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Accounts from my journal, written while I photographed Detroit in June 2017—or writing later. 

PHOTOS

June 14, 2017, Wednesday, Detroit

Six major events from yesterday [June 13, 2017], 4 actually occurred, 2 did not.

1-W. LENT ME HER CAR

She picked me up at the house; we drove to the home of Rev. Edwin Rowe and his wife, Nida. G. met us there later with their dog B. who would stay with the Rowe’s while the C’s vacationed in Canada. We discussed the recent water conference, agreeing it was overly stuffed with presenters. And debated other matters of Detroit relevance.

Rowe has recently retired as pastor of Central Methodist [which currently courageously provides sanctuary for a person under threat of deportation] and remains a key figure in justice actions locally. I noticed that his wife [recently deceased] is equally activist, well-informed, well-spoken, and with passions equivalent to her husband’s. A good and laudable and enviable partnership. As are W. and G. (reminding me of one of my chief absences currently, which might change.)

Rowe-Detroit-water-conferenceIMG_5906

Rev. Edwin Rowe, member of People’s Water Board Coalition, Public Health Committee

 

2-Editorial meeting of the new magazine, Riverwise

riverwiseMag_Summer2017_web_1_lwe

Using my new fleet wheels I drove to the Boggs Center and, at Kim’s invitation, sat in on an editorial meeting of the new magazine, Riverwise. I was impressed with the expertise, dedication, passions, and honestly expressed feelings of the group. I photographed this, trying my best to make a way out of no way—interesting photos of people talking. Emotions surged when one woman sitting next to me asked Eric, who seemed to be the generative engine of the enterprise, why he imposed urgency on the group and process. I’d felt he was doing his job leading the group, even tho he may not have been the officially acknowledged leader. This was an honest interchange coming near the meeting’s end.

Kim Sherobbi, Eric Campbell

Kim Sherobbi & Eric Campbell

Shea Howell

Shea Howell

They mainly discussed issues No. 3 and what I presume will be No. 4, the anniversary issue. Eric called for more contemporary-themed articles, implying they’ve already covered campaigns from the past. They all agree the magazine has been a success. I wanted to add, in large part because of the superb graphic design (which might be by Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s daughter, Lucia, referred to as Lucy). Shea announced that funding would continue for another 2 years. When Rich mentioned the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s land trust, I added the key element of eminent domain, and suggested that organization might warrant an article.

They have plenty of ideas but were looking for writers. Shea Howell contributed a literary flair to the meeting. I’ve read much of her writing in the Boggs Center blog and always appreciate it, pithy, personal, analytic all at once. I picked up many copies and hope to distribute them. Eric intimated they might solicit me to do a photo essay. I could send them a link to my water conference series.

 

3-WE THE PEOPLE OF DETROIT

Church-Detroit-Monica_Lewis_Patrick-We_the_People_of_Detroit-_DSC6902

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

A visit I’d intended did not occur. I’d planned to visit the office of We the People of Detroit. Monica had told me it is in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church which had been pastored by Bill Wylie-Kellermann (he’s retired.). After much labor and confusion I found the church (further toward downtown than I recall, thinking it was within blocks of the old Michigan Central Railroad station), located what I assumed was the main door, pushed a button, and waited. Nothing happened. Later, my phone’s battery charge draining, I left a message with Monica about my problems. When I arrived home I discovered from her a series of contacts; presumably I’m to phone or write these people for photo leads. What about the office? Does it exist only on paper or in cyberspace?

The website does not give location or a direct phone contact. I tried phoning their emergency number set up for people who’ve lost their water, and reached a recorded message. How many live people are actually active with We the People? Perhaps it’s like our Friends Meeting Palestine-Israel team, or our New England Yearly Meeting Palestine-Israel team, functioning but without a central location.

My phone in this case was useless. When I put in St. Peters, about 5 sites popped up on maps, none of them anywhere near the actual site. When I tried St. Peters in the Chrome browser, same problem. And the We the People website itself was absolutely no help.

One benefit of this fruitless pursuit was driving straight thru downtown Detroit, Boggs Center on the east side, St. Peters on the west. I wanted to stay off main highways but not become snarled in downtown traffic. Jefferson Avenue runs straight thru and somehow under the Cobo Center and then seems to morph into Michigan Avenue.

 

4-SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES PEACE CENTER & GALLERY 

Swords gallery

Courtesy of the Swords Gallery

I did manage to drop by the Swords into Plowshares Peace Center and Gallery and meet Clara Law, the director, who is much beleaguered in her thankless role of trying to sustain Swords. We tried to hook my laptop with the TV, failed, but succeeded in hooking it to a video projector. Of much value was simply meeting Clara for an extended period, talking about the gallery and the setup for next Monday’s show, and supporting her. Currently on exhibit is a series of photos made by local high schoolers, Focus on the Mission: Diversity and Leadership, and some of the photos show water which can be a good tie in with my show, Holy Water—The Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, & Dead Sea. She agreed it would be OK to invite Monica Lewis Patrick to offer a short presentation about local water issues. And liked the idea of asking the audience to view the school exhibit.

I feel for Clara, directing a facility that is centrally located near the city center (opposite Comerica Park baseball stadium), with lots of vehicle traffic, but yet with few links to the community, especially the schools which we discussed could be a good source of audience. I explained that my connection with Detroit runs thru the gallery and Wink—an exhibit there in the late 1990s about the pilgrimage from Auschwitz to Hiroshima. Wink I believe set up my upcoming slideshow because, having done a home show at her place, Clara in attendance, Wink felt the gallery would be a better site—and less work for her. I’m reassured when people who’ve seen one of my shows ask for another.

 

5-NOBLE SCHOOL

Latoyia Webb Harris, Noble School Principal

Latoyia Webb Harris, Noble School Principal

The meeting at Noble School with some girls who’d done a photographic project with Kim did not happen. I simply ran out of time. I alerted Kim to this possibility when I was at Swords and she replied this is not a problem; we can probably reschedule for later this week or even next, if school is still in session. I’d hate to miss this opportunity because it might be an entrée to the school to exploit more deeply for my next trip here. (If there is one. I’m beginning to think I’m nearing the end of active photography and must now open the book-editing phase.)

 

6-MONTHLY POLICE PRECINCT COMMUNITY MEETING 

I’d learned about this at the Birwood Block Club meeting the day before. Not sure of time and place, when I pulled up to the police station near the McDonald’s that I’ve used for my Internet office, I observed many folks walking into the station. Must be the place! More than 50 people, all Black except for 2 officers and me, packed into the room. We heard from the commander, a fat fellow with a good sense of humor, his new deputy who may have been Hispanic, and a female Black officer. All were loose and funny and informative as they outlined recent crime stats. Which were mixed—homicides up, burglaries up, arson and other indices down. Many in the audience seemed to know the officers. When the woman officer introduced a tough-looking Black officer as he set up to give a slideshow about active shooters the crowd roared its approval and love.

Officer V. Wyatt

Officer V. Wyatt

I have never seen anything like this: a meeting between potential adversaries, a contingent of human beings who claim to protect and serve another contingent and who might actually do that. Does Cambridge or Boston have equivalent community meetings? I should check, and if true for Cambridge, attend one.

Audience-Detroit-police-IMG_6404

Unsure about photographing, I waited about 10 minutes into the program. I might have asked someone, like the president of the community association who chaired the meeting, or the commander. But I didn’t. I might have chosen a seat in the back of the room where I could surreptitiously photograph with my long Canon lens. But I didn’t. I could brazenly shoot from my front seat and wait for reactions, possibly hostile. I didn’t do that either. Being one of the few Whites I already am conspicuous. Oh, what to do?

The Lou Jones technique which I suggest to my students! That might work. So I brought out my camera, rested it in my lap, watched to see if the officer who was speaking noticed it. I couldn’t really tell. Hold it about 8 inches from my lap. Watch the officer. Couldn’t tell. Put it to my eye without snapping. No reaction. Make a few images, put down the camera, wait, watch. No negative reaction. Proceed. I photographed the entire 2 hour meeting, report, demonstration of CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation for heart attacks), distribution of practice kits, slideshow about active shooters, announcements, etc. No problem. No one stopped me, no one asked what I was doing, how I’d use the photos, who I was. Either they didn’t care, didn’t notice, or possibly made some benign assumption. Now to review the photos.

Officer-Detroit-police-IMG_6466

Luckily the seat I chose, initially because it was the only remaining seat in the front (soon to be in the 2nd aisle because of new seating for late-comers), was next to Juanita, a short, roly-poly, gregarious woman. She fed me background info about the meetings, regularity, participation, generally good police relations, contacts with local police, etc. My neighbor, Gloria, attended also, so, altho the only White other than 2 cops, others may have seen me conversing genially with Black people and thought, well, this guy seems to know his way around. When I exited, numerous people in suits if guys, dresses if gals, approached me, all candidates for local office, as if I actually resided in this neighborhood. I glowed, thinking, I’ve arrived. Not only to Detroit, but to my childhood neighborhood of Chicago’s Southside. This is what life might be like if I moved back or had remained on the Southside of Chicago. Glory be!

 

HOME

Finally, after a long, hot, trying day, with some successes, I arrived home (after making a stop at the local market for catfish, chicken, and above all else watermelon which would be difficult to transport by bike), heated up some leftovers, including my delicious turkey or chicken patties, checked email, read Sun Magazine, and hit the floor cushions to sleep soundly.

LINKS

Riverwise magazine

We the People of Detroit

“50 years after uprising, police work to build trust,” by George Hunter, July 2017

Noble School ratings

 

 

Cape Town, South Africa is about to become the first major city in the world to run out of water. This is what that will be like. (video)

TO BE CONTINUED

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