Recently I had the great fortune to have an incredible conversation with Charles Marohn, founder of Strong Towns. I’ve been a longtime admirer of Marohn and Strong Towns (if not a member; I’ll fix that Chuck), and I’ve been fascinated in how Chuck transitioned from blogger to mission-oriented media organization without missing a beat.
That conversation became the latest edition to the Strong Towns podcast, posted yesterday. It was a wide-ranging conversation — we talked about Tigers, Twins, Cubs and White Sox baseball, their importance and role as community institutions, about Detroit’s comeback, about the weirdness of Las Vegas, and how suburbs are changing with rising numbers of minorities moving in, just as rising numbers of white residents are returning to large cities.
It was a wonderful discussion and I hope you agree. Click here and scroll down to listen to the podcast.
Also, I know many of my readers may have been looking for something from me on the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riot. I did write something and tried to get it published in some of the top national publications, but to no avail. Instead, I posted it today under my Forbes byline. In that essay, I say that Detroit suffered from an extensive period of ostracization following the riot, and has only recently been able to come out of the shadows. It’s not the typical money-driven work that often appears in Forbes, but I think it’s important nonetheless. Please check it out as well.
One thing I’d like to add about the 1967 Detroit conflict. A half century later, there’s still a semantic debate about what to call it, and like many things Detroit, it splits along racial lines. I think most people still call it a riot, even most black Detroiters. I’ve long called it a riot because that was the title initially attached to it, and in mind, it simply stuck. The fires, fights, police officers and soldiers are the absolute first memory I have in my life, when I was 2 1/2 years old. However, there are those who want to call it a rebellion or uprising, and I’m sensitive to that. What started on July 24, 1967 wasn’t specific to the police mishandling the breakup of an unlicensed bar at 12th and Clairmount; it was a cathartic response to decades of mistreatment of blacks by police, by unions, by realtors, and by corporations and companies who conspired, with or without intent, to create a vastly unequal city and metro area. Maybe many white residents forgot, or were completely unaware of it, but the Detroit Race Riot of 1943 was fresh in the minds of many black Detroiters. and became a big part of the city’s narrative — for some.
The conflict was an “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore” moment for black Detroiters.
I can’t quite go along with rebellion. To me, a rebellion requires intent. It may not require a leader, but it does require an intentional response to events, a strategy, and even the makings of a desired outcome. What happened in ’67, to me, did not occur because of intent, had no strategy, nor a desired outcome. Were black Detroiters actively trying to overthrow local government? I don’t think so. Perhaps in the minds of the most radical people, it was a first step toward that. But I think more than anything black Detroiters wanted to vent their frustrations. I’ll say riot on occasion, but move toward conflict and uprising.
At any rate, please enjoy.