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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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Sign of the times

A Detroiter signals distress from a neighborhood under siege

Photo: , License: N/A

After a drive-by shooting at a playground, Andre Ventura erected his sign.

Photo: , License: N/A

Rudell Solomon: "I teach kids how to plant."

He spent six years in that neighborhood before moving to his current home near Eight Mile and Dequindre, to what he thought was a better neighborhood in which to raise his own three kids. It was worse.

"Just constantly under attack every day," he says. "I wake up every morning to see what I got left. They sneak in through every crack they can find. Cut all the locks I had on an $80,000 shop in a 16-foot box truck. Everything is gone. Just gone. My snowplow was piece by piece. They took the hydraulics, they took the switch controls, they took the plow, and then actually the whole truck."

He says he's lost $50,000 worth of tools and equipment since moving here. "All this shit just empties out. I keep filling it up, it keeps emptying out. They're like vultures. They sit there and watch, they'll put one on the corner or something, and they'll sit and watch and watch and watch until the second you get in the car and leave or turn your back."

Still, he tried contributing. He cleared mounds of trash from the city-owned corner lot next to his house, installed playground equipment and invited the neighborhood's children to play there. He opened a candy store in his living room for kids too scared to walk all the way to the store. He mowed the lawns on vacant lots on his street. But these gestures were just crumbs compared to the mayhem around him.

"There's hundreds of different explanations of why it's going on. Especially now, with all the people dropped off welfare, it's become more desperate, it's getting worse. But nobody's scared of the police. Everybody knows that nobody cares. There is no law."

City life began taking its toll. In his frustration he started leaving hand-painted signs all over the east side. "Where's 20,000 troops to protect our own children and communities?" one read. "Will the last person to leave Detroit kindly turn out the lights?" said another. "Does this place look safe for your child to play?" he wrote on a boarded-up abandoned house.

The signs got edgier as time went on and his nerves frayed. "Pedophiles' paradise, inquire within. Children wanted," he scrawled on a stubbornly enduring vacant house. "Free dopehouse kit. Start your own spot," one sign announced. And he nailed a rusty bucket to a picket fence in a high prostitution area with a sign that read, "Free used condoms." In his own yard he wrote simply, "Save Detroit, adopt a crackhead."

But until he put up the warning sign along Eight Mile, few people noticed.


Rudell Solomon noticed, though. The 70-year-old Army veteran has a community garden across from Ventura's house and the children's playground where the sign stands.  "I told him, 'Why don't we just put up something positive?' Solomon remembers. "And he said, 'No, not until they do something.' So he got a right to his free speech. I can't argue that."

Solomon, who lives a few blocks over, is big, brash and intense. "You're looking at a black Rambo," he shouts. "I've done hand-to-hand combat, I've been stabbed. I've been shot. I've been fucked up. And I promised the Lord when I was in Vietnam if he'd let me get back I'd serve the community for the rest of my days. And I'm doing it, and that's the only reason I'm doing it."

The two former military men, both caught in the same neighborhood, became friends. The irony is that Ventura, the gentler of the pair, is the more militant, while Solomon, the fierier of the two, declares himself a pacifist — to a degree.

"Him and I work together, in conjunction," Solomon barks. "He got his thing, I got my thing. His thing is about crackheads stealing all his stuff, breaking into his house. I'm on the peaceful side of the community. I teach kids how to plant." 

But Solomon has also driven drug dealers out of the neighborhood, he says, with a look suggesting it wasn't solely through persuasive words. And he's got nails poking upward from the top of his wood fence to keep out the waves of thieves that try to jump into his yard. 

His first glimpse of Detroit was a stark one — he was with the 101st Airborne as they patrolled the city streets during the 1967 riots. He came back in 1972, moved to a house on the corner of Eight Mile, where he still lives. Things are so bad here now, he says, that everyone preys on anyone who has anything, a symptom of the worsening poverty out here.

"People got to feed their kids. That's why I'm trying to get these gardens, grow you some beans, man. I'm showing people how they can eat off the land. Somebody got to get in there and do something from the bottom up. I'm doing it working with the kids, he's working with the crackheads," he says, motioning toward Ventura. "He's fighting them motherfuckers. I told him I hope they don't blow his shit off the corner one day. But he's brave."

A story from his first years here tells a lot: Solomon was on National Guard duty one night up the street, and a neighbor called to tell him there was a pimp and some hookers working their trade in his front yard. He showed up with a dozen uniformed National Guard soldiers and absolutely pummeled the group. The incident made the neighbors terrified of him, just as he wanted. "They went and told everybody, and that's why they don't fuck with me," he says.

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