Detroit: July, 1967.
That month and year conjure up memories of what’s been called a civic unrest, rebellion and/or the Detroit riots.
To some, it was a year when racial tensions increased and issues such as inequality and racial injustice were thrust into the forefront.
It was when a simmering and frustrated city exploded into one of the worse civil disturbances in American history–at least, during that era.
To some, it proved to be one of the most significant events in Detroit’s last hundred years and its fabled history.
And to others, it signified a further acceleration of Detroit’s economic challenges and population decline.
As a nearly seven-year old living in the city, I distinctly remembered seeing tanks go up and down a major thoroughfare heading to the site to quell the violence, watching the local news and seeing looting and my mother, distinctly telling us not to leave the front of our house.
Of course, my brothers and I didn’t.
Since that time, Detroit has gone through significant changes. Out of the ashes of that particular event for example, New Detroit was born. An organization, with business and community support, focused on fostering and improving race relations, which is still in existence under the leadership of President & CEO, Shirley Stancato.
While there are people who may not want to discuss or reflect on this particular event, the reality is it’s an indelible part of Detroit’s history.
Fast forward to 2015, the Detroit Historical Society held a press conference at its Museum recently to announce an effort focused on the the 50th anniversary of the ’67 riots.
This transformation effort, Detroit 1967, will promote informed discussion and enhance the overall understanding 1967’s events had on not just Detroit, but the United States.
Additionally, it will explore events and factors which affected this region’s past and present and its impact on its future.
The culmination will be a groundbreaking exhibition based on personal accounts and Detroit’s struggles with racial and cultural diversity.
When I first heard about it and was invited to the public announcement last week, I must admit, I had mixed feelings.
Because of the physical, emotional and mental scares it left on our great city. There are clear images I distinctly remember which still are in my memory banks.
However, as I sat and listened to Robert Bury, President, Detroit Historical Museum, share the dais with a cross section of business and community leaders, it was Ike McKinnon, former police chief and now, Deputy Mayor, who shared a poignant story of having his life threatened while in a 1965 Mustang. Fortunately, he was able to escape.
He also shared how then Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh encouraged him to go back to school because the Mayor believed McKinnon, who had trepidation at that time, would become Detroit’s Chief of Police and America would elect an African American president.
The Mayor was right on both accounts.
Joseph L. Hudson, Jr. of the famed Detroit institution Hudson’s, shared his perspective on the criticality and impact this event had on the city’s past, present and now, its promising future.
At this point, I realized this effort makes sense because having a dialogue about the past can certainly affect this region’s future positively.
If you want to share your story and be a part of Detroit’s history while having a positive impact in its future, please go to Detroit1967.org, #Detroit1967 or call (313) 885-1967.
Let’s take this part of the city’s history and have a positive impact on its future through dialogue and enhanced understanding.
Remember, together, we can make a difference.