Cockrel the columnist

Fifteen years ago, before he entered politics, Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr. authored "The Bottom Line," a Metro Times column where he sounded off on issues from rap music to crime, from Black History Month to U.S. involvement in Somalia, from fatherhood to casinos. Looking back on those biweekly pieces from 1993 and 1994, we were particularly taken by the irony contained in one titled "No Honeymoon in Detroit." Written during 1993 mayoral election campaigns, and one of his few columns to deal directly with city politics, it seems almost prescient now ...

I can very easily picture the new mayor waking up the morning after Election Day and asking, "What have I gotten myself into?"

It's no secret that my own father had been considering a run for mayor prior to his death in 1989, but I often wondered why he, or for that matter anyone, would want the job.

One would have to have a fierce commitment to the city of Detroit and a sincere belief that one person can make a difference. Or you'd have to be a little bit crazy.

Or maybe a little of both.

And, as evidenced by that same column, some things seem to never change:

It boggles the mind to think of the laundry list of problems, ranging from a crumbling infrastructure, to a crime problem that many citizens perceive to be out of control, to rampant unemployment.

In fact, with today's factious city politics — post-Kilpatrick, before the election to finish out his term, and with a grand jury deliberating in the wings — there are all the more reasons for anyone to have second thoughts about taking that office on the municipal building's 12th floor.

In other columns, Cockrel fretted about his African-American peers who gave up on the city and moved to the burbs, rejecting the idea that they're automatically "sell-outs," yet calling on them to stay involved in the city; in a related column, he voiced his own doubts about staying:

... there've been times when I've thought about taking my wife and son and getting out. Like when our garage was broken into for the second time this year, or when I'm awakened in my sleep by gunshots in the not-that-far-away distance, or when I see an unfamiliar car cruise past our house one time too many.

Cockrel railed about the rise of gangsta rap and easy acceptance of the N-word. He said cops alone can't solve the crime problem and highlighted black-on-black crime. On a lighter note, Cockrel dogged Eddie Murphy's (thankfully forgotten) singing career. His most poignant piece greeted the birth of his first son, and the challenge, with his wife, to raise him "to become a man as opposed to another statistic."

As a group, the 20-odd pieces depict Cockrel the columnist as someone who's thoughtful and earnest, looking for, as the title suggested, the bottom line. Those are some of the same values that are often seen in Cockrel the politician 15 years later. His opening moves as interim mayor — Saul Green as deputy mayor and James Barren as police chief — show he may also be bold enough for the job.

Read more from Cockrel's column.)

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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