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.

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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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A Portrait of Childhood in Poverty

While many can visit their childhood homes and reminiscence of happy times, I recently returned to mine and found nothing but a barren plot of land and memories just as desolate. It’s not that growing up in Brightmoor (aka Blight-moor), Detroit was all bad…I do have some fond memories, but looking back they were from the optimistic and naïve perspective of a child. Over the years I’ve taken off my rose-colored glasses and replaced them with gray shades that can more clearly see what is blindingly clear. As I gaze at the green field before me, my thoughts turn to the past.

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When I was around 6 or 7, a huge storm hit. After the tempest calmed, I watched from our covered porch as neighborhood kids ran through the flooded street. I joined the group in the waters– it reached my knees. After a moment of splashing with glee, I noticed a huge heap of loose garbage clogging the sewer drain. Moving closer, I saw a syringe poking from the pile. Of course, my child mind didn’t think of drugs or disease, but rather my fear of the doctor drove me out of the garbage pool and back home. I probably should have warned the other kids, but they weren’t my friends anyway.

~~~

Brightmoor is located on the west border of Detroit right before Redford (“The Gateway to the Suburbs”) and Livonia. If you’ve ever heard anyone mention “the hood,” it’s places like Brightmoor they were talking about, where people occasionally fall asleep to the sound of gunshots.

The streets are lined with dilapidated buildings with chipped paint and wild foliage battling brick for space. One time I even saw a pack of stray dogs emerge from a partially collapsed structure.

My block was Dolphin, just off of Fenkell (aka 5 Mile Rd.) and about a mile east of Telegraph, that great divider.

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For those who kinda/sorta know the area, I lived right across the street from the famous Scotty’s Fish and Chips.

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There were three other white folks on the block, all poor like us. I only say we were poor because my dad drove a car with a 2×8 board for a bumper. My dad implied it was to piss off the police in suburbia:

“They used to pull me over on my way to work every day. ‘Get that piece shit out of Livonia!’ But they couldn’t give me a ticket because it was completely legal.”

Apparently, as long as you put something between another car hitting you and the gas tank, there’s no legal problem.

“I admit we had to tighten our belts a little to pay for you and your sister’s tuition,” my mom said.

As much as my mom likes to deny our poverty, there were other signs. Like how we ate hot dogs so often that I can’t eat pork to this day without getting sick. It’s probably a psychological response, but whatever. There was also that one Christmas we had to get toys donated to us from a church. I remember it fondly because I got a Barney toy.

My first school was a Catholic elementary called St. Christine’s just a few blocks away. Here’s what it looks like now:

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I guess my parents were so fearful of sending us to a Detroit Public School (DPS) that they sacrificed the little extra money they had for our education.

According to Data Driven Detroit:

The shockingly low standardized test scores and graduation rates for students in the majority of DPS schools are a sign of dysfunction across institutions meant to support children. In the context of academic literature on the causes of poverty, Detroit students are held back by failures in both their schools and in their neighborhoods.

My mom understood the importance of education and saw the Catholic institution as the best choice. I did learn the “Our Father” prayer and how to write in cursive. I can’t really remember much else from my time attending St. Christine’s and then St. Gemma’s after the former closed. What I remember most was the persistent bullying.

There was a few white kids in my class and a handful in the school, but I felt alone in every way. I don’t know if it was the horrible handcut-by-mom haircut, my cheap Payless shoes, or being a latchkey kid, but I feel like my classmates saw through my standard jumper and knew I was a poor kid underneath. Besides, I was chubby, awkward, and had to go to speech therapy because I pronounced “th” as “f” until the fifth grade.

I remember during recess, a large group would form a circle and play a game called “Jigolo.” One day, wanting to fit in, I wandered into the ring and watched as people were individually called to the center to dance. After the performer did their motion, the group would imitate. I returned every day, observing and learning the rules, so when I was called, I was ready.

Hey, Shelly!

Hey what?

Are you ready?

For what?

To Jig!

Jig what?

Jigolo!

Oh, my hands up high, my feet down low! This the way I Jigolo!

I don’t know what brought me to do it…maybe a desire to be seen as courageous and cool, but I threw myself on the ground and did the ‘Cry-Baby.’  For those who don’t know what that is, it’s basically dry-humping the ground while slamming your fist.

Here’s a little demonstration:

 

Yeah, it’s already a ridiculous move and with my round belly smacking on the ground, this became our school’s version of the ‘Truffle Shuffle.’ People roared with laughter but never imitated me. I accepted their laughter as approval and kept returning to do the ‘Cry-Baby.’ After a while, it dawned on me that once the circle dispersed, people were still laughing. It wasn’t a game, I was a joke and my name became ‘Shelly Belly.’

~~~

Some other names I was called both at school and in my neighborhood were ‘cracker’ and ‘whitie.’ On Dolphin street, everyone had their own designated name. There was ‘Bigbird,’ ‘Milkman,’ my cool, older sister was ‘Lil Jeni.’

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I was ‘Campbell Soup Girl’

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Okay…I guess I can see it.

 

 

 

 

 

None of the black kids really accepted me (except when I had popsicles to give out) so I turned to Jessica. She was the only white kid my age and she lived directly across the street. I would like to say it was nice to have someone to hang out with, but she had some serious behavioral and hygiene issues.

For one, Jessica’s blonde hair was plagued with lice. Although treatable, her mother never did anything to get rid of it and her infestation became mine. My mom tried so hard to get rid of them, spending valuable dollars on chemicals, but after seeing Jessica pluck one from her hair and flick it into mine, I knew the little parasites crawling on my head weren’t going anywhere.

It was an issue with me until the 5th grade. Every time I got sent home with lice, I felt so betrayed by the teachers as they joined in heaping embarrassment in my life.

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At the age of 7, Jessica was stealing cigarettes from her mom. When she couldn’t sneak a whole one, she grabbed an unfinished butt from the ashtray and lit it. She always tried to get me to join but I refused.

Unfortunately, cigarettes weren’t the only things Jessica would steal. Her sticky fingers always searched my toys and even managed to get my prized Spirograph pen.

A few weeks before Christmas, she left my room to “go to the bathroom” but my ears heard the sound of crumpling paper. She took advantage of my mom’s habit of wrapping presents early, and tried to steal a present by hiding the wrapping under the tree skirt. My mom is a pacifist but I remember fearing she was going to beat my friend when she was caught.

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Jessica’s house now.

Years later, she came to visit our new house in Redford, just a mile down the street. After showing her my computer, we went for a swim in my pool.

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Me and Jessica in Redford.

She pushed me under the water and held me down. I grabbed her wrist and screamed for her to stop, but she continued to try to drown me. Somehow I reached the surface. I never saw her again.

~~~

We moved out of Brightmoor when I was 9 or 10, so around 1999-2000. At that time, a lot of families were leaving.

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According to The Brightmoor Alliance:

“The 2010 population of 23,845 represented a 31.1 percent decrease over 2000’s total of 34,598. This was somewhat higher than the 25 percent loss experienced by the City of Detroit,” (pg. 1).

While it sounds like a ‘White Flight’ kind of situation, according to the same document above, a majority of people that left were African American.

“African Americans, while decreasing in number by 25.4 percent, experienced an increase in their share of the neighborhood’s population from 79.1 percent in 2000 to 85.6 percent in 2010. The second largest group was whites at 10.0 percent, down 56.5 percent in number from an 15.8 percent share in 2000,” (pg. 3).

“Shady people moved in,” a friend of mine said to me. She grew up and continues to live just on the other side of Brightmoor. I’m assuming most were squatters that just stayed.

Even in Redford, I saw a surge in crime and prostitution spilling over the Telegraph border. Here’s a recent crime chart in my old neighborhood. It would seem we got out just in time. And I thought it was bad in my formative years…

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The crime surge led to a huge blight problem in Brightmoor. I remember visiting my old home about five years ago after a family dinner at Scotty’s. It was still there but abandoned and a total eyesore with broken windows and a decaying facade. Out of curiosity (or stupidity), I went inside. It was littered with tattered cloths and had a smell like burning rubber. The only piece of furniture inside was a small end table with ashes and possible drug residue. I walked into the kitchen and was shocked to see a giant hole gaping in the center like a large, screaming mouth. It took me a moment to remember the cellar underneath. Realizing that the house was unsafe, I immediately left.

In 2013, the City of Detroit started a campaign to eliminate the blight.

Commissioned September 27, 2013, the Blight Task Force was tasked with developing a straightforward and detailed implementation plan to take down every residential and commercial building as well as clear vacant land that is blighted and/or not reasonably economically viable in the city of Detroit in as fast a timeframe as possible. The goal of the plan is to dramatically improve the safety of both citizens living near blight and first responders while substantially increasing opportunities for future use of the land in the impacted neighborhoods.

I suppose my old house was one of those taken down in the facelifting project. Of course, I see it as a good thing, but also makes me mindful of the gentrification problem that’s happening in Detroit.

Although I got out of Brightmoor before it got really, really bad, there were many good people that had to stay because they simply didn’t have a choice. While we lived in Detroit, my mom worked and went to school to get a nursing degree. She was able to better our situation, so that we could afford the higher property tax in Redford, but that opportunity isn’t available to everyone.

To those people who stayed, who resisted turning to crime, who now buy up empty lots and turn them into urban gardens, I pray they don’t get pushed out in the beautification process.

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I don’t have many good memories of living in Brightmoor, but I appreciate it for making me the person I am today. Because of my childhood, I understand the great wealth inequality in our nation. Because of my childhood, I understand the great race inequality in our nation. Because of my childhood, I understand the importance of diversity, empathy, and community. Poverty sucks. Let’s end it.

~~~

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Detroit Is For Foodies: Where to Find Delicious Food Downtown

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Have you, a foreigner to Detroit, found yourself downtown after a Tigers game, concert, or drug deal (just kidding) with an empty stomach and no idea where to go? Well then, this blog is for you!

I recently had a friend tell me that there is no middle ground when it comes to dining in the D– according to him, either the food is expensive and good, or cheap and disgusting. I’m going to tell you exactly what I told him…that’s not true.

As someone who works full-time downtown and often too lazy to make lunch the day before, I’m always on the lookout for affordable and delicious restaurants. Below are a few places I’ve discovered along my lunch adventures that might help satisfy your hunger and wallet

1. Loco’s Tex-Mex Grille:

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TripAdvisor gives it four stars.

Kiddie corner to Greektown Casino, Loco’s is a place where you can listen to salsa while snacking on (free) salsa. The atmosphere sets you up for an authentic Tex-Mex eating experience, and the food does not fail to live up to those expectations.

Loco’s offers daily lunch specials, and because of that, I was able to get a giant half chicken/half beef wet burrito for about $8. With a side of rice and beans, this meal was big enough for two.

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What sets this restaurant apart from any others downtown is its famous, “Taco Tuesday.” Yes, it’s as magical as it sounds. Every Tuesday, tacos are $1.50 each.

Although I think Taco Tuesday is enough to justify going there, I also have to applaud the staff. Not only are they super fast, but also super friendly. When I say “friendly,” I mean, “The server had a bloody Darth Vader pen!” It was a great trip all around.

 

2. Detroiter Bar

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TripAdvisor gives it four and a half stars.

If Mexican isn’t your thing, Detroiter Bar is just down the street from Loco’s. Inside, you’ll find a sports bar setting with a classic rock soundtrack playing in the background. They also have lunch specials which only set me back about $6 for a burger and fries. The burger wasn’t too much to cry home about but the wedge fries were delectable.

One thing I thought was cool about this bar is their free shuttle service to and from the Tigers Stadium. I spoke to the welcoming server about this and she let me know that all one needs to do is arrive an hour before the game and they’ll give you instructions about pick-up and drop-off points. Along with their drink specials, I feel like this would be the best and cheapest way to do (ie. get drunk and actually enjoy) a Tigers game.

 

3. American Coney Island (aka Lafayette Coney Island)

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TripAdvisor gives it four stars.

To Detroiters, American Coney Island is a local treasure. It has graced the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Lafayette for over 100 years. Although the menu is quite small, the taste of everything is big.coney island menu.pngWhen I went, I ordered my favorite meal: a gyro pita. This was one of the first times I got a gyro with what seemed like just enough tzatziki sauce.

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It was eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-the-head good. I’m not sure if it was cut right off of a slab because I didn’t see one, but it didn’t taste like the preheated patties that are served at most Coney Islands. The best part? It was under $6. There’s no wonder it’s such a treasure.

 

 

4. GM Renaissance Center Food Court

TripAdvisor gives it three stars.

If you don’t want to be adventurous while still have a plethora of options, the food court in the lower level of the RenCen is always an option. Just hop on the People Mover till you hit the building and go downstairs. There, you’ll find:

-Andiamo Pizza Pie Co.

-Bozii

-Burger King

-Chop Fresh Salad Co.

-Coney Town

-Fish City

-Gyroland

-Mac n’Cheez!

-McDonald’s

-Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina

-Subway

But, of course, if you choose McDonald’s over something like Loco’s I’ll probably judge you harshly.

~~~~~~~~~

Well, that’s all I have for you newcomers to Detroit. Maybe as I try new places, I’ll write a review for each. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment below!

 

 

 

Trump Impeachment March-Detroit

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On July 2, 2017 a crowd of people stood in the shadow of Detroit’s Joe Louis Fist, raising fists of their own in protest of President Donald J. Trump. About 40 people were in attendance, coming together to march against the sexism, bigotry, and lies of the 45th president of the United States.

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The event was a part of a national initiative to impeach Trump with 46 other protests happening around the country.

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Ahmed Ghanim, an Egyptian immigrant, was one of the key speakers at the event.

He expressed how grateful he is to be in the U.S., where he is freely given the right to vote and protest. He fears the current president wants to abolish those rights for immigrants like him.

“The most dangerous thing to democracy here is normalizing what’s wrong. That’s how we’re raised under a dictatorship…to normalize what’s wrong,” said Ghanim.

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Among the crowd were volunteers with “Voters Not Politicians,” an anti-gerrymandering advocacy group. They had protestors fill out a petitions to make a committee to oversee redistricting in Michigan. They also handed out flyers like the one below that shows how districts are currently drawn to favor parties.

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Following the speeches, demonstrators marched down Woodward and around Campus Martius, chanting “2, 4, 6, 8! Time to do away with hate!” and “Hey hey, ho ho—Donald Trump has got to go!”

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Although the turnout didn’t match the 900+ “interested” on Facebook, a fire of activism stirred the hearts of those present. I felt it, especially as I passed bewildered bystanders who blinked in confusion before realizing why we were marching. It felt good to break out my “pussy hat.” It felt good to see knowing smiles and nods as our little parade processed down the street. The fire is knowledge, which can build or destroy– and I, for one, want to build a better world with it. We must continue to hold up the torch to remind this dark world that something is very wrong with our nation.

If you missed this protest, don’t worry. The Metro Detroit Political Action Network has scheduled another Impeach Trump protest on Saturday, July 15th at 1pm at the Joe Louis Fist. Don’t miss it!

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