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  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval 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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