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  • Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark

    Oh, the irony — initially criticized as Marxist propaganda when Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted them for the Detroit Institute of Arts in the early 1930s, Detroit Industry has now been designated as a a national landmark. The announcement was made Wednesday, according to the Detroit News by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis as part of National Park Week. The designation does not change the ownership status of the murals or grant any new protections or rights, leaving its place among the rest of the DIA’s art in possible bankruptcy negotiations in question. The work is considered the best of Rivera’s work in the United States (another mural Rivera had done in New York was destroyed by orders of Nelson Rockefeller). Rivera himself regarded Detroit Industries paintings as his finest work. In the midst of the McCarthy era, the DIA posted this sign outside the court: Rivera’s politics and his publicity seeking are detestable. But let’s get the record straight on what he did here. He came from Mexico to Detroit, thought our mass production industries and our technology wonderful and very exciting, painted them as one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. This came […]

    The post Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit area code 313 may be phased out

    Hey, everybody from the 313, start thinking of new numbers to rally around– the longstanding Detroit area code may be phased out. Our friends over at the Detroit News report that pending a revised estimate next week, the North American Numbering Plan Administration will stop handing out 313 telephone prefixes on new phone numbers. Detroiters with existing cell phone lines would be able to keep their current area codes, while those with land lines would change. via Detroit News: The venerable 313 will ultimately become overtaxed. Even as Detroit’s population has fallen, cellphone usage has accelerated like one of those smoldering SRT Vipers that Dodge has been bolting together at Conner Avenue Assembly — which is, of course, comfortably within the confines of 313. … When the first five dozen area codes were assigned nearly 70 years ago, says NANPA’s Tom Foley, “that was expected basically to last forever.” Instead, somebody invented fax machines, and then somebody else came up with cellphones, and lots of somebody elses decided to give them to 10-year-olds, and meantime the population grew to 300 million. Now every telephone carrier is required to submit twice-yearly forecasts of its needs in each area code, factoring in […]

    The post Detroit area code 313 may be phased out appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council

    Unfortunately, we were unable to attend last night’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, which, in case you were unaware, is a 16-member board established to weigh in on the new Red Wings arena near downtown. About three dozen residents and property owners cast ballots by the 8 p.m. deadline on Wednesday inside the Block at Cass Park, The Detroit News reports. It’s the culmination of a handful of community meetings which began weeks ago. Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda Lopez facilitated the meetings, but emphasized at previous meetings that it’s up to the community to conduct business. According to the News, the 12 candidates selected include: Michael Boettcher, Richard Etue, Jason Gapa, Francis Grunow, Steve Guether, Paul Hughes, Ray Litt, Warner Doyle McBryde, Karen McLeod, Delphia Simmons, Melissa Thomas and Anthony Zander. Joel Landy, a land owner in the area, lost his bid. The City Council appointed four candidates last month. As we reported in this week’s issue, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee was negotiated after Olympia Development of Michigan, Detroit Red Wing’s owner Mike Ilitch’s real estate arm, balked on a proposed community benefits agreement.  The committee is charged with the task of offering input on the arena’s design, parking security and more.

    The post Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag

    The Magic Bag in Ferndale will host James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets on Thursday, May 28, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. A press release reads, “James McMurtry recently signed with the bourgeoning Los Angeles record label Complicated Game. The legendary songwriter will enter the studio later this month to start working on his first album in six years. “I’ve got a new batch of songs, organic and with no added sulfites, aged in oak for several years,” he says. “Francois Moret at Complicated Game seems to like these songs and (producer) C.C. Adcock thinks he can turn them into a record. Good times fixing to roll.” Label head Moret agrees. “In March 2013, when C.C. Adcock told me we were going to see James McMurtry at the Continental Club in Austin, I expected to see a good show,” he says, “but what I saw left me mesmerized! I immediately knew I wanted to sign him. As a European, it is an amazing opportunity to work with one of the most talented American singer-songwriters.” Evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched […]

    The post James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit

    The Dead Kennedys, still with local boy Klaus Flouride in the ranks, will play St. Andrew’s Hall on Tuesday, June 24. Alongside Flouride and fellow original members East Bay Ray and DH Peligro, the current lineup includes singer Ron “Skip” Greer, taking the place of Jello Biafra. Downtown Brown will open that show, which starts at 7 p.m., with tickets priced $20-$25. Give Klaus a hero’s hometown welcome. Just over a week before that, strangely enough, Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine will play at the Magic Stick. It’s a weird coincidence, but one that DK fans should be happy to embrace. That show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $17-$19. Local hardcore vets Negative Approach play before Jello, with the Crashdollz opening the show. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain

    The Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck will present a police drama called A Steady Rain May 2 through 24. Planet Ant veterans Ryan Carlson and York Griffith will star in the play, written by House of Cards and Mad Men co-writer Keith Huff. Tickets ($10-$20) are on sale now at According to the press release, “A Steady Rain by Keith Huff focuses on Joey and Denny, best friends since kindergarten and partners on the police force whose loyalty to each other is tested by domestic affairs, violence and the rough streets of Chicago. Joey helps Denny with his family and Denny helps Joey stay off the bottle. But when a routine disturbance call takes a turn for the worse their loyalty is put to the ultimate test.First produced at Chicago Dramatists, A Steady Rain appeared on Broadway featuring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. The Planet Ant production of A Steady Rain is directed by York Griffith featuring Ryan Carlson and Andy Huff. This marks the return of two of Planet Ant’s founding members. Carlson and Griffith. Griffith has served as the theatre’s Artistic Director where he directed the critically-acclaimed productions The Adding Machine and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? […]

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Stir It Up

Justice distorted

Remembering the Central Park Five case, a twisted rush to judgment

Photo: , License: N/A

Courtroom sketch of the Central Park Five trial

The first time Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray and Korey Wise were in front of the camera for an important reason; it was the April 1989 video confessions they gave to police admitting to having raped and nearly killed a female jogger in New York City's Central Park.

The Central Park Five — a new film examining the case in which they were all convicted, all served their full prison terms, and all had their convictions overturned after the real rapist confessed 13 years later — is one hell of a sequel. 

"We hope that this film starts a conversation about lessons learned from this case. It's not an isolated incident, about false confessions and why they happen and how they happen," says Sarah Burns, who co-produced the film with her father, filmmaker Ken Burns, and David McMahon, who co-produced The War with him. "It's about the underlying racism that played such a huge role in this case that led so many people to believe that these kids committed these crimes."

The Central Park Five case was a huge story in 1989. It was at the height of the crack epidemic, and crime rates in New York were at their highest ever. Citizens were screaming for police to crack down on crime. They got what they asked for in a great miscarriage of justice.

The Central Park Five, aged 14 to 16, came into being April 19. They were among a loosely knit group of about 30 teenagers, many of whom didn't even know each other, who wandered through the park harassing bicyclists one evening. One member of the larger group beat up a jogger badly enough that he was hospitalized. After receiving complaints about the harassing crowd, police grabbed several of the boys and took them to the station to wait for their parents to come get them.

A few hours later, two men found a woman raped and nearly dead in the park. When the call came in, police were sure they already had their perpetrators in custody. The boys were interrogated for 14 to 30 hours — sometimes with their parents present as required by law for juveniles, sometimes not. Many of the things you see in movies and television cop shows seem to have followed. 

Detectives told some that the guys in other rooms were ratting on them, that they better hurry up and cooperate before it was too late. Some were told if they gave a statement they would be allowed to leave. Five confessed. And the police and prosecutors continued their charade knowing full well that details of the boys' made-up stories contradicted each other, that the one DNA sample taken from the victim didn't match any of the boys, that there was absolutely no forensic evidence tying them to the scene of the crime, and that there were legitimate questions about whether the boys had been at the scene of the crime at all. 

"[They were] yelling at me all up in my face, poking me in my chest," says McCray of his interrogation. "We stopped a few times 'cause I was crying. They kept asking questions, no food, no drink, no sleep. I didn't know when it was going to end."

"I'm just going to make up something and include these guys' names," says Richardson, describing his thought process. "They was coaching me, and I was writing it down. They gave me the names, I put them in. I couldn't tell you who they were, what they looked like."

The Central Park Five were found guilty and sent to prison. In 2001, Wise — 16 at the time of the crime, sentenced as an adult, and still behind bars when the others had finished their time — ran into Matias Reyes, a serial rapist and murderer serving about 33 years to life. Reyes confessed to the crime to authorities. An ensuing investigation found that his DNA matched the lone sample found at the crime scene.

"I'm the one that did this," Reyes' recorded voice states in the film.

The exoneration of the five men never got the same amount of ink or air time that accompanied their capture and conviction. The message that they didn't do it was not nearly as sensational, couldn't possibly sell as many papers as the sordid tale of a 28-year-old white woman — an investment banker during the time when the financial industry had helped turn around New York City — being gang raped by a group of black and brown boys. 

Newspaper headlines had disparagingly referred to them as a "wolf pack." 

It's a terrible tale of what happens when police, a city, a nation jump onto a narrative of blame when the evidence doesn't support the accusations. Sadly, in this case and so many others, it's an ongoing narrative that paints young men of color as aggressive criminals, with the authorities, the media and the public all too ready to jump to false conclusions. One juror who appears in the film describes how his doubts were attacked by the other jurors until he finally gave in.

"If this had happened in 1901, they would have been lynched, perhaps castrated, and their bodies burned and that would have been the end of it," the Rev. Calvin Butts says in the film.

True, but what Butts doesn't connect is that in 2012 this kind of demonization continues. Just a few weeks ago in Jacksonville, Fla., a 45-year-old white man, Michael Dunn, shot into a car killing Jordan Davis, a black 17-year-old. The slain boy and his friends were sitting in a car in a convenience store parking lot listening to loud music when Dunn pulled in. Dunn complained about the noise and he and Davis argued. Dunn drew his weapon and shot eight or nine times into the vehicle, killing Davis. Dunn didn't report the incident to police. He went home and was only later found because someone had noted his license plate number. His lawyer says he felt threatened and acted in self-defense.

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