Every fall, I have a hard time letting go of my wild and idle summer in my hometown of Idlewild, Michigan. For many, Idlewild is a historic African American community that was established in 1912 and homesteaded by affluent African Americans. The community was soon populated with Blacks from all social status and backgrounds and became the largest land-based African American resort community. For me, it is a rural and impoverished community, where I grew up and graduated, and where I came back to help save and share with others.
“Crooked Lake” the original name for Idlewild Lake, the largest lake in the Idlewild Community.
I am an Idlewild native. Indigenous to Michigan and African American. There is nothing “new” about my existence in Idlewild. My great-grandmother, Lilly Price settled in the area around 1921, when she and my great-grandfather built their home – The Whistle Stop – at the side of the railroad tracks on Hemlock Street. It was here my family settled and went on to make 6 more houses and expand our footprint in Idlewild. We were a family of entrepreneurs and local developers who saw fit to develop the year-round community of Idlewild. Lilly was one of the founding members of the Tabernacle A.M.E. church in Idlewild, and her name is imprinted on the first stained glass window on the buildings’ east side. There is even a Lilly street near where she settled, and I cannot help but wonder if she got to name the road after herself because she was first to own the property in the area?
I too, am Idlewild.
Entrance signs to Idlewild, Michigan. The picture was taken by Micala D. Evans – Cochran
My fantasy is limited by the lack of family documentation and memories for me to conduct my research, and the need to focus on my dissertation research which is not about Idlewild. Yet, inside I have this huge passion for Idlewild! It is my home community, where I grew up at year-round – not just summer visits – I walked the iced-over dirt roads every morning to get to school or wherever I needed to go in the community. I refused to let a limited amount of research stop me from learning more about my community, and sharing it with whoever would listen. I went in search of an audience and researched and practiced tours for over 10 years. I went to school using Idlewild as my platform to inspire my educational and business goals, which landed me in Sociology, Social Justice, and Education with a focus on Afrocentric Education.
HITS logo Designed by B.E.C.
I do not do what I do for money. I started Historical Idlewild Tours with an original vision that would typically belong in a chamber of commerce setting, as I am a natural community organizer. The original name was actually, The Historic Idlewild Association, as I wanted to bring together people who were interested in preserving and sharing stories of Idlewild. My DBA was premature in 2006, and I was not connected at all to anyone who was doing anything in Idlewild. However, my having a registered business and a vision landed me a seat at the table where people were doing things for Idlewild, and the name was soon changed to HITS as my vision developed its process. I operated as Historical Idlewild Tours (HITS), and added the services portion in 2013, as my intention was to share my passion for Idlewild with people who had never heard of or seen the community. Over 12 years of doing things each summer, different and ever-changing, I have hosted tours and events for over 300 people who have never been to Idlewild. I wish it could have been more, and financially fruitful it was not for a business. Not fearing change, I decided to do things differently going forward, and so I changed the name, structure, and services and processes will change as well.
Being a girl from Idlewild has been my foundation, but it is not my ceiling nor my ending.
HITS will remain HITS, and our new name is Historic Innovative Tourism, Inc, and Historical Idlewild Tours and Services, LLC. will cease and desist as of December 31, 2018. HITS will retain a DBA for Idlewild Tours and will seek multiple DBAs and partnerships for future non-profit projects in various communities around the world.
Idlewild Juneteenth Festival hosted and organized by HITS. A free family-friendly festival about African American history and culture.
Being “just a girl from Idlewild” has never been my entire profile, and has never been my whole goal! Being a girl from Idlewild has been my foundation, but it is not my ceiling nor my ending. I love my community, even though sometimes it does not love me back. Attempting to establish a business in an impoverished community has been the most exciting challenge of my life, that is until I embarked upon the doctoral process.
My attempt to “save Idlewild” if you will, was not in vain. Many new ventures have sparked in the community since 2006, and I can proudly say my passion may have motivated and provided templates for many of the new projects. Who wants to invest in a town where there is nothing going on? My passion – and many other residents’ love for the Idlewild culture – is what has kept Idlewild alive!
The Idlewild Youth Service Project hosted and organized by HITS for community beautification.
“But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown” (Luke 4:24, NLT). I am not a prophet, but I am a child of God! When God showed me this verse in the Bible, it was an awakening for me about HITS. I realized I should not limit myself to my hometown, but move beyond the borders, yet always use it as my foundation to stand on. The best thing about Idlewild is that is will always be there. It may not look the same today as it did yesterday, or even 100 years ago, but tomorrow it will look even better, and when my time comes, I’ll be ready. So I am letting go of the old, to make way for the new! I’ll be gone for a while, but when I come back, no one will dare say to me then, eat in the kitchen. I Too, am Idlewild.
~ Micala D. Evans – Cochran
Turner – Ingram – Price Family