Sunday, January 4, 2015

"New Detroit" isn't as "New" as some might think

Posted By on Sun, Jan 4, 2015 at 7:38 PM

There sure is a lot being said these days about "New Detroit." 

From this to this to conversations in the real world, in bars and restaurants and cafés and on the street.

But "New Detroit" hails back to 1967, as noted in this Deadline Detroit article:

Five decades before it became a hot button, "New Detroit" was coined in 1967 with sense of rebirth a goal of racial unity shortly after Detroit rioting in July 1967. It was the name of a civic committee that later incorporated as a nonprofit. The coalition, still alive, describes its mission as "addressing the issue of race relations by positively impacting issues and policies that ensure economic and social equity."

It's been a part of Detroit's history since before I was born (and before most of the people having the "New Detroit" debate were born, too). 

Note what was written 40 years ago about "New Detroit":

"When Detroit burned in July 1967, in the most widespread and costly of hundreds of urban rebellions throughout the United States, the men who rule America knew they had to take immediate action to end the general crisis. In Detroit, they formed a self-appointed blue ribbon New Detroit Committee. This organization of the city's ruling elite intended to put an end to urban unrest with a vast building program designed to replace inner city squalor with sleek new architecture of modern office buildings, banks, condominiums, hotels, convention attractions, and a host of related enterprises. The program was meant to stimulate economic development, create jobs, and provide social stability and confidence for a troubled city... 

The committee was organized in such a way that it was able to bypass openly the elected government and to finance its projects directly from corporate and foundation coffers ... Two hundred million dollars in short-term mortgage loans were arranged for Detroit Renaissance ... An enthusiastic Governor Milliken described Detroit Renaissance as 'a monument to the vision of a few men and the faith of many'...

The rebuilding of the center of Detroit proposed by the New Detroit Committee would mean that eventually blacks, Appalachians, and students who inhabited the area between the riverfront commercial center and the Wayne State University area would be removed to make room for a revitalized core city repopulated by middle- and upper-class representatives of the city's various racial and ethnic groups..

The New Detroit Committee, for all its financial and political clout, represented little more than a recycling of pre-1967 Detroit. It sought to deal with the basic contradictions and problems which had produced the Great Rebellion with what amounted to a showcase public relations program. In the first six years of the New Detroit Committee's existence, the quality of life in the city deteriorated to a new low."

This passage is from the introduction to the book Detroit: I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin, published in 1975.


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