Take a Knee, Detroit

Last week I went to a protest, which is usually cathartic in terms of relieving some of my political frustrations…but this time left me a little disappointed. It took a while to figure out why, but here is my reflection.

What it was about:

#TakeAKnee: It began in 2016 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the National Anthem before an NFL preseason game.

When asked at that time why he did it, he responded:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said, via NFL.com. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Later that year, Kaepernick started kneeling, and other players joined the silent protest. Some took a knee, some sat, some raised a fist. What made September 2017’s kneeling any different is that Donald Trump, the new President of the United States, noticed and saw it was a protest against him and the America that he stood for.

So far this year 168 African Americans have been shot and killed by police. It is because of police violence like this that Kaepernick and many others have kneeled during the National Anthem.

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The way I see it is…athletes typically take a knee when players on the field are injured, in respect. Right now, America is injured and will continue to be until black and brown men are safe.

I went to the protest at Ford Field because I believe people of color shouldn’t be ostracized because they practice their freedom of speech in the public sphere. While white supremacists and klansmen take to the streets with tiki torches, white men of power are telling black men that they can not kneel during the National Anthem.

The event:

On Sunday, white supremacist Brian Pannebecker led a protest against the Detroit Lions because eight players knelt in response to Trump’s call for firing black/brown protesters. The Metro-Detroit Political Action Network (MDPAN) saw the opportunity to kneel in solidarity with the Lions and to confront the hate of those who wish to take away the rights of African American citizens.

I want to remind everyone that the day before this white nationalists once again took to the streets of Charlottesville with shouts of “we will be back and “you will not replace us.” In the midst of this racist dominance and intimidation I was expecting more people to come out and stand for what so many have been posting about on Facebook. Instead, only a handful of people appeared.

Despite the small number, we waved our signs and shouted “Black Lives Matter” on the busy corner. What puzzled me was the “Standers” aka anthem supporters were granted space in front of the actual stadium for a good chunk of time while we were confined to the inner corner of a parking lot, where passersbys could barely see us kneeling behind the fence. It felt demeaning and a little symbolic.

There were only three incidences between us and those walking by.

  1. This guy repeatedly yelling “All Lives Matter”

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2. Someone disrespecting the veteran in our group (Michael B.), saying that he shouldn’t be wearing his uniform.

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3. And this guy trying to discourage us by planting seeds of doubt in our heads:

(Video by MDPAN’s Jazmine Middlebrooks)

Though we were in a weird spot, many had to pass us on their way into the stadium. So, although we never got to confront the white supremacists, we were able to be gadflys to the public…many of whom were black/brown people passing by. People paused, nodded, lifted their fists, joined in chants. My hope is that those who HEARD us and listened, felt the message in their hearts and will join the fight for racial equality. Because although there were only about a dozen people on each side of the stadium holding signs, there were thousands going to the game, completely unaware of any problem.

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Thousands completely oblivious to the suffering of oppression that is happening in our nation.

I’m saddened and angry that so many claim to be social justice advocates on social media but will not be active outside of the internet. At times, I feel like these people will only talk about politics when it’s the popular topic of the day and will only get fired up when it will get them likes and shares.

We cannot be afraid to confront the enemy face-to-face. We have to move away from distractions and move towards real progress…but that requires work and action.

I don’t mean spread hate, division, and destruction– that’s what they do. I mean spread love, peace, and understanding. We need more teach-ins and poetry readings. But most of all, we need participation. We need you and we need each other.

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Sundays are usually free street parking days in Detroit. By police order, I think they were trying to tell us not to come and start trouble. Or maybe this is normal for Lions’ games? I don’t know.

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Detroit musician, Shadow Klan, stands across the street from anthem supporters selling his albums.

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MDPAN gathers for a pre-game BBQ.

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Michael and Jazmine

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The group kneels in a moment of silence.

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A white guy approached this scalpter. “You like Trump?” he asked. The scalpter turns around *FUCK* is written on the front. “Hell no!”

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The security guard protecting us asked the group if we would be willing to take a bullet for this. “I would. For me and my son,” she said.

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Gallery

Love is Love: Detroit Solidarity Movement

DID YOU KNOW?

In Michigan, you can get fired for being gay or transgender without legal rights to protect you?

Last Saturday, Metro-Detroit Political Action Network (MDPAN) organized an event to protest just that. What could have been a celebration, turned into a demonstration after the Michigan Civil Rights Commission turned down legislation that would extend anti-discrimination laws concerning sex-based offenses to sexual orientation and gender identity. Along with the legislation, the commission also received about 300 comments from the public– LGBTQIA residents and allies of Michigan reporting cases of discrimination.

At the Love Is Love: Detroit Solidarity Movement a crowd gathered in Pope Park Hamtramck, Detroit to hear speakers from local queer advocacy groups.

Scroll down the gallery for view the photos I took.

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Reiki Master Healing Artist Trãvon Jänäy (Truth) guides the crowd through a Reiki meditation while Emcee Robert J Fidler, Media Director of MDPRAN holds the megaphone for her.

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Chair of Intersex, MDPAN Avery Addison Grey shares a poem.

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Samantha Rogers of TG Detroit gives a heartfelt and fiery speech on love and trans rights.

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Hey, gang! Sorry to cut you short on the words again. I wish I had more for you. Maybe next time.

MDPAN’s next scheduled event is Take a Knee Against White Supremacy: Support Our Detroit Lions on Sunday, October 8th at Ford Field. 1PM-5PM. Be there if you believe Black Lives Matter.

Existential Crisis In Campus Martius

Today I went to an organized gathering called “Have an Existential Crisis in Campus Martius.” Though it seemed like a silly Facebook event, I wanted to have a communal crisis, dammit! so I went. Out of the x amount of people “interested” only a handful showed up, and nobody had a plan…which seemed kind of fitting.

We ended up gathering in a small circle and questioned existence, identity, and justice, as well as what drove us to come.

“Detroit,” I said when it was my turn, but never reiterated what I meant. I felt like the event was symbolic of the crisis Detroit is facing right now. I ended up writing a poem about it. Check it out.

 

Existential Crisis in Campus Martius

The Quicken Loans tower towers over Campus Martius,

Its shadow moves across the park like

A sundial.

Right now it says it’s time for Detroit

To have an existential crisis.

Usually filled with white men

In red ties or Tigers shirts,

Today it is filled with screaming.

These streets have seen a day,

Not long ago, when the sole

Of these men wouldn’t walk here—

Now it stomps the sidewalk without a soul

Saying, “This is mine.”

Casual visitors sip their beer

And listen to the free concert

But do they hear the plight of the people?

The Spin Doctors spin, but don’t heal.

Quicken Loans loans quickly as they steal.

Dismal staring,

Blank eyes with a twinkle that says,

“Why?”

But there is no response.

The German festival continues

With jubilation.

 

~MLS, 2017

Gallery

The Kid Rock Protest: A Photo Story

On Tuesday Sept. 12th, a march was held in the streets of Detroit. About 200 protesters gathered at Grand Circus Park on the corner of Adams and Woodward Ave.

Organized by the National Action Network (NAN) and Metro-Detroit Political Action Network (MDPAN), the groups came together with a unified message: Detroit does not belong to the highest bidder, it belongs to the people.

The conflict was brought to national attention when Kid Rock was announced as the first performer at the new Little Caesars Arena. Already surrounded by talks of gentrification, by having an artist who has repetitively used Confederate flags as backdrops in his shows, to many, it felt like a slap in the face. Kid Rock might represent Detroit to the owners of the new arena, but to the marchers, he represents what is wrong with it.

 

FOR ECHOING POEM CLICK HERE~~>Opening Day at LCA

 

#ScrollSlow

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The “Russell Alexander Alger Memorial Fountain” in Grand Circus Park.

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Attorney Tracey M. Martin prepares to march.

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I call this one “White People Ruin Everything.”

Members of NAN give speeches and prayers before the march.

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“We come, Father. Give us the patience…give us the courage to continue to stand.”

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“We have come to send a message. We will not be disrespected.”

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Detroit’s new Q-Line passes a booing crowd. The quote featured on the side is from Rosa Parks.

The crowd started marching on Woodward around 6:00pm, closing all but one lane.

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“No Peace, No Pizza!” they shouted, prompting a boycott against Little Caesars, the corporate sponsor of the arena.

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“Whose City?? Our City!”

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Schools! Not Stadiums! Water! Not Stadiums!

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A protester yells at hecklers on top of Hockeytown Cafe.

After marching up and down Woodward, the march ended back at Grand Circus Park with a closing prayer and call to action.

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After pausing for a moment at Grand Circus Park, many of the younger protesters decided to go back to the stadium against police orders.

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In formation.

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“The Cops and the Klan Go Hand-In-Hand,” they chanted. They moved around the police barrier and crossed the bridge to the stadium.

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Protesters gathered outside the entrance and ridiculed attendees as they walked in.

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An officer surrounded by a jeering crowd.

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The New Detroit.

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That’s it. I know I usually write more, but I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves this time. Also, I’m tired.

Peace,

~Michelle

Bernie in Detroit

Last week while Donald Trump held a rally in Arizona, Bernie Sanders was halfway across the nation in Detroit, Mich. giving a speech of his own at a town hall meeting. The electric atmosphere at Fellowship Church, 7707 W. Outer Drive felt much like a miniature version of Sanders’ primary visit to Ypsilanti last year that drew over 9,000 people.

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Outside, a line curved around the building as people anxiously waited to see and hear from U.S. Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Shortly after taking the photo above, a voice called out from the front of the line. “Women, come this way!”

I admit, I was confused then angry…the way I usually am when unnecessarily separated by gender. I reluctantly followed the Ovarian Trail and found myself suddenly elated. Passing the men that were once in front of me, I realized the symbolism. These were the people who were born with a head start because of an appendage. Whoever let us in first– whether it was Bernie, John, or the Reverend Wendell Anthony– wanted to give us an advantage that night. I was grateful until I saw the face of a man near the front of the line who would now be further and further away from his desired seat. I felt like he was the face of patriarchy…who scowls whenever a woman gets ahead of him, and it felt great to walk past.

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The pews filled slowly, but eventually packed with a mosaic of peoples that reflect the diversity of the metro Detroit.

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“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,” the Reverend quoted the song, Lift Every Voice and Sing.
“Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

John Conyers embodies that spirit,” he said.

“He has been a thorn in the side, a trumpet to call of action, an advocate for the oppressed, a defender of the Constitution,” Rev. Anthony went on before enthusiastically naming a long list of civil rights acts the representative created and voted on.

When Rep. Conyers took the stand, he held the demeanor of an elder of the community. He skimmed over policies and went right into a story about a time he asked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to endorse him.

“He said, ‘John, if I endorse you, there will be 200 people at my door that will say ‘Endorse me, too!’ But he said, ‘What I can do is…I can support you.’ And that’s what he did, and Coretta Scott King after him.”

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Sen. Sanders, too, was introduced with a list of civil rights achievements, including: getting arrested for desegregation efforts as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and calling for an end to the ‘War on Drugs’.

After thanking Rep. Conyers and calling him “the most progressive congressman,” Sen. Sanders asked all of the elected officials to stand up. I looked around and this is what I found:

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Since Sen. Sanders gave the usual talking points (universal healthcare, $15/hr minimum wage, free college, women’s rights, etc.) I’m not going to give you a break down of his speech. Instead, I’ll leave you with these last few pictures:

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Saying Goodbye

Since I first started college, I’ve taken every summer off from my studies to recuperate and recharge my mind. This summer was a little different. At the end of winter 2017, I realized I only had one semester left at University of Michigan-Dearborn and I didn’t want to wait till September to start it.

Originally, Film Production was #1 on my list to fulfill my Journalism and Screen Studies (JASS) minor, but with nothing offered in the summer, I had to get a little creative by crafting my own Independent Study.

“You want to be a writer,” I told myself. “So…write!”

Thus, Misc. Adventures Blog was born. That’s right (write?). This is a class! Hahahaha—the great reveal if you didn’t already know.

Am I a little ashamed that I didn’t think I could manage a blog because I’m perpetually tired? Of course I am.

Am I proud I accomplished all that I did within 15 weeks? You better damn believe it. As I scrolled down this blog earlier today, I saw each word like a text to myself saying, “You can do it! You can do it!” with only one goal: to reach the end of the semester.

Now that I’ve reached my goal, I find it difficult to say goodbye. It’s even harder to tell you that after a long day of work and commuting, I don’t have time or energy to create. The problem is, I’ve reached my goal, but I don’t see it as a goal anymore, but only a landmark on a long journey.

I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t say goodbye because I’ve learned to love this. Writing to you. Now I can do it without punishment or incentive, but simply because I enjoy doing it…which I guess, is incentive in itself.

This marks a point of transformation in this blog.

This is the point I take off the façade. Most of the posts leading up to this were designed to follow a syllabus I made for myself. On the whole, I was trying to keep it professional and scholarly (more like faux scholarly?) while shaping my criticism, essay, and journalistic-style writing. Sure, there’s a way to make all of them creative, but to me, it’s especially draining to figure out how.

For now on, I’m going to be less formal (said in my head with a great sigh of relief). For the most part, I’m going to use a conversational-type style that matches more of my creative writing narrator. Though I’ll continue to be professional and scholarly in grad school and at my job, this place is my going to be my happy place that I share with you, the reader.

I plan on posting some poems and maybe snippets of short stories I work on. Hell, I might do prompts on here. I don’t know, but it’s time for a change. I’ll try to keep it up-to-date once a week, maybe more if I have extra time and energy. Overall, I just want it to be more…fun.

Before I go, I just want to thank my professor, Dr. Jen Proctor. Despite her busy summer, she didn’t hesitate when I emailed, asking be my advisor and mentor. Through her guidance, I was able to see what worked and what didn’t…and though I didn’t always have time to give her the A+ work she saw in me, she continued to give me great feedback on how to fix each post to make it the best it could be. I’m proud of what I did, but once I have time to edit my past posts with the suggestions Jen offered, I’ll be proud enough to put it on my professional writing resume.

Besides helping me, Jen assisted at a youth photography camp, and released a major project: http://www.editmedia.org/ with a mission of “researching, developing, and educating about best practices in inclusive teaching in college-level media production.” Check it out. It’s really amazing what she and a group of other professors accomplished. In this midst of the release of this project, she still made time for me and I will never forget that.

Anyway, it’s about 1 a.m. and I need sleep. Thank you to everyone who came along for the ride, even if you were shy. I’ll be writing (and reviewing and photographing and filming) more soon. I hope you stick around!

Peace,

~Michelle L. Stone