ABJ Roadshow: Detroit 1967 | American Black Journal Full Episode

ABJ Roadshow: Detroit 1967 | American Black Journal Full Episode


Just ahead on a special
edition of American Black Journal we’re taking
an in-depth look at the turbulent summer of 1967. We’ll talk about
what sparked the Detroit rebellion, police
and community relations, what arose from the
ashes, and the impact on the city today. Stay right there. You don’t wanna miss this
very important conversation. American Black Journal:
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♪♪(applause)Welcome to
American Black Journal. I’m Stephen Henderson. We’re coming to you from
the Joseph Walker Williams Community Center on Rosa
Parks Boulevard in Detroit. This is the neighborhood
where the 1967 rebellion began on this
very day, July 23rd. Today’s program is
part of our “One Detroit” commitment to examine the
city’s most important issues. We’ll reflect on what
happened 50 years ago and how it impacts
Detroit moving forward. We wanna welcome our
audience members and invite our viewers at home
to comment on Facebook and on Twitter. We start with a closer
look at the issues that sparked the uprising. The media partners in
the Detroit Journalism Cooperative conducted a
year-long investigation on the state of social and
economic conditions 50 years later. The findings are
published in a book titled, “The Intersection,”
from Bridge Magazine. Joining me now are Lester
Graham of Michigan Radio, journalist Bill McGraw,
and Keith Owens from The Michigan Chronicle. Thank you all
for being here. BILL: Thanks.
LESTER: Thank you. Yeah. So, Lester,
let’s start with you. Talk about what we’ve
learned about 50 years ago, 50 years later. Well, I think one of the
things that was surprising to a lot of us was
this–as we looked at things like housing,
poverty, education, and so forth that in
many cases the people, the black people of Detroit, are in worse shape
than the black people of Detroit were in 1967. There’s one
exception to that. There are better
relationships with the police, but beyond that
things have not improved much and
sometimes gotten worse. Yeah. Bill, you were a young
man in 1967 here in Detroit. You’ve been a journalist
in this community for a really long time,
almost since that point. Talk about the things
that we’ve learned about ourselves over that 50
years based on what happened in ’67. Well, I think in ’67,
after what happened, people started paying
attention to what was going on in Detroit even
beyond police community relations, education, and
that was the deindustrialization of Detroit. And I think until
’67 it was operating at a lower level. Not everybody quite
understood the impact of what happened in the ’50s
when Packard closed and Hudson closed and all
those parts supplier closed. So, there was an
economic crisis going on in Detroit at kind of a
lower level until ’67 brought a lot of attention, I
think, to everything going on in Detroit. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. Keith, you’re the editor
of The Michigan Chronicle– Mm-hmm. –the newspaper that
speaks to African-Americans here in
the city of Detroit. Talk about the things
that you feel like we’ve learned about that
community, our community, over 50 years based on
what happened in ’67. Well, I think one
thing we’ve learned, which we already know,
is that we’re very durable. (laughter)
Resilient is the word– Resilient.
–we always use, right? Right. Resilient is
probably the better term. But I think that
following on what Lester said, I mean, the problem is
that there’s a lot of–not to beat a dead horse,
but there’s a lot of focus in terms of what’s
happening downtown, which we’re
very happy with, and there are good things
that are happening outside of downtown. It’s not just downtown. But there are still some
things that are troubling the community
especially the poverty of the society, illiteracy
rate is very high. The number of jobs,
the kinds of jobs that are available, the jobs that
we anticipate will become available in
the new economy. Too many Detroiters
are not qualified for that. The school system
is still struggling. And so, and a lot of
that is because of what happened in ’67. There was a
lot–there was disinvestment, there was disinterest,
there was a, you know, pulling away from that. And I think that when
you talk about the effects, the overall effects
of racism and people understanding what
that can really do. People, I think, sometimes
understand racism is just, you know, white folks
don’t like black folks or something like that. It’s much more intense,
much deeper than that, and I think that what
Detroit has really kinda become a emblem of, a
symbol of unfortunately, is what, you know,
what intense concentrated racism can do to
an entire community. Yeah. You know, it has
almost devastated the city. Right. Right. It’s very complex. Mm-hmm. Lester, talk about what
has happened over the last 50 years that
reproduces these stats over and over again. Was there a period where
things got better and they slipped back? Or have we sort of
stayed in the same place for that long? I think that what’s
happened is, you know, starting ’50s with,
as Bill mentioned, the decline of industry,
the increase in automation, white flight,
and then after ’67 increased white flight,
and then as crime rose in the city
middle-class black flight. And so, it left the city
hurting in a way that it had never been before. Yeah. So, I think it’s been a
tough road to hoe for Detroit for a
few decades now. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. Bill, what do you make
of the things that we’re seeing now in Detroit? This sort of excitement
and enthusiasm about the things that we’re seeing
in places like downtown and midtown. How does that relate to
what is going on in the rest of Detroit? Well, there was a lot of
excitement about Detroit in 1967, too. STEPHEN: That’s right. People have probably
seen the film clip of Mayor Cavanagh singing
Detroit’s praises on a– Pitching us
for the Olympics, right? Well, a little
earlier than that. STEPHEN: Yeah.
Exactly. Exactly. And so, you know, there
were some buildings built downtown in the ’60s, but
I don’t think that masked what was going on
at the street level. Abuse of citizens by the
police, the inequality. What’s going on today? There certainly are a lot
of very exciting things happening in
Detroit, but it’s what? About 10 square
miles unfortunately. STEPHEN: Right. And, you know, so
much of the rest of the city is still hurting
and still struggling. STEPHEN: Yeah. Education in particular,
Keith, has been something that we just
haven’t–we haven’t gotten right. And that’s now my
entire lifetime in Detroit. We’ve really
struggled with that. What are we doing wrong? What are we not thinking
of to move this community forward on that front? Well, that’s
(laughs) a large question. (laughter) I mean, there’s an
awful lot involved with that.
STEPHEN: Yeah. But I think that where we
need to focus on basically is number one, what
education needs to be, what it needs
to do, you know, both in terms of is–often
it needs to be more than just preparing for a
job, but it needs to be connecting that to the
jobs where the jobs are going to be and the
condition of the schools right now. And also I think we
need to focus on what’s, you know,
what’s going right. I mean, there are a lot of
teachers who are working extremely hard. Some excellent teachers,
some excellent principals, who are doing
everything they can against tremendous odds. You know? I mean, working with
these–with children doing everything they can. What they need is support. You know, I think from
what I’ve seen of the new superintendent it seems–
I mean, I think he’s saying some of the
right things. You know, what needs to
be focused on; focusing on, you know, public
schools in terms of getting, you know, be able to
resources that we need. The teachers. There’s just so much
that Detroit schools need. I mean, and once again I
think the thing that needs to be understood–I don’t
think everybody’s not saying anything that
hasn’t been said before, but we can’t–you can’t
say Detroit is back if the schools aren’t back.
STEPHEN: Right. You know? If the children aren’t
back the city’s not back. STEPHEN: Right.(applause)
You know? And I think that
needs to be understood. STEPHEN: Yeah. Lester, talk about the
things that would cast us forward 50 years so that
we’re not sitting around in 2067 saying oh, we
haven’t moved anywhere in another 50 years. What are the
things that we really gotta drill down on? (laughter) Well, the
biggest thing is white people have to learn
how to talk about race– STEPHEN: Yes.
–in a meaningful way. STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. They have to understand
why racial history in this country has caused the
things that we have today. That’s gonna be tough for–
That’s a very tough– –a lot of–
–nut to crack even now. But, you know, we talked
about this 50 years ago when the Kerner Commission
was appointed by President Johnson to look into the
civil disturbances across the country and the
finding then was we’re creating two societies. One white, one black. Separate and unequal. And we’re still there and
that is something we’ve gotta deal with. We’ve known about
it for a long time. And if you’ve got an
answer– (laughter) –I wanna listen. I don’t. I’ll leave it to you,
Bill, to talk last about that point. You’ve–a long time
member of this community. Are we seeing an opening
to get that conversation started between black
people and white people about this position? Well, you know, a
lot has changed in 50 years certainly. You know? And the discussion has
changed in many ways, too. But the Kerner
Commission also said that the institutions and the
reason that all these cities in America erupted
in the ’60s was because of white racism. And I think it’s fair to
say whites have been reluctant to accept
that responsibility. Maybe there’s at least a
discussion about things like that, but I don’t
know how far into various communities
it filters down. STEPHEN: Yeah. All right. Guys, great work. And thanks for being here. Thank you.
Thank you. Absolutely. The past 50 years have
brought a lot of change to the intersection of what
was 12th and Clairmount, where the rebellion began. The businesses are long
gone, replaced by a small green space
called Gordon Park. The park was
refurbished just in time for the
anniversary of the uprising. ♪♪
(indistinct chatter)
MAN 1: Is everybody ready? CHILD: Yes. MAN 1: One, two, three. NARRATOR:The
grand reopening of
Detroit’s Gordon Park.50 years ago it was here a
police raid sparked a week
of city-wide looting,
burning, and killing.
Lamont Causey
lived right near here.
He was 8 years old.LAMONT: We grew up over
here in this community called 12th Street at
the time, and Clairmount. My family had moved
over here in the early ’40s. We were during the
first African-American families over here. NARRATOR:Causey
leads “Brothers Always
Together”, a volunteer
group that’s the keeper of
the flame at Gordon Park.Working with the city
to bring it back to life.
(clapping)MAYOR DUGGAN:
Well, didn’t it come out great? So, I’ve been here
several times with Lamont and “Brothers Always
Together” with the events, and it was OK
the way it was. There was some open space,
but it wasn’t the kind of quality park that, as
far as I was concerned, said to our
children you are valued, you’re important,
you deserve the best. LAMONT: This is my
longtime childhood friend, Mike Williams. There used to be a
sandbox years ago in this playground and we met
in the sandbox actually up here. There was over 200
businesses up and down 12th Street. MIKE: Right. LAMONT: On the other
side you had businesses. MIKE: Businesses. Bike shops on this
side of the corner. Doughnut shops. It was like a downtown. And if you look
you’ll say well, how did all that
fit in over here? Well, it did. TV ANNOUNCER:
On July 23, 1967,Detroit was hit by a riot.LAMONT: When I woke up
that morning and opened up the door all you seen was
black smoke in the sky. NARRATOR:As young as
Causey was he remembers
what happened.His stores along 12th
Street looted and burned.
LAMONT: Some people
call it rebellions; some people
call it an uprising. And like I told
anybody before, if you was over here you
actually knew what it was. It was a riot. MAN 2: People gonna riot. Until they stop all this. That’s right. MIKE: We didn’t realize
it until we got older how horrific it really was. I mean. And to come out of
this is remarkable.(indistinct chatter)LAMONT: I’m not even
gonna call it a park. I’m gonna call it a venue
because if you see this here stage there’s gonna
be plenty entertainment and we have exercise
equipment over there. You have the
playground equipment. So, this is just
more than just a park. And we’ve been waiting
for this for 50 years. ♪♪ CHEVELLE: Since
I’ve been here for five years you can see how
the diversity has come through, and that’s been
such a pleasure to see in my neighborhood. And then to have this
park I think it’ll bring everybody in the
community together. As you can look around you
can see everybody’s on a peaceful journey. And it’s just really a
wonderful experience. JOYCE: It represents
that we’re on the move to reestablishing our
community, creating warmth, safety, homes. So, we’re creating an area
now of a new development. NARRATOR:In just the
past week a sign went up on
what used to be 12th Street,
now Rosa Parks Boulevard.
The vacant house
undergoing renovation will
become a local
cultural center.
DR JOHNSON: This
is the first phase, then we’d go to the mixed youth. This area will be
developing like 40 lofts. On the first floor
there’ll be retail space. NARRATOR:If all goes as
planned, this will be the first
commercial project
on a plot of land where
some original 12th
Street businesses once stood.
Just a block from the
intersection that changed
Detroit history and
across the street from a brand
new Gordon Park.LAMONT: We’ve been here
for over 70 years, our families, and we’ve
been waiting for 50 years for something
else to happen. And so, this is a start. ♪♪(applause)The police raid that
sparked the violent summer of ’67 placed a
spotlight on the racial tension between law
enforcement and the African-American
community. So, 50 years later, have
relations between police and residents improved? Here to answer that
question is Detroit police chief, James Craig. Welcome to the show. Thank you.
(applause)
Appreciate it.
Thank you. Thank you. I actually wanna start
with your memory of 1967. You were here in
the city of Detroit. I was here in
the city, sure. A young man, a
very young man, right? 10 years old. Yeah. And not far–you
didn’t live far from– Lived on Doris and
Dexter in the Tenth Precinct. My dad was a police
reserve working out of the Tenth Precinct. Uh-huh. So, I had a deep
connection to this community. Right. And
ten years later– Ten years later I’m a
Detroit police officer. Right. Right. Very interesting. Working at the Tenth– Working at the
Tenth Precinct. (laughs) Right.
Right. Full circle, right?
Full circle. Yeah. So, first I want you to
tell me what you remember your dad telling you
about being a police officer in the city of
Detroit in the 1960s. Being a black
police officer in– He was a reserve officer.
–in the city. And my dad served
in the military– Mm-hmm.
Mm-hmm. –U.S. Army as a
military police officer. Uh-huh. And once he got discharged
he wanted to be a police officer, but because–
But couldn’t. –of discrimination–
Right. –couldn’t. But he still
wanted to give back. He still wanted to work in
the police department in some capacity. So, he was a city
employee but he was also a reserve officer. And so, he told
me the stories. Him growing up as a young
African-American man in this city, how it was like
being approached by the Detroit police officer,
which then was a majority white police department. Yeah. I made up my mind at 10
years old I didn’t want anything to do with the
Detroit Police Department. Is that right?
(laughs) Nothing to do.
(laughter)
Yeah. You held that
true, right? (laughs) Well, I made
20 years old. I decided to join. I guess I looked back, my
dad truly had an influence on me.
Yeah. But I think it was my
welcome to Detroit Police Department that will
certainly, now that I have 40 years in this business,
will stay with me for the rest of my career. Yeah. And that was my welcome
by Detroit police officer, senior officer
probably 25 years in. If you just think of the
Tenth Precinct ten years after the civil unrest,
many of the same officers that worked in
the Tenth Precinct– Were still there.
–they were still there. Yeah. So, my partner looked at
me, and I’ll never forget, he just said I
don’t want you here. You do one thing. Just be black. Don’t talk to me. You’re not gonna
drive this police car. And don’t touch the radio. Wow. And I’ll never
forget, you know? This is in the late 1970s. This is ’77.
Yeah. I started June 16, 1977. And so, I thought
this is certainly not what I wanna do. And I remember
talking to my dad about it. He said well, you don’t
have much of a choice because if you wanna be
about change you have to become part of
that change effort. But I knew as a police
officer I could have only so much change, so I knew
early in my career to have wholesale
change I needed to run the police department. Right. (laughs) And I knew it then.
Yeah. And so, I’m glad. I look back now 40 years,
best decision that I made– Yeah. –even though I left the
city of Detroit to pursue the career in
another city, Los Angeles. But I’m glad I joined–
Yeah. –because I can tell
you–and the question is, has there been change? Yeah. Well, I can tell you–
I mean, things get worse for a while after–
Absolutely. –the rebellion. The police
department takes revenge, essentially, on the
African-American community with the S.T.R.E.S.S.
Unit that was created. S.T.R.E.S.S.
was just ended– I started in ’77. I had a sergeant who had
just been transferred. S.T.R.E.S.S. was
abolished under Coleman Young. Right. So, a lot of the
vestiges of what when on… You’re talking
about a police culture. You cannot change a
culture in ten years. It just doesn’t happen. STEPHEN: Right. CHIEF CRAIG: Yes,
we had a black mayor. Yes, we had a black
police chief by then. But to be candid,
the culture existed. Now, was it–
The same culture. Very close. Yeah. And then when
you fast forward, after I left Detroit, we
have other instances of major cases– Yeah. –that took place that led
us into a federal oversight. STEPHEN: Right. Right. CHIEF CRAIG:
For the most– STEPHEN: For a very long time. CHIEF CRAIG: For a very–
I mean, one of the longest running in the country. So, talk about what you’ve
been able to accomplish. I mean, almost anyone
you ask in the city will say things are better
between the police and the community. Now, they’re not perfect. We still have issues. Things come up,
incidents happen. But what are the things
that made that change possible under
your leadership? Trust and engagement. And when I talk
about engagement, you hear a lot of
police departments, police chiefs talk
about community policing, but what defines
community policing? It’s really a partnership. Police departments do it
wrong when they go into communities and dictate
this is how we’re gonna police your community. That never works. That’s the problem. But if you go back in
time, even in the late ’70s, Detroit was really a
model for community policing. We had many stations. So, there was
a change then. But something
happened because one, there was very little
investment in Detroit Police Department. Right. Would it surprise you to
know that we were the third highest paid police
department at one time in this country? And now– And now we don’t
even match that of our suburban neighbors. Right. Right. Something’s
inherently wrong. Four years ago
when I started, this is what we know. Response
times over an hour. Clearance rates to
homicide embarrassing low. 11%.
Right. A community that had
lost total confidence in the police department. The issues were there. And so, now we look back
just four years and we see that we have response
times that replicate that of other major cities. We have a clearance
rate that’s above the national average. We have community
policing, or neighborhood policing as I
like to refer to it, where we have neighborhood
police officers in the neighborhood on the
ground working closely with the community. That’s the difference
and it’s based out of trust. You have no trust, you
have no relationship. That is clearly
the bottom line. Yeah. We’ve only got a
few minutes left. But we still have
this awful crime problem in the city. It’s a very violent place. It’s a very dangerous
place if you live in certain neighborhoods. How much of the trust that
you have from the citizens depends on you
making the crime picture look a lot better? We can’t do it alone. There’s not enough of us. You know, the
community has to be engaged. They have to be involved. And while I constantly
talk about the fact that we are trending downward,
we’ve seen the lowest homicide numbers that
we’ve seen in 45 years. Still not enough–
Sure. –as you point out. Per capita crime
is still too high. But we can’t do it. There are other issues,
socioeconomic issues. We got this issue
called the mentally ill not being treated. Right. Sure. We don’t talk
about those things. We talk about the
education system. That has a direct impact. So, when we look at
our police officers do we honestly believe that
they are the sole solvers? We got
something called courts. Yeah. We got prosecutors. Sure. So, we have to
be in this as one. STEPHEN: Yeah. CHIEF CRAIG:
That’s how it works. STEPHEN: Yeah. Quickly, 50 years forward. What’s the ideal situation
between police and the community in Detroit? Well, you know,
I gotta tell you. I’m a little biased. I think we’ve
come a long way. I’m very proud of the work
that our men and women do each and every day. You know, we’ve had the
unfortunate distinction that ten of our officers
have been shot or killed in the last seven months. But despite that our
officers, generally speaking, do not overreact or
underreact to situations. That says a lot when you
talk about policing in a city where they
know it’s violent– Right. –but they still wanna
come back to work and serve this city with
distinction and honor. And they do it
each and every day. Yeah. Well, happy to
have you here. Thank you. And congratulations
on all the work. OK.
Appreciate it. All right. We’ll be right back to
continue our conversation about the Detroit
rebellion with a group of Detroiters who have
vivid memories of 1967. Stay right there. ♪♪ ♪♪ Most Detroiters old enough
to remember the rebellion have personal stories
to tell about those tragic five days in July 1967. My next guests are here
to share their experiences. Please welcome
Reverend JoAnn Watson, Loretta Holmes, and
Kenneth Snodgrass.(applause)Thank you all
for being here. Thank you. (laughs) Reverend Watson,
I wanna start with you. You, of course, were
here in 1967 in Detroit, but went on to a
distinguished political career in our city as a
member of our city council. Talk about how much
different things, I guess, are now than they were
when you can remember the things going wrong in 1967. Well, 1967, which was
a rebellion not a riot. It was a rebellion. (laughter) Changed my life. I was 16 and went to
Central High School with these two individuals. STEPHEN: Uh-huh. And we thought like
it as at the epicenter of our neighborhood. There were tanks
coming down our street. I’m the oldest of ten. The youngest of ten
is in the audience. (laughter) And we actually
had to lay on the floor in our house. My father, my father and
mother had to lay on the floor with us because if
there were lights or even a flash of a fire from
someone turning the stove on you could
attract fire in your home. STEPHEN: Yeah. So, we were under siege
and it was bone-chilling. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. We grew up. All adolescence
went out the window as a result of ’67. Do you feel like the
things you experienced then helped shape the
things that you would go on to do later? Did that inspire you, for
instance, to get involved? It’s colored
everything that has happened in my life. Certainly at the root of
the rebellion was the response to police
abuse and terrorism. So, the fact that the
first black mayor in Detroit, the Honorable
Coleman Alexander Young, was elected because he
vowed to get rid of S.T.R.E.S.S.–
STEPHEN: Yes. –stop robberies,
enjoy safety. Which he did.
STEPHEN: Right. He kept that promise. Now, at that time I was
a young board member of the NACP. I had no idea I would
later become the director of the NACP. (laughter) But as a young
board member we helped the Honorable Coleman
Alexander Young because when he became mayor
and absolutely implemented what he
promised he was sued– STEPHEN: Yeah. –by the union, the police
union, the firefighters union. And the NACP,
we joined legally– STEPHEN: I remember. Yeah. –to support the Honorable
Coleman Alexander Young. So, making sure that
our city was respected and honored was something
that I felt it in my bones. STEPHEN: Yeah. Still feel it. (laughter) It’s colored
everything else in my life. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. Loretta, talk about what
your memory of 1967 was. Oh, my God. I was like a month
until my 17th birthday. STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. I worked at
Ingleside Nursing Home. As she said, we
were classmates. We all graduated together. Mm-hmm. Ingleside was on
Woodward and Clairmount. And a friend of mine
invited me to the club, it was a club to
us, not a blind pig– (laughter) REV WATSON: That’s right.
–on 12th and Clairmount. STEPHEN: Yeah. So, my best friend
and I, we left work at 11:30 at night. Had my oldest
sister meet us there. And when we got there,
as I remember, it was a long staircase
going up to the building, going up stairs, and
you had to walk up all these stairs. And when you get to
the top of the stairs you could see down the
hallway it was a lot of doors, but they were all closed. STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. To the left was the room
that we go in and there was a large pool table
as you walk in the room, a bar, chairs, and tables. People dancing,
having a good time. It’s just a club. STEPHEN: Yeah. It was a club. And we were going
there for someone’s birthday party. I don’t know whether he
had–I was told he had just got out of Vietnam–
STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. –or whatever it was. And about 2:30 or quarter
to 3, my girlfriend and I, we say we gotta leave
because we had to be at work the next day. Whew. And so, we started down
these steep stairs and by the time we got down
by not even halfway a sledgehammer came
through the door. The door was
like wood and glass. Mm-hmm. And we saw this
big white face. And it wasn’t a
police officer uniform. It was a white man
in a shirt and tie. So, we turned around and ran–
STEPHEN: Yeah. –back up the stairs. When we got back up the
stairs we ran over to my sister to tell her what
was going on and then that time it was just
everybody–just nobody knew what to do. STEPHEN: Yeah. You started hearing
pounding on the doors like they were nailing all the
doors shut so it could be one way in, one way out. The guys were pulling
tables in the middle of the room because
at that time they was lowering ceilings. And some of the guys
were crawling up in the ceilings to get away. STEPHEN: To get away. Yeah. So, they lined us
up in a single file. We’re going down the
stairs stepping over glass and everything. And oh, my God. When we got out on
12th Street it was so many people. It was like a bullhorn
somebody said it’s a party over here. People on cars,
on top of buildings. STEPHEN: Wow. Everywhere.
STEPHEN: Yeah. They put us in paddy wagons. About four or
five paddy wagons. And I remember it was all
women in our paddy wagon because I started
hyperventilating. I didn’t know what
hyperventilating meant then– (laughter) –but I
knew I couldn’t breathe. Right. It was so hot and
this lady slapped me. You know, like get it together. Yeah.
(laughs) Right. The crazy part is when
they started taking us they went down my street. I stayed on
Elmhurst and Linwood. STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. The police station was
on Elmhurst and Livernois. STEPHEN: Uh-huh. And it’s like
passing your house– STEPHEN: On the way to the– –on the way
to the police station. Yeah. Wow. And when we got there to
the Tenth Precinct I think it had to be that they
took some men first because when we got
there you could see the men in their cells and they,
like, they had their shirts off. They had their do-rags on. (laughter) It was just
like crazy pandemonium. And they put all
the women in one cell. And that’s where we were
until maybe about 5 or 6 in the morning. Wow. And when they came in
they said those that have a ticket or
warrant will be staying. And they let my sister
call my parents and we could hear my dad over
the whole police station like what? Type of thing. (laughter) STEPHEN: Right. Right. And they let us out. We end up walking home. We didn’t know
anything had started– STEPHEN: Yeah. –until my friend and I,
we got up to go to work, ’cause she was staying
with us, the next day and my dad said you
know, the place you guys was in
started the riot. Sure. We didn’t even
know what a riot was. Yeah. Yeah. We didn’t know.
We went on to work. But we wasn’t even there
an hour and it was like fire engines and
police cars and smoke and everything. So, they told us we could
spend the night there at the nursing home
or we could leave. So we left. STEPHEN: Yeah. So, when we got–we
started walking home. Yeah. We’re gonna run out
of time in the segment. Oh, I’m sorry. But I wanna give you a
chance to talk about how that has shaped
the rest of your life. I mean, it’s such a vivid
experience and it’s right at the center
of this event. What did it
inspire in you later? Do you know what? To be honest with you,
as I said, I was young. I really didn’t know
what was going on. STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. It was a lot of
things happening. It didn’t hit me ’til I
got older when I drive through the old
neighborhoods and say it’s still like this? When you try to explain
to your kids or–this is where I used to live, but
it’s not there anymore. Right. Or the whole
block is gone. I don’t know. It hurts now more today
because 50 years later, to me, there’s no change. STEPHEN: You can’t
see any difference. Yeah. The
neighborhoods, the education, is so much worse. So, nobody’s telling the
kids–I asked my grandkids did they ever hear? They don’t know
anything about it. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. It’s such a moving
story and you were, again, right at the
center of all of that. And, Kenneth, I wanna give
you a chance to talk about your memory of 1967. I was just thinking
that a lot of these issues, when we approach and we do
it from a mechanical way– STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. –and when I look at
the ’67 rebellion that took place, and even if you
wanna refer to it as a riot, is you have to look
historically in regards to our society and
politically, socially, and economically to
see what created the conditions for people to
wanna do something in those particular ways. STEPHEN: Yes.
REV WATSON: That’s right. There was a lot of
tension in regards to the African-American
community for a long time. You got the worst
jobs that was out there, you paid the most
money for the food that was rotting in the stores,
you had no dignity from the–lot of the people
who owned the stores that existed there. So, even people who went
out when that particular rebellion first started
mighta saw it as a riot. But there was people who
came out and recognized this was a question of
looking at how society treats African people
here politically, socially, and economically. And when you look at
that situation and see that African people, no matter
what school you go to, the question of your
progress and how you move up the economic ladder
is really shattered because the racism
continues to exist. REV WATSON: That’s right. And so, because of
that nature you have a depressed society–half of
a society being depressed. And the situation, even
though we’re saying we’re discussing 1967, we have
to recognize this go back to the enslavement process–
Sure. –when it began in this
particular country. REV WATSON: You
better say it. That it– Not just in ’69,
because that’s where the tension came from. That’s right. All of that period of
people recognizing here I have all of
this schooling, I have all this knowledge,
and I can only achieve a certain level because the
racism continues to exist in society that
holds you back. Yeah. So, and talking
about police brutality. Police was stealing more
from African people than we African people stoled
during the rebellions. (laughter) STEPHEN: Right. LORETTA: Yes. More people got killed by–
STEPHEN: Yes. –police–
That’s right. –because of that,
the nature of the racism inside our society. REV WATSON: Like
Algiers hotel murder. STEPHEN: Right.
Yes. STEPHEN: Sure.
LORETTA: Yeah. STEPHEN: Sure. So, those kind of things
we have to bring to light right now so that we don’t–
STEPHEN: Right. –approach it and think
this was just a limited period– That’s right.
–where something took place. Right. There was a big situation
in ’68 with the killing of Martin Luther King. REV WATSON: That’s right. Now, here’s a person
who says I don’t believe in violence. I believe in non-violence. And he gets assassinated. And then you turn around
and have a group of people saying well, we have to
grow our own food and so forth in the
Republic of New Afrika. REV WATSON: That’s right. And they having
a big conference– STEPHEN: In the–right.
–and they get raided– STEPHEN: Right.
–by the police– REV WATSON: That’s right.
In New Bethel Baptist Church. –and go to
shooting in the church. That’s right. So, we have a lot of
tension which is inside of a lot of people that’s
been caused because the question of
racism in this society. And again, African
people cannot be racist. STEPHEN: Right. You can be prejudice.
STEPHEN: Right. (laughs) Racism–you have to– STEPHEN: Is about
power in institutions. –economically,
politically, and socially be able to enforce that. REV WATSON: That’s right.
STEPHEN: Yes. Yes. Yes. That’s
exactly right.(applause)That was
wonderful (laughs). Thank you very much. All right. We’ve gone over our time,
but I wanna thank all of you for being here. Despite the racial
injustice and other issues that fueled the civil
disturbance, 1967 was a kind of hopeful
time in the city’s history. The neighborhood around
12th and Clairmount was teeming with businesses,
and the nearby Motown Recording Studio was
producing mega hits. Local writer Marsha
Music and Detroit historian Jamon Jordan
take us on a tour. ♪♪ Here’s Motown. The Hitsville House
over here to our left. And this was most
often my dad’s route– JAMON: Mm-hmm. –on the way to
the record shop. When I didn’t have to go
to school I’d have to go to the record shop, help
dad at the record shop. My little
brother Darryl and I. We would get right
up here to the corner past Hitsville– And you’re
right here on 12th. –and you’re right
here on 12th Street. That show you just how
close Motown to the street where the
unrest took place. That’s right. That’s
right. It’s very close. Very close. ♪♪ JAMON: This says
we’re entering 12th Street. You can see–immediately
you start seeing all this green space. Yes. And, of course, this
wasn’t green space– Exactly.
–in 1967. This was very dense and
teeming with businesses, commercial spaces,
stores, shops, restaurants, grocery stores. All the way down as far
as you can see, really– JAMON: That’s
right. That’s right. –on both sides of this street. JAMON: That’s right. MARSHA: But one
thing about this is that a reason why there is so
much green space going back toward those houses
on either side is because the buildings
were destroyed– JAMON: That’s right. –that came right
up to the sidewalk. JAMON: That’s
right. That’s right. This empty space was where
my dad’s record store was. Oh, wow. Right here. Right next to–
Right here. –right around the corner–
Right here. –from Latonya
Blandy’s house. Oh, it was on
12th Street between Philadelphia and Euclid. Wow. ♪♪ MARSHA: All right. Here we are on
Chicago Boulevard. Yes. Yes. And I love driving
down this street because it really gives,
especially an outsider, a chance to see the
grandeur in which many Detroiters lived. JAMON:
Mm-hmm. That’s right. MARSHA: The extraordinary
architecture that marked so many of the
neighborhoods here. And this neighborhood here
called Boston-Edison is a real exemplar of areas
for affluent Detroiters, but this became an area
that even working class Detroiters were able to
live in particularly after years of white flight. ♪♪ This was an area
that was also gravely affected by the unrest
and the fires, et cetera. JAMON: As we’re driving
down on Linwood we get to the field of
Central High School. And so really, Central
High School, their field was almost
like a campus. And in 1967 this would be
the staging area and the camp area for
the National Guard. So, the National Guard
was stationed right here. On the east side
at Southeastern, the Army was there. But the National Guard
was stationed right here at Central High School. ♪♪ A house painter
named Joe Nelson was driving by and he had
driven by this sculpture of Jesus many
times going to work. And, of course, it was
always painted white. And this gate
wasn’t here at that time. And went in with his
ladder and painted the face and the
hands of Jesus black. This was his way of
participating in the uprising by
painting that Jesus black. And now the seminary
maintains it as black to show their
solidarity with the African-American community. Joe Nelson was
my older cousin. He was my grandmother’s–
Oh, my goodness. –he was my
grandmother’s nephew. ♪♪ MARSHA: You know,
history is alive– JAMON: That’s right.
–as we say. JAMON: That’s right. And often, in
retrospect, we don’t realize, when history
closes over a time, we don’t realize how
close some of these things really are to people. JAMON: That’s
right. That’s right. After the uprising, the
city struggled with how to heal the racial and
economic wounds that remained. Several non-profit
organizations were founded with the goal of
improving the quality of life for African-Americans. Joining me now from
institutions that were established
following the rebellion are Focus: HOPE CEO
Jason Lee, and Rod Gillum, trustee
emeritus at New Detroit. Thank you both
for being here.(applause)Thank you. Jason, I’m
gonna start with you. Focus: HOPE, founded
by Eleanor Josaitis and Father Bill
Cunningham in 1968. The idea was we can
do better than this. We can do better by
our own people here in the city of Detroit. 50 years later, are we? Well, I think that the
challenges that created the 1967 civil unrest or
riots are still prevalent here today in
our community. We have not
fixed education. And every day
we, at Focus: HOPE, see the product of a
failed education system, a failed incarceration
system coming through our dYes. looking for hope– –looking for training,
looking for opportunities, and we’re there every
day to support them in their initiatives. So, we are still seeing
those challenges and I don’t believe we’ve fixed
the problem today. Yeah. Rod, New Detroit was
aimed specifically at that racial gap between
Detroiters, making that a little
more harmonious. Sometimes I
think eh, we’re making some progress there. Other times (laughs) I
wanna throw something through a window. It’s one step ahead,
two steps back sometimes. So, if you look at ’67
and the reaction to what was happening in the
environment at that time when you
applied for a job, when you went to go
buy or rent a home, or your interaction with
the police department, all of which had an
environment that this population was less than. Mm-hmm. And in that context, New
Detroit kind of came out and said we need to talk
about that because that’s not the feeling in this
community, should never be the feeling
in this community. So, race became
front and center. And with the establishment
of New Detroit really the impetus was
Governor Romney making the phone call–
STEPHEN: Sure. –saying that the public
institutions have failed this black population. We need to
step up to that. And so, this New Detroit
Coalition was formed at that time–
Yeah. –and continues today. Yeah. How much has the
conversation changed in 50 years? Are we talking about
the same things or are they different? Well, I think the
issues are still the same. STEPHEN: Yeah? They exhibit
themselves in different ways. STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. Perhaps in some
instances not as blatant. But still the
divide is there. And what New Detroit
intends to do is to make issues around race very
visible, to engage others, to make certain that
there are very candid discussions specifically
targeted on that word. I mean, if you’re going to
have racial healing then it has to be something as
a result of dialogue and other perspectives. And New Detroit, kind of
the coalition of business, for-profits, non-profits,
labor, various ethnic groups as well, all who are
engaged in conversations around race. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. Jason, Focus: HOPE is
really, really geared up to try to solve the
employment problems that we have here in Detroit. Talk about how that looks
maybe worse now than it did 50 years ago. I mean, there are people
being left behind in new ways, I feel like,
in the city of Detroit. Right. So the average person
coming through our doors in our workforce
training programs they all have either a GED or a
high school diploma. Unfortunately, when we
test an individual they’re testing at
middle school levels. ROD: Yeah. And so, they– Even though
they’ve been graduated from our school
system or some other– Absolutely. So, the education crisis
is so significant and it plays out beyond
just a K12 experience. And we see this every day. About 25% of our students,
or actually to a third, have some level of
incarceration on their record. And then over 50% of our
population coming through for workforce training
is dealing with poverty situations and challenges. Now also dealing with
mental health you create a package where individuals
are struggling with things that are so systematic. And what we do at Focus:
HOPE, we provide not only a level of academic and
workforce training, we also provide a level
of support that oftentimes these individuals
don’t have within their respective
households or within their
respective family structures. STEPHEN: Right. And that’s what
makes us more successful than others. STEPHEN: Yeah. What about the
availability of jobs in the city of Detroit? I mean, even if you can
get to the place where you’re qualified,
have the skills– Right. –it’s still tough
to find employment. Absolutely. And critical is the lack
of transportation to those jobs from a
regional standpoint. Traditionally the
African-American community has had
opportunities in manufacturing. Well, many manufacturing
plants are outside the boundaries of the
city of Detroit– STEPHEN: Right.
–in most cases. STEPHEN: How do
you get there– Right. –if you live in
many parts of the city? And so, the jobs that
are being created downtown have a more of a
technology, more have a higher pedigree of
academic and experiences that many
individuals are having challenges in
terms of meeting. Yeah. That support that you
guys give that’s so important, if you didn’t have to do
that it seems like we’d be much further ahead. The other institutions
who are supposed to be supporting people
are still failing. Yeah. So, we see this in
the retention within the community college and the
four-year institutions as well as entry into say
apprenticeship programs throughout the region. And we have taken
a different approach engaging individuals
where they are academically, socioemotionally, and
providing a triage of services that
make them successful. STEPHEN: Yeah. OK. Jason Lee, Rod
Gillum, thanks very much for being here. Thank you.
Appreciate the opportunity. ROD: Thank you, Steve.
STEPHEN: Absolutely. All right. Coming up next, how the
events of 1967 are affecting the city’s
future and the impact it’s having on
Detroit’s emerging leaders. Stay right there. ♪♪ ♪♪ My next guests were
not even born in 1967. For that
matter, nor was I. But we can all also
reflect (laughs) on the events of that summer to
better understand how our lives are affected today. Please welcome Lauren
Hood of Live-6 Alliance and Eric Thomas of
Saga Marketing. Thank you both
for being here. (applause) Thanks, Stephen.
Thanks for having us. So, as I said, I
wasn’t born in 1967 either. (laughter) But I feel like
the rebellion framed my childhood in some ways. I mean, you hear it all
the time from your parents, from your
grandparents. There are these
stories, there are these places that were affected by it,
and it sort of shapes the way you think about
the city for a long time. Talk about sort of
that effect on you. Well, what’s interesting
for me is I’m realizing that I didn’t hear too
much about what actually happened growing up, so
everything I heard about the riot I think came
from like schoolbooks and conversations that my
white friends’ parents were having, but I
didn’t have a real conversation with my parents
about it until maybe like ten years ago. STEPHEN: Wow. And realizing that, like,
and it started because my grandmother
lived on Clairmount– OK. –and I just a
revelation one day. I’m like mom, did
grandma– (laughter) –live on the
street where the– STEPHEN:
Wasn’t that–right. And she’s like,
right at 12th Street. I’m like, how have we
never had this conversation? STEPHEN: Right. And my father’s mother
lived on Atkinson right around the block and we
had never had this real talk about what
actually happened. So, my understanding of
what really went down came much later–
STEPHEN: Yeah. –than, you know, all
those false narratives that I had heard. So, I went to private school. STEPHEN: Uh-huh. And a lot of the things I
heard about the city that were negative
came from like my white parent’s friends. So, yeah. STEPHEN: Saying that
this was like a turning point for them and–
Yes. And how are you
still living in Detroit? And isn’t it awful there?
(laughter) And when is
your family gonna leave? Wow. Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah. (laughter) I’ve had a lot
of unlearning to do in the past few years. Yeah. And what has that
looked like sort of going back over that ground to get
a different perspective? Well, it’s something to–
Yeah. –understand that
something you held onto as a truth for like
part of your adult life, like childhood and
part of your adult life, was like totally wrong. It’s not true, right? Yeah, it’s not
the whole story. So, I still
have more to learn. Like when I got asked to
do this I’m like do I know enough about this to–
(laughter) –like be up there and be on the panel? There’s so many layers. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. And so much of it plays
into your psychology that you have no
recollection of. Like what you
believe is possible for you, what you believe can
happen in your community. Like we had a youth
conversation with our org recently and like asked
this young 18-year-old like what do you need? We’re like
thinking he’s gonna say a basketball, playgrounds. He said hope and faith. STEPHEN: Yeah. Wow. So, I feel like generation
upon generation of people not believing that
things could get better, that not believing
that opportunities were for them. Like it still, it’s in
this 18-year-old who just said he
needed hope and faith. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. Eric, you write a lot
about– (laughter) –living here in
the city of Detroit, what it means–
Yeah. –to be a Detroiter. Talk about how
what happened in ’67, before you were
born, shapes your vision of Detroit today. So, I just, just
missed ’67 by 20 years. Right? (laughter) I was born in ’87. Only 20 years. So, I just lightly
dodged the (indiscernible). But, you know,
it’s interesting. I’ve always been
fascinated with systems. You know, how do
systems impact peoples? And I’ve always
said this thing. You know, if one
fish dies, right, you check the fish. If all the fish die you
check the water. (laughter)
Right? If you look at a city
like Detroit with this much economic disparity
and this much educational deficit I’ve always
been going how is that possible? I mean, if you look at the
story of ’67 the biggest thing that
doesn’t make sense is, and this is the
story they tell you, one day blacks went crazy. (laughter)
Mm-hmm. Well–
Everyone lost their mind. Absolutely not. I mean, absolutely if
you begin to look into just the history of
America, I mean, if the first manned
flight, right, was in 1903, right, and to
space it was 1961, right? That means we’re almost
between that amount of time from people standing
on the ground to getting into outer space–
Yeah. –from the ’67 riots, right? If there hasn’t been that
much change you have to start questioning the
systems and where we are actually living.(applause)
STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. All right? And do you feel like the
Detroit that you live in today is not sufficiently
changed from ’67? I live in a
weird Detroit. Right? I grew up on Joy
Road and Greenfield– STEPHEN: Mm-hmm.
–in these streets, right? In the hood if you will. (laughter) But now I live
in Alden Park Tower right next to West Village. STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. But I’ve always argued
that I don’t understand this idea of the
“Tale of Two Detroits”. When I lived in the
hood there was still a Palmer Park. That was two
Detroits for me, too. STEPHEN: Right.
LAUREN: Mm-hmm. ERIC: My question is, are
we more upset that there’s a disparity in
power and income, or are we just mad
that it doesn’t look like us anymore? And so–
Well, that’s interesting. –I mean, like
poverty didn’t change for my family. When the mortgage
crisis happened we was still poor. Right. (laughs) And same way
as it happened. My family still live
in the same house in the hood. So, for me, the
resurgence of Detroit, as much as you
can say that–I mean, 7.2 isn’t a
resurgence out of 142. STEPHEN: Yeah. But it has been good for
my business but has it been good for the
people that I care about? Not necessarily. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah.
So… Lauren, the work that
you’re doing is right around, you know,
Livernois, Six Mile, a neighborhood that
represents lots of different parts of
Detroit, lots of different dynamics in Detroit. Do you feel like the ’67
rebellion frames that work in any important way? Or frames those
neighborhoods still in an important–
Sure. Well, one of the
neighborhoods in particular, Fitzgerald, I
can think of a number of elders who, when I
get their origin story, I’m like when
did you come here? They’re like ’67. STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. So, it was one of those
places that black people were allowed to live in–
STEPHEN: Mm-hmm. –at that time. When you were trying to
get away from 12th and Clairmount and
move outward it was aspirational to go to
the northwest side. STEPHEN: Right. LAUREN: So yeah. I know for at least one of
the neighborhoods that’s a big part of why
people are there. Yeah. And a big part of why
people take ownership of the place. So, when you look at a
neighborhood that’s undergoing rapid change
and you wanna know like why are residents so
angry and why are they so nervous and why does
all that tension exist? It’s because this was one
of the few places they could go and
they’ve been there, like, for 50-60 years. STEPHEN: Right. There are several
generations of families living on one block. So, when you’re like why
is it such a big deal to make change happen
in this neighborhood? That’s why. STEPHEN: Yeah. Yeah. And their
expectations, understandably, are for something better. LAUREN: Something
that includes them– Yeah. Right.
–first of all. STEPHEN: Yeah. Right.
Yeah. STEPHEN: Don’t
write ’em out. Right? Yeah.
(laughter) STEPHEN: Don’t
draw ’em off the map. Yeah. And a collective
definition of what better is. STEPHEN: Yes. Yes. All right. Lauren and Eric, thank
you both for being here.(applause)I think the
best way to think of 1967 is in terms of
both past and present. The past being what
happened before the uprising, and the
present being what we’ve learned since. I wish I could sit
here and say we did it. We won. We confronted all the
things that confounded us back then, and we beat ’em. But look around. Poverty. Racism. Other forms of inequality. They are all still with us. They all still shape this
city and this region in deep and difficult ways. If we can claim
anything, though, I think it’s that 50 years
later so many more people seem to get it. They know what 1967
was about, they see the shadow it
casts forward into 2017, and they’re willing,
in many instances, to talk about it, to
discuss what hasn’t changed and what we
have to do to be sure that change happens at
some point, hopefully before another
half-century passes. This is one of the
strongest communities I have ever known. It’s resilient,
tough, even unbeatable. And that’s what tells me,
more than anything else, that we can do it
and that we will. That’s gonna do it for
this special edition of American Black Journal. Our special thanks to
the Joseph Walker Williams Center and the
Detroit Historical Society. For more information
about today’s guests you can go to:
americanblackjournal.org And you can always
connect with us on Facebook and on Twitter. We’ll see you next time.(applause)
[no audible dialogue] ANNOUNCER:American
Black Journal: On the Road is
funded by the W.K.
Kellogg Foundation.
A partner with communities
where children come first.
ANNOUNCER:How
does diversity bring
energy to us all?At DTE Energy we believe
that it’s the contributions
of all that
build great communities.
As a company, we grow
stronger by welcoming the
unique
perspectives of everyone.
As community members, we
support our state’s broad
culture and heritage, from
working closely with women
and minority-owned
suppliers to embracing our
local cultures.DTE Energy is
powering diversity.
The DTE Energy
Foundation is a proud sponsor
of Detroit Public Television.ANNOUNCER:Masco
Corporation is proud to
manufacture innovative and
environmentally friendly
products for the home.Delta Faucets, KraftMaid
and Merillat Cabinets,
and Behr brand paints
have all been designed
with you in mind.Masco and its family of
companies serving Michigan
communities since 1929.JAMES: Ford Fund
gave me a scholarship to help me attend
Eastern Michigan University. I developed a
passion for engineering at a early age. It started off with
something as simple as fixing bikes. I didn’t know anything
about a bike shop or where I could go to get it
fixed, so I just kinda had to play
around with it myself. You can’t really do
everything on your own, so with even the
smallest amount of help, just a little push, it can
get you to where you need to be. ♪♪

One thought on “ABJ Roadshow: Detroit 1967 | American Black Journal Full Episode

  1. You have to do nothing but respect the historical capacity of the video but the one thing that is NEVER EVER talked in almost every venue is economics & blacks economic impact of our own community

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