Monday, July 24, 2017


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.


  1. i would gladly give up all birthday celebrations if it could somehow produce equity and justice.
    have a good birthday, Mark and I hope your dreams come true, even if it takes a riot

  2. ... me thinks, it's the same every where the same not just in the USA ... but also here in Canada ... and in El Salvador, and in Palestine, and in Mexico, the Philippines and else ... It all boils down to: U r fighting fires and we r fighting fires ... admittedly different kinds of fires but same outcome ... but they r still fires ... I learned a long time ago, that individual losses, like broken bones, broken minds and broken dreams mean nothing to the peeps that own us ... That's why this cat is not a believer in anything ... I do not know about one of my favourite writers of all time ... His name is Erich Kaestner ... He offers old wisdom in poetry form ... There is gonna b no way that peace and justice will happen in this world ever ... bcuz there is always prime ministers, presidents, and queens and kings on ever which level who will make the rules for us ... rules on to live or vegetate or just die ... Here u go, friend Mark, cat has spoken. Love.

    1. ... but ... when U step out onto Ur porch this fine morning, friend Mark, and U see a person walking by ... smile at him/ her ... cuz that's how MAKING A DIFFERNCE COULD START. Love, cat.

  3. I see there is a movie coming out about that time.
    Titled 'Detroit'.
    Wonder how truthful it could possibly be.

  4. As you say, people will, or can take only so much. Fighting back is inevitable.

  5. I was wondering about the movie, too, and your take on it.

    A friend of mine in Michigan was a young physician in the National Guard and has a lot of tales about setting up an aid station in a school--treating both those in the guard and civilians. Another guy I knew was able to skip Vietnam when he graduated from college that year by volunteering to teach in Detroit. There were times he questioned that decision.

    Thanks for sharing this memory.

  6. Now I am confused. Should we toast you getting older or not? Once again, I'm so sorry for Detroit.


So Walking Man I was thinking...