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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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Stir It Up

Jim Crow's drug war

Why the War on Drugs is a war against black people

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Author Michelle Alexander is bringing her critique of the war on drugs to Detroit.


Attorney Michelle Alexander has been shaking things up across the nation over the past two years, yet you may not have heard of her. Her book, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, takes on race and the War on Drugs in ways few people would dare to approach. The point of her book is that there is a new Jim Crow system that traps many African-Americans in a permanent underclass. That system is driven by the War on Drugs which causes many young people to be stigmatized by felony records — for a victimless crime — that keep them from employment, education and housing.

"The arguments and rationalizations that have been trotted out in support of racial exclusion and discrimination in its various forms have changed and evolved, but the outcome has remained largely the same. ... Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color 'criminals' and then engage in all of the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans."

Alexander, a former ACLU lawyer and now associate professor of law at Ohio State University, was a key player in convincing the NAACP to call for the end of the War on Drugs at its national convention in 2011. Last year, she spoke to members of the Michigan Legislature, which led Republican Rep. Rick Olson to begin writing legislation (not yet introduced) that would legalize marijuana in Michigan. This Sunday, she will be the keynote speaker at Central United Methodist Church's Eighth Annual Peace and Justice Banquet, a fundraiser for the church's progressive work in the community.

"We need occasions where the people who are fighting for peace and justice can gather in a place where they know they are not alone," says the Rev. Ed Rowe, pastor at Central United. "It's a gathering of unions and peace networks and people fighting for everything from ecological issues to those trying to eradicate white racism. It looks like the struggle continues. Defeating the emergency manager law is one occasion where we know our efforts together had impact, but if we think for one minute we can stop working because of one victory, we are badly mistaken."

Rowe is not advocating for drug use, but he is advocating for justice, and it doesn't take long when reading The New Jim Crow to understand why justice is not served by the drug war. The War on Drugs is mainly conducted as a war on black and brown people. A study of New York drug arrests from 1997 to 2006 by sociologist Harry Levine and drug policy activist Deborah Small found that 18-to-25-year-old whites are more likely than blacks or Hispanics to smoke marijuana, yet blacks were five times and Hispanics three times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

Once arrested, blacks and Hispanics have a higher conviction rate and go to jail with longer sentences than whites. According to information on the online NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet: "five times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites" and "African Americans represent 12 percent of the total population of drug users, but 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59 percent of those in state prison for a drug offense."

This is no accident. Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a retired 30-year Maryland police veteran, is another activist who helped shape the NAACP policy. I have quoted him in past columns saying that police seek out drug offenders in urban neighborhoods because it is easier to find them and they don't have the means to defend themselves as well as whites in more affluent neighborhoods. He adds that if police actually pursued drug arrests in affluent neighborhoods there would be political pressure to stop law enforcement from doing that.

The result is that young white drug users are far less likely to suffer the stigma of a drug conviction and prison term. The result in urban neighborhoods is devastating. Families are broken apart when a member goes to jail. Sometimes the loss of a breadwinner throws the family into poverty. Educations are interrupted or ended. When an offender's sentence is served, he is dumped back into the community with no skills, unable to get a job or government aid for education or housing, and there is a high chance that he will become a repeat offender. 

"I think that people think that the struggle related to Jim Crow and the racist system is behind us, that we won that victory in the '60s," says Rowe. "We've simply changed venues. We figured out another way to create a race-based caste system that puts people in prison, on parole, locks them out of getting to vote, out of jobs, out of the ability to buy a home. Jim Crow is happening in our cities right now."

This is a key issue right now in Detroit, where voters recently passed Proposal M, which legalizes possession and use of as much as 1 ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older. Elected officials and police have not said much about it, but what we have heard has been against the provision. This is a turning point in the War on Drugs. While public opinion has changed to the point where polls show a plurality of the public supports marijuana legalization and regulation, the public is still uneasy about other drugs such as cocaine and crystal meth. It could be that showing how a regulated marijuana market works will create a path for turning around policies on other drugs. The biggest problems caused by drugs are gangs and violence, both of which are byproducts of the fact that drugs are illegal. Most supporters of legalization of all drugs believe they should be considered a public health issue, not a criminal one.

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