April 6, 2014, Sunday, Detroit
Cool, low 30s, clear, calm.
Leaving early from my meeting at the Boggs Center I drove to Birmingham [on April 5, 2014] , a wealthy suburb north of Detroit, to join a rally and march organized by various United Church of Christ congregations shouting out for proper treatment of pensioners, home owners, people of color, etc. Make the banks pay!
Quotes from Cornell West and Martin Luther King Jr.
This group was slow to form. Nearly 1 hour after what I thought was the declared start time of 2:15, at Shain Park in the center of Birmingham, speeches began, many of them moving, as was true of Rev. Rowe from the Central Methodist church who led with a joke about Methodists always being late, and a young Black minister who rapped his sermon. A former police officer, female, spoke to us about integrating the force. She now advocates for retirement rights for city workers like herself. The last speaker, a woman, Mamie Chalmers, was from Birmingham, Alabama, the real Birmingham, the illustrious, Birmingham, the Birmingham famous for its role during the Freedom Movement. At some length she informed us about the reality of Jim Crow, including how she was forced to order thru a window and move aside to wait for the food, and—a fact I was not aware of—to buy clothes, to be fitted for clothes, one would be measured and was prohibited from trying on the clothing. Wearing the jacket, trying on the shoes, both prohibited.
“Mamie Chalmers personifies the Birmingham, Mich. to Birmingham, Ala. connection in the struggle for human dignity. At age 20, the Alabama native joined the movement and in 1963 was among the demonstrators attacked by police dogs, and eventually losing part of her hearing from the water hose blasts. She was arrested and spent five days in the Birmingham County jail. Yet, she attended the historic March on Washington that year.”
I made a point of standing with Black people, talking with them, gaining trust so I could photograph them, with each other and with White people. It was a hearty mixture of human beings, friendly and welcoming.
Finally, finally, the march. Thru the downtown section of this rich suburb. Many noticed. I tried to show them noticing. To the Chase Bank, one of the many banks seemingly profiting from Detroit’s poor conditions and the bankruptcy. We chanted and sang one song. I wished there were more in the style of the Freedom Movement. As someone noticed later, resurrecting Detroit is good for the burbs, for the state, and probably for the nation. Renewal is in all of our best interests.
April 7, 2014, Monday, east of Erie Pennsylvania, on the train
Cool, low 30s, partly cloudy, calm—all without feeling the weather, merely sensing it thru a train window as I cruise home to Cambridge.
A few stories from last night’s [April 6, 2014] dinner conversation at the Covintrees’s.
Bill Wylie-Kellerman and Denise, recently married, Denise also a minister, were in a serious auto accident, but unharmed. I believe an oncoming car leapt the barrier causing Bill’s car to veer into an embankment. The first driver sped off. This is on Bill’s Facebook page if I can remember to check it later for details. He and Denise had intended to a participate in the Birmingham march and may have been on their way there when the accident occurred. Several at the march wondered where they were, since they were expected. And it was Bill, I believe, who told me about the march.
George and Winkie related a contrasting story about a White man, Steve Utash, who accidentally struck a young Black boy at night with virtually no street lights functioning. A crowd of neighbors, led apparently by 2 young Black men, assaulted the driver who’d stopped to assist the boy he’d struck. They beat him savagely and crushed his head. He may not recover. The driver had done the right thing, the neighborhood was shocked and disagreed with the beating. George and Winkie bemoaned how this incident will cause more Whites to not enter Detroit, an escalation of the great divide. The problem of the Color Line, as described astutely by W.E.B. Du Bois, remains with us.
My comment on the lack of street lighting may have elicited this story. Lights off—crime on. This story directly affects me because of my night travels, either in car or on bike [I later learned the assault occurred not during the night, but at 4 pm.]. Also my willingness to frequent and even live in Black neighborhoods. We agreed that the Dalai Lama’s injunction to carefully consider the consequences of one’s actions before acting is wise. Also using language rather than fists, rocks, and guns to communicate.
TO BE CONTINUED