Go to Detroit

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Riot. In the early morning hours of Sunday July 23rd, 1967 the vice squad raided an illegal after hours drinking establishment (known locally as a “blind pig”) and arrested more than 80 people who had gotten together to celebrate the homecoming for two GIs from Vietnam. This set off the worst riot to hit an American city in the 20th century.

Some say Detroit’s decline began with that riot. Others have shown that the decline is far more complicated than that and goes back at least to the early 1950s (The Origins of the Urban Crisis, Thomas J. Sugrue). But no matter what you may believe, Detroit is a city that needs to be rethought and re-seen. My poem is offered in that spirit on behalf of a city that I love.

Go to Detroit

Tomorrow it is fifty.
Fifty years since a blind pig was raided
and forty-three people died
and a city of more than 1.5 million
began a long narrative of declension
where the factories became shells
and bungalows were burned down
or became crack houses
and the chief business of the streets
was and is the criminal trade

So we’ve been told.

Go to Detroit.

People are starting businesses
and paying off mortgages
and cleaning eaves and gutters
washing salted winter streets

People are watching the return
of spring with the same anticipation
we all feel
sighting colourful migrations from afar

Go to Detroit.

Read about the lives that were lost
and talk with the lives that were not
while taking in the St. Clair breeze
on your East Side stroll

Over in Corktown
there are recently installed windows
at Michigan Grand
and the return of the prairie grasses
mingles with the toasts and raucous
laughter of young folks hoisting Founders
where the sound of the call to prayer lingers
in the air

Go to Detroit.

Get off of the Edsel Ford
the Chrysler or the Lodge
and park your car.
Open your doors and breathe
the breezy air
and hear the sounds of actual live people
and feel the same sunshine that tumbles down
on the Windsor side of the river
and feels warm in just the same way
on the other side of 8 Mile
as it does along Livernois.

Go. To. Detroit.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

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