City Transformation, Events, History, Neighborhoods, News

Detroit Historical Society hopes its Detroit 67 Project helps us learn from the past

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Neighborhoods Day is all about how to move forward as a city, but you can’t move forward successfully unless you know your past.

That is why the Detroit Historical Society (DHS) makes for such a logical partner for ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Day on Aug. 6.

This is the first time the society has been involved in the celebration and has chosen to use it as a chance to test, show, and discuss its Detroit 67 Project. This is an attempt to catalogue stories and experiences, and hopefully learn, from one of the most traumatic events in our city’s history, the ‘67 riots.

The program runs from 12:00-3:00 p.m. at the Detroit Historical Museum on Neighborhoods Day.

While it started two years ago, the project has become even more relevant given the return of civil unrest in other cities. Given the complex and deep emotions still connected to that summer almost 50 years ago, it is a good idea to collect the stories so we can learn from them. Neighborhoods Day gives DHS the opportunity to reach out to more potential civilian historians.

“I’m very pleased that the Society can to be a part of an event like Neighborhoods Day that values and celebrates members of this community and shines a light on all of the good works that groups and individuals are quietly contributing every day,” says Kalisa Davis, DHS, director of community outreach and engagement.  “If recent events have taught us anything is that we still need ways for all the members of the community come together and focus on common goal, this event does just that.”

One of the stories is that of Juanita Harper, who draws parallels to Trayvon Martin and her brother, who was shot during the riots when she was 12. According to some eyewitness, he was shot by a National Guardsman as he crossed the street.

Others include Dr. Karl Gregory, who talks of the racial-political landscape in Detroit, a look that explores both before and after the riot.

Adam Shakoor talks of his history of discrimination and the view that the term “riot” is not accurate. He has an interesting takeaway.

Shakoor says he saw a strange type of racial togetherness as both whites and blacks looted and burned the city. He also includes a look at how the city’s infrastructure has changed.

There will be a short film shown on Neighborhoods Day that will include some of the completed interviews. The DHS views this as a good way to bring together all of the city – downtown, the neighborhoods and the suburbs.

It is also a great way to get closer to the planned 350 interviews and the analysis of what has happened and how to move forward. But there is more to the day than just that.

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While the main attraction focuses on events half a century ago, the rest is very youth-oriented.

There will be a chance for kids to sketch a neighborhood and draw Detroiters. There are other activities and arts and crafts projects still in the planning stages, but there is something even more important for young Detroiters to understand.

What many people don’t know is Detroit’s charter makes specific mention of young people right in the preamble.

We, the people of Detroit, do ordain and establish this Charter for the governance of our City, as it addresses the needs of all citizens and affirms our commitment to the development and welfare of our youth, our most precious treasure; instituting programs, services and activities addressing the needs of our community; fostering an environment and government structure whereby sound public policy objectives and decisions reflect citizen participation and collective desires; pledging that all our officials, elected and appointed, will be held accountable to fulfill the intent of this Charter and hold sacred the public trust; acknowledging our blessings from God, we pray our efforts will be accepted.

There will be a blown-up poster of that preamble for the kids to read and discuss.

It’s no secret a city needs successful young people to reach its potential. That is why the discussion will take place. The DHS wants to know how young people feel about the city.

Does it live up to the promises it should?

What can it do to be better?

On Neighborhoods Day, history, present and future, will come together. Understanding Detroit’s history, both good and bad, will hopefully allow for a better future and stronger neighborhoods.

The Kresge Foundation is one of ARISE Detroit!’s major funders.

Editors note: Here is a never-been-seen-before home movie footage of the aftermath of the 1967 uprising in Detroit in July of 1967 from the Walter P. Reuther Library.  Thank you to Deadline Detroit for finding this video.

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