Category Archives: detroit

And I’m a lucky one


Mine is brief, because I felt weird sharing more of my story that that.  I also feel that the details of how we're different matter less than the many broad ways in which we're the same:  We are ALL suffering because our government, in spite of claiming status as the biggest and best democracy in the world, won't provide us decent health care, reasonable safety-nets, and protection from the people who, before we had a strong socialist* government, had no problem treating the 99% as straight-up slaves, including withholding access to education and weapons as a way to control us. 

The answer is not "less government" — but it's not surprising that the supporters of the 1% want it to be.  They've lamed the horse, and now they want us to let them shoot it, so they can go back to being lords and having serfs and never having to worry that "the rabble" will have any real influence.  These are people who want to use most of humanity as their own personal cattle, to buy and sell and work and kill as they see fit.  A government they don't own gets in their way.  So first they own it, then break it, then try to get people cheering for abolishing it altogether. 

But the 1% should fear the 99%, not the other way around.  Maybe it's been too long since we reminded them why.

 

*Socialist = with public works, public health, public schools, public emergency services and public courts that enforce the law evenly among everyone.  All things that level the playing field, and which the 1% are of course eager to do away with (except when they can work it so the public pays for those services, but the 1% benefit most from them).

Escape from the Prison Planet!

I put my picture on wearethe99percent.tumblr.com … because I feel like a refugee from a pocket third-world country in the US, created by the 1% and the government's insane/corrupt need to please them.  And I'm very aware, every day, what a lucky one of the 99% I am.  The luck is nice, but it's incredibly tough to be lucky when everyone you left at home isn't.

But you probably care more about all those updates I haven't been getting around to…I'm sorry; this week has just been horrendous, really.  And it isn't really slowing down, so this will be in the form of bullet-points for now…my hope/plan is to slow down this weekend and do some real substantive writing, here and elsewhere.  ::hope hope hope::

  • Sleep goes well.  This week has been ridiculous so I've missed some naps, but overall I dropped right back into my Everyman Mixed (? Can I call it that?) schedule, where my goal is 3×3, but if I get shorted on naps I do 2×4.5 or 1×6.  As long as I get some 3×3 days every week, this seems to work without issue, but I've definitely noticed that if I get stuck in 2×4.5 / 1×6 for too long, I start to get tired.  (Specifically, a week of 2×4.5, or more than a few days of 1×6, will make me tired and I'll need catch-up sleep, after which I can go back to polyphase.)  I think this is evidence that 3×3 is the most stable one overall — which has been my long-term experience — and that, more generally, the more naps you get, the more stable and restful your polyphasic schedule.  But it remains nice that missing naps doesn't have to knock me completely off-schedule; as long as I keep trying for them, I'm OK even during the most insane weeks of work / practice / errands / etc.
     
  • Exercise goes well too.  I'm sorry I didn't get to update as I made this transition, but what I did is try out Insanity and P90 as possible alternatives to P90X (which I did for 3.5 weeks — but it was too long and too intensive and thus making my sleep schedule impossible).  P90 won.  One of the things I really liked about P90X was the focus on form — as a martial artist and someone who picked up fitness as an adult, I care a lot about economy of motion and avoiding injuries — both short- and long-term.  Insanity is definitely named correctly, because it seems to me that unless you're already capable of doing the whole thing by muscle-memory, doing it at that speed is dangerous.  P90, on the other hand, is a nicely shorter version of P90X, keeping most of what I liked about the program without killing me to the point where I need to sleep for years.  ;)  It's still challenging:  Though I've been surprised at how I can "just do" most of it without petering out, and I finish all the workouts which I couldn't always do with X, I'm still out of breath and sweaty and feeling it in the right muscles, but I can take naps and my core and still have enough energy, including for things like taiji and hockey.  I'm nearing the end of week 1 of P90, and so far I like it a lot.  (Note:  It's just as cheesy as P90X, but I'm coming to the realization that all such programs are cheesy.  I can deal.  And it won't take me as long to memorize these so I can just tune them out and listen to music, either!)
     
  • My new exercise clothes are AWESOME.  Icebreakers are expensive, but if you work out regularly and hate doing piles and piles of laundry, they're completely worth it.
     
  • There's other stuff, but as I keep getting distracted by work and stuff and risk not posting this at all if I don't do it now, I'm stopping here!  ;) 

Have a good Thursday the 13th**, everyone!

 

*Title note:  One of the most awesome songs ever!  One day I will make someone play it in karaoke or something so I can yell those amazing lyrics at the whole world…Go forth ad infinitum!

**For some reason Thursday the 13ths have always gone worse for me than Fridays.  Thursday the 12ths can be pretty brutal too.  And of course October is a mandatorily creepy month for either. 

Lit., “Hauntingly Familiar”

Just stumbled on Andrew Moore's excellent photos of Detroit…these are a great example of how photos of real places in crisis can be artistic without being exploitative.  Kudos to Andrew for finding the beauty here without covering up the grotesque, and for facing the grotesque without letting it tell the whole story. 

Or maybe I just like them because they're well-done and so many of them are familiar.  (The moss-covered floor, one of my favorites, is apparently Model T HQ.  There, I have not been.)

The Problems with Farming Detroit

Farming Detroit

A Detroit "Farmer"

Detroit public school teacher and urban farmer Paul Weertz with his working 50 year-old Ford tractor in the back of his house on Farnsworth Street

Thus begins an article over at MAKE, titled MAKE | Farming Detroit.

I read the whole thing — it's a good article, and I recommend it.  But there's a slant on it, a slant familiar to me, that I'd like to take a second and highlight for everyone.  For background, I was not a "Farmer", but I volunteered with several of the groups working to green and farm Detroit's land — some of the people mentioned in this article I know tangentially, and one of these groups is one I worked with for a little while.

My main point here is that sustainable living and intra-community support networks are awesome things.  They are not, however, cures for the things that are wrong with Detroit.  Those things that are wrong may (on my pessimistic days I say "will probably") kill off any viable farming/greening efforts if not addressed — and articles like this get just a little too excited about The Hippy Revolution Again to pay enough attention to the real challenges and the lack of things being done to address them.

This article doesn't skip over those things entirely, but it does bury them in a long litany of (what feels to me like) naive utopianness.  And like many Midwesterners, I prefer honesty and level-headedness to excitement, even when it's a lot less fun.

I’ve seen terrible urban ghettos in my time, but nothing prepared me for the shock of driving through Detroit neighborhoods where so many houses were crumbling, boarded up or missing altogether. In the midst of that depressing landscape I met Paul Weertz, who lives alone in the Farnsworth neighborhood,

the author (one John Kalish) begins.  Problem One:  Detroit is way emptier than advertised.  It's not, as it's referred to later in the article, "[the only] city where this is possible" — because it's not, in many ways, a city anymore.  To outsiders who've lived in bustling cities before, it seems almost rural, or like it's all suburb except for the smallish downtown.  It has a bit more than half a million people spread out over a pretty huge area (138 square miles, for the city proper).  It has shrinking neighborhoods separated by hundreds of acres of empty (fallow, paved, or burned/polluted) land, and even downtown, abandoned skyscrapers separating clusters of buildings that seem to come alive at certain days and times (the casino districts being the most noticable), leaving the streets scary in their wake.  There are entire neighborhoods giving in to lush forest (which I completely admit is kind of awesome; I hope whoever rebuilds leaves some, or a lot, of it).  That doesn't mean that agriculture can't happen here, but it does mean that it's not quite urban agriculture.  There are, as one interviewee notes, no stores nearby "except liquor stores".  There is one major farmer's market, and it supplies more restaurants than people.  Gardening here requires a new definition and very different tactics from actual city gardening, and people trying to port their Urban Gardening knowledge over to Detroit are going, I think, to meet trouble.

“I farm about ten acres in the city,” Weertz tells me. “Alfalfa’s my thing. I bale about a thousand bales a year.” Some of that alfalfa is used to feed animals at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a high school for pregnant and parenting young women. Weertz started an agriculture curriculum at the school and worked there for 20 years but now it’s a private charter school and this year he’s going to have to work elsewhere in Detroit’s public school system.

It’s hard to fathom, but apparently one of Leadley’s neighbors considers Rising Pheasant Farms an eyesore. “Culturally, I don’t understand that. There’s flowers!” the 28 year-old mom says in disbelief.

Rising Pheasant has applications in to purchase two of the lots it farms on. Leadley says it’s an eight-month process that “apparently has to be approved by everyone in Detroit.”

Advocates of urban agriculture in Detroit were dismayed by a recent decision to sell two city-owned lots to a doggy daycare operation known as Canine to Five so it can expand. The lots have been used as a community garden in Detroit’s Cass Corridor. The Birdtown garden is slated to be uprooted in September, having decided against relocating.

There are 60,000 vacant city-owned lots and a relatively small percentage of them have farms or gardens, some of which are in a precarious legal state. “The city could, literally, at any time come in and say, ‘We’re going to develop these lots and you’re going to have to move.’”

No, that's outdated info, and I'm going to break up my own article to address it:  The Catherine Ferguson Academy was shut down, and it's a heartbreaking and enraging story., The article linked there does a good job explaining all the reasons why closing this school was a vilely stupid thing to do, but I guess the short list is sexism, racism, classism, cruelty, anti-democratic methods, corruption, and in-any-good-society-this-would-be-illegal-ness. 

But putting that aside I guess, it leads us to Problem number two: The City is NOT in favor.  The government in Detroit considers these people basically squatters, and will absolutely give their land to a paying customer at the first opportunity.  Why?  Because "urban" farming is not part of Detroit's plans to save itself, except in the case that it generates the right kind of positive press, which it usually doesn't.  All of Detroit's ideas for fixing Detroit have to do with getting major manufacturers to come back, or barring that, other big-money investors who can do something about the dozens of couple-hundred-thousand-square-foot abandoned factories and oh yeah, hire the locals, who are over 80% black and mostly the products of the kind of institutionalized racism that settled Detroit in the first place and ran it for a century:  Give blacks cheap neighborhoods and put them to work in the factories.  Unemployment in the city is now over 50%, and it's probably only the low density of population left actually living there (and the care of the DPD, who've played this game before) that keeps it from turning into riots (so far).  Oh, and that one neighbor of Ms. Leadley's?  She's pretty typical — I met a ton of her when I was helping with similar farms and gardens.  She's stayed in this ungodly place because it's her home, and she wants it back — back to nice lawns and two cars per driveway and neighbors on the porches — not communes of dirty white kids selling food she's never heard of.  When the City comes in and bulldozes another of their gardens (and the Cass Corridor Co-Op's garden was epic; I was angry as hell to see it go too), she'll be right behind them, asking when one of the factories will open again.

“I take this whole growing food for my neighbors and friends and other people in the city very seriously. And I’m going to eat this stuff, too,” he says when asked if he has his soil tested for lead, arsenic and other contaminants. The EPA has a limit of 400 parts per million of lead in soil but the Greening of Detroit group suggests a 200 parts per million limit

Yikes, note that he didn't say "Yes, I am getting it tested."  This is the only mention of it in this article, and wow is that glossing over a major issue:  Problem number three:  Pollution.  Think about it:  Detroit has been the dirty industrial corner of the U.S. since the Industrial Revolution, and due to its dependency on major manufacturers and its generally powerless population, has gotten the smallest share of all the cleanup-projects too.  One of my favorite kinds of garden-projects in Detroit were the "decontamination gardens", which meant filling fields with sunflowers and different kinds of mushrooms and weeds that would, over time, leech the poison out of the dirt.  (Sadly no-one could use hemp, even the non-psychotropic kind.)  These projects often involved walling off large chunks of playgrounds that children were actively using, by the way — they were in neighborhoods, not at actual factory sites, where it's both not enough and too dangerous.  When I got pregnant, I had to quit helping at an elementary school garden, because just standing on soil with that kind of lead concentration was dangerous.

Don't get me wrong:  Michigan has some of the most beautiful and viable land in the country, if not the world; it's a paradisiacal peninsula on a stunningly large body of fresh water, and the amazingly diverse forests and bountiful groundwater should be the state's pride and joy, and certainly not overlooked.  But the fact that they have been overlooked, especially in the City, for a century, and that big corporations have been and are still allowed to run wild when it comes to polluting Detroit, cannot simply be erased by suddenly wanting to put all that great land to good use again.  The DNR issues warnings every year updating citizens on how many fish it's safe to eat per month out of the Great Lakes…those big, big lakes that, while they border Detroit, also border all the nice clean woodlands up north.  And this is food grown right in the ground in D-town?  No offense, gardener guy, but I wouldn't eat anything you handed me without seeing a soil test first.

There are also mentions in the article of some of the Fundies, which depending on your point of view are a problem in themselves — a lot of the attempts to "rejuvenate Detroit" are coming from missionary-types, who in my opinion are the ambulance-chasers of social decline…but I will go ahead and omit that rant from here.  ;)

It’s a welcome bit of cheer in a section of Detroit [Brightmoor] where good houses get stripped by metal scavengers if left unattended for three days.

Back in the Farnsworth neighborhood, where drug dealers and gangs are as resilient as weeds…

Uh, yeah.  Imprecisely stated on John's part (Brightmoor, which although it has next to no Arabic population got the nickname "Little Afghanistan" for other, apt, reasons; the houses-stripped-in-days thing, though, is true everywhere in Detroit, and even well into the suburbs now) — but definitely not on my list of things to gloss over:  Crime and violence was a problem in Detroit before everyone lost their jobs.  I've lived in Detroit twice…the first time I was a teenager and though I got mugged and harassed at times, it was worth the cheap rent and anyway, kind of exciting if you grew up in a boring dingy suburb like I did.  The second time was after I had my daughter, and we lasted there two months before making a calculated decision to give up the nice big house we'd rented and flee, broke, to a basement apartment where we weren't constantly fending off violence or thievery.  And this was not in a terrible part of town, and also in 2005. 

Sometimes people say, "Oh, but almost everybody has left, so it's safer!"  No, honey.  Everybody who could leave has left, and the ones who are still there are extremely (in degree as well as percentage of the total population) desperate.  Crime is not an urban phenomenon (it IS a poverty-driven one though), but arguably in Detroit you have the downsides of both urban and rural crime:  A thriving gang / drug-running culture, and no neighbors to hear you scream or notice when your house is being broken into or stripped.  If you sound white (or even better, tell them on the phone that you are — I wish I was kidding) the cops will eventually come in Detroit, but given the circumstances they're stuck in too, I wouldn't expect much help.  And while I admire everyone who's trying to make my hometown a better place, I also look at those babies in your arms and think, Hell no, not in a million years.  Let the fucking town burn if it has to, but get your kids somewhere safe.

Southeast Michigan will always be my home, and there's a ton that I love about it…but the City at the center of it has been sick for a long time, and I don't think I believe that any superficial cure is going to work anymore.  I would give a lot to see vibrant communities take hold in Detroit and turn it around…but most of the projects people are getting breathless over now, small farms and art co-ops, are too superficial to succeed on their own, without the support of the City and surrounding suburbs and State governments — who are unlikely to give it. 

Detroit's problems are infrastructure-level and serious; it has, in city terms, bone cancer.  It was built on racism and economic inequality and fed on pollution and corporate greed, and that diet for a hundred years has rotted it from the inside out; what we're seeing now are problems dating back decades, bleeding to the surface. 

I love the land–I love Michigan–and I love small businesses and earnest make-the-world-better projects, I really do.  But so far these are all happening in a place that's still corrupt as all hell, a now bedridden city being tube-fed by the same ruling class the same greed-and-inequality crap it's been eating since day one.  And maybe you can, in fact, garden your way out of such a situation — I would be 100% thrilled to find out that that's true.  I'm just irritated at the media (Internet included of course) for failing to give real airtime and credence to the deep and serious problems in Detroit, and sometimes it seems like the "Oo! People are FARMING there!" articles are, in a way, minimizing the bigger picture.

Detroit needs so much more than missionaries or bohemians or farmers.  It needs iconoclasts; it needs revolutionaries…sometimes I look at it and think that it may be too sick, already, to survive their surgeries.  But I really hope not.

The only thing worse than bigots is bigots who misuse the legal system

Health insurance mandate upheld : SCOTUSblog.

A federal judge in Detroit, in a broad ruling upholding Congress’s power to require all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, decided Thursday that the mandate is necessary to prevent the “extinction” of the nation’s entire health care insurance market. U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh said the requirement was well within Congress’s power to regulate commerce among the states. The decision is the first by a federal court to rule directly on the constitutionality of the buy-or-be-penalized provision of the sweeping new health care reform law. [....]

The ruling came in the case of Thomas More Law Center, et al., v. Obama, et al. (District Court docket 10-11156) in the Eastern District of Michigan. That lawsuit is one of a lengthy list of court challenges across the Nation to several parts of the new health care law. But the provision requiring everyone to have a health insurance policy by the year 2014 was clearly the most visible part of the package for most Americans, and it has been subjected to the most energetic challenge. The key to most of the challenges is the argument that refusing to buy health insurance is not activity, but inactivity, and Congress has never had the power to order people to engage in economic activity when they choose not to do so.

But Judge Steeh refused to accept that view of what the insurance mandate is. “Far from ‘inactivity,’” the judge wrote, “by choosing to forgo insurance [the challengers] are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now through the purchase of insurance, collectively shifting billions of dollars, $43 billion in 2008, onto other market participants.”

IMPORTANTLY YET UNSAID (the Court is too damn polite sometimes): The "Thomas More Law Center" is a disgusting racket openly dedicated to destroying the separation of church and state. Besides conducting lawsuits (sometimes over heinously frivolous and/or hateful things), the Center serves as a school for lawyers who want to learn specifically how to use legal precedent as a weapon to enforce Christian values by trying the right cases in the right way to warp the Constitution into a supporter of their chosen religion.

Not much has made me feel great about Detroit lately, but I'm damn proud that it could be one of the places where a level-headed judge put his boot on the face of Matt Staver and his fellow bigoted zealot lunatics. Yaaaaay, D-town!

(For the record, although I wouldn't care much *what* the case was as long as the Thomas More Center lost it, I think the judge's argument is sound in this — though I think that for the situation to be truly fair, there should be a mandate that free market controls (note the phrase) be in place to guarantee that people aren't being forced to buy from only certain companies, or to pay unfair prices. It's not cool that people can be forced to buy insurance (car, health, whatever) in markets that are obviously poisoned by bad business practices and storebought politicians. However, it isn't this judge's fault that that piece is missing; he made a sound decision with what he had.)

Good Company (pat pat)

As citizens, we care (or at least have a responsibility to care) about whether our governments are doing well or badly.  That responsibility is the flipside of our right to fix government organizations when we don't agree with what they're doing, or how.

We've been citizens for hundreds of years, so we're getting used to this process, to these rights and responsibilities, sorta.  But we've only been consumers for a few decades, so it's understandably still catching on that, hey!  That means we have a responsibility to know and care what companies are doing and how; and also a right to support the good ones and kill the bad ones!

A few for your consideration, then:

GOOD:

EZTakes.com is a movie-seller specializing in the "stuff you used to find only at the corner family video-store, before they went out of business", and they certainly do have a fascinating stock of odds, ends and weird stuff.  Even better, though, they have a clean, simply-designed website without a lot of privacy-violating crap on it, and they refuse to DRM their files, so the movies you buy from them (at great prices; many are even free) are guaranteed to work with whatever hardware, etc. you want to use them with. 

What *really* impressed me is their terms of service, which states, "we will not restrict your rights as a Consumer, including fair use…and if we ever try to, this statement takes precedence." 

Now that's commitment — contractually limiting your future activities to ensure that you mean what you say.

What if Facebook had done that with their initial promise to "keep your personal information private"?

 

BAD:

Speaking of terms of service, check out this doozy I ran into the other day:

Due to manufacturer policies, all packaged items with plastic clamshells, shrink wrap, special seals, or other types of packaging that sustains damage when opened are NON-RETURNABLE if the packaging has been OPENED or TAMPERED.

…Yes, that's right, this company (an online electronics seller called SuperBiiz) has a 30-day return policy, but it doesn't apply to anything that comes in packaging that you have to open.  Er, which as far as I can tell, includes everything they sell.

Sheesh.

 

Of course, it doesn't end there.  There are a veritable plethora of companies engaging in bad practices now — practices that limit, undermine or destroy your rights as a consumer (fair use, first sale, and the right not to be gouged or price-fixed against); or damage or deteriorate your rights as a citizen (i.e. your 4th-amendment right not to be searched without cause, or your freedom to criticize them in public forums).  There are also companies who openly do damage to our country or society, say by hiring workers overseas for sweatshop wages to avoid paying locals, or by allowing oil-spills and mining-accidents when it's cheaper than adhering to the regulations (and it is, believe me). 

I don't have to say that there's no excuse for what these companies are doing.  Capitalism and the free market is not an excuse; the marketplace has rules, like everything else, and breaking or bending them is cheating, and removes your right to earn a profit or to continue to do business.

The problem is that regulatory agencies aren't the best, or strongest, ways to enforce good behavior from companies:  Consumers are.

And I DO have to say, I think, that there's no excuse for consumers who shirk their responsibility to be knowledgeable and shop carefully — no more than there's an excuse for citizens who ignore what their government does, don't vote, or carelessly pollute their environment.  In both cases, citizens and consumers, we have rights, and the responsibility to be aware of and protect them.

Don't worry, it's not that hard. 

I haven't set foot in a Wal-Mart in fifteen years and look!  I'm still alive! 

(Yes, that was snarky.  But seriously, sometimes I feel like I have to say that to my fellow Michiganders, who seem to think that something like "not shopping at Wal-Mart" is just a huge hardship; like it's way too much to ask them to not save $0.03 on toilet-paper this week so that manufacturing can stay in the U.S. a little and people can stop being underpaid and discriminated against.  CRY ME A RIVER, yo.  You have a bumper-sticker that says 'out of a job yet? keep buying foreign!' but you claim it only applies to cars?  PUH-LEEZE. ;)

Do not EVER use the words “Strategic Default” in my presence

Maybe Homeowners Wouldn't Strategically Default If Lenders Cooperated

Will a Human at B of A Please Modify My $160,000-Underwater Mortgage

Blatantly Racist Subprime Loans

Slothful Loan Modifiers Earn More Money When You're Delinquent

Bank Told Homeowner to Skip Payments, Then Foreclosed

Asymmetrical Norms: Why Homeowners Aren't Walking Away

Rich Investors "Walk Away" from $5 Billion Mortgage

…I just wanted to put up those articles (from The Consumerist, all relatively recent), and weigh in with my Hi-I-Was-A-Foreclosure-Prevention-Counselor-In-Recession-Central opinion…mostly because I would feel really bad if I left the field (which I have) without ever saying it really, really loudly:

THE MAJORITY OF FORECLOSURES COULD HAVE BEEN EASILY PREVENTED BY THE BANKS MAKING EVEN A TINY AMOUNT OF EFFORT TO STOP THEM.

THAT EFFORT IS NOT THERE.  FROM ANY OF THE BIG, BAILED-OUT BANKS.  STORIES LIKE THE ONES ABOVE ARE THE NORM, AND LAZY OR SHADY HOMEOWNERS WALKING AWAY IS ALMOST 100% A BANK-CREATED FICTION.  (Please don't be surprised that huge mega-banks can influence the media in this country.  I will have to punch you.)

DO YOUR PART and STOP HELPING TO SPREAD THE LIES.  THE BANKS CAUSED THIS PROBLEM BY ALLOWING THEIR OWN PROFESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES TO SELL UNSUSTAINABLE LOANS, AND THEY ARE PERPETUATING IT BY FAILING TO TAKE EVEN THE MOST BASIC STEPS TO TRY AND HELP HONEST FAMILIES WHO WANT TO PAY (often who want to pay on exorbitant terms that they really should walk away from) MAKE REASONABLE MODIFICATIONS TO THEIR LOANS.

I saw it; hundreds of times.  I met maybe five–maybe?–actually stupid homeowners, and one shady jerk, in three years of counseling; but I lost track of the number of times I personally witnessed:

  • banks telling people they needed to miss payments before they could receive help; then foreclosing once the payments were missed;
  • banks setting deadlines and then forcing people to miss them, and then foreclosing;
  • banks "losing" paperwork over and over again, and refusing to extend deadlines because of it;
  • banks offering "help" in the form of a modification that raised the homeowner's payments, often also making their loan terms worse (and how many sad, sad times homeowners accepted that modification, assuming that since they'd asked for help, they'd get it, and not wanting to be "rude" by reading the fine print and demanding a better deal) — and then foreclosing if the modification isn't accepted, or if it is and the new, higher payments can't be made.

I'm counting on you, Internet.  Don't let this whole foreclosure mess go down in history as a problem with consumers:   That was NEVER true.

Thank you.

(Bonus Happy Link:  Americans for Fairness in Lending)

MLK’s Boulevard and the Twelfth Street Rebellion

Martin Luther King Day was first proposed by Michigan Representative John Conyers in 1979.  It failed in Congress by five votes, and a huge petition was begun, which finally got the holiday approved in Congress in 1983.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd in Detroit used to be Twelfth Street, until that's where the riots were in 1967.  "Twelfth Street Rebellion" or "Twelfth Street Riot" was the popular name for the event at first.  And so they made it so there literally was no Twelfth Street.  The event became "the 1967 riots" for the most part; or if they retained a sense of place, it was as the "Detroit riot" (which is inaccurate, as there's been more than one).  They also worked hard to replace the word "rebellion" with "riot" — I remember adults correcting each other when I was a kid — because "riot" sounds like a bunch of unruly colored people, whereas "rebellion" sounds a bit more like an oppressed and segregated neighborhood getting fed up with the racist cops who made their lives hell.

I always wondered how MLK would feel, about his name being used that way.  Maybe if the city had made progress on its racial issues since that time, it would have been a nice sendoff, his name representing the peaceful change he hoped to see for African-Americans.  But it didn't get better, not at all.  So what, he goes down in local history as a cover-up?

I think I might start calling it the Twelfth Street Rebellion, though.  Just because.

Help, help, we don’t exist

…And now I have joined them.  D’oh!

Seriously though, someone needs to help that city, in a real and urgent way. 

People there have it so hard, and it’s not their fault; they’re getting screwed.  Taxes are CRAZY high in Detroit, and people pay that money (whether they live there OR work there), and it doesn’t even get you snow plowing, or police that bother to show up, or your street being possible to drive on.  It all goes into the pockets of corrupt officials. 

Hello?  Mr. Historic First Dark-Skinned U.S. President?  There’s this huge American city–what’s left of it–and it’s occupied fully eighty percent by African-Americans* and it’s kind of lost most of its homeless shelters and food banks too, and the unemployment rate there is FIFTY PERCENT; can you do something now, please? 


*according to 2000 Census data; but the population has been dropping & increasing its percentage of minorities since then.  Oh, and you ought to ask why the city is 80% black, because it sure as hell isn’t an accident. 

Angry!

Two things that make me angry:

One, prosecutorial immunity.  I mean, yes, I understand the point of protecting professional public adversaries from punishment for doing their jobs; but when we’re seriously asking "Should prosecutors be allowed to knowingly frame people for murder and get away with it?"something’s effing broken.

And two, people who kick people while they’re down.  In an economic crisis, why is it always social services, libraries, and education programs that get the knife?  Oh, right — because those programs affect people who can’t fight back.

*sigh*

Lord, please give strength to the Internet during this difficult time — it’s one of very few ways the underrepresented might be able to make their voices heard [that's a PDF, but awesome; if nothing else, read the Introduction], by each other as well as by those in power, in a world dominated by corporate media and upper-class-funded politicians. 

As it was in that now, is in this now, and will be in future nows, Make It So*. 

*Ever since a professor showed me how the best translation of "Amen" really is "Make It So", I love substituting, and listening to Jean Luc Picard close all the prayers in my mind!  ;)