Cleora Magee & Charlie Harris

Cleora: “We had lots of businesses.”

Charlie: “All you had to do was come down to the corner. Come down West Street and you’d find everything you need.”

Cleora: “This [MLK Plus-Neighborhood Engagement Hub] was a bank.”

Charlie: “Yup, Citizens Bank. We had a hardware store, we had barber shops, beauty salons, a little bar, Steering Wheel Bar. We had the Hinky Dink, Mr. X, the gas station. Right around the corner we had a place called Tastee Freeze, you could get yourself a nice ice cream cone. What we had back then – I came in around 78’/79’ – we had everything in this neighborhood you wanted.”

Cleora: “The only time you needed to go downtown was if you were shopping for school clothes or something like that. But you really didn’t have to unless you wanted to make a special trip and then we got Genesee Valley and that killed downtown.”

Charlie: “Every city in the United States has the same problem now because you get the malls. The malls mess everything up.”

Cleora: Flint started community education. We had people come from all over the world to look at our program. And it started community education and through the Mott Foundation [who] paid for most of it. We have all kinds of programs for children. Just everything.

Charlie: Tell them about the city and… Flint known for the city and…. housing

Cleora: Flint was the first city to have open housing, and we had a sit-in at city hall in order to make sure that happened. And that was back in the early sixty-something.

Charlie: Sixty-eight, sixty-seven.

Cleora: Yeah.

Charlie: Flint also was the first black mayor in the united states, if I remember.

Cleora: Yeah, for a city of our size.  We got a great history, but you know we… The problems now is just…

Charlie: Media! All the negative stuff you hear about now. A lot of good things here, a lot of athletes and stuff, but you never hear nothing but the negative things.

Cleora: You’ve been through our cultural center, right? We have a great cultural center, and we have a great downtown. And, my concern is that we have business people downtown who are really interested in making downtown, you know, they went about and beyond to bring in businesses and to purchase building and re-do them and up them back up again. So, downtown in flowing right now, and we need a person like that to have that same interest in the neighborhoods so we can get the neighborhoods back rolling again. We have a master plan and much of the master plan… The master plan calls for so many neighborhoods like ours not to provide new housing. I don’t think that’s what the people want, especially coming out this far. I think the master plan is really calling for housing near, coming out as far as Hamilton. And you know, Hamilton is just a little up. When you go north our boundaries are Carpenter Road and all of that area from Hamilton all the way out the master plan calls for that to just be green space, and I just think that’s just wrong. That’s why we have to do planning.