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Detroit Nomad: Philip Apartments

Author: Tafari, Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 at 7:53 PM Mindspill

Summer 1979, I remember my momma telling my brother & I that we were leaving our project apartment on Exeter in Bessemer, AL to move with my grandmother, “Mommie” in Detroit. Mommie had moved back to Detroit a year or so prior with most of her younger children but my mom decided to stay to make a life in the south. After the announcement, I only remember my momma selling everything but the kitchen sink from the apartment & her telling us we were taking an airplane to Detroit. My brother and I were afraid to fly because we JUST saw a movie or something about an airplane crashing or catching on fire.  Next thing I know (this is all in a kid’s time frame) we were at the Delta check-in to board a flight. Unfortunately for us, momma was/is a smoker so my brother & I had to endure the smoking section from BHM to ATL to DTW. It sucked & I’m soooo damn happy that the smoking section is a thing of the past. I remember how my brother and I tried to open the airplane window so that we could try to catch clouds in our cups. How silly but we were only 4 (me) & 2 (my bother). When we arrived in Detroit, I was so nervous. It was all new and big. Back then, we caught a jitney/gypsy cab to my grandmother’s apartment building on the west side of Detroit at the corner of Euclid & Wildemere. It was a big building and she lived in a basement apartment. All of my aunts & uncles greeted us and I was so happy. That same day, I met my cousin Connie who was younger and somewhat of a bully. She was scary and top dog for years until I beat her up. Mommie’s apartment was big but with so many people living in it, I’m sure that it was a fire hazard. We would play little games in the front of the building, run up & down the hallways playing tag until we got in trouble. When I turned 5, Mommie would let us all walk across the street to Lloyd’s, which was the neighborhood store (Black Owned). Pickles, penny candy, chocolate, BBQ skins, Now & Laters & Moonshine Faygo pop (wish they still made this flavor). Of course she would have us get her Kool 100s cigarettes. I remember the day that Lloyd’s closed for good when he shot a boy who stole from his store. Shot him DEAD in the alley. I was sitting on the stairs are the apartment building. All the police cars and commotion were scary. A few weeks after Lloyd’s closed, another store opened a few doors down. It was an “A-rab sto.” That’s what everyone called it. I hated going to that store because they were not nice & guys used to hang out in front. No one ever hung out in front of Lloyd’s. I loved living with Mommie and she always fixed the best food, not to mention that my cousins were there. You always had a friend. One day my momma told us that we were moving from Mommie’s to a new place around the corner with some man named James. She met James at that “A-rab sto.” Mommie was not keen on us moving as I recall but that did not matter because days later we moved. Just like that with some random guy who had a good job at a GM factory. The cool thing was that we were still at Mommie’s daily because she babysat us while my momma worked. I have nothing but fond memories of living at the Philip Apartments with Mommie. That building holds a piece of my life heart still. As I write this story, I hear Mommie in my head telling me to “sit my mannish ass down before I get it.” Going to this building back in April of this year was a total heartbreak! As you see in the photo, it is no longer a place filled with families. The surrounding homes look like hell. It was sad seeing so many of the homes just not there. It messed me up to see it. It was such a nice block. What a difference 32 unkind years makes. With the Philip Apartments being my first stop during this series of photos/stories, I drove away feeling hurt. Really hurt. How could this be? Damn. Just damn!

9 Responses to “Detroit Nomad: Philip Apartments”

  1. apj Says:

    Fantastic memory Tafari. Your description gives your former home real life and love. I look forward to more in this series.

  2. anna Says:

    Love this piece! I can’t wait for more of the story!!

  3. maya Says:

    I love the look of that building. Can you imagine what it could be today if someone fixed it up?

    I would also love to see some old photos from that time, if you’ve got any!

  4. Najah Says:

    Great read and wonderful picture. We will turn it around.

  5. MARY Says:

    Oh Tafari…I loved this memory. It was a memory of the city, just like yours that led me to my epiphany to become a photographer.

    I was sitting on Woodward near Chicago at a Nursing home, my mom was inside visiting a relative and I waited in the car. I looked at the area remembering with fond eyes of how it used to be in the Seventies when Mama and I caught the Woodward Bus downtown every Saturday.

    Just seeing the blight brought tears to my eyes. The thought came to me if only I had pictures of how Detroit use be….I could dream longer.

    I share your Heartfelt memories brother!

  6. Regg' Says:

    My man. This was a great piece. When I visited Detroit back in November, I stopped by the first house I ever lived in on Princeton near Linwood. Man…to see what that neighborhood has become…I felt nothing but heartbreak.

    Detroit will always be home and I’ll always love that city…but damn.


  7. Stella Says:

    Nicely done Son

  8. Stella Says:

    Loveyour work u r extremeley taleted

  9. Tafari Says:

    Thx for all of the feedback friends. I need to get up off of my thang & get the next story posted…

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