Final Note & Poems by Phillip Levine

Now that you have explored our posts and a part of the rich history of Detroit, we leave you with poems from Detroit native and 2011 Congress Poet Laureate Phillip Levine. Levine is known for his subject matter on Detroit and it’s social, economic, and political elements. Enjoy.

Image

Drum

In the early morning before the shop
opens, men standing out in the yard
on pine planks over the umber mud.
The oil drum, squat, brooding, brimmed
with metal scraps, three-armed crosses,
silver shavings whitened with milky oil,
drill bits bitten off. The light diamonds
last night's rain; inside a buzzer purrs.
The overhead door stammers upward
to reveal the scene of our day.
                              We sit
for lunch on crates before the open door.
Bobeck, the boss's nephew, squats to hug
the overflowing drum, gasps and lifts. Rain
comes down in sheets staining his gun-metal
covert suit. A stake truck sloshes off
as the sun returns through a low sky.
By four the office help has driven off. We
sweep, wash up, punch out, collect outside
for a final smoke. The great door crashes
down at last.
            In the darkness the scents
of mint, apples, asters. In the darkness
this could be a Carthaginian outpost sent
to guard the waters of the West, those mounds
could be elephants at rest, the acrid half light
the haze of stars striking armor if stars were out.
On the galvanized tin roof the tunes of sudden rain.
The slow light of Friday morning in Michigan,
the one we waited for, shows seven hills
of scraped earth topped with crab grass,
weeds, a black oil drum empty, glistening
at the exact center of the modern world. 
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Coleman Young

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Coleman Young, Detroit’s mayor from 1918-1997, is one of the city’s most prominent figures. Some were very fond of Young, while others were not. During his time as mayor, he was blamed for police corruption and failure to resolve racial tensions. Coleman’s friend, as part of the Detroit Police Department, was indicted for stealing over 2 million dollars in funds from undercover police programs.  By the end of his time as mayor, unemployment rate reached 11%. Of course, though, Coleman was liked by many, and his success as a mayor is measured differently from person to person.

Posted in The Fall | Leave a comment

Obama and the Auto Bailout

In 2008 the American economy faced one of the worst downturns in our history. Unemployment numbers increased, and manufacturing plants like the ones in Detroit were near a state of bankruptcy. The federal government came in and supported Chrysler and GM in their rebuilding and enabled them to cut costs while retaining a steady flow of credit. If it wasn’t for the Obama Administration the Motor City would have been much worse off. Numerous amount of jobs would have been lost as factories would be forced to close. Today, companies such as Chrysler have capitalized on the second chance provided to them and have seen great successes through advertising campaigns, specifically its Imported From Detroit campaign. Check out its two large ads below:

Posted in The Fall, The Rebuild | Leave a comment

Racial Strikes in the Auto Industry

There were three strikes in the 1940’s that were directly related to the promotion of African Americans, and desegregation of plants in the Detroit area. The Packard Motor Company strike, which only employed African Americans as janitors or for foundry, occurred after some were promoted into jobs that only whites held. Tensions were high, violence broke out, and employees walked out. Consequently, the people promoted were quickly demoted. Another strike broke out after government pressure caused the General Motor plants to desegregate once again.  Three African American women were promoted and white female workers were furious, and attempted to have others join them as they walked out. The three African American women were demoted when the company gave in to strikers. Three months later three African American men were promoted to the line and 25,000 workers went on strike. However, after three days GM and the government negotiated with strikers after 30 strike agitators were suspended. With the threat of suspension, strikers returned to work, but discrimination within the plants did not.

Below is a documentary on the League of Revolutionary Black Workers: an organization that began in the auto industry of Detroit.

Posted in The Fall, The Rise | Leave a comment

The Fist

The legendary statue erected for Joe Louis in Detroit has sparked much controversy over the years. When it was originally built many Detroit Citizens didn’t like how it only focused on his boxing career (SEE HERE). Many did not understand the deeper implication of The Fist, until further analysis is conducted. Joe Louis was a boxer who held the heavy weight champion belt longer than any other boxer (1937-1950). His struggle to the top coincided with his acceptance by both white and black communities. He fought racism by fighting and winning in the ring. The statue symbolically points southward to represent his struggle for civil right against the South. The monument “was sculpted by the late artist Robert Graham for the City of Detroit, paid for by a $350,000 commission from Sports Illustrated magazine.” and remains one of the cities most ubiquitous images. It is used in advertising and marketing to symbolize the strength of the city of Detroit.

Read more from my source here..
Abbey-Lambertz, Kate. “The Huffington Post.”Huffington Post. (2012): n. page. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/16/monument-to-joe-louis-fist-sculpture-25-years_n_1275709.html&gt;.

Posted in The Rise | Leave a comment

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings became an official NHL Hockey team in 1926. They are the third most awarded hockey franchise in history, and have won 11 Stanley Cups. From 1933-66 the Red Wings only missed 4 playoffs, followed by a “dead” streak from 1962-87. The team’s standing picked up after ’87 and the team has become one of the most popular hockey franchises. After playing 40 years in the Olympia Stadium, the Red Wing home games have been played in the Joe Lewis Arena since the 79-80 season. The Red Wings are also known for their traditions. One of the most disputed ones in the throwing of an Octopus onto the ice by Al Sobatka during playoff games for good luck. The NHL has tried to ban the tradition. Another home-town tradition is when they play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” until it is muted during the line “born and raised in South Detroit”, and resumed. The song is played usually during the last couple minutes of home winning games.

Here’s a video of Detroit fans singing “Don’t Stop Believin'”:

Posted in The Fall, The Rebuild, The Rise | Leave a comment

the White Stripes

As leaders of the garage rock revival, the White Stripes, consisting of Meg and Jack White, gained major popularity after their third album called Elephant in 2003. Elephant won the duo their first Grammy and established them as a powerful rock force. The band was formed by the Detroit natives, and gained popularity in the region before moving to a major record label. They cite blues and folk artists as their inspiration and a lot of the Detroit blues and Detroit garage and punk rock sounds can be heard on their albums. They won another Grammy in 2007 for Icky Thump.

Here are their most acclaimed and awarded videos:

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