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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

Of Kwame and Kwanzaa

Mulenga Harangua sees the conspiracy behind the indictments

Like a holiday present to Detroit, the latest round of federal indictments swept up former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, former mayoral aide Derrick Miller, former Department of Water and Sewerage director Victor Mercado, and contractor Bobby Ferguson and in a single stroke. It's been a long time coming.

After listening to the callers to local talk radio shows carry on for a couple of days I figure Detroiters are close to evenly split on their support or disgust for Kwame. I decided to run by Mulenga Harangua's place and see what conspiracy he thought was behind the indictments. First I stopped by Palmer Park to pick up a few sturdy pieces of dead wood. Mulenga used a wood stove he'd scavenged from some empty building to keep the temperature tolerable inside the house where he squatted.

I walked in through the unlocked door as usual. There he sat near the stove, wearing an antler hat and pecking away at a manual typewriter sitting on an old milk crate.

"Mulenga, man, you've got to get a lock for this door. Anybody can walk in anytime they want."

"Like you just did, my brother?"

"I mean someone who means to do you some harm."

"Ain't nobody mad at me. There are only four houses on this block with anybody in them, and three of us are squatters. Everybody around here knows that I don't have anything worth stealing." Mulenga gestured toward the typewriter. "This is my computer. You want it?"

I shrugged. "So what's with the antlers? Are you a reindeer in training?"


"On your head."

"This is my kinara hat. I just don't have any candles for it yet, made it myself. It's my Kwanzaa present to me. I thought it might catch on and I could sell a few to help get people into the holiday. Santa Claus ain't coming up my street."

"Kwanzaa hat, huh? You know I always felt like the kinara looks kind of like a menorah. You know the Jewish candelabra thing."

Mulenga's face fell, he was obviously ticked off. "There you go with the Jews. Why does everything black have to come from the Jews. Can't we have anything of our own?"

"Hey, don't blame me for the resemblance. Blame Dr. Maulana Karenga, hey, his name sounds kind of like yours. Anyway, he's the one who created Kwanzaa and made up the kinara. Hey, if you're going to have candles there are only so many ways you can hook up the candleholder."

"Well, dig this. The Hanukkah menorah has nine candles and the Kwanzaa kinara has seven. And we use red, black and green candles. The menorah candles are always the same color. That's different. So don't be giving me all this derivative stuff from the Jews." Mulenga puffed up his chest and strutted a few steps.

"OK, OK, don't get all uptight about it. We can have a civil conversation, can't we? Besides, that's not what I came here to talk about. I was wondering what you thought about Kwame and the federal indictments."

Mulenga relaxed and smiled. "Aw, man, ain't nothing to that. He's getting what he deserves."

"What? I thought he was your boy. You were carrying on before about how whitey was taking down the only real black man around here. How they wouldn't let him have all that power. You sounded like some of those fools who call in to talk radio to rant about the conspiracy against Kwame."

Mulenga held his finger in the air like he had a point to make. "The difference between me and those others — and I will not call my brothers fools — is that they do not have a kinara hat. They don't know Kwanzaa. When this mess was announced I was in the middle of a Kwanzaa meditation as I made my hat. I realized that what Kwame stands for is the opposite of the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. For instance, Ujamaa, the principle of cooperative economics, Kwame and his gang were getting all that money for themselves."

"That's allegation, not fact."

Mulenga just kept talking: "They weren't thinking about community when they were jacking folks for cash. They were thinking about cars and clothes and women. They were holding up work that would have benefited people in the city until they got their cut. Then there is Nia, the principle of purpose for building and developing our community. Those cats were building their own fortunes. What's that the feds charged? Bernard Kilpatrick deposited $600,000 in cash to his bank accounts. He was probably like Tony Soprano with a garbage can full of cash in his backyard. One thing I don't understand, I know who Kwame and his pals are, but who is this Rico dude I keep hearing about? I know Mercado is Puerto Rican, was that his assistant?"

"No, RICO is an acronym. It stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. That law allows the government to charge leaders of corrupt organizations for the crimes they sanctioned even if they didn't do it themselves. The feds say that Kwame ran the mayor's office as a criminal enterprise."

"You mean like some Mafia shit."

"Pretty much"

Mulenga's lips curled up in a sly smile. "Damn, the brother was slick, running his gang from the top of the heap. I bet some deep deals got made in Manoogian Mansion. No wonder Bing don't want to live there, probably got some serious skeletons in them big old closets. Just like the Bada Bing club on The Sopranos. A bunch of dudes sitting around drinking, playing cards, getting serviced by strippers and planning gangsta shit. He does have a certain genius for criminal enterprise. He wasn't on the street jacking cars. He had the Navigator delivered to him by the police. Then he's like Nixon talking about, 'I am not a crook.' When they start all that denying you know something bad is in the shadows."

"Another Soprano trait seems to be that Kwame liked to get a little taste from everything that went down. But, as bluesman Blind Blake used to sing, 'He's in the jailhouse now.' "

"You know, Soprano seemed like a regular guy. He had charisma and you could get to like him, but deep down inside you knew he was a cold-blooded killer."

I looked over to the typewriter Mulenga had been working at. "What do you have there? Is it your novel?"

Mulenga snatched the paper out of the roller. "It's another Kwanzaa thing I'm working on, Kuumba, the principle of creativity. I thought I'd write a song about how Kwame responded to the federal prosecutor. It's to the tune of that Cee Lo song that's nominated for a Grammy Award."

He held the paper up and started singing:

I hear you chargin' I ran a criminal gang,

and I'm like fuck you

Yea you chargin' all my friends and my daddy too, I'm like fuck you and fuck Bing too

You said I took money, to spend on my honeys

But I ain't got a dime (ain't got a dime)

I'll just get more prison, from your crusadin' mission, I say fuck you

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