ARISE Detroit, ’cause the 1967 Detroit Riot is history


I told Luther Keith this over a month ago, and I believe it even more now than I did then: ARISE Detroit is going to be the biggest, most revolutionary city revival movement this city has ever seen, and it will become a model for the reconstruction of similarly distressed urban cities throughout the nation within the next five years. Watch and see if this doesn’t happen.

Luther is the one who envisioned and created ARISE Detroit from an idea he literally scrawled across the back of a napkin in his basement over a year ago. He and I have been friends for more than 20 years, and I know he has been so consumed with the mechanics of getting this organization off the ground that he hasn’t had the time to truly appreciate – and perhaps fear – what he has brought to life. But those of us on the outside who have been watching this thing develop can see clearly where this is headed, and it takes your breath away. ARISE Detroit has the potential to save an entire city, and the best thing about this is that it will be the city’s neighborhood residents who will be the tools responsible for that salvation. As Luther always says whenever he speaks about his organization, it should be clear by now that the cavalry isn’t coming to save Detroit, so it’s up to Detroit to save itself.

Just so we’re clear, this doesn’t mean we can – or should – do everything ourselves. I said a little while ago that this city needs a chain grocery store and that growing vegetables in the back yard – or in vacant lots – just isn’t going to cut it. We need help, and we need to admit we need help. Still, that being said, there is an awful lot we can take control of and set to right on our own if we work together. And the more we work to save ourselves, and the more success we have, the more assistance we will receive. Funny the way that works, but it always seems to work that way.

Yesterday I attended a press conference for ARISE Detroit’s upcoming Neighborhoods Day, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 4. If this thing kicks off as promised, then it will live up to its billing as an event unlike any other that has ever taken place in Detroit’s history. A lot of good things were said by a lot of good people who were there, including Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Councilwoman Alberta Tinsley Talabi, but perhaps the best thing that was said was that ARISE represents what the future of this city can be, whereas the upcoming 40th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit Riots (or Rebellion) is something that should be fading away in our rearview mirror. As Kilpatrick pointed out, a number of people have asked him why more isn’t being done to commemorate the Riot/Rebellion. The reason why is that Detroiters have been living with that tragic event ever since 1967. It has been hanging over us like a curse for 40 damned years.

Let it go,” said Kilpatrick, and I couldn’t agree more. Although we should never forget our history (those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it, etc.), and we should be sure to absorb history’s lessons, there does come a time when continually looking over your shoulder will manufacture an evil determined to drag you down that would never have even been dreamed into existence had your focus been forward instead of backward.

On Aug. 4, neighborhoods throughout Detroit will be doing everything from marching to cleaning up to enjoying live entertainment to receiving important information from a ton of vendors that will be offering everything from tips on how to avoid property tax foreclosure to blood pressure and diabetes screenings. The reason why the event is not taking place in any central location is because it is all of Detroit that needs to ARISE, not just one corner or the other.

Make no mistake, this will be a mammoth task that will only become more challenging in the coming months and years. But handled correctly – and I have complete faith and belief that it will – this is something that could bring Detroiters together like nothing else. This is huge, and this is special. I know how cynical we as Detroiters can get because we have seen so many so-called rescue efforts come and go, leaving Detroit by the side of the ditch waiting for yet another set of broken promises to mend themselves and become true. I know it’s hard to keep trying to believe.

But if we can make ourselves believe just one more time, I honestly believe this may be the time where that belief pays off.



~ by Keith A. Owens on July 19, 2007.

4 Responses to “ARISE Detroit, ’cause the 1967 Detroit Riot is history”

  1. Arise is a beacon ,it can change the model;as Dr Boggs over years has profess we need a bottom up revolution count me in

  2. Hey Tootsie!

    I agree completely that ARISE is a beacon that really does fall in line with Dr. Boggs’ philosophy. This thing really has the potential to make a hell of a difference.

  3. yep totally

  4. yep totally that was a very scary thing for those people that were survivors.

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