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  • Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well

    By LeeAnn Brown Some people say that hip-hop is dead. Local ban Fderal Ground is proving that is not the case. The seven-member band, consisting of three lead vocalists, a DJ, bass, drums and guitar, plays what they call “living hip-hop.” Their music, peppered with multiple styles, covers all aspects of life from growing up in the D to playing with fire despite knowing you will likely get burned. Their undeniable chemistry and raw lyrics compose a music that is living, breathing, and connecting to their listeners. It has been nearly 11 years since Vinny Mendez and Michael Powers conjured up the basement idea that has flowered into the Detroit funk-hop band Feral Ground. Throughout high school the two wrote and rapped consistently, playing shows here and there. In those years they matched their rap stanzas with the animated, dynamic voice of Ginger Nastase and saw an instant connection. The now trio backed their lyrics with DJ Aldo’s beats on and off for years, making him a permanent member within the last year, along with Andy DaFunk (bass), Joseph Waldecker (drums), and newest member, Craig Ericson (guitar). We sat down with Feral Ground and their manager, Miguel Mira, in their […]

    The post Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    Much has been made about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s decision this week to transfer authority of the city’s water department to Mayor Mike Duggan. In what is the most interesting read on the situation, Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale, pens an analysis on Michigan’s novel emergency manager law on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Stanley deconstructs Michigan’s grand experiment in governance by addressing two questions: Has the EM law resulted in policy that maximally serves the public good? And, is the law consistent with basic principles of democracy? Stanley ties in examples of Plato, James Madison’s Federalist Papers, and Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. A short excerpt: Plato was a harsh critic of democracy, a position that derived from the fact that his chief value for a society was social efficiency. In Plato’s view, most people are not capable of employing their autonomy to make the right choices, that is, choices that maximize overall efficiency. Michigan is following Plato’s recommendation to handle the problems raised by elections. Though there are many different senses of “liberty” and “autonomy,” none mean the same thing as “efficiency.” Singapore is a state that values efficiency above all. But by no stretch of […]

    The post Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week

    Walking with Dinosaurs, a magnificent stage show that features life-sized animatronic creatures from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, will be in town next week. But to preview the show’s run at the Palace, a baby T-Rex will be making an appearance at four area malls to the delight and wonderment of shoppers. Baby T-Rex, as the creature is being affectionately referred to, is seven-feet-tall and 14-feet-long. He’ll only be at each mall for about 15 minutes, so while there will be photo opportunities, they’ll be short. The dino will be at Fairlane Town Center Center Court at 18900 Michigan Ave. in Detroit from 2-2:15 p.m. today, July 30; The Mall at Partridge Creek at 17420 Hall Rd. in Clinton Township from 5-5:15 p.m. today, July 30; Twelve Oaks Mall at the Lord & Taylor Court at 27500 Novi Rd., Novi tomorrow, Thursday July 31 from 1:30-1:45 p.m.; and Great Lakes Crossing Food Court at 4000 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills from 5-5:15 p.m., tomorrow Thursday, July 31.  

    The post Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations

    Interested in reading about what Detroit accomplishes on a week-to-week basis that’s produced by the city itself? Great. You can do that now, here, at the Detroit Dashboard. Every Thursday morning, the city will publish an update to the dashboard because Mayor Mike Duggan loves metrics, even if the data might be hard to come by. According to Duggan’s office, the dashboard will provide data on how many LED street lights were installed, how many vacant lots were mowed, how much blight was removed, and more. This week, the city says it has sold 13 site lots through, removed 570 tons of illegal dumping, and filed 57 lawsuits against abandoned property owners.  

    The post Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial

    We don’t know about you, but usually Nancy Whiskey and Long John Silver’s aren’t two concepts we’d place in the same sentence. However, the international fast food fish fry conglomerate made a nod to the Detroit dive in their latest YouTube commercial. LJS is offering free fish fries on Saturday, August 2, which is the promotion the commercial is attempting to deliver. But, we think we’ll just go to Nancy Whiskey instead.

    The post Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women

    We came across an interesting item this week: Apparently, a music festival with the name “Michfest” is quietly oriented as a “Women-Only Festival Exclusively for ‘Women Born Women.’” It seems a strange decision to us. If you wanted to have a women-only music festival, why not simply proclaim loud and clear that it is for all sorts of women? But if you really wanted to become a lightning rod for criticisms about transphobia, organizers have found the perfect way to present their festival. Now, we know that defenders of non-cisgender folks have it tough. The strides made by gays and lesbians (and bisexuals) in the last 20 years have been decisive and dramatic. But the people who put the ‘T’ in LGBT have reason to be especially defensive, facing a hostile culture and even some disdain from people who should be their natural allies. That said, sometimes that defensiveness can cause some activists to go overboard; when we interviewed Dan Savage a couple years ago, he recalled his “glitter bombing” and said it was due to the “the narcissism of small differences,” adding that “if you’re playing the game of who is the most victimized, attacking your real enemies doesn’t prove you’re most victimized, claiming you […]

    The post Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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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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