Excerpted from The Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook, coming in August from Belt Publishing.
By Lakisha Dumas
When Ruby Jones was here, Detroit was where I called home.
Recalling my elementary-school-aged self, bursting through my grandparents’ screen door to go outside each day.
That screen door that I could only run out of only a few times before Ruby revoked my outside privileges.
That screen door I am thinking of led to sunny skies, friendly neighbors, fun-filled days, life lessons, and endless possibilities.
That screen door on Algonquin Street led me to becoming a neighborhood-renowned chef at the age of five, in my friend Nicole Belcher’s backyard. We would make the fanciest, most spectacular mud pies in the area and if I remember correctly, the tastiest ones, too. I learned with hard work, you could even make dirt beautiful. It is not about what you have but about what you do with what you have.
That same screen door led me to becoming a scholar at six years of age. My front porch is where Louis Jones had class and my grandfather bestowed his wisdom and knowledge to me or whomever, whenever he had the opportunity. I wish I could bottle his wisdom and sell it today. At the time I didn’t realize on that front porch, he was giving me his most valuable treasures.
My grandparents’ screen door led me to one of my greatest adventures of all time, the time me and my big cousin Nettie took a walk to the penny candy store on Jefferson and Algonquin with all of our friends. Picture it, about eight girls ranging in ages from six to twelve years old, in the middle of the street walking four blocks to one of the busiest streets in Detroit to go to one of the many ultimate penny candy stores in our neighborhood. There appeared to be over 200 types of candy my $2 could buy; I could have gotten one of each. I still remember Gumby playing on the thirteen-inch color television behind the store’s counter. I learned during the trip the world was huge and there was so much more to see.
That screen door that was two houses away from Goethe Street led me to becoming a death-defying stunt woman at seven years old, when I got on my red Strawberry Shortcake bike and flew for what seemed like at least ten minutes, chin-first into the sidewalk in front of Mr. Price’s house. I remember being in the air and thinking to myself, “How is this going to end?” That moment right there, I realized I was much tougher and stronger than I ever imagined.
That gray metal screen door located at 3407 Algonquin Street led me to meeting a legendary superstar when my uncle Louie walked me down the block for me to discover I was about to shake hands with Stevie Wonder, because he was visiting his cousin who lived on their street. My block was so special, Stevie Wonder used to visit. I learned then life was filled with surprises and opportunities. I could be whoever I wanted to be because success was obtainable from right where little old me used to live.
As I close my eyes to reminisce, I instantly feel the warmth today from all the hearts of those who lived on Algonquin Street between Mack Avenue and Goethe Street between 1977 and 1988. My memories give me hope for the city that I once knew so well.
The streetlights were my sign each night my family was about to call my name, and the same anticipation I felt swinging that screen door to the left to the world outside, I felt when swinging it to the right, to the love that lived inside of Ruby’s house.
Because when Ruby Jones was here, Detroit was where I called my home.
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Lakisha Dumas, formerly Lakisha Jones, lived in the Detroit area most of her life. Born in 1977, Lakisha called the Mack and Conner area her home until her mother got married in 1986. She then moved not too far away to the Warren and Conner area on French Road where she lived until she moved to college at Eastern Michigan University. Lakisha went to Carlton Elementary, Damon J. Keith Elementary, Dorothy Fisher Middle School, and Laura F. Osborn High School. Detroit is a part of Lakisha and Lakisha will always be a part of Detroit because Detroit is in her heart and has made her the proud womAn she is today.