|Images for the 21st Century
Buildings, brick and mortar, concrete, expressways ??
That's what the attorneys, the bankers , the EM all see. Valuations,
assets, liabilities, vacant land that sits idle.
But what is Detroit??
What are it's most valuable things?
"Braced to Remake Itself"
- NY Times, August 18
"This decision comes in the wake of 60 years of decline for the city, a
period in which reality was often ignored".
-Gov. Rick Synder - USA Today, July 18, 2013
"Christie's appraisal will reveal worth of DIA's collection"
- Detroit Free Press, August 18, 2013
"For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich..."
- Emergency Manager, Kevin Orr
The outlook for Detroiter's is indeed"a scary process for thousands
whose future will be directly affected by its outcome"
- Shirley Stancoto, CEO of New Detroit
All the doom and gloom!
Lifelong friends ( and former Detroiters ) from around the country have
called me to see how things are in the motor city?
How do you get along without police, fire and no garbage pick-up?
Have all the neighborhoods gone to hell!!??
But Detroit is a tough place and Detroiters are resilient, hard working,
take a good punch, dust themselves off and prepare to kick more butt.
It's how we are and this bankruptcy thing is just another day in
"D"town. If it affects us at all, somebody forgot to tell its most valuable
asset. THE PEOPLE!
We will fight to save our DIA!
Belle Isle shall remain the peoples paradise!
Palmer Park will be re-born!
So remove the going out of business signs.
The Thinker and The Fist, no sale.
Somebody please tell the people of Detroit they are BANKRUPT!
A WEEKEND IN DETROIT
So why are we natives not outraged over this city’s current state of
Unless you are a banker, bond holder or parasitic venture capitalist, why
The average Joe has been the victim of economic terrorism for several
Our politicians have engaged in a practice of raid, torch and burn
through Detroit’s treasury for decades now.
Have you ever wondered how a distressed city like Detroit cannot, not
spend grant monies awarded to improve our lot in life?
Our politicians, once a grant is announced, scramble to forge alliances ,
create entities with all the requisite certifications, notable dignitaries and
suitable “fronts” to bid on contracts.
All without any of the skills, experience or administrative, technical
knowledge to competently, fairly or legally carry out the implementation
of said bid contract and grant.
This initial scramble takes time to coalesce, properly vet selected, well
known players with the proper spaghetti following names, with or
without expertise, and once all is played out on this level, bidders get
Best guess pie in the sky bids are submitted and when awarded, a new
scramble ensues to ally winners with firms with actual expertise to
implement and carry out the execution of said contracts, relegating the
bid winners to a “spook who sat by the door” status.
All of these machinations are stupid, cause delay, discourage and
eliminate qualified contractors from participating, create more
bureaucratic layers, add cost and result in shoddy program
administration or worse criminal and/or illegal activities, theft, loss etc….
By incompetent administrators trying to carve out a piece of the pie for
“Detroit officials fiddled as waste site kept burning”
- Detroit Free Press, December 2, 1992
Or the great Lyndon / Cloverdale
“Dumper’s sweet deal illegally pollutes neighoorhood
and the two year fire smolders!
Waterfront Casino development that never happened
Only more slums created
Matty Mauron and Southwest Detroit, Kwaume !,
Monica!, DWSD, EM's et al!!!!
But you know what?
We will survive in spite of the over abundance of stupidity around us!
I spent a Saturday afternoon on Belle Isle in August 2013.
The place was alive and buzzin" with activity!
Every picnic shelter full of joyful family reunions.
And to no one's surprise decent hard working folk having family fun on
this glorious day!
I did not trip over piles of trash everywhere!
The Q's, Alpha's, AKA's and Delta's all jamin' together.
The "Flower House" joyful with newly weds enjoying themselves as man
and wife surrounded by friends and family....imagine that.
Hardly any room left for a blanket or a lounge chair anywhere.
That's the Isle I experienced. Sure the rest rooms need sprucing up,
trees could use pruning, many removed.
But all in all it's people who rule the island .
And much love is what I found, the welcoming sprite everywhere I went.
That's the true Spirit of Detroit!
As I write what will be the second installation of my
“Bankrupt Detroit “blog,
A non precedential event is taking place in a small town in Missouri.
While events in the small town of Ferguson, Missouri unfold…riots,
protests, upheaval, social unrest, death and destruction following
the shooting of a black teenager by local police, a situation not
unlike here, in Detroit, 47 years ago.
Time flies and not much else changes.
Detroit is bankrupt, but not in spirit, not in energy, and not in the
will to turnaround things for the better.
This year’s weekend in Detroit turned into two. We celebrated our
313th birthday with a good ole “ ain’t no party like a Deeeetroit
Party “ in the streets of downtown.
We are said to be the most racially segregated city in the nation
and it’s true at the end of the day we all go to our own enclaves
north, south, east, and west.
But when there is a job that needs doin’ a soul that requires prayer
or a wrong that begs for justice we seem to mostly find a way to do
the right thing.
Have we learned from events of 1967?
Maybe some, but the rate of brothers killing one another, intruders
shot while entering, and the most cowardly of all, carjacking of our
Mom’s and sisters still disgusts me.
Makes me want to holler and go out and shoot some thug.
But, then I’d be the problem and not the solution.
I see hope in the faces of the people, every race and color getting
together to celebrate their city makes you want to holler go out and
I bought a bike last year; it sat in the middle of the living room as a
constant reminder of resolutions unmet. It was pretty, a Schwinn,
with mostly Japanese components. I have a homey let’s call him
Sam. We recently reconnected after a thirty year separation.
He rides his bike everywhere and is three years my senior
and I’m 63.
He promotes the Slow Roll Detroit event to everyone.
So I joined him for a Monday night event only he didn’t show. It’d
rained just before the ride so he stayed home. I was on my own
feeling a bit apprehensive of my physical conditioning.
But I went, I saw, I conquered! I had a ball.
With over 4000 riders we departed north from Greektown. And
before I reached Gratiot the Slow Roll leaders were up to I-375 with
as many riders behind me as there were in front.
As in most sports we all rise to our personal level of incompetence.
And I found myself grouped with several riders who looked like me.
I mean old, overweight out of shape but willing!
I was shamed by a grandma peddling with Grandkid in a
kid carrier behind… and a baby asleep in a papoose like wrap
around her chest.
I felt duty bound to escort her as I too have grandkids…at home
with their mama’s.
We were joined by a couple from Bloomfield Hills on their first ride
with a longtime curiosity about the ruins of Detroit.
Met a couple relocated to Detroit from Baltimore through no fault of
their own! And I thought everyone was leaving Detroit. But even
though not a first choice they were content with the move. A retired
ex- Marine he stated Detroit was a challenging place to live but he
could afford a magnificent home that would be beyond his reach in
Baltimore with a backyard garden and next year a pool.
We all followed a like aged gentleman with a tandem trailer behind,
suitable for cooler, sound system or lazy boy recliner. He said he
was looking for a manufacturer in order to put it on the market.
We peddled past Eastern Market through streets with one or two
homes greeted by smiles and waves from kids as we passed. Down
Mt. Elliot pass the Heidelberg Project, Elmwood Cemetery and back
Once again Detroiter’s from all over together, sharing a story riding
a bike, being hopeful.
As one police officer who happened upon the riders said...”they
must be doing something illegal, they having too much fun!”
I am uplifted by our youth in Harmony Park performing in the
“The Summer Youth Festival”. Dancing, singing, young musical
masters, poets, artists, junior entrepreneurs, athletes all engaged
in serious study and execution of their art!
There is Hope for the Future unlike what media would
have you believe!
Detroit public school kids engaged in cooperative, non-violent
creative endeavors... imagine that.
May 24, 2015
This is my first blog installment of the year.
It begins on a somber note.
Today I learned that Detroit’s beloved Jazz Master, Marcus Belgrave, has made his
transition to that great jam secession in the sky.
Mr. Belgrave was a fixture in the Detroit music community, mentor to everything jazz in
Detroit and everybody’s favorite celebrity. Everybody knew Marcus and everyone he met
were greeted with that engaging smile and that gravely voiced “Hey how are you!!”
As Detroit’s Jazz Ambassador to the world, his position of prominence in our musical family
shall not be easily replaced. While not being a native son we claimed him and he became
us. Most know how he taught, mentored, cajoled and inspired a whole generation of
aspiring Detroit talent to lofty heights.
Marcus’ students are everywhere proudly representing Detroit as a source of pride and an
example of our, you can’t keep us down attitude.
I was not a personal friend, although I found myself in his company throughout my career,
just a self proclaimed super fan of the music.
I give good ear!
My first exposure to this thing called jazz was at Mumford High School in the late sixties.
Two of our motivated inspirational teachers, Mr. Miguel Biegas, and Mr. Ralph Carter
formed the Jazz Club to educate those interested in this classical uniquely American art
It started out with listening “parties” with our class Griots teaching the linage and the
stories of influences and anecdotes.
But it grew from there!
I don’t know how this evolved, but every Thursday after 9th hour classes ended, without
announcement or fanfare, we made a beeline to the auditorium to await whatever musical
delights Biegas- Carter had arranged for us.
My first exposure was to Donald Bird and the Blackbirds.
In weeks and months that followed Detroit luminaries lined up with performances by
Marcus, Donald Walden, Kenn Cox, Roy Brooks, Ernie Rogers, Wendell Harrison, Teddy
Harris, Ursula and Buddy, and other Detroit Jazz Masters.
Over time performances expanded to include whoever was playing at Watts Club
Mozambique, or Bakers Keyboard Lounge. I remember hearing, seeing, and experiencing
Houston Person, Jimmy Smith, Big John Patton and others I no longer recollect!!
Although Motown was in full swing, I was smitten, taken in and consumed by this awesome
jazz music. My Dad had a small collection of jazz recordings and I wore the groves out with
the likes of Erroll Garner, Wes Montgomery, Sarah Vaughn et.al…
Later on I met Ms. Jackie Hillsman and Peter Bernard proprietors of “The Experimental
Movement”, a professional dance company on the west side of Detroit.
Jackie was famous for presenting controversial, avant garde performances choreographed
to commissioned cutting edge jazz compositions.
It was in that environment, I was able to get upfront and personal with Marcus Belgrade
and others who surrounded him.
While Peter Bernard, also a master photographer, engaged the artist with stimulating
conversation, I adopted a fly on the wall posture and soaked it all in.
Three- on- ones with Marcus, Peter and Jackie fostered a love and devotion for this music
and allowed me to gain personal insights into the Marcus experience.
This of course exposed me protégés such as a budding genius, Gerri Allen, The McKinney’
s, Lawrence Williams, Charlie Gabriel, and others.
I felt like the luckiest kid in the world.
The city will never be the same.
Who shall assume the title?
Detroit’s Jazz Master Laureate
Marcus prepared us well for this time, who shall succeed our beloved Marcus? The legacy is
secure, the choices many, Geri Allen, James Carter, Regina Carter, Karriem Riggins, Robert
Hurst, Kenny Garrett, Ray Parker Jr. and Al Jackson, Rodney Whitaker, Marion Hayden,
Gaylynn McKinney and Gerald Cleaver, Rayse Biggs and the list goes on.
Yes he did his work well, the legacy is secured.
Our love and prayers to the Belgrave Family. We shall truly miss Marcus.
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