Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · The Rise & Fall of Idlewild
. . . .

The Rise & Fall of Idlewild

Rick Coates - June 6th, 2002
Idlewild, Michigan was once a thriving community steeped in black American culture and entertainment. It was a symbol of newfound economic and social status for people of color during the 1920s through the mid-‘60s. Located 65 miles south of Traverse City near Baldwin, Idlewild has been in decline for the past 30 years.
Faced with numerous challenges from poverty, run-down buildings, drugs and even a reputation of prostitution, Idlewild seems destined for a change. Several in the community have dreams of returning Idlewild to the success of the days when some of black America’s most successful entertainment, sports and societal figures helped to put Idlewild on the map.
There is a renewed interest in Idlewild from a historical standpoint and an economic perspective. Recently two books have been published on Idlewild’s history and a third book is due out in early 2003. Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village created an Idlewild exhibit two summers ago. Michigan State University‘s museum department will offer a traveling photo exhibit to tour the Midwest in 2003 with proposed stops in Idlewild and Traverse City. Oprah Winfry, Dick Clark and others are proposing a documentary film on Idlewild.
Some residents of the community are proposing economic development plans to recreate a spark in a community whose flame seemed to die out in the late 1960s. There is a proposed summer jazz festival and consideration of a major summer blues festival this year. There is even an ambitious plan to create Idlewild into an Interlochen type summer camp specializing in the area of jazz and blues music, black literature, arts and dance.
Why all of the sudden so much interest in Idlewild?
“People keep asking will Idlewild be revitalized, will it return to its glory days?” said Dr. Ben Wilson, Chair of the African Studies Department at Western Michigan University. “That is like asking me at the age of 55 if I will have the body of a 19 year-old again and the answer is no.”

Dr. Wilson, who along with his colleague Dr. Lewis Walker recently published the book “Black Eden: The Idlewild Community,” (MSU Press) looks at Idlewild from three perspectives.
“The history of Idlewild, its development and the entertainment aspects are all quite fascinating, but there is more to the story,” said Wilson. “In our book we also looked at the decline of Idlewild, where it is at today and what can be done not to return Idlewild to the past but rather to develop a viable community in the future that does embrace aspects of Idlewild’s history.”
This question of renewed interest is best answered in understanding what Idlewild once was and why it went from the resort community for black Americans to a haven of crime, prostitution and high levels of poverty today. Its historical significance and contribution to the entertainment world make Idlewild an important piece of the puzzle that make us who we are today as Americans. It is from that perspective that some who live in Idlewild today would like to take the community from its current state and restore its glory.

During the turn of the last century black Americans were beginning to enjoy new economic and educational opportunities, especially in the northern states. Despite freedom from slavery the policy was segregation and many Black Americans even in the north were not welcome in the neighborhoods or resorts of their fellow white Americans.
Four white families who had purchased the 2,700-acre tract that would become known as Idlewild established the community in 1912. The developers believed that there was an opportunity to sell lots to “land hungry blacks.” Their insight proved to be correct; by 1927 16,895 lots had been sold to over 6,000 black Americans from around the country. The increase in black American populations in Chicago and Detroit made Idlewild a natural; but landowners were coming as far away as Massachusetts, Texas, California and even Hawaii.
Landowners and visitors to Idlewild were some of the most prominent black Americans. Social activist W.E.B. DuBois, founder of the NAACP visited often and the great boxer Joe Louis and his business manager Sunnie Wilson vacationed regularly and owned a nightclub in Idlewild. Jazz greats Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie vacationed and owned property at Idlewild.

While entertainers would become the big names of Idlewild during the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, during the ‘20s it was Dr. Daniel Hale Williams who was Idlewild’s most prominent resident. Dr. Williams was from Chicago and was the first to successfully operate on a human heart making him respected in medical circles and a hero in the black community. Dr. Williams would spend a lot of time at Idlewild and even built a medical clinic before passing away of a stroke in 1931.
Idlewild represented a symbol of social and economic status for many black Americans, but it was the entertainment that crossed racial barriers and put Idlewild on the map. The number of black American entertainers who performed regularly at Idlewild were the “who‘s who“ of that era. White residents and visitors of Traverse City and other northern communities often visited Idlewild clubs to see many now legendary performers.
Blues greats B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Alberta Adams and Etta James were all regulars. An equally impressive line-up of jazz greats performed at Idlewild: Ellington, Armstrong, Gillespie, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington.
There were others like Sammy Davis Jr. who made some of his first performances on the Idlewild stages, as did Bill Cosby, Jackie Wilson and Stevie Wonder.
Actress and singer Della Reese started her career in Idlewild as did Motown legends the Four Tops who formed there. Other musical giants were regulars; Aretha Franklin, The Spinners, and The Temptations all played the clubs and vacationed at Idlewild.

Entertainment became such a mainstay at the resort community that music promoter and resident Arthur Braggs in the 1950s created a traveling “Idlewild Revue” that toured the country during the winter months and featured lesser known names with the exception of T-Bone Walker and jazz great Arthur Prysock.
By the 1950s Idlewild had grown into one of the biggest destinations for black Americans. It boasted 14 motels, hundreds of cottages (called “doghouses” because of their size), six restaurants and nine nightclubs, amazing for a community that now has about 400 year round residents and about 2,000 summer residents. Currently the community has one restaurant the Red Rooster that has an occasional performer, two small motels and no nightclubs.
In fact the town shows no signs of its fabled past with the exception of pictures that adorn walls of area businesses and the stories of the days gone by told around kitchen tables and bar stools. Many of the homes and buildings are in need of repair. A first-time visitor to the area may find it hard to believe that this was once a booming resort community.

Idlewild started to change in the mid-1960s. Scholars point to the civil rights movement and newfound economic opportunities for Black Americans. Essentially by the 1970s black Americans were able to travel to the same resorts as white Americans.
A lack of reinvestment back into the community infrastructure as well as area business owners failing to keep up with the times were additional troubles Idlewild began to face in the 1970s.
“Local businesses were not reinvesting during the profitable times and their facilities began to deteriorate,” said Dr. Ronald J. Stephens, professor of Anthropology and coordinator of African-American Studies at the University of Nebraska. “The beds in the hotels were falling apart and the pillows were old so people stopped coming.”
Dr. Stephens published his first book “Idelwild, The Black Eden of Michigan” (Arcadia) last year. The book was a pictorial consisting of surface editorial. His new book is due out in early 2003 to be published by the Wayne State Press and Dr. Stephens plans to explore from a scholarly perspective the rise and fall of Idlewild.
Lake County and Yates Township where Idlewid resides, has among the highest areas of unemployment and poverty in the state. With no economic base the area has struggled and this too has helped to contribute to the decline of Idlewild.

Idlewild today has six businesses, and two chambers of commerce. The 2000 census shows that for the first time in its 90-year history Idlewild has more white residents than black.
The community is divided on the best route for the future. Some believe industry is needed, others want to see tourism brought back and some want Idlewild left as is. In recent months recall petitions have been circulated to remove three township board members including the Yates Township supervisor whose own father-in-law signed the petition.
Bill McClure, owner of the Red Rooster Bar & Restaurant, is tired of seeing the community struggle. He is concerned about the future of Idlewild, but at the age of 72 he knows that he doesn’t have the energy to turn the area around himself. He organized an American Legion Post at Idlewild last December and has been recruiting others to help him change the destiny of Idlewild.
“Look I am tired of just about everyone around here being on welfare, all the drugs in the area, I am going to do something about it,” said McClure. “We need some people with money to come in here and invest in the community, there is a history of success here and it can be restored. We need parks, motels, places for families and kids to go.”
McClure is not the first person in the area with ideas to improve Idlewild there have been movements in the 1980s to build golf courses and bring industry to the area. Those failed and Idlewild seems stuck. The current attention being given to the area may help to facilitate change. Despite some deteriorating homes and buildings there is a natural beauty to the area, which is surrounded by the Pere Marquette State Forrest and the Manistee State Forrest, Idlewild also has several lakes.
Gone are the glory days when the likes of Joe Louis, Wilt Chamberlain, Jackie Wilson and others hung out in Idlewild. Performers like Aretha Franklin and Bill Cosby probably won’t be returning anytime soon. Yet Americans have a keen interest in saving and protecting our culture. Historical restoration projects are going on all over this land. The question is now not will Idlewild be restored and protected but rather when?
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5


09.27.2016 at 07:52 Reply
How's the restoration of Idlewild coming along?