Mollie Peterson Interview 1

Antioch College

 

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Anya Opshinsky: This is Anya Opshinsky interviewing Mollie Peterson on April 24th, 2015. Thank you so much again for being part of the Engaging the Wisdom oral history project. Would you please tell us your name and current address?

Mollie Peterson: Yes, I can. And I would like to thank you for inviting me. It's an honor to be here and my name again is Mollie Peterson. My address is 723 Wickham Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

AO: Thank you. So, can you start off by telling me a little bit about your childhood [laughs] growing up in Little Rock?

MP: My childhood in Little Rock is very vague. I was born in Little Rock and raised 'til I was 10. And I believe the reason it's really vague is because I blocked out a lot of things. My mother left when I was a baby -- left my father. And my sister and I were raised by my father, so I never got to meet my mom. And being born in the Fifties -- I, as much as I can remember, my father was trying to work and take care of two girls, and he was an alcoholic. He was arrested a lot. I could not tell you how many times we went to homes that, you know, that, we were unfamiliar with until he got out of jail. So, from what I remember, it was a good childhood because he provided a home and he loved us as best he could. But being a female, a young, a girl, I'm pretty sure it was a lot of unanswered questions.

AO: Yeah, really.

MP: Yeah, you know. So, what happened: my father met someone. She was a schoolteacher. We thought we were going to move into a nice neighborhood and live a normal life, and she informed my father that she didn't want children. So my father put the, started the search of finding my sister and I a home. So we went to several places before moving to Missouri and that was my last time in Arkansas.

AO: Okay, and then, so you moved to Missouri, and what neighborhood did you move into when you were there?

MP: In Missouri? It was no neighborhood. We moved to the country.

AO: Oh, okay.

MP: It was to the rural South - southern, dirt roads, country, you know, chopping cotton, the whole nine yards.

AO: Who were you living with there?

MP: We wasn't for sure who it was. My sister and I were told that we were moving to Missouri. My dad put sticker nametags on us, put us on a Greyhound bus, and sent us away. So, the people, we call them Aunt and Uncle, were at the bus station to meet us when we got off the bus because they knew we were coming. Apparently, he had made a deal. So, we really wasn't for sure who the family was, but they were a older couple. They never had children of their own and it probably was the best thing that could have happened to me.

AO: So, when you started school in Missouri, what are your first memories of the school you went to?

MP: The first school we went to was in rural country, and it was one school building, so it had two classrooms. And, believe it or not, I know it seems unreal because back in them days people thought that that didn't exist anymore, but it did in certain places, so my early education was very limited. It was where, you know, the teacher walked around with the ruler, and you had to sit a certain way, act a certain way. But I don't think we really got a lot of education, because she was teaching two grades.

AO: And you were intermixed together?

MP: Yeah, we were intermixed together. Yeah.

AO: Okay. So, what sort of activities do you remember doing besides school?

MP: Activities were limited because the couple that was raising my sister and I didn't believe in sports for girls. So it was very limited. So I didn't play any sports. I wasn't allowed to play sports, and basically, it was all work, very little time for play. So, I think, when you move to a small town or country what happens is you build relationships, so there were a lot of kids. There were a lot of kids and it wasn't like it was today. People just accepted you. So those kids became like our family and their family became like our family. And you didn't have the, you know, people talking about you because you wasn't with your parents, and name-calling, and stuff like that. We were all, you know, we were all together as a family.

AO: Was the, the school that you attended, was it predominantly black or was it-?

MP: Oh, it was all black. Yeah. There was no segreg- When I first started school, it was all black. There was no desegregation at that time. So, that came when I hit high school. Yeah.

AO: Can you tell me a little bit about an influential mentor in your life as a, as a child?

MP: My mentors were make-believe. Because back in those days, people was so serious, you really didn't get a lot of encouragement. So, I remember watching Jesse Jackson, Reverend Jesse Jackson on the TV. I remember listening to how the Panthers would fight for human rights and Maya Angelou. And for some reason, that made it, it influenced me because I remember thinking how good it would be to advocate for people's rights and for injustices. In the town where I was raised, you didn't see a lot of marching or speaking out, because I guess they didn't have to. We were all together, you know? There were a lot of little small towns, and everybody was in their place, and everybody knew their place, so there was no reason for, you know. We saw TV and we would watch the TV when we could. And I guess what I'm saying is the, a lot of the, the injustices that was going on that Martin Luther King was marching about we would see it and, of course, it influenced us. And when he, you know, the night that he died, we were like everyone else, glued to the TV and in total shock because it was like a dream. How could someone hurt someone that was really making a difference in the world? So, role models were probably -- I can't even say they were the ministers back then, because they were not voiceful [sic], not in the town I was from.

AO: Yeah.

MP: I think it was all the ones that we saw on TV and the magazines, and that's how you would, that's who you would look up to.

AO: So you mentioned when you got to high school that desegregation then did become more of a discussion. Can you talk about that a little bit?

MP: We think, now, it was because they were winning all the basketball games, championships, and, you know, the team was really good. So, sometimes we were like, 'Did they desegregate so that we could, you know, come together, you know, and as a group,' but-

AO: You mean the all-black high school?

MP: It was all-black high school, all-black basketball, all--black whatever. And then, when they desegregated, it was hard because, because you had to learn to, you had to learn to become a part of something that you had been told for a long time that you didn't belong to, you know? Like you had to sit in the same classroom, and you had to share the same books, and, I, and sometimes, you know, I'm think in, in our schools, I don't know if they cared if you were educated or not, but, you know, you get in certain schools, education becomes a big deal and it changes. And then all of a sudden, you realize that, oh, there's goals out there. Then, they, they built a vocational school. I remember they built a vocational school so that the 11th and 12th grade, we could start thinking about trades.

AO: So, within each of the different classrooms, were they pretty equally mixed between black students and white students?

MP: I think so. Yeah, they were, they were. And I think because our little town was so small and so, I don't know. It really wasn't bad. You know how some people, they desegregate and just had a lot of issues. There were some who refused to accept the new life is the way it's supposed to be, but, I mean, you know how you hear stories of people that really were tormented and went through the cross burning and all that? We, I don't remember a lot of that. I remember privileges and kids who probably knew that if they, I think they kept their, their distance as far as becoming close to some of us because they didn't want to cause problems. But, other than that, I, I can't remember. And then it could have been because I have received an e-mail. This year is forty years high school graduation and I received this e-mail. And remember I told you where the basketball team was so good and they won so many. A matter of fact, I think they went to the, I can't think of what it's called now. But they went all the way up to, I can't think, where they, where you, where you get to when they put you in a, take your, you can take your trophy. But anyway, let me stay on track. There was an e-mail. And we are, we ordered t-shirts, and we're going to wear 'em for the, and all of a sudden we got an email from the baseball team, who was mostly white. [laughs] And they said, 'Well, why are you celebrating the basketball team, and we over here, too. You know, we want to be a part of it. We want to put our pictures out and do whatever, too.' And that's when you think about it sometimes I think, and that's how life is. Sometimes, stuff could be right in your face, but unless someone bring it to the light, you really don't see it. So, when that happened, what I'm saying is, some of the, the graduates, they all older like I am now, it was like, what are they talking about? You know? What's going on? But, I still feel like it wasn't as bad for us as what it could have been.

AO: Can you remember the time when you first felt like your race was drawn attention to in school or out of school?

MP: I think, I think it was not good moving from Arkansas to Missouri because I think if my father would have found a larger city or something, but when we moved to the country, it was very apparent race was always a factor. I've never been, like a small child, I've never been, I've had, I used to have long hair. My sister and I both had long hair. But, you know, my hair was really thick and coarse, and thank God they were wearing 'fros back then. But, you, you sometimes that, that really hits you growing up, because you don't realize at that time that the, your makeup, even down to your hair follicles, is a gift. And I do now, because I'm older. Everything makes a difference because I have friends who don't have hair, or it was thinned out, and they trying to figure out, 'Well, why you still,' but it makes a difference. Back then, they were talking about it because, you know, people, even your own race, get into the calling your hair nappy and kinky, and so you grow up thinking that, okay, you got this dark skin, and it's always been a barrier, and you got, okay, and you got this thick hair. Okay, God, what's going on? You know? Couldn't something have been a little different? I remember thinking, first of all, I remember saying to God, "If you were going to take both of my parents, couldn't you have made my skin a lighter color so I could've assimilated to people a little better?" People accept you a little better when you, you know, a different color. But I'm not for sure. I remem-, I think people look at you a certain way and you just know. You don't, I don't even know what age, but you just know skin color is an issue, that's what I'm trying to say. Yeah.

AO: So, you mentioned that you moved to Kalamazoo around age 21. What made you decide to move to Kalamazoo?

MP: Fear. When you don't know who you are. My dad had died at that time. He sent us to Arkansas, but before I could journey back, he passed before we finished high school. So I, I could have went back to Arkansas, but I had lost all that connection to family and my siblings that were there. I had no connection. So Arkansas, this rural town, I had chopped cotton and worked in them fields forever. And I was like, this is not where I want to see myself. So I started trying to go to college, but college was like, to drive to college, you had to drive like almost two hours away because there was no college right in that little town that I was raised in. So I did start college, but had a couple of kids and it got harder and harder and harder. So, my thing was, "Okay, I need to find a way to have a life for my kids." The, my aunt that had raised us, at that time, she had cancer. She had had both of her breasts removed. Back in them days, they didn't do chemo. She was dying, so that was gon' be a loss. My uncle had died, like, a few years before, so I was thinking about my future. I was trying to figure out, okay, what do I do? So I had a friend that lived in Kalamazoo and they invited me here to visit. And my sister thought I was crazy, but I felt like I don't have anything. What difference does it make? You know, I could go to Spain as far as I'm concerned; I wouldn't have family anywhere. So I moved here with my two kids, and with the goal of getting a job and making a better life.

AO: What were some of the first major differences you noticed when you first arrived in Kalamazoo?

MP: Oh, lord! It wasn't what I thought. [laughs] I've always, the sisterhood, the closeness of, one thing about Missouri, people stuck together. And, you know, being a single parent, if y- you could count on people, you know? People had your back. When I moved here, I thought people had my back and they was putting knives in it at the same time. I wasn't used to that. Very naïve. I've always been respectful to people. Always treated people the way I want to be treated, so I just assumed that all women was like that. Oh boy! Rude awakening. And I was surprised because I was told that most people up North were from the South, and I thought that, well if they from the South, then they have to be like me as far as helping people, and helping people to get on their feet or whatever. But I guess I'm saying that wasn't what I experienced. It was very lonesome. When I first got here, the person I told you, a friend, invited me, and that went real fast. It went, like, she was just in a bad relationship, so then I got in a relationship, an unhealthy relationship, and it just, my life started taking a different turn also.

AO: You mentioned growing up. So, you said that a lot of your mentors were Civil Rights activists that you saw about on TV, so when you got to Kalamazoo, did you notice more of a movement, a black power movement that existed here or not so much?

MP: No. I experienced a lot of anger. I was surprised about that, too. Because I thought the North had conquered all that. A lot of anger. I was just so naïve and just so happy and I had good work ethics that I, I had learned. I didn't have money, but I had good work ethics, so I told people what I wanted to do. I was gonna get a job at the jail. I was going to 'come a sheriff or a police officer and they just thought I was so crazy. But that's what I wanted to do, so when I got hired at the sheriff's department and I was working in the, as a control operator, which is really the main brain of the jail - you in the center of everything. But that was the time when the police officers was also fighting for their rights and that's when they started the Black Police Officers Association. So I was in the middle of all that and they wasn't really feeling like their rights were being met, so, it was like a new experience for me.

AO: Do you remember siding with what they were fighting for or, or not really being sure where you stood?

MP: I don't remember being asked. I don't think I had enough clout. I think people were looking for people to speak who had more clout. I think I was just new and probably had very little voice, and, I mean, I don't think I really stood out. I was there, and I became a part of it, you know. I became a part of the conversation, but I'm saying usually they find leaders and pick certain people when they start a--

AO: Do you think that your gender played a part in that?

MP: I think so, because at the jail I experienced, I experienced a lot of misunderstanding. That's what I call it. And how I, I'm not saying mistreatment. Misunderstanding, because when I would get my evaluations, I would always have to question 'em. Because I didn't understand how my evaluations would be a certain way, and I was working a certain way. And it just puzzled me, but, you know, it really probably more than puzzled me, 'cause that stayed with me for a long time. And I couldn't figure out was it because of race? Was it because I was African American female? And I never really pushed it back then, but I'm-ma tell you, as I grew, and I grew stronger and learned more -- years later - I did have a conversation. Matter of fact, I was lucky. My sergeants and stuff, lieutenants, they'd been promoted to detectives and different things, but I did go back to the jail and talked to 'em. And I talked about my evaluations. And I was happy I did that. Because what they were saying is that I was quiet and I was not verbal about a lot of things. And they didn't think I was assertive enough. So, I had to share with them that when you come from the environment I came from, that's not a bad thing, you know, because I was just using the skills that I had been trained. Had I been missing work or not getting along -- never got any complaints, you know, even from the inmates. It was all good. You know those are the signs that I thought people should look at, but they looked at, 'Oh, you wasn't, people will invite you out, and you wasn't sociable, and you didn't socialize.' Well, those are skills that I lack. So I guess I'm saying that bothered me at that time and it carried with me is what -- you can tell it carried with me because every job I had, I was trying to figure out. Okay. What I need to do?

AO: So, when you first moved to Kalamazoo, can you talk about the neighborhood that you moved into?

MP: When I moved to Kalamazoo, I moved on the North side. I was staying with some friends. When I moved out, I moved on the North side. I was on the out, the north side. I was told that, at that time, of course, that was the bad side to live on and I didn't want to stay in that area with kids. But being a single parent, I had to stay where I could afford. So I was on the north side. I was right in the heart of everything. I was right in Interfaith. At that time, it was called Patwood.

AO: Patwood. And how old were your kids at that time?

MP: Oh lord, I don't even remember. They were young. [laughs] They were young.

AO: Can you remember talking to them about different advice you might have passed down to them in terms of how to navigate going to school in a desegregated,'cause the school they attended, was that desegregated at the time?

MP: Mm-hm. Oh, well, yeah. By the time they started school, yeah, Kalamazoo was, had went through the bussing and the changing and all that, yeah.

AO: So do you remember giving them any advice in terms of how to be while they were at school or them coming home with stories about having their race drawn attention to while they were at school at all?

MP: Well, when I came I had two kids. And then I got involved with someone and then I had a third kid. Well, there was so much drama and trauma going on, I don't even remember. What I do remember, to be honest with you, and I've always said this to my kids and when I say, "Fear, that's the worst thing you can have." Any human being, is any, any mindset of fear. I moved from Missouri in fear. I didn't wanna grow up in that little town. Or, not grow up, I didn't want my kids to grow up in that little small town. They didn't have anything there for them to, for them to look forward to.

When I moved here, you know, hearing all the negativity about the Northside. So, of course, I had two boys, and my main thing was, well, my two oldest is a boy and a girl. So I remember all the Jet books, all the Essence books, all they talked about was boys going to prison and girls getting pregnant. That was way before the gangs, you know. All they talked about was statistics. And I remember saying to my kids, "You will not be a statistic. Neither am I." Because my kids couldn't understand why they never saw me with a mother, why they never saw family, and I really couldn't explain that to them 'cause they was too young to understand. But what I would tell them is, "Don't be judged by what you don't see around me. You need to watch what you see me become, because I'm not going to limit myself because I never had parents."

And, but what I did was get, I was real, real, real overprotective. [laughs] Overprotective of my kids. Oh, my God, I wish I could redo that. Because I was so determined that they, my daughter wasn't getting pregnant. She was gonna finish high school. My son wasn't getting pregnant and he was going and, oh Lord, it probably ran me. If I could take back that time. [laughs]

AO: You also talked about when you went back to school yourself. Can you talk a little bit about that decision and where you went?

MP: Well, that decision came because I wanted to do it the minute I moved to Michigan, but I had different barriers kept coming up. So I waited until my, my two oldest kids graduated, 'cause my kids are like years apart. So my first two graduated and then I had the last two at home. My middle son was spending a lot of time with his dad, so I just had the youngest. So I, I decided to get married. So I, '75 I married. I mean, I'm sorry,'85, I got married. I met this guy, got married, and combined families. Not on purpose. Their mom was, had certain addictions and she left the kids, so we ended up inheriting the kids. I started trying to go back to school then is what I'm saying, but then I had another barrier that came in. So then, I had to wait years, to put that on hold, and work, and try to survive. So I didn't go back to school 'til 2000 - I think it was 2008. I went to Kellogg Community College and got my Bachelor's [Associate's] degree. Then I went to--I wanted to keep moving, so I then went to Kel-, Spring Arbor and got my Bachelor's Degree, but I stopped again because I had a kid left at home. But this story is kind of hard. There's so many twists and turns. Between when I got married in '85, I left Michigan. I left my job at the Sheriff's Department and I moved to Georgia. Trying to, you know, the pay is better--trying to find another way to do better and -

AO: I'm sorry, between when and '85?

MP: We moved, I think in '86.

AO: Okay.

MP: Moved to Georgia. And I got a job in Georgia at the Cobb County Jail and I became a correction officer. And my ex was working and then things just blew up, blew up and just went through a whole bunch of stuff. I can't even talk about it.

AO: What made you, why Georgia at the time?

MP: He had family there and I didn't have any and it didn't make me, I could survive anywhere. I think I had that mentality. He had family there.

AO: Did you like the area that you moved to culturally and in terms of the people there?

MP: I loved it and the weather, of course. [laughs] Yes.

AO: You talked, so I know you've spent a lot of your life advocating for childhood education and I'm wondering if there was a time in your childhood that you realized that that was something you wanted to do.

MP: No. If you back up to how I was raised, if you really think about it, the people that raised my sister and I, they didn't have education. I think my auntie, maybe third grade, and my uncle, sixth. My aunt couldn't read or write. She would sign her name with an 'X'. And for me, I didn't really pay attention or really think that was a big deal because they were surviving.

Moving up North is where all the stuff changes is what I'm trying to say because even when I, moving North, and then when I would talk, when I would speak, people would tease me. You know, "Why you talk like that? You talk so country. You talk so -" And I'm looking at them like, "I thought we was all from the country?" Here, it made a difference and education was always important. It was important to me because even in Missouri, I would get those awards for not missing any days, perfect attendance awards. So for us, they sent us to school, but I don't think they really knew how to talk about college or to--Well, I know they didn't. How to talk about, I think they were used to people graduating and just having kids and, you know, doing what you can do. For me, my mind was always, I wanted to go overseas. I wanted to travel. I wanted to do this and that probably was kind of unusual for them back in those days.

So what I would do is, I wrote a lot. I was always writing poetry. I was always writing letters. I mean like 20 pages. I would just write, write, write, write. And I would write my dad. I would just write, write. I didn't realize that that was what people did to, to release things. I didn't know until I saw Maya Angelou years later. Even though she was doing poetry, it was years later. I saw her on a talk show. I think it was Oprah talking about--She was sharing how she stopped talking. And I was like, "Oh, my God, that's what happened to me." When I first went to Missouri, I didn't talk. And that must be what you do sometimes when you have to re-evaluate or reprocess or understand things as child. So, I remember that happening, but my aunt and uncle never pushed it. They never [laughs] made a deal of it. They never, you know, I think because back then, they were raised up where you didn't talk a lot anyway. I just thought about that. You know, 'speak when you're spoken to? 'Don't get smart. Watch what's coming out your mouth.' So they probably was like, okay, that's probably a good thing I wasn't talking. I just thought about that.

AO: So is writing something you - ?

MP: I had.

AO: Oh, sorry.

MP: I was gonna say when - back to education. Education, so when I moved up North, education was always another part of what I wanted to do, but it always seemed so far off. Because I've always had so many little barriers going on and not understanding that they were really choices I was making that was pushing me backwards and backwards and backwards. So when I got the opportunity to go back to school, I went back to school. As far as my kids, they knew education was important and that I did not play with education. There was no excuses, you know, none. I don't care if they were sick. And I was the type of parent, even if they were sick and they didn't go to school, don't even think you going outside. Don't even think you going to hang nowhere. You staying right here because you're sick. But that was just because my expectations were high on my kids and I wanted them to see education as important too. They all finished high school but, Lord Jesus, it was a pull.

AO: Well, well done there. So, is writing still something you continue to do today?

MP: I just started back. I have, I wrote, yeah, I've always written and I have written manuscripts. I have written plays. And I'm-a tell you what happened. Financially. I had some financial issues and I lost so much stuff in a storage unit. And it hurt so bad because I couldn't retain that stuff and I just stopped, you know, just stopped. So I had been going through things again and my friends started saying, "Okay, Mollie. Start writing, start writing, start writing," and I just started back. I was just in a poetry reading at the Kalamazoo Art Institute last Thursday as a matter of fact. I wrote, read one of my poems that I wrote.

AO: What are the central topics that you write poetry about?

MP: Now, I write to women. They mostly to women and life. There is so many lessons I have learned, and there is so many lessons I've learned about parenting, about being a woman, about how if we would, we are trained, if we could train ourselves to learn how to enjoy life along with parenting along with, you know, and you don't have as many health issues as you get older. I'm blessed. You know I told you I have to have surgery? But I don't have a lot. I don't have health issues. I have a lot of friends that have had a lot of health issues and it's from all the stress of life. And writing, to me, is like God's voice and he's directing me, so that I don't make the same mistakes again. I try to, when I worked in a juvenile home; I would talk to the young girls. When I'm out in the streets, I'm talking to young women. I used to go down to the mission and talk to women because sometimes if you don't have anyone to share, you don't know. You don't get it. And people just say, "Well, people don't want to know. People are just angry." No. People are just uneducated and some of them are ignorant to what it takes to really parent a child or to really take care of their own bodies. They just don't know how. So, I'm trying not to preach too long.

AO: Oh no, I'm curious. What would you say is the main piece of advice that you give the young girls you work with?

MP: Well to, to learn how to take care of yourself first and stop asking people for advice on issues that determines your future. Because we have this habit and now they have texts. Back when I was, it was the telephone. You want to try to call two or three people to get their opinion. And in the end, when you make those choices, you have to be able to take some accountability and responsibility for those choices. People are not gonna be there to pat you on the back or to walk you through those choices. You have to be responsible and accountable for that. So I think people got to wake up.

AO: So, going back a little bit, you talked about moving to Georgia and you said that between the South and the North there was sort of a difference in terms of how people viewed education. So moving back to Georgia, did you find that again in terms of sending your kids to public school?

MP: Georgia, yeah, but Georgia, it's just a whole different atmosphere. It's like you could breathe. It's like fresh water. I mean, it's like, if you dream, people are not knocking your dreams away. Here, and I hope I can say this and I'm not trying to be funny, but when my kids were young when I wanted to, when I did have good employment, people would try to tell me where to live, "Well, I got this house." They would show you houses in areas that they tell you, "Don't stay there," but then they would put you in these areas. Because you was a single female, African-American, and you had children. And I remember fighting all the time, I mean verbally, with people. Saying, "I don't think so. Well, don't look at me and judge me because I have children. I'm trying to teach my children how to live past this." And Georgia is not like that. What I'm saying is, you find a house, you go to the area, and--nice homes--and if you can afford it, you can have it. You know, different atmosphere.

AO: So what was your neighborhood like there?

MP: Oh, it was beautiful. Probably closer to, I can't think of the name, those subdivisions. I know there's nice subdivisions on the West Side and in Portage and out. It's similar to that. We always had nice houses.

AO: You talked about a lot of the reading you like to do was that you liked to read spirituals. Can you talk to me a little bit about the role that religion has played in your life?

MP: Well, you know what? That's a loaded one there. Religion has always been a part of my life, but I'm-a tell you something that's another lesson. Because I was raised in this small town, we had the type of religion that the minister travelled. So my uncle would pick up the minister from the bus station. My aunt would cook the food. So after church, he would come home with us and eat dinner and then we would go back to church. I mean, it was really like, back in the day. We had like, the little old churches. There was no attitude or like, now kids go in church and they walk and, oh lord, no. And I think - you know what? To be honest with you, that's how I raised my kids too. It wasn't no walking and smacking gum and sitting crazy. But, you sit up, you listen; I don't care how tired you were. So, I think that helped me to learn structure. When I moved to Michigan, you had a variety of churches. You could choose which denomination and what religion you wanted to do, but I stayed with Pentecostal for a while and eventually I went to nondenominational. Then, I went from saying I was a Christian to Spirituality, and because I started researching and just reading material from a lot of different authors. Just putting pieces together, and trying to answers to questions that you couldn't ask when I was younger. Certain things about God and certain things that happened.When you look at--I don't know if you watch it--but if you were to watch Oprah's Super Soul Sunday, she has like, a smorgasbord of different spiritual leaders and they talk about all different subjects pertaining to life. And I think that's where I'm at now. I believe in God, of course. I believe in the Holy Spirit, but I also believe that I have to really learn my purpose and what my purpose was on Earth. Because I didn't have that family identity, and I'm not trying to cling on to a certain lifestyle. But I am trying to find out what my purpose is and I want to be able to go where God wants me to go and know that that's where I need to be. I believe it was for me to come to Michigan. I don't believe I would have survived by myself if it wasn't for me to be here. I believe it was for me to go to Georgia because there were people down there who said they had lived all their life and couldn't get a job. I went down there and got a job just like I did here. Those are signs that the universe was open to me at that time. But I'm at a different season now. So, I went back to school for the last time, got my Master's degree in 2012 and now I'm trying to find out what my position is in life.

AO: So you mentioned real estate agents in Michigan, I assume, trying to show you houses in neighborhoods you didn't necessarily want to live in.

MP: They were really landlords.

AO: Landlords? Can you tell me a specific story about an instance that that happened?

MP: I had so many--I don't remember but one. There's so much stuff I had to block out. I have went through so much in my life, I have to block stuff out 'cause in order for the good to come in, you got to let go. So, there was only one that I remember. When I moved back from Georgia, and the house was in the campus area, but it was around Vine Street.

AO: The Western campus area.

MP: Uh-huh, the Western campus area. I remember, the house was terrible. I mean, it looked really rough. And this person was so adamant, "You know, you got kids"--and I had my last two--"Well, you know you got kids and you gotta start somewhere."

And I remember, I was saying to them, "I really am offended because I don't have a lot, but I really want my kids to know that we don't have to live in areas that we don't choose to live. So, I didn't get it. But it was just a bad, that was just the one I remember.

AO: So you are, or you were on the Board of Education?

MP: Yes.

AO: Can you tell me how you got that position?

MP: [laughs] How I got that position. That was God. God intervention. I heard Channel Three News one morning saying that they were interviewing for appointments to the Board of Education. And I'm a person, I talk about Civil Rights, even though the town I grew up in, we didn't do the marching, I was raised that you don't talk about doing something, you get out and you do something. So I've always done that. I don't sit around and talk to too many people. If there's something I feel I need to do to make a difference, I do it. So, I heard the advertisement and I said, "You know what? I'm gonna apply for that." And I went and got the application, interviewed for the position and like they said, I was the last person that they would even pick. Because, most people on boards, I don't know if you know this, but most boards are influential people. They people with money. They have people with different status. I had none of that. But, I did have a relationship with the Kalamazoo Public Schools. I had sons that came through it. I had sons who were labeled, you know, special education. And I had a pretty good feel about what education was about. So, I interviewed and I was appointed. So the first year I was appointed and then I had to run a campaign. And I ran a campaign and was told, it was so bad. I mean I didn't have people to support me, so I didn't really have a place to go to wait on the, when they have the announcement for this so I was invited. At that time, Dr. Janice Brown was Superintendent and she invited me to her house, her and Gary Start and them, they had a millage that same year. I went to her house and they said, "Well, you can watch it with us and go through the tally."

And I remember Gary saying, "Mollie, it don't look too good. I think you losing."

And I said, "Okay, you know what? At least, I tried." I went home and went to bed.

Eleven o'clock that night Julie Mack called and said, "Mollie, I need a statement from you," and she thought I was trying to be funny.

I said, "What are you talking about? Statement? I'm in the bed."

She said, "Mollie, you won! We need a statement."

And I said, "Oh lord, give me a minute." I had to get up. I was like, you've got to be kidding me. So, I found out that out of the five candidates running, I had the highest vote of all five candidates. So, myself and Patti Sholler-Barber got seats that year.

AO: Well, to be continued. Thank you so much.

MP: You're welcome.