Requiem for Detroit or time to kick out the jams?

July 13th, 2010
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http://www.flickr.com/photos/23368962@N00/503069237

We came across the BBC2 Documentary about Detroit recently, and today I sat down and watched it again and made some notes.

There is a section in the film where we are told that at one point the Packard plant became the backdrop to some big rave parties, and one track is dedicated to that time and that place called ‘Packard’ by Architeq.

so have a listen.

My notes, the film is a cautionary tale for the industrialised world, a pioneers map into the future, where the big 3 car makers in Detroit siphoned off cash for for their own fiefdoms, this was not thinking in human terms. Add in a policy from the very start of apartheid, so Detroit was dealing with a very potent mix of trouble.

In 1929 it was all going great 5.6 million cars produced, but due the Depression by 1932 that figure had dropped to 1.4 million. The fight for the unionisation of the car plants led to mass riots and the gunning down of union protestors.

In the desire to connect people in Detroit to the suburbs entire communities were ripped up, and became dislocated – GM played a primary role in dismantling the street railway system to make way for the freeways that started in the very heart of Detroit.

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When the Edsel Ford (I-94) Expressway was under construction during the early 1950's initial plans called for the construction of four stairways to be built from Woodward Ave., leading to the Ford Expressway below. These stairways were part of a rapid transit plan where passengers could board DSR buses from expressway level bus boarding stations. Unfortunately, the end result became a "Stairway to Nowhere!

Returning to white vs. black tensions in a city racially divided, one observer makes the point “The police was like a white occupying army”. Whilst the Klu Klux Clan, made there presence felt, with mass demonstrations, and shall we say intimidation.

Kicking out the Jams

MC5 are described as protopunk – A Detroit band, as Wikipedia describes them, While “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Motor City is Burning” open with inflammatory rhetoric, it was the opening line to the title track that stirred up the most controversy. Vocalist Rob Tyner shouted, “And right now… right now… right now it’s time to… KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKERS!” A clip shown in the BBC film, a prelude to what came next.

Police watch as chaos spills into the intersection of 12th and Clairmount in Detroit following a predawn police raid on a blind pig -- an illegal drinking establishment. It is Sunday, July 23, 1967. When the violence ended five days later, 43 people had died. The racial unrest became known as the nation's worst.

Police watch as chaos spills into the intersection of 12th and Clairmount in Detroit following a predawn police raid on a blind pig – an illegal drinking establishment. It is Sunday, July 23, 1967. When the violence ended five days later, 43 people had died. The racial unrest became known as the nation's worst.

In 1967 it all kicked off, “here on the corner of 12th and Clairmount, this is where it happened”. It being, the explosion of violence and rioting that brought national guard troops and tanks into Detroit and its Freeways – almost ironic you could say – ‘tanks on the freeway’. On guy remembers his experience as a child, ” I saw the National Guard going down the streets, buildings were burning and I thought it was the end of the world”.

The result of that rioting saw a division made between city and suburbs, as great as that of the great wall of china. Blacks in the city, whites in the suburbs. One guy asks the question of where the real war is happening – you can see his point.

We watch Detroit fall apart, a city built for 2 million people now has 800,000 living in it. And witness the first person stories of people that were born and raised in Detroit, taking us on their own personal journeys of remembrance. Many remember the blowing up of the Hudson Department store, as a day which will forever live in their collective memories.

Is there hope for a city left abandoned? We are left with hope, one of the biggest movements in the US today says the BBC programme is called Urban Pioneers. Detroit in this link, (well worth reading the post) seems to inspire people to come and reinvent the city,

It’s not just farmers, intellectuals and artists of various types are drawn to Detroit, both to study it and pursue ideas about the remaking of the city:
Detroit has achieved something unique. It has become the test case for all sorts of theories on urban decay and all sorts of promising ideas about reviving shrinking cities.

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Urban Farming in Detroit

And

the city offers a much greater attraction for artists than $100 houses. Detroit right now is just this vast, enormous canvas where anything imaginable can be accomplished. From Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project (think of a neighborhood covered in shoes and stuffed animals and you’re close) to Matthew Barney’s “Ancient Evenings” project (think Egyptian gods reincarnated as Ford Mustangs and you’re kind of close), local and international artists are already leveraging Detroit’s complex textures and landscapes to their own surreal ends.

In a way, a strange, new American dream can be found here, amid the crumbling, semi-majestic ruins of a half-century’s industrial decline. The good news is that, almost magically, dreamers are already showing up. Mitch and Gina have already been approached by some Germans who want to build a giant two-story-tall beehive. Mitch thinks he knows just the spot for it.

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