On June 20, 1943, my father went out on a Sunday afternoon date to Detroit’s Belle Isle. Back in the day, Belle Isle was this amazing recreation venue on an island in the middle of the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Canada. It was free and it was open to Blacks and Whites.
Although there’s been a severe decline in the island in recent years, it’s still a place where people go to relax during the summer. Over the years, Belle Isle offered -
A lovely boulevard and network of paths for strolling and cycling
A canal where you could rent boats and go canoeing
A band shell for concerts
Boat and yacht clubs
Food vendors and even
Pony rides for little kids
So for a young …
The picture below is my great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Parker. He was born April 1878 in Harris County, Georgia; youngest child of Isaiah Parker and Charity Ann.
Charity Ann was Black and one of the slaves owned by Isaiah’s father, the Rev. Isaiah Parker. I’ve been able to find a fair amount of info on the Parker family but not much on my slave ancestor, Charity Ann. Funny thing, is that I feel so connected to her because of all the stories my grandmother (and her granddaughter) told me about her.
My grandmother, Beatrice Parker, was Thomas Jefferson Parker’s daughter who was born in 1898 when Charity Ann was still alive. Grandma got to spend quite a bit of time with Charity Ann who lived with the family …
Our family history of attending college was something that was drilled into my brain from my earliest years. What I think made our family unique was that we had three generations of Black women in America who graduated from college. I’m very proud of the history laid out for me by my mother and grandmother that led me to college and law school.
My maternal grandmother, Hazel Edna Weaver attended college at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She started in September of 1913 – 100 years ago last year and was the class of 1917. Back in her day, most women didn’t go to college, no matter what race they were.
I’m not sure why my grandmother set this goal for herself. She wasn’t wealthy and didn’t …
One day in 1966, I was walking down the street in a neighborhood on the East side of Detroit and a little blonde boy, he couldn’t have been more than 7 years old, called out to me as I passed his front lawn -
It was the first time anyone had ever called me America’s most explosive and historically derogatory word and sadly, it wasn’t the last. I will never forget that day or the “punched in the gut” feeling I got when I was called a nigger.
But as shocked as I was, I remember how that little kid looked at me – not with hatred, but with a sense of accomplishment because someone he loved and looked up to used the word “nigger” often enough …
I’d like you to meet four amazing women who I’ve known since I was a gleam in my father’s eye. They were all pioneers in Detroit’s medical community.
Even though I was never motivated to go to med school (hating high school biology was a sure sign), the “Docs”, as I call them with great affection, were role models and mentors. Even unofficial Godmothers.
Counterclockwise, they are -
Ethelene Crockett, M.D.
Marjorie Peebles-Meyers, M.D.
Natalia Tanner, M.D. and
Rachel Boone Keith, M.D.
Sadly, Dr. Tanner is the only one still living.
Each of these women grew up during the Great Depression and graduated from medical school in the 1940s when most women didn’t even go to college, let alone professional school. I knew them as integral part of the “brain trust” that made Detroit …
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