Tuesday, July 25, 2017

DETROIT THE MOVIE AND REALITY--THEN TO NOW.

In order to understand the MOVIE Detroit, you have to become familiar with the "Algiers Motel Incident."

The motel was a basic flop house with and adjacent building, it was in that building where 3 teenagers were murdered during the rebellion. Although the facts of their deaths are still clouded to this day, within a year after the fires died, 3 Detroit White cops were acquitted by all white juries. There is a boatload of information available about the AMI.

I personally doubt that the 3 kids had guns or were sniping at police and national guard, but rather the cops knew the Algiers Motel, as a place of drugs and prostitution and were there so --- why not kick in some doors?

On July 29 or 30th my 14 year old brother organized about 5 kids younger than him (I was included) and we rode our bikes all the way down 12th street, eventually making our way to the Detroit River.

The things I saw that day both going and coming back by the same route have stuck with me to this day. I remember what the area looked like, the near zombie like look on peoples faces as they wandered through the ruins and shuffled along the sidewalks just taking it all in. Most likely many of them were in medical shock.

For years afterwards I would take the Fenkell bus downtown which ran 12th street as a part of its route and for years I would see the same ruin, the city could have well afforded to bulldoze them. It did not, it did nothing to erase the scene of such vast destruction.

There was no Marshall Plan for Detroit. Right after the rebellion is when White Flight took off, fear took over--hide the women and children, get out of Dodge, the darkies are coming to rape and pillage.

That Blacks had been a part of the fabric of Detroit since the 18th century didn't mean much, that an all white jury in 1925 acquitted a black man of murder 1 of a white man meant nothing. Just sell now and get out.

The other great movement out of Detroit was it was the beginning of the end of the auto industry in the city. Plants had changed the way cars were manufactured. Henry Fors (and everyone else) was using mostly small footprint multi-level plants with conveyor belts to make a car.

The fram would start on the third floor and works its way down to the exit completed on the first floor. The new plants were designed for large footprint single floor manufacturing. Detroit simply did not have the room for those plants and the Big 3 found it easier to abandon the old plants and polluted land for new digs spread across the country. Easily accessible jobs left, as more time went by a fifth grade education was no longer viable for a middle class, union job in a plant.

This was another turning point where the power that was missed the mark--education never held much sway in most of the city because for well over a hundred years anyone who could make their mark could get a job.

before cars, Detroit manufactured more stoves than anywhere else in the world, it has always been a town of sand and grit. One would think it was the great melting pot come to reality but that was never so.

Detroit was always segregated. The Blacks, whites, Eastern Europeans,Southern Whites,Poles, Arabs, Chaldeans, Germans, Hispanics, and you name it all came to Detroit but the only place there was any mingling was on the shop floor.

At the end of shift everyone went to their own enclaves and preserved old country ways. Detroit and now the entire metro area, is still not only one of the most segregated 400 sq miles in America it is the most prejudiced as well. Division and not reconciliation is the fabric of this society here. Though the media whores and politicians never talk about it, few really want change from the 300 year old status quo.

Like most cities of the north we talk the talk but once the civil war was finished, that was about as far as we were willing to integrate into a core belief that all men are created equal. Few here believe that and fewer here are willing to stake their wealth and commitment to the principle. Over the past 50 years some have come and gone who tried, there was even limited success at certain points for certain demographics but in the end--disillusionment has taken over as the New Detroit emerges by the river while the other 125 sq miles of the old Detroit rots.






The above, Ford's first plant complex Highland Park MI,was replaced by The Ford Rouge Plant which was the first plant to take in raw material from ore to silica and make every single part of the car on site--parts of the plant are still in use today.




Monday, July 24, 2017

SONGS DOCUMENTARIES AND PICTURES JUST NEVER TELL THE STORY

July 23, 1967 Detroit exploded in the early morning hours. The fires and smoke, the death and injury went on for 5 days and took city and state police, as well as two divisions of federal troops to put down the rebellion in the black community.

An after hours drinking joint was hosting a party for two veterans who made it through their year in Vietnam. The police never asked or wandered in to find out why the 80 or so people were hanging out at 3:30 am. The crashed through the door and started hauling people down the stairs to 3 waiting jail wagons. As they brought the cuffed blacks out, the crowd which started out at about 60 grew, 100, 500, 3000 and the early morning erupted at 12th & Clairmount. My family home was about 5 miles from the center of the rebellion, three as the crow flies.

My vivid memories are the rising columns of smoke and the deuce and half's full of nervous soldiers patrolling our street-enforcing the dusk to dawn curfew--all residents not in their house are subject to arrest or termination. And the reporting, the first time since the Kennedy assassination there was a twenty four hour news cycle. Each hour for five days the body count was reported, the injured, the jailed, the number of fires, the loss of homes and buildings. The pictures on TV still do not resonate with me like watching Lee Harvey Oswald shot live and in black & white but I still see some of it.

It happened, it was inevitable that it was going to happen. People will only take so much of the heavy hand of authority before they decide they have had enough and fight back. Although it makes little sense, the fires, the looting, the destruction of property; it happened. There were white looters and black looters, store owners armed and ready to kill over a mattress or a fifth of liquor and looters willing to kill to get them. And cops, cops willing to shoot just about anything that was Negro--it was inevitable. The mayor at the time would have disagreed, the sociologists would have thought that the rich and prosperous city full of jobs and wages would never explode.

But this fucker did with and intensity only nature can rival. Like New Orleans after Katrina, the burned out areas stayed as they were once they cooled down. For two decades one could travel through the area and still see the skeletal structures standing to remind them who were there of what they had done, or their fathers & mothers had done. This year they put a god damned historical marker up--a tourist draw to the slums. In 50 years that much has not changed, the area was a slum then (though a vibrant ghetto, a ghetto just the same) and is a slum today. Most of the city, 87% of it is now a slum, collapsing in on itself.

It's fine though because the police do not generally breakdown doors of parties these days or do much of anything but play at catch up. 1967 will never be repeated in Detroit. The population that lives here does so because it is a land time immediately forgot by 1968. Cops today make less than they did then and do accordingly. (2017 starting wages for a cop are $14--minus taxes, pension and HC--they take home $8)

I was 12 when the rebellion started and 13 when it ended. July's are like that for me. I have broken more bones, survived more accidents, weathered more storms during the week before my number changes that I now view birthdays skeptically.  without commitment that I will see another. Odd I really think a good old fashioned social order riot may be just what this place needs to wake the hell up and celebrate turning 63 for me.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

WILFUL DESTRUCTION


TO MY GRANDCHILDREN  i am sorry

Breathe deeply the air
Industrial pollution
A planet choking
No God will save you, aid you
Earth is dying; no one cries

© M Durfee
7.13.2017

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

NOT NOTE WORTHY

It could be right that everything feels wrong and not particularly alive. It may be that this climate is not for the tired. I am tired.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

GOSSAMER



SPIDERS ON THE TONGUE

Spiders weave beautiful webs.
Man sees them in wonder,
silky,
translucent,
backlit by a shining sun. 

Awed at the amazing engineering,
the weaving, done in patience,
the great natural skill.
Perhaps only rivaled
by a flake of snow.

We like the vision of spider’s webs.

Spiders on the tongue of men
weave webs of beauty as well.
We forget in our reverence,
that a spider's web is a death trap.

© 4/11/17
M Durfee

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

WE LIVE BY FEROCITY



THE BEAST

I pace with lions.
They move with pride.
I, shoeless, move soulless.
They are silent in their movement;
I have no fear of noise
or need to pray.

We pacers meet in the middle,
neither is yet meat for the other.
It is hot, they have rugs for coats.
They lay down to rest
thinking my shadow will shade them,
it is not big enough, never was.

They rise, I add more to their misery.
“There is no beast more ferocious than man” I tell them.
My ferocity proves I am man, not lamb.
They stalk off exposed
now that the grasses are gone.
There are no roars of pride.

No calling to uncaged others
of their diminished kind
to free them from their rutted path.
We are equals only in that lack;
the freedom to roar, to call out.
I am still more, I am king of the planet

I do not find satisfaction in being superior,
they could have attacked,
they could have mauled me,
tore me to nothing,
stopped me in my track;
they chose to quit instead.

© M Durfee
4/4/17


45 years ago on 4/4 I was 17. I enlisted. It was a smart move on my part. Even though, at 20, I was battered by a hurricane that broke my left elbow, I have no regrets.