Growing up in Chicago during the 1960’s, Molita Abutair was a witness to the civil rights movement, feminist movement and rise of soul music. Her story reflects each of these influences.
Abutair’s family was a musical one, singing together at church each Sunday. Sam Cooke, one of the pioneers of soul music, was a distant relative of hers. Unfortunately, he died before she had a chance to meet him.
Despite losing her family’s recording industry connection at a young age, Abutair pursued her musical aspirations in her early twenties. She had a band in Chicago at one point, but had trouble making it in the music business.
“People think it’s easy to get into music,” said Abutair. “No it’s not. I sure wish (Sam Cooke) could have lived longer.”
A self-described “thrill-seeker,” Abutair wanted to do stuff that a young African American woman like herself didn’t normally do. Her musical instrument of choice was the drums and despite protestations from her father, she joined the army.
Whether she was trying to get into a band or serving as a soldier, Abutair faced an uphill battle for respect. There were numerous times when she felt that her rejections were solely based on her gender. She had a good attitude, though.
“I’m not going to waste my time and argue with people,” said Abutair. “I just let it go. They don’t want me there anyway, so I’m not going to force myself.”
The army brought Abutair to Minnesota in 1980, where she was stationed at Fort Snelling. Abutair received an honorable discharge in 1987 and returned to Chicago to help her father recover from a stroke. After helping her father, Abutair took a series of custodial jobs around the Twin Cities before landing at the U. She started on the East Bank, moved on to Parking and Transportation Services and now works on the St. Paul Campus.
Abutair, who’s sister, nieces, nephews and mother all live in the southeast suburbs, lives by herself in St. Paul, and wouldn’t change anything about that.
“I’m not a suburban person,” said Abutair “Give me the city anytime. I can take the bus, ride my bike, drive my car or walk to work. I can do anything I want to do.”
She does her part to help her family manage, in light of her younger sister’s disability, older sister’s breast cancer and mother’s aging, but likes to do her own thing whenever possible.
“After working 40 hours, I want to do something,” said Abutair. “Bowling, playing my musical instrument, dancing, flying a kite. I don’t want to just stay in the house or watch TV. I want to be with other people that like to do stuff.”
“People say, ‘You shouldn’t be doing this and you shouldn’t be doing that.’ I’m having fun. If they want to act like they’re 80 years old, I don’t care. I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do.”