My First Friend
I don’t remember my first friends but I remember my Mom telling me about them. In the late spring before I was even a year old we’d spend afternoons in our fenced-in yard in front of our Detroit home. Fenced was good because I was crawling and Mom was pregnant with my brother so she could let me play in the grass and sit in a lawn chair to watch me. There were a couple of girls that stopped by the fence every day on their way home from school and gushed over the baby. Mom told me they always made me smile and laugh and they enjoyed their visits with me too.
Sadly, that was the spring of 1967. During the summer there was a 5-day riot in Detroit that ended with 43 dead and over 1000 injured in the city. When fall came I was sad because my friends walked right by and didn’t stop anymore. After that summer young black girls didn’t stop to play with little white girls in Detroit. The girls knew the tension and that they had to walk by without stopping and my mom knew she couldn’t try to ask them to, but I was just over a year old and didn’t understand.
I’d like to think that I did get a little of a life-lesson from it at that young age. Maybe it was the first time I knew how silly the color of someone’s skin meaning anything about them as a person was. It was definitely the first time I was involved in grownups doing something stupid that ultimately hurt kids. Maybe that’s why I’ve always understood that every choice I make can affect other people in a good or bad way. People being stupid hurt the whole city and I’m not so sure Detroit has recovered from that riot yet.