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Cane River Media
25785 Catalina Stret
Southfield, MI 48075
AUTHOR: Detroit Black Writers Guild
Editor Herbert Metoyer
Cover design: Herbert Metoyer
Produced by Cane River Media
Price $35.00 + ($5.00 Shipping & Handling)
DESCRIPTION: Hardback with colorful dust jacket. A photo album poetry book of Black Detroit from the 1930s to 1950s when "Paradise Valley" was one of the most prosperous Black business and entertainment districts in the country. This poetry book takes a nostalgic look back into Detroits past at a time when showgirls, tap dancers, and jazz greats took center stage. This book features more than 200 timeless photographs and the work of 56 poets.
Publishers COMMENT: This book is destined to become a classic and should be in every library and on the coffee table of every American home. Browsing this book gives you a warm fuzzy feeling and leaves you with a comfortable sense of well being.
REVIEWS:In the Free Press on Friday, youll get a glimpse of an amazing new book, "Paradise Valley Days" . Ive had an advance look at this historical treasure. Between more than 200 historical photos and the lyrical words of 56 Detroit poets and writers, one can hear, smell, and feel paradise Valley and sense the times. (Detroit Free Press, Tuesday July 21, 1998)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Peggy A. Moore
In its heyday, back in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Paradise Valley, a Black Mecca that was located on the lower east side of Detroit, dazzled and attracted more weekend visitors to her door step than did Greek Town or China Town during the same period.
Paradise Valley came of age during the height of segregation in Detroit. Legal "Deed Restrictions" prohibited a Negro from renting or owning property in all but the most wretched parts of the city all on the lower east side. Back then, a Negro could be thrown in jail for being caught in any area west of Woodward Avenue.
It was in this climate that Negro businessmen like Charles Roxbourgh, Irvine Rhone, John White, and others took a somewhat condemned area bounded by Gratiot, Vernor, Brush, and Hastings and carved out "Paradise Valley."
At that time, Negroes had no political power. No one that looked like them was allowed to sit in the mayors office or hold a seat on the "Common Council." For this reason, the citizens of Paradise Valley got together, erected their own City Hall, and elected Roy Lightfoot as their first mayor.
Did you know that before integration came to Detroit, Paradise Valley actually had more Negroes in business than any other city in the country?
This was due largely to the fact that Negroes who worked for the automobile industry earned fairly decent wages and they had a lot of money to spend. There were also many Railroad Porters who called Detroit their home, and they, too, were well paid.
As a result, businesses flourished. On St. Antoine Street there was Watson Realty Co., Donald F. White Architect, Longs Cut-Rate Drug Store, Law Offices of Lewis-Rowlette-Brown; Biddys Chicken Shack; Wilsons Modern Laundry; Wayne County Better Homes; Pekin Restaurant; Biltmore Hotel; Modern Barber Shop; The Pryor Hotel, and many others. By the way, most of the businesses used Richard Austin, who later became Secretary of State for Michigan, as their accountant.
All of these businesses were solvent, meaning that they operated profitably. And while all black businesses had to put their money in white-owned banks, none of the banks in the city at that time would hire a black in any position except that of a janitor.
On weekends, especially during the summer months, taxis ran almost non-stop between the train and bus stations transporting travelers and visitors into the city. Some to visit friends and family, and others who came just to relax and have a good time. A great majority of the visitors came from the south to get a taste of big city life.
At night, cocktail lounges, dance halls, showbars, and restaurants all came alive with dazzling lights, swing bands, sultry singers, dancers doing the Black Bottom, Jitterbug, or Hulley Gulley, and jazz and blues artist all on center stage. It was a time for "Zoot Suits," long watch chains, and wide brimmed Stetson hats.
In many ways, Paradise Valley was not unlike Harlem in New York. No Negro musician worth the salt in his bread would ever think of coming to Detroit City without visiting the "Valley." And it was there that you would find giants like Duke Ellington, Jimmy Lunceford, Lionel Hampton, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, McKinneys Cotton Pickers, Louis Armstrong, and all the other Hep Cats....Paradise
Like an unassuming lady
abducted and vaguely abject
She stands at the crossroads of the city;
wheedling winds attack her back
And on her cold shoulders
chattering brown birds and gulls relax.
Unblinking like a peculiar marble statue
shes bathed in soft velvets of twilight
Winking street lights splash colors rhythmically
on roofs of speeding vehicles on the go.
And on damp asphalt her sober, expressionless face
seems to assume an absorbing glow.
Her fiber, capricious breezes cannot whisk away,
like submissive leaves that fall at her feet and soon decay.
Her spirit struggles through broken branches and objectively hovers
over the wild flowers that dress her jagged pathway.
Gilded messages scribbled on her crumbling walls
render lucid clues and hints
of the essence of her yolk
belated... and bemused.
© 1997 James Neal Ware
The Great Black Strip
Before the freeways were built, even before the riot of 43, there was a strip in Detroit called Paradise Valley, and it was swinging all night long...
By TONI JONES
Free Press Staff Writer
Count Basies band wailed "After Hours" thinly from the juke box, but the small gathering in the Garfield Lounge of the Randora Hotel hardly heard. The faces and clothes were 1972, different. Drinks were more expensive. And the music didnt croon live and bittersweet as it did 30 years ago. Gone were the handsome, smooth talking sporting men dressed in Al Capone suits with money in their pockets and beautiful women on their sleeves. Gone too were the big bands, the long shiny chauffeur-driven limousines, the high-ceilinged dance halls with their crystal chandeliers and the chorus girls in puffed sleeved satin dresses with low cut backs, floppy brimmed hats and cigarette holders.
The Randora Lounge at 98 Garfield now comprises almost all thats left to suggest the frenzied night life and the people who made this part of Black Bottom distinctly and uniquely Paradise Valley. The valley burgeoned in the early 30s along and around Adams and St. Antione shortly before, after and some because of the legalization of whiskey in 1933.
These are my bags
I carry my dreams
My hatred, my nightmares
Stuffed and folded
Stacked, and twisted, and crushed.
My bags are my fate
Holding dreams upon dreams
Defeat, honor, and love stuffed in between.
A bag of dreams dragged upon my feet
Buffed up, then layered down
A bag of love held close to my heart
Crushed, torn into bits
Wet with tears
With fragments of kisses
Touches of love
Unforgiving and cheated.
A bag for the nighttime
Full of fear
Loneliness and hunger
A remembrance of your smile
To be needed, shared, and loved.
Their heaviness covers my soul
They guide my destiny
They will never leave me
But you did....
© 1994 Evelyn L. Rhodes.