because my license was for six. But the word got out that I was doing daycare in the area. The need got greater, so I went to 12.
- [00:07:33] JERENE CALHOUN: I was licensed for 12. In the process, I made lots of friends through my church, and through my community, which was the Arbor Oaks subdivision which they called Bryant Community. I connected with the Bryant Community Center for some resources and they helped me. Then I joined their advisory board and I worked in the community. We did a lot of beautiful things; we was able to help families and the community. We was able to get a area for parents to get health care because at the time Bryant Community Center had a house, and this was used as a health facility. But the city eventually gave Bryant another house which we moved to, and we utilized it. We did neighborhood beautification program. I was part of the Parks and Recs commission, I got voted to do that. I got numerous awards for working in my community because we did have a tragedy. A young lady got killed in our community, so we had to try to heal our community. I connected with the public school system and have a public school system, and we will able to get the community to come together, and do prayerful things to try to bring our community back together, which we did. Then a program was created through Scarlett Middle School for us to have something for our young people to do. We had a program through the City of Ann Arbor where we had 12-year-olds up to 15 years old to give them something. We found jobs, we found mentors, we found people to work with our youth so that they would not get in any more trouble after the tragedy. In the meantime, I'm still working with my daycare. I was at my sister's house, and I was there for 10 years. Then, like I said, the business grew, so I launched out and made other things happen for the business. I started doing pick-up and drop-off, because I was able to hire staff to work and to cover me. I would drop off kids to the Bryant Elementary School and to the Pattengill School to make sure they got to school on time. But the kids at Bryant, a lot of time, we walk, we didn't drive, because I live right near the school. Down through the years, we went with lots of things that we've done, and I changed my name twice. I started out as Rainbow Daycare, and that was because I had a multifacet of kids. I didn't only have Black kids, I had white and Chinese kids as well, so we changed it to rainbow. But then after I moved from my sister's house on Metro, I moved to Champagne and a bigger place. I changed it to Bed and Breakfast Extended Hour, once I was doing 24-hour care, because the business was just that demanding. I was able to do that. But then I had to just drop the 24 hours, because we found that was a bit too much for me. But I still did extended hour Bed and Breakfast, and kids were being dropped off at my house at 6:00 in the morning, and we went from 6:00 to 6:00 every day. But if anybody asks you who Ms. Jerry is, and I mean, you go to the whole neighborhood, Bryant, or even through the City of Ann Arbor, because I also connected with the Ann Arbor Community Center. We had a program there, which was called the gyms program. We offered rites of passage for young people. This was a first for the community that we had. I also connected with the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women because I was a professional, so I figured I'd need to get involved with that. Which turned out to be a great thing for me because I'm still involved with the Negro Business and Professional Woman's Club. I've had many jobs through there, but I was one of the originators of organizing our Ann Arbor Youth Club. The Youth Club is 16 years old now. I'm still involved with the Youth Club, and still with the National Business and Professional Women's Club. But I wore many hats in there also. Membership director, that help recruit young ladies to become a member of our club. Then I was a correspondence Secretary. Like I said, any type of job that was available for some reason, they always elected me [LAUGHTER]. Like I said, I wore lots of hat. That come even from my business. I was a mentor to the parents as well as the provider for the kids, because I had a lot of young women who brought their kids to me. I think that it was because we offer great service for the kids, teaching, learning, mentoring, plus our prices was right. We was one of the cheapest childcare in the Ann Arbor area. At that time, I got involved with the Childcare Association, and network with other childcare providers. We had a lot of training through them, which brought me up to a five-star rating. But doing licensed childcare, you have to be connected with the State. The State had a lot of rigid old rules that you had to follow. But I stuck it out for 30 years I did it for 30 years, I can't even remember some of the kids that I had in my daycare, not unless I go someplace and somebody said, well, "Hey, Ms. Jerene, you used to keep me," and that just blew my mind because it was like, I didn't know because we had so many to come through. I mean, we was licensed for 12, but the way the shifts ran, we would have kids coming and going all the time, Monday through Friday. But I'm grateful for the community. Like I said, I got a lot of awards, not only through the Negro Business and Professional Women's Club, but the Eastern Star have given me awards, the City of Ann Arbor have given me awards, but I'm not rising up in pride in it. It was just because of the way I felt I wanted to help, and I wanted to be a part of something. I did my community endeavor, and finally retired in 2015. Here I am today [LAUGHTER] because fate has swayed through this. I no longer live in Ann Arbor, I've gone to senior place, and I love it. I'm on Carpenter Road, but I've had some of health challenges, but through it all, God has blessed me. You can see me now because I've had a stroke, but God has blessed me to where I'm able to drive again, and to live a normal life. That's my story [LAUGHTER].
- [00:14:51] TAYLA SMITH: Your story is really inspiring. I really did love hearing how you're a successful African American in your community, and that's something that I think many people admire. And funny enough, when you said your brother lives in Canton, Michigan, I actually live in Canton.
- [00:15:08] JERENE CALHOUN: You do? Well, my granddaughter live in Canton too. Her and my great grand, they live in Canton also.
- [00:15:15] TAYLA SMITH: Okay. That's pretty cool. And also when you said that you got injured during your job at U of M, what caused the injury?
- [00:15:27] JERENE CALHOUN: I was a nurse's aid and a student nurse was getting the patient up. And apparently, she didn't lock the bed legs. So the bed start rolling, and she had this heavy woman she was trying to lift. She hollered out so I turned around and went in there to try to help her. But in the process, this lady was falling. I wanted to block her fall so she wouldn't get injured, but I wound up to getting injured because I broke her fall. so I've been living with that forever since it happened. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:16:04] TAYLA SMITH: Well, you sound like you're a very selfless person, and that is something that I really admire. One of the questions that I was going to ask you was, what was it like moving from Georgia to here in Ann Arbor, and were there any specific reasons for migrating to specifically Ann Arbor? So can you please explain it?
- [00:16:26] JERENE CALHOUN: Well, I had no plans of leaving Georgia because I was pretty happy. But my husband and I separated and he moved to Michigan. But at that time I was not planning on joining him. But my mother, she divorced my dad after over 25 years, so she came to Michigan, so I came with her and we landed in Detroit, and of course, my ex found out that I was there. He convinced me to come to Ann Arbor. Coming to Detroit was a big shock because I could not believe how Detroit was. It was a big city and everything was big, even though Atlanta was even bigger. It was a lot to do that, but that was my home. But then he lived here in Ann Arbor, so I followed him to Ann Arbor. Now, that was a complete culture shock. Because of the smallness of Ann Arbor compared to a place like Atlanta or Detroit. It was really different, to adjust to the things that they had to offer here. At the time I came, Ann Abor was not as big as it is now. And when I looked around and saw it, I saw it as this all it is to Ann Abor? [LAUGHTER] Then I moved up on campus. That's where we moved to and that was another shock seeing people and it was just amazing to see all these people here going to college and everything. So I was right in the mix when I moved up on campus on State Street, and I got a chance to find out what U of M was all about. Like I said, it was a real culture shock. And then we moved from up on State Street, so then I moved over in on the West Side of Ann Arbor where there was more Blacks because up on campus there was probably none, or where they were, I didn't see them. I didn't know them. And then like I said, when I moved on the West Side of town, I met quite a few Blacks as Blacks was in the neighborhood at the time. And that way I got a chance to find out who our people were, and they invited me going about that I really found out where the people were. That's how I guess I've been here over 50 years.
- [00:19:02] TAYLA SMITH: How were like compared to the health care? Because you work a lot in the health care and the childcare environment. Like you said, so how are your family members cared for in Georgia, and how does it compare to like now that you're living in Michigan?
- [00:19:19] JERENE CALHOUN: Well, like I said, when I grew up, I was in the neighborhood. It was a divided neighborhood, naturally, so the health care was not that great. I can remember my grandparents, and a lot of things that happened to us growing up, they did self-care. We didn't have a clinic or a doctor. Mom had a doctor that she knew where we could go get our shots and stuff, but there was not like you have neighborhoods that have healthcare facilities, we didn't have that. At that time, we had a doctor that maybe come to the neighborhood once a week to see the sick and the elderly. But we had a lot of people, like I said, this one lady, she died, she was 124 years old. But she gave my parents a lot of remedies to help us be healed. We didn't have everything that everybody else had. But through faith and everything, they used everything because we got bee stings, we stepped on nails and everything else. They did pull out the old-fashioned remedies to make sure we didn't get really sick.
- [00:20:33] TAYLA SMITH: Would you say that when you moved up to Michigan, that the care was better for you?
- [00:20:39] JERENE CALHOUN: Well, like I said, when I left and came here, integration was open. But when I grew up, it was not, and here was like an entirely new world for me in a lot of areas. Like I said, to get hired at the university hospital and everything, that was great. And to have my baby, even though he wasn't born in Ann Arbor. In fact, I had him two months early. He's a seven-month baby but I was in Detroit so I had the baby down there and I think, well, growing up in the South, the segregation was really bad. Who knows what they would have done? They probably wouldn't have let me have my baby at a hospital like it was in Detroit. But I was still able to come back here because I had my own doctors and everybody here. But like I said, it was an entirely different thing for me, especially.
- [00:21:38] TAYLA SMITH: Thank you. Because I know that you said that you weren't really planning on moving from Georgia to Michigan. Were any of your other family members disappointed?
- [00:22:02] JERENE CALHOUN: Well, my siblings. Nobody wanted mama to leave. But she had found her way. She had found some friends in Detroit and had helped her find a job. So I figured, while she's going, I'm going to go with her because I didn't have no kids or anything, so I'm going to go with her so maybe I could get a job and settle in Detroit. I had no idea that really true that I'm going to wind up here in Ann Arbor. But following her, I was looking for a new way to do something, a change of lifestyle.
- [00:22:42] TAYLA SMITH: Would you say that, your family benefited from moving from the South to the North and what were some of the sacrifices that maybe your mom had to make?
- [00:22:55] JERENE CALHOUN: One of the biggest sacrifice she had to leave my brothers when we both came here because we left my three brothers in Georgia with my sister, she left. She had to leave them and that the reason why she was going to get them eventually, but she had to get herself settled so once she got working and got herself settled and a place to stay, I went back home and transfer my brother's back here to Michigan and they live in Southwest Detroit. That's when my mother lived because she worked at the hospital in Southwest Detroit so that was one of the biggest sacrifice she had to make, and then to get my brothers in school and everything in a new place. That was a big sacrifice, and see, I lived in Ann Arbor, so I wasn't able to do a lot to help us so it all fell on her, getting them situated. Thanks be to God. We had a lot of people that came to our rescue that help us find our way, and it was good to have family where they weren't actually families with deep friends that my mother had made, and then after I got here, I made some deep friends. This is how the doors were able to open for us to be able to stay in the area.
- [00:24:18] TAYLA SMITH: Would you say that like the, sorry, the community that you have now you still talk to them and you still use them if you need them?
- [00:24:28] JERENE CALHOUN: Well, I moved away from the actual community where I did the daycare for 30 years. But a lot of them are still there and people have moved all around and I still have communication with them, and then by me being actively involved in the community, a lot of people still know me from the community. And then the different places like the NANBPWC Club, that's a group of people that I connected with so I still have people, and through my church. We still have connecting and we still can communicate because that's how they stay in my face. [LAUGHTER] But like I said, just being able to maneuver and get to be known and to know people is a great thing to have in your life. Because my community that I'm in now is a senior place. I'm just getting to know some of the people there. But I still rely on my friends from the other areas where I lived and who I communicated with and everything, we still keep up with each other.
- [00:25:38] TAYLA SMITH: That's nice. I think that like a deep community and like a connected community that's really important to have because that's like really important in everybody's life. That's nice that you've found that community even though you moved away.
- [00:25:51] JERENE CALHOUN: Right and like I said, I still run into kids that was in the daycare. They're grown, they're married, some of them have kids. In fact, I had one of the parents text me and asked me could I take a kid to school. She wasn't even aware that I no longer did daycare. Because when I stopped doing daycare, that was a big blow because I had one of the biggest area where I connect with people, and people were still asking me, don't you want to go back and do daycare? No, it's timeout. Because I enjoyed it 30 years is a long time to give her your service. But it never changed my heart about children or older people because I have great love for them. Because my grandmother lived to be 92, my mother lived to be 85 and I had connecting pieces with them because we were a family were known as the family of love from all over the United States because we have family members all over, and a lot of that was taught from growing up where I came from. We did look out for each other. We love one another and we have always kept the communication open with our family members and we lost a lot of them. We used to have five generations of family members, but the early members all deceased. Now we're looking at maybe or second or third generation because I got grandchildren and great-grandchildren but past me, most of their family members, are all deceased. We trace our roots back to Sparta, Georgia, that's where my grandmother and my granddaddy, they came out of Sparta, Georgia, and they both were Indian families. My grandmother and my granddad both come from Indian families. We've got longevity or we got long ancestry history. But a lot of the history makers are no longer here.
- [00:28:09] TAYLA SMITH: Throughout your whole backstory and throughout your whole bio. I was just wondering, have you ever like revisited your own home to see what has changed or like what it compares to now from what you remember in the past to the present?
- [00:28:24] JERENE CALHOUN: Yeah. Well, we went home last year. My sister next to me because my mother had us like two and three years apart. We did her surprise 80th birthday, so we drove to Georgia, and where we stay, it was like it used to be an old neighborhood where we grew up here, but everything has changed. You know everything is connected Atlanta, East Park, College Park, all of them are right there. You go from one place to another. But a lot of the old landmarks are gone. My high school and my elementary school, they're gone. But we was able to visit the landmark where our high school was. Because years ago after I graduated, after high school was gone because the integration change, all that. We all bought bricks. We have our bricks with our names in the area, which is nice as a landmark for us when we return back home, and a few years I did go to class reunions back home, which was a treat, but see things have changed and the class members, a lot of them are no longer here also. But I made a connection just recently on classmates.com.
- [00:29:42] JERENE CALHOUN: I found out that some of them are still alive, and we started communicating again. Because 1957, that's been a long time. That's like 75 years ago, [LAUGHTER] and I was in high school. But like I said, I keep the line of communication open with my baby sister and my sister that's next to me because they have families and everybody--one of them live in College Park and the other one live in Atlanta. They're just right there together. My brother's in Union City. We still have a connected piece as far as the family go.
- [00:30:20] TAYLA SMITH: That's really cool that you reconnected with your past home because I think it's important to not forget your roots. Always remember where you're from. Also, do you think that society as a whole has changed in different aspects of life like education, healthcare, and social structure per se?
- [00:30:51] JERENE CALHOUN: Yeah. You can look around and see things have changed. Socially, we got so much technology out here. Then you have to worry about right now because of the pandemic. That's a big health issue because we don't know if we're safe or not. They're doing everything for is preventive maintenance for this pandemic. But right now, we've had to adjust to a different lifestyle, a new norm. That we can't go back to the old way things used to be, even though we have opened up things quite a bit. But still, this is something that's going to be with us I believe for a long time. In my way of thinking, we will never go back to doing the things that we used to do. You can just look around, and we're constantly being bombarded with a lot of negativity about this pandemic. You hear a lot of things about that. Then you hear a lot of things, where we are divided as a country. We're not together as people should be. I don't know, if we'll ever get back to where we can be undivided. Because right now, there's a big wedge between people. As a Black person, I come up in segregation. We're almost back to where that started. I grew up in a neighborhood where the Ku Klux Klan marched. This is the stuff I saw, and that I was able to get away from. But then now, you don't have to be in the South for these things to happen because of all the divisiveness and all the hatred that's been spewed. I don't know where we're going to land when it's all over because this is a sad situation that we're in right now.
- [00:33:04] TAYLA SMITH: It seems like the country is [OVERLAPPING] going backwards.
- [00:33:07] JERENE CALHOUN: We're going backwards. In our leadership, you don't be comfortable with who's leading, who's head of things because the whole package right now we're looking at, everything is set around greed and money, ain't no love right now. If you don't have it, shame on you. We get a few benefits. You have few things that can be passed down to you, your Medicare and all this stuff, but it's still not right because there's a lot of people that are homeless, a lot of people that is hungry right here in the United States. We grew up with not having everything, but we were never homeless. We were never hungry. Because our parents was able to provide for us, but now the provisions are drying up. All the big money is at the top. We have to be real about that. It ain't about us no more. If you survive, you're doing great. I'm thankful that I have a father, my Father God. He's the provider for me. I trust Him to continue to provide for me, but there's a lot of people that's suffering. I don't have the resources. If I could, I would reach out and try to help as many people as I could because we're supposed to help one another. But like I said, the divisiveness and assimilation, mean spirit and stuff. The sad part with me is seeing our children lose their lives. My biggest issue is the guns. I wish we could eradicate all of that because when our babies die, that takes a part of me. This is what we have to look at as a country and as people. We got to get it together. Do we all going to be lost. Because all you have to do is look around at the climate change. Our government system is, my own feeling and I'm being recorded, but it's a horrible system.
- [00:35:20] TAYLA SMITH: Exactly.
- [00:35:21] JERENE CALHOUN: It's very divisive. The people that are dividing us, you look at them, they're leaders in their own states. They have people hungry, homeless, living poor, but they keep putting these people back into power where they don't need to be.
- [00:35:41] TAYLA SMITH: [OVERLAPPING] they don't change anything.
- [00:35:42] JERENE CALHOUN: Right. They're not changing anything. I can remember when we got that last president. He say he won't send us back 50 years. He succeeded in that. He's changed the whole structure. I feel sorry for the people that believe him and follow him because my own feeling is, he's not a righteous man. He's all about himself and people can't see it. I'm just hoping that somewhere down the line that that will change again because we do need a big change because we're burning up fires, floods. Everything that you can think of that was biblically expressed, if you reach a Bible. We're seeing things that we have never seen before because of what's going on. I'm just praying that we can come back together or I may not be here to see it happen, but I hope it happen for my grandkids and my great grandkids.
- [00:36:48] TAYLA SMITH: I'm not spreading any hate on the past presidency, but I feel he's spread a lot of seeds of hate into lots of people's minds, and that's been really bad for our country because we're all divided now. I understand that people have different beliefs, but that doesn't mean that those beliefs should be meant to be hating on people or should be expressing hate and anger and greed and stuff like that. But with you, with all your help that you've done for your community, I think that people should take an example from you because you've shown how much you love your community and how much you care for your community. But it's just really sad to see how it looks like we're spiraling backwards. Now, we're going downhill from the country that we're supposed to be the land of the [OVERLAPPING] free.
- [00:37:43] JERENE CALHOUN: This is supposed to be the greatest place in the world. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:37:46] TAYLA SMITH: That's why everybody comes here.
- [00:37:47] JERENE CALHOUN: That's why everybody comes here. Then they see people trying to stop people from coming here. They forget the majority of the people that came here from other countries looking for a better place. Then you look at how they did to poor Indians. They came, they took. Like I said, I have feelings because my family have Indian background. There was Indians in my family. You're looking at how they were mistreated.
- [00:38:21] TAYLA SMITH: Now, you look at how [OVERLAPPING].
- [00:38:22] JERENE CALHOUN: I'm looking at how we're being mistreated. Then you got people from other countries, other nationalities. Anything brown, [LAUGHTER] is being mistreated. That really saddens me because they have just as much right to find a good place to live, to raise their kids, and everything, but who would ever thought the United States? But when you look at it, I guess this was what it was going to be eventually. My feelings is, when the white man took over, they stole everything from everybody, and they're still stealing. See, this is the whole key. They're taking. They want to be the superior one, but they keep forgetting somewhere down to the slavery time, white and Black was still mixing. There's a whole lot of mixed-bred people. Some of them could have Black blood in them, but all that hatred, they hate everything that's Black or brown. But they haven't checked their own ancestry. They forgot. [LAUGHTER] Then like I said, you look around today, you see mixed kids. White and Black is still mixing. They can't stop that, but to hear the ones that spout the hatred and stuff, they don't want no parts of. But if they look in their families, a lot of their sons and daughters are mixing. The races are still mixing, and they can't stop that, but to have the mindset that they are the superior one. But they have to remember that God made all of us, every last one of us. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:40:07] TAYLA SMITH: In the exact image of [INAUDIBLE]
- [00:40:11] JERENE CALHOUN: Right. But this is where we are.
- [00:40:14] TAYLA SMITH: It makes me wonder though that, if they keep on taking, will there be anything more to take? Because eventually, you reach a limit. What happens when you reach that limit? What are you going to do? I just wish that they would see what their hatred and what they're doing is actually and how it's affecting everything. Maybe that there is not one superior race. That the central idea that all white is superior and anything else is inferior, it needs to be erased for the future generations to come because we can't keep going down backwards like this. [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:40:58] JERENE CALHOUN: I worry about my grandkids and people like you. You guys are young. We can't even see a future for you guys.
- [00:41:06] TAYLA SMITH: Especially with all the gun violence, and all the riots, and all the hatred. It looks--
- [00:41:15] JERENE CALHOUN: It look really desolate, but I believe in prayer and I think as a people, if we stay prayerful, then God is going to change that. It's going to be just a matter of time, and like I said, I may not be alive to see it because we don't know when it's going to happen, but change will have to come because you can only go so far. It seemed like they down to the killing, that's about as far as they can go, what else can they do to people? This is what you have to look at, that it's going to have to end eventually, and maybe we come together with lots of love for one another. That mean, me and you and all of my families, we need to love on each other.
- [00:41:59] TAYLA SMITH: Definitely.
- [00:42:00] JERENE CALHOUN: Because that's the only thing that's going to keep us here, that love because that hatred is a destructor because that person that's in charge, he kills, steals, and destroy. That's what's happening right now.
- [00:42:14] TAYLA SMITH: That reminds me of something that Martin Luther King said in one of his speeches, he says, "Only love and faith can drive out the hate, and only the light can drive out the darkness." That's always been one of my favorite quotes by him. I really do like that you believe that your faith and love, they can definitely drive out hate, and I do believe that one day we will get to the point where we drive out the hate and everything else stands back in this world.
- [00:42:51] JERENE CALHOUN: Because we've come a long way through Martin Luther King's time, we did quite well but we never arrived, because you're going to always have those naysayers and all those hatred, those people are always going to be there. Sometime you think, well, we're fighting a losing battle, but we're not. We just have to hang in and continue to love on each other. We can't give up, we can't let it go, and let him win, the devil can't win.
- [00:43:24] TAYLA SMITH: Definitely not.
- [00:43:25] JERENE CALHOUN: That's my motto, he cannot win, he will not win. His time is coming to an end too.
- [00:43:36] TAYLA SMITH: My last question. I live in faith and love. Do you have any advice to future generations or the present, and what your mind thinks that could better benefit the future?
- [00:43:51] JERENE CALHOUN: For the future as a race of people, we need to get our kids more accurately involved with the churches and learn how to get along with each other. But see the divisiveness tends to feed over into a lot of people, and a lot of hatred, because that mean, we're constantly seeing on the news where we've taken our own people. That's an area that need to be rectified, but it's there. Then we got all the gangs and everything because they're looking for love, they're looking for something, so they go in the way that they go which they think is the only way. It's up to the peoples and the community to reach out and try to love on each other. It's hard because a lot of people have been disillusion, been mistreated, and they don't want to hear nothing you have to say, but I'm not going to stop giving my testimony that God is love, you need God in your life. That mean, teaching my granddaughter, my great-granddaughter, they need to get in Sunday school and church because that's the way we was raised. There was nothing else for us to do but to go to church, you didn't go to movies, you didn't do anything on Sunday, you respected the Sabbath day. That was it, all we did was church. But that was a good day because that was a preparation to spend the Sabbath day, to get rid of this manual day with God all day. Like I said, kids was mischievous, and growing up, we had lots of fun and that's another thing. Our kids don't get the opportunity to have fun. In fact, we're giving them too much. Anything they want, we give it to them, when I was growing up, it wasn't that way, you earned what you got. Then like I said, we didn't have all these toys and things and games that young people have now, your videos and all that stuff, we didn't have that. We made up our game. My dad had built us a playground, my grandmother will play in the yard with us, we jumped rope, we played jacks, so we did things like that but we had fun. You see, our kids don't know how to have fun no more because of all the battles and all the stuff that comes around it, so that keeps kids scared to do anything. Because in my daycare, when I bought jump rope, jacks, and things for the kids to play, they looked at me strange, but I taught them how to do jacks, marbles, all this was our games, those are the only thing that we had, and we made games, we created stuff because we didn't have stuff. To get a bicycle or roller skate at Christmas, that was really something for a family. I had seven siblings, with my mom and dad, they always made sure we had something for Christmas, but see, we don't commercialize everything. There is no sacred time, no more, everything is wide open, Sundays, you can do whatever you want to do. That wasn't the way we was raised, we gave it up for our Sabbath day and we made it holy. But all that's gone.
- [00:47:34] TAYLA SMITH: I really feel like lots of kids have forgotten that you have to work and you have to earn what you want and that not everything can be handed down to you because that's just not how life works, because life is going to throw you a lot of things and if you kept getting everything that you want, you're not going to get anything out of life, that's not even living hell. That's one of the lessons that my parents instilled in me, that I have to work for what I want. Because I know that the way I look, I know that for me being African American, I'm not going to get anything that I want, I have to work for what I want, I have to earn what I want. I think that's a very important lesson that they taught me.
- [00:48:16] JERENE CALHOUN: Like I said, to instill work at this in kids, nowadays, "I'm not going to take that job, I'm not going to work at McDonald's, they don't pay enough." But then if I'm Mexican or somebody else come in and get the job, then you got attitude, but you had the same opportunity. Because there are a lot of different races, do have good work ethic, that's how they can move up in the world. But our people have always been the kind that'd be the naysayers, "I don't want to do that work, that's hard work." My first job, I made 50 cents an hour, that was all I was paid. But it was money earned because I worked for it. You have much pride in yourself when you can earn your own way. Let's see, I know I'm guilty. My son will tell anybody, "If I didn't work for it, my mama didn't give it to me," because we didn't have it, we both trying to struggle and survive. So when he worked, he was able to save us money and buy him what he needed. But the generations after that, it just went down here, because I look at my great grand baby, she got tablets, she got phones, she got all kinds of stuff, seven years old, can do all kinds of computer stuff and all that. The technology is great but then you're expecting your mom or your dad to make sure I have this thing. I told my granddaughter, you make her clean her room before you give her anything. Because they're not being taught work ethics, and we started early. I was probably about five years old, my mother was washing, my sister was born, she tied the baby in the rocking chair for me to watch while she was washing clothes and stuff. Then like I said, we all had chores, every last one of us had something that we had to do, and if you didn't, you was punished for that. It was good work ethics, and it instilled in all of us and I'm thankful, and I'm proud of my six brothers, they're all doing good, no one has never been in prison, no one has killed nobody. We're just thankful for the teachings that was handed down between our mom and my grandmom, the whole neighborhood. We had a neighborhood that kept us in line. So, we were thankful for that. But see now, you can't chastise a kid, you can't raise your voice at a kid, because that's child abuse, because they changed the law so that you cannot raise your kids in the right way, and the kids are being taught that, you can't tell me what to do.
- [00:51:06] TAYLA SMITH: But there at least still be some respect for your elders, you shouldn't be so completely out of the door.
- [00:51:13] JERENE CALHOUN: But like I said, the respect is gone because I've seen it in young people, and even in my business, someone was very disrespectful, but I will speak up. A couple of them will want to give me words, and I said, "Well, you can go ahead and give me words." I said, "but I'm going to talk to your mother. I know who your mother is. You going to respect me because I'm going to respect you." They backed down. But like I said, a lot of people won't speak up because people are fearful, because we don't know where the kids are mentally. Because there's a lot of things have created a lot of mental challenges in our young people as well, not only the pandemic, but all the rules and the regs and the stuff they have to go through or is expected of them, and that created a lot of problems for young people. We don't know how close people are to the edge, especially since the pandemic, you got to do this, you got to do that, and you can't do this, and you can't do that, we're up against a lot.
- [00:52:16] TAYLA SMITH: [LAUGHTER] It was so nice interviewing you and I really do thank you for taking your time to interview with me. I greatly appreciate. I learned a lot of stuff.
- [00:52:29] JERENE CALHOUN: I hope I didn't preach too long. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:52:31] TAYLA SMITH: No. I think everybody here took your words to heart.
- [00:52:36] JERENE CALHOUN: Thank you.
July 26, 2022 at African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
Turner African American Services Council
Michigan National Bank
Bryant Community Center
National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs Inc.
Bed and Breakfast Extended Hour Child Care
Race & Ethnicity
East Point GA
2121 Champagne Dr