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  • Thank you, Detroit

    I’m not going to lie to you – this isn’t easy. This week, the final City Slang local music column will be published in the Metro Times (on hardcore band Final Assault), and I have just submitted a cover feature on the women of Detroit hip-hop, to be published next week (8/6). This blog that you’re reading now will be my last one as a regular MT contributor. I have a lot to look forward to. I’m going to be an associate editor at Yellow Scene Magazine in Colorado, a tremendous publication in a beautiful part of the country. But leaving Detroit will be incredibly difficult for me. I love the place. It’s been (amazingly) six and a half years since I arrived, a couple of cases in hand and not much of a plan in mind. I just knew, after three separate research trips for books and a magazine article, that I felt at home here. Metro Times offered me freelance work almost immediately, as did a new website called Metromix (whatever happened to that?) When I arrived here, I had been working as a writer in the UK for nine years, but the help and encouragement I received […]

    The post Thank you, Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers

      We here at MT will be delighted when Mr. Jack White throws out a pitch at Navin Field (at least, we hope he will), but until then, we’ll be happy with his pitch to Santa this evening at Comerica Park.    

    The post Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW)

      Footage from the Gathering of the Juggalos set to clips of Morgan Freeman’s narration from March of the Penguins? Kind of forced, but also kind of beautiful. As the AV Club reports: The oft-sought voiceover champion lends a touch of gravitas to the festival proceedings. Unfortunate scenes of barely clad people having various liquids dumped onto them now carries a quiet dignity as it’s all part of nature’s majestic plan that keeps the world spinning through this elegantly designed and truly wondrous universe. Also, the video is NSFW as there are boobs in it. Watch the clip below:

    The post Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW) appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love”

    It seems like the polar vortex will never end: the weather phenomenon that brought us the most brutal winter on record this winter is to blame for this summer’s chillier-than usual temperatures as well. A couple of bands, though, made lemonade out of lemons (or snow cones out of snow?) by using the icy landscape to film music videos. 800beloved shot the video for “Tidal” in some sand dunes near Empire, Mich., and this week Turn to Crime debuted the video for “Can’t Stop,” the title track of their recently-released album. Even more piles of ice and snow might be the last thing Detroiters want to see right now, but the footage makes for some good visuals that mesh well with the song. Watch the video below:

    The post Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love” appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed

    Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr transferred oversight of the the city’s water department Tuesday to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in an order intended to refocus “efforts to help DWSD customers get and remain current on their water bills,” Orr’s office said today. “This order provides additional clarity to the powers already delegated to the mayor,” Orr said in a statement released Tuesday. “As the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department works to operate more efficiently and communicate more effectively with customers, it is important to ensure there are clear lines of management and accountability.” Duggan will have the authority to manage DWSD and make appointments to the utility’s board, according to a news release. In a statement issued Tuesday, the mayor said he welcomed Orr’s order, adding that officials will develop a plan that “allows those who truly need to access to financial help … to do so with shorter wait times.” “We need to change a number of things in the way we have approached the delinquent payment issues and I expect us to have a new plan shortly,” Duggan said. “There are funds available to support those who cannot afford their bills — we need to do a much better job in […]

    The post Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years

    Rovers Scooter Club, a local gang dedicated to celebrating and riding motor scooters, will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this week with a very special ride. Motor City Shakedown, the annual birthday party for the club, will commence this Friday, August 1 at New Way Bar. DJ Grover from Cincinnati will be spinning northern soul, reggae, and ska, according to club member Michael Palazzola. Saturday will feature a ride from Ferndale to Detroit, starting at noon at M-Brew. Palazzola says this is where most bikes will congregate before taking the ride to the city and folks will be prepping by getting some grub starting at 10 a.m.  Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host the after party,  a special event that will feature performances by several bands as well as Satori Circus. That portion of the event will commence at 8 p.m. with performances starting at 9 p.m. It’s free to riders, but the public is welcome to join the party with the mere cost of a door charge. Come midnight, the club will raffle off a vintage Lambretta LI 150. Sunday morning will end the weekend of festivities, with brunch taking place at the Bosco in Ferndale.   

    The post Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Politics & Prejudices

Aiming at John Conyers

He’s been a congressman since ’65. Challenger Bert Johnson says his district needs a change

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The first time John Conyers was elected to Congress, Bert Johnson's parents weren't even teenagers. The last time Conyers had a serious challenger, Johnson was a kid doing hard time in prison.

But that was 1994 and this is now, and Bert Johnson is a different man, a serious and thoughtful state senator who says he tries to use the mistakes of his past to help people in the present.

And next year, he intends to take on John Conyers in the Democratic primary for Congress in the newly configured 13th District, which includes a little more than half of Detroit and a collection of mostly blue-collar Wayne County suburbs.

Conyers is bound to be heavily favored, even though Johnson actually lives in the district, and Conyers does not, at least not yet.

But the longest-serving African-American congressman in history could be vulnerable. For example, last month, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn held an all-day event looking at the long-term impact of 9/11 on their community.

Late in the day, U.S. Rep. John Conyers came in to the final session and sat down in the audience. Eventually, the moderator (OK, it was me) asked if he'd like to come up and say a few words.

The congressman came to the podium, and told the mystified attendees that the Arab-American community ought to learn to appreciate the genius of John Coltrane and Miles Davis, which was about as relevant to that day's discussion as Spiderman.

Conyers also suggested to his largely bewildered audience that they get bus tickets and come to Washington to help celebrate the anniversary of the Congressional Black Caucus. For those who have known the congressman in recent years, this was not especially surprising behavior, though the media mostly ignores it.

John Conyers has been marching to his own drummer for a long time. He's the second longest-serving current member of Congress, and will be 83 years old before the next election. Nobody questions his commitment to peace and justice.

His competence is another matter.

The congressman had been in Washington nearly a decade when a baby named Bert Johnson was born to an upwardly mobile family in Detroit. His father, also Bert, eventually became a lawyer with his own firm. His son had everything going for him, except one.

"I was a follower," he said, and followed the wrong people. That led to an armed robbery conviction, and hard time in prison.

But he turned his life around, big-time. Today, he is a newly elected state senator, the father of three, respected in his community. State Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park) doesn't make any excuses for what he did all those years ago.

"I did a stupid thing, but I had an excellent judge," he told me over breakfast in Highland Park last weekend. (Jessica Cooper, now the Oakland County prosecutor.)

"She told me she was giving me a chance, and it was up to me to take it." Johnson was given an open-ended sentence: 18 months to 30 years, depending. He got the point. He stayed to himself and read constantly in the joint — Ionia, one of Michigan's toughest prisons.

He was determined not to screw up again. Johnson was out in a little over a year, and went back to school at the University of Detroit-Mercy. His father put him to work in his law office, managing cases, maintaining files; he found he had a gift for organization.

When his friend Bill McConico was elected state representative, Bert went to work in his office, setting up events. "He turned me loose in the community, and I found I really liked the people part of politics, not the partisan game — working with people, helping them."

Soon, he was McConico's chief of staff. When term limits meant his boss' time was up in 2006, Bert Johnson ran for and won the seat. Last fall, the state senate seat came open, and he won that too.

Though he doesn't complain, being in the state Senate has to be frustrating. Democrats have only a dozen members, less than a third of the total, and can't even temporarily delay whatever Republicans want to do. That's unlikely to change soon.

Bert Johnson looked out at the poverty and joblessness and despair and decided he needed to do something. Then, when the new district boundaries were revealed, he decided Congress was it.

Being a gentleman, he decided to tell Conyers that he had decided to run. They met at the Cornerstone Bistro in Highland Park, where, Johnson said, Conyers oddly offered to help and mentor him.

The state senator pauses, over breakfast in the same restaurant. "This race is not about John Conyers," he says. That may be true, in the sense that he doesn't intend to make the congressman the issue.

But of course it is about him. Conyers, Johnson notes, has been known to call himself the "congressman from the planet Earth."

Johnson, who is 44 years Conyers' junior, thinks the congressman's telescope needs a narrower focus. "If you look around this area, you have to ask if the district's needs are being met by Washington. And the answer is no."

The 13th is, indeed, one of the poorest urban districts in America, especially the Detroit and Highland Park sections.

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