Letters to the Editor

Our readers sound off on Higher Ground, the Heidelberg Project and ills that plague Detroit

Aug 10, 2011 at 12:00 am

Fix the people first

Re: Larry Gabriel's "Arms Around the City" (Stir It Up, Aug. 3), I applaud the efforts of ARISE Detroit and the nearly 170 organizations participating in the Fifth Annual Neighborhoods Day celebration. The work that is being done, the people who volunteer time, the money spent, and the sense of community that evolves from and is nurtured by the doing of good deeds over a period of time constitute a solid first step in the process needed to rehabilitate physical locations.

However, much of the devastation that makes a large part of Detroit look like a bombed-out war zone is due to the neglect and the lack of caring by the inhabitants: the stripped houses, the dumping of debris throughout the city, the crime, the vandalism, and the other ills that plague Detroit can be laid squarely at the feet of the people, not external forces.

No amount of work by these groups will even begin to turn this city around without a substantial change in the thinking and behavior of the people. Such change is the hard part and, quite frankly, will be the foundation of any movement to return the city anywhere near its former self. The mantra to Detroit's transformation could well be "the people, stupid."

Herein lies the real work that Mayor Bing gives scant attention. How do you tell people to cut their lawn and dump their garbage in the proper receptacles? How do you tell them to help in the education of their children, to keep them off the street, to keep them from carrying weapons? How, indeed, do you even begin to change people's perception so that life becomes more than "getting by," "having fun," "getting over"?

Neither the NAACP nor the Urban League nor any other so-called leader, addresses the greatest ill that plagues Detroit — the skewed thinking and destructive behavior of a great many of its inhabitants. Unemployment is a problem, but a desire to hustle, to engage in suspicious, illegal, unconventional and unreliable ways of earning money is worse. Many Detroiters don't want to work and therefore do not look for work; some cannot hold onto jobs because of attitude; others either cannot or will not arrive on time or, after earning a few checks, quit.

Detroiters are Detroit's worst enemy. Executive director Luther Keith asks how Arise Detroit can get its "arms around Detroit, get people to network, build collaborations and share resources." I'll tell you: To make a real dent in the life of Detroiters, to be part of significant and long-term change, consider joining forces with groups whose focus is less on beautifying property and more on changing people's thinking and behavior. —A. Douglas, Detroit

Where are the vendors?

Larry Gabriel appropriately applauds ARISE! Detroit and Neighborhood Day, which included the Heidelberg Project. The mural painting class I teach at Saginaw Valley State University made a trip to Detroit in May, 2010 to see three generations of its great public art: Diego Rivera's frescoes at the DIA, Jon Lockard's 1980 murals at Wayne State University Manoogian Center, and the Heidelberg Project. We'll come again to view them in 2012.

Except for a $10 poster-map bought from artist Tyree Guyton himself, it was a bit disconcerting to see how little the neighborhood was making economic use of the flock of tourists there that day from Europe, Mexico and elsewhere in Michigan. Where were the people selling lemonade, the cafés, the busking jazz or conscious rap musicians with the hat out to collect tips, selling their CDs? Where were local vendors of genuine African-American folk art, or other creative souvenirs? Now that it's summer, are people selling garden produce there? 

Artist Guyton has definitely proven that art will create buzz and bring consumers into any part of a city ... but there have to be entrepreneurs there ready to meet them with goods and services. —Mike Mosher, Bay City

Dear John

I've been reading your rag for many, many years. Some of the articles by some of your writers I take with a grain of salt (morphine would be better). I always enjoy Savage Love and Higher Ground when Larry Gabriel reports.

When I read John Sinclair I want to puke. He always refers to and bolsters himself. I can remember over 40 years ago and in particular the days of SDS and the MC5 when Sinclair was around. He was a self-centered sphincter then and still is now. 

I know that Larry Gabriel is busy with Stir It Up (another favorite of mine) so I suggest as his alternate for Higher Ground you invite numerous others to take Sinclair's place. As Dan Savage might put it, DTMFA, please. You probably won't publish this letter but I thought I'd take a shot at it anyway. —Peter Pisarski, Detroit

A people's candidate?

The recall Rick folks collected just over one-third of the signatures needed to make the November ballot. Surprising and disappointing. You would think the passing of the "emergency financial manager" bill alone would produce the necessary signatures.

The outcome of the recall campaign says a lot about the mind-set of our state. We are complacent, apathetic, uninformed, and those of us pushing back need to regroup. Signing a petition is not activism and it's not enough. If we are ever going to have a state that works for the people we need to educate our families and friends. We need to work toward getting voters to vote for their economic interest and we need to find a leader, a leader that will not be afraid to fight to raise revenue, penalize job creators that invest elsewhere, and strengthen the safety net.

The notion that we need a businessman to lead us is false. Their training and interest is in the bottom line, not the welfare of the community. I also think we've had enough of law school politicians. Those that run their partisan career to the end then take positions in the corporate world that has benefited from their legislation. We need leadership that comes from the working public. Someone who knows you must support an educational system for all. Someone that knows we need jobs in cities like Detroit more than we need to give tax breaks to those on top. Someone that will defend our standard of living and fight to prevent globalization from bringing us down and work to bring them up. We need leadership from the working community not the corporate community. —Alex Young, Utica