Time to tell the truth, comrades, in words anyway, though William Archie's magnificent picture on the front of the Friday Freep would be a cinch for the Pulitzer Prize, if the world were limited to Detroit.
It shows a poisonous-looking Monica Conyers talking into the ear of a catatonic and apparently brain-dead Martha Reeves*, making sure she was on board with Monica's crusade to destroy the city.
Ignorant, nasty, ill-informed and hungry for power and ego gratification, in office only as a result of her famous name, or — let's face it — the fact that a famous much-older man impregnated her after she worked in his congressional office long ago, Conyers is determined to wreck the deal to expand and improve Cobo Hall.
Mayor Ken Cockrel and the three sane and competent councilpersons — Sheila Cockrel, Kwame Kenyatta and Brenda Jones — are trying desperately to do all they can to save the city.
Monica Conyers is operating from exactly the same motives as Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy did in the early 1950s, when he came close to destroying democracy and freedom in this country by accusing everyone he could of being a communist. This was all a game for McCarthy; he was a brawling drunk who didn't know Karl Marx from Harpo Marx, and only wanted to be powerful and important.
That is exactly what is going on with the equally vile Monica Conyers, who uses race-baiting as her weapon in a city that is almost all black, in a nation with a black president. There is a difference. People who knew McCarthy said he was often nice in person when he wasn't actively trying to destroy America. Nobody has ever said that of Monica Conyers.
Years ago, right after Sept. 11, 2001, I went to see the congressman. He was late, and the staff was bustling about making whispered references to "Ghetto," clearly a code name for someone they dreaded and despised. "OK," I asked one. "Spill it. Who is Ghetto?"
Not long after that, my friend Denise Crittendon, then the editor of African-American Family Magazine, called me. She wanted to get the family Conyers — U.S. Rep. John, Monica and the two boys, to pose for a portrait on her cover. Would I call him for her?
I have known John Conyers for a long time, and even when we've disagreed, I have always respected his views. His manners always have been perfect, even courtly. As I expected, he agreed in an instant. But it never happened, because Monica Conyers refused to pose with her family. This, I was told, on the advice of a PR man fired by her husband for falsely charging that Conyers' staffers were on drugs. After John fired him, Monica hired him.
To get back to what is happening now: Because Detroit is famously broke, the city sensibly negotiated a deal to transfer Cobo Center to the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority, a group of five representatives from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, the mayor and the governor.
They will oversee a $288-million expansion of our badly outmoded Cobo Center, something desperately needed if the city is to attract new conventions and revenue. They are doing this with regional money. They are not turning Cobo over to conservative white oppressors. Four of the five representatives will be appointed by liberal Democratic regimes. This is a regional deal to help us all, the city of Detroit most of all. It is unknown whether Monica understands this. It is clear that she couldn't care less.
What she wants is to destroy the deal in order to make herself important. She just might succeed, because of Detroit's terribly flawed charter, in which every voter chooses nine at-large council members. Nobody can keep all those names straight. So they vote for the names they know. That is why we have people like Martha Reeves and Monica Conyers on there. There is also JoAnn Watson, who is better than they are, but seems emotionally wedded to the fiction that this is Mississippi, 1964.
Also Barbara-Rose Collins, who once — saints preserve us — was in Congress. After Collins was rated Congress's worst member, Kwame's mommy defeated her in a primary. The fact that she held a fund-raiser in a strip club that year wasn't helpful. Barbara-Rose isn't especially malevolent — only simple.
Originally the council voted 4-4 on the Cobo deal, which had the effect of giving it approval. Then Monica, wagging her poisonous tongue, got Alberta Tinsley-Talabi to change her vote. Bert is sort of a mystery, though insiders tell me that during her 15 years on council, she has accomplished precisely as much for Detroit as has the statue of Hazen Pingree in the nearby park. Except that Hazen provides a perch for the pigeons.
This now will likely go to court, where hopefully sanity will prevail. Whatever happens, all of this has taken a further toll on Detroit, though I suppose it might help attract a masochists' convention.
Frankly, the Detroit News and Free Press have done a fairly good job covering this atrocity, except they have shied away from completely calling out Monica, and her intellectual mini-me Barbara-Rose, for their utterly outrageous race-baiting. When a white union official pleaded that the Cobo agreement meant badly needed jobs, she shot back, "Those workers look like you; they don't look like me."
Collins' bizarre response was that "European rulers have traditionally taken what they wanted from other people ... no one is taking anything." L. Brooks Patterson, of all people, had the perfect riposte: He said he only wanted the tiara Collins once bizarrely wore to a council meeting, and the Fist.
I heard Brooks say, 34 years ago, that the city ought to be walled off by the suburbs and given blankets and corn, like a reservation. Now he has grown up, and his old racism seems to be Monica Conyers' loony bin attitude. Someone, please, do something, before we all drown in the sludge.
Years of madness: Before he died, Free Press columnist Bob Talbert agonized over what to call this decade. It was clear that the '80s were the eighties, etc. But what to do with years starting with zero? He thought we should call them the "aughts." As in, "back in aught-four ('04) grandpa helped re-elect a warmongering maniac."
The Prophet Leroy helped shield Old Bob from this dilemma, by calling him home to Buddha in '99. And alas, his idea of the aughts didn't catch on, probably because most people never heard of an aught, other than those who make moonshine and do crossword puzzles. Mostly, we just avoid calling them anything, presumably because "nightmare years" and "years of the locust" are taken.
However, my counselor and spiritual adviser has come up with a solution. "Look at what's happened," she said. "These years are the naughts."
And they most surely are.
*Footnote: Detailed analysis of brain-wave patterns released to me by the National Security Agency reveal that Martha was not, in fact, listening to Monica. She was attempting to recall the name of at least one of the Vandellas. During the time the room was monitored, she was unsuccessful.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]