FLINT, Michigan – There’s a wellspring of history etched into the memories and life of Flint native Eartha Logan. As the “first Black that moved on Canniff Street,” which she still calls home, Ms. Eartha, as she’s called, invites us into her house. Much like her stories, her home is packed with incredible richness, decorated with photos of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, plants, chinaware, and antique furniture. It is a place of serenity, where “life is beautiful,” in a neighborhood and city that sometimes isn’t.
Ms. Eartha explains as we sit at a black and gold-encrusted long table in her dining room that she’s seen Flint through many eras. First, she remembers Flint when Kresge’s store, the famous Flint amusement park, and the Northside movie theater were around.
Then, Ms. Eartha tells stories of when “the city was booming” thanks to General Motors and the after years of constant degradation and dilapidation. Back then, she recalls, neighborhoods were prosperous in both finances and community. But now, she says sternly, “our city needs to be cleaned up.”
Although that is what she desires today, it wasn’t always at the forefront of her mind. While her family, particularly her grandfather, were active in the community, she fell in love with journalism, intending to travel the world as a “foreign correspondent.” However, life, love, and raising children had her set those dreams aside.
These days, Ms. Eartha is a prominent community member and activist. As Secretary of the neighborhood organization, Flint Residents Organized for the Good (or F.R.O.G.), Ms. Eartha, Daisy Primm, Vivian Seabron, and Sally Kagerer have dedicated themselves to improving their neighborhood and all of Flint.
Together, F.R.O.G. has transformed Canniff Street and the surrounding area by receiving grants from Genesee County's Habitat For Humanity
, meeting at the Neighborhood Engagement Hub,
and the North Flint Neighborhood Action Council
to install yard lamps, doorbells, sidewalks, and new porches. In addition, F.R.O.G. has partnered with community organizations in East Franklin Park, Flint Lake Park
, and the Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association to help with cleanups and utilize their collective voices to rally for change.
The big win Ms. Eartha says was transforming their neighborhood for 2021’s Porch Fest, joining the collective to bring art, culture, and music back to Northside neighborhoods. Flintside spoke with Ms. Eartha to discuss F.R.O.G., community, and what she envisions for the City of Flint.
"When I moved, I was the first Black on Canniff Street. I was welcomed by some [whites], and some I wasn’t." - Eartha Logan
Flintside: Your life is incredibly varied and dynamic. Did you always believe you were going to go into community activism?
“For me, you just asked the Lord to order your steps; you have to go in the direction He leads you. I wanted to be a foreign correspondent — a Black journalist. I wanted to travel abroad and do journalism. So I went to Michigan State on a full-ride scholarship. I fell in love, married, had my kids, and quit school. Well, I live a purpose-driven life, so I’m right where I’m supposed to be. But those were my dreams.”
Flintside: You’ve seen so many eras of Flint. How has your perception of the city changed?
“It’s changed from walking downtown to walking across Saginaw Street and the Kresge’s store on the corner. It was segregation, but we were able to go and enjoy ourselves. When I moved, I was the first Black on Canniff Street. I was welcomed by some [whites], and some I wasn’t. The lady across the street told me I made them look bad. I saw where the whites started moving out because blacks [were] moving in.
Then, General Motors was big, everybody was making money, and the city was booming. Life was good. The school system was good, with a lot of activities for the kids to do. The neighborhood watch [was strong], and everyone was out on their porches. Now, everybody has their door closed, and they’re scared to say something. I’ve seen the city booming, prospering, and very clean. Then I started seeing it go down and get back on track.”
Flintside: Is this what inspired you to join F.R.O.G.?
I’m not the originator. It was about ten of them [including] Daisy and Sally. [When] Vivian and I joined, it ended up falling off when COVID hit, but it was a blessing. [We] kept F.R.O.G. going during the pandemic. We got a grant from Habitat for Humanity, and that’s what got us on board with F.R.O.G. [because] we all wanted to keep it going, and it made a difference in the community. We started working together and knew what we wanted for the community, like yard lights and [fixing] the sidewalk. Then we got involved with the North Flint Neighborhood Action Council (NAC) and reached out to Patrick McNeal who came out with three young men and installed everything for us. Then we started getting involved with other groups.”
“Life is beautiful” is displayed on the kitchen wall along with family portraits of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Flintside: Is this how you connected Dr. Ladel Lewis and the Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association?
“Yes, exactly. That’s how we started getting involved with Sarvis Park. F.R.O.G. was one of the five people that got Porch Fest last year, and everybody came out that morning. Ladel came and helped us when we had our city-wide cleanups. She came over and helped us, and we went over [to Sarvis Park]
and helped them clean up. Everybody supported each other because we were all out there trying to make the city better – trying to make where we lived better. But it’s hard because everybody in our group is 65 or older. Most groups are older, so we need young people to take over and get in.”
Flintside: You talk about the younger generation and wanting them to be a part of the change. You have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Are you seeing that engagement lately?
“In the last year, I have. I think it’s because we’re going through the neighborhood more and talking to them. They have Facebook pages, and I joined them and posted our cleanups on them. I see more young people getting involved now, and I love it because they’re our future. And so when I see them advance, I see where the city is going to come back. Flint is going to be on the move again. The water crisis tried to take us down, but the Lord didn’t let it. You got to have that zeal; you got to have motivation.”
Flintside: When you look at what F.R.O.G. and the Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association are doing, what do you take away from it?
“We’re working to be a part of the neighborhood. It’s not just about me. We’re in it together. I support the [Sarvis Park Neighborhood Assocation], and we’re all a part of 2nd Ward. Whenever I call Ladel, she’s right there for us, and when she calls us, we’re right there for her. Flint is never going to get ahead until we come together. All I know is that we can’t give up.”
To learn more about F.R.O.G. and to get involved, find them on Facebook.