Chaos or Community: Detroit

What’s up fam,

This has been a sobering week for Detroit and while I can’t quite make sense of it all, I know I need to write and revisit my thoughts later. So please, bear with me and indulge my stream of consciousness.

For those that don’t know, the city of Detroit has been ransacked by a wave of violence in the past couple of weeks involving the unrelated deaths of two children and a cop. Brian Huff, a cop, was shot dead when he and other police officers were called out to investigate shots fired from a vacant house. When the cops entered the home, the people inside the home opened fire, wounding four cops and killing Huff. Huff, 45 is survived by his wife and 10-year old son. Here is where we stand thus far according to what is being reported in the press regarding the children. Chauncey Owens, a 34 year old male shot and killed 17-year old Jerean Blake.
Witnesses said Owens had a verbal confrontation with Blake and then left for several minutes. Owens allegedly returned    with a gun and shot Blake.

Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed by a police bullet fired when a raiding crew stormed her home on Lillibridge looking for Owens. The child was sleeping on a living room sofa when police used a flash-bang grenade to create a diversion as they rushed through the front door.

There are disputed accounts of exactly how Aiyana died but the TV Show “First 48” was taping the Detroit Police Department’s (DPD) arrest of Owens and turned over the tapes to the Michigan State Police. No matter how you look at this situation, tragedy abounds.

People like Owens are boys trapped in men’s bodies, unable to control their temper and willing to kill a kid because he looked at him the wrong way. Fast forward, you have a cop who is claiming that Aiyana’s grandmother grabbed his gun and the gun discharged, killing Aiyana.

You know what I am tired of hearing? It is this idea that everybody in Detroit killed Aiyana due creating a culture of violence. While that may be true to a certain extent and sure sounds poetic, it speaks to a desire to blame everybody and nobody at the same time. Owens was clearly wrong for shooting and killing Blake over a wrong look. The police failed in either one of two areas; lack of adequate training or excessive force. Wayne Bennett from Detroit Uncovered claims that the Special Response Team should have received daily training but the Chief of Police concluded that monthly training would be adequate. Answers to these questions will come out in a court of law but we have to help the police do their job (e.g. like reporting Owens) as much as the police should help us build our communities.

However, we as a community must not be afraid to point fingers and demand specific accountability. Blaming the death of Blake and Aiyana solely on Detroit’s poor economy is the type of crap that perpetuates senseless violence. I want everyone to have good paying but let’s be clear; Owens shooting had NOTHING to do with money.

What is crazier is that budget cuts are forcing cities like Detroit to lay off cops, go figure. I don’t advocate violence but I feel like we need a new school Black Panther Party that focuses on protecting our communities from monsters like Owens. Programming, broadly defined, cannot adequately fill the gap left by poor schools and even worse job prospects, nor should we want that to be the case.

And let me speak directly to my 25-45 super savvy educated cohorts, politics won’t cut it either. I, like many others have thought about being the Mayor of Detroit one day. Let me make myself very clear. My fear is that the vast majority of us don’t get it. By don’t get it, I mean we don’t get the gravity of the sacrifice that it will take to truly change Detroit.

Fiddle me this. What if all of us politically savvy, educated young folk chose to forego ego and focus on rebuilding our communities and building businesses within the city instead of the “crabs in a barrel” world of political consulting and/or politics? To be sure, I don’t discount the importance of politics and political leadership but influencing politics can be just as much, if not more important than being in politics. My fear is that too much of the current generation of young leaders have a quest to achieve personal political success without appreciating the full gravity that holding office entails. To put it another way, if Detroit’s perils have NEVER moved you to tears, you don’t get it. Not on some sobbing at watching the news every night but if you never took the time to understand and imbibe the pain of the people, don’t talk to me about running for ANY office.

We are truly living in perilous times so don’t just pray…act.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.


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2 responses to “Chaos or Community: Detroit”

  1. Ellen Gilchrist says :

    Brandon, I agree. Rachel Maddow gave a great speech at Smith College last Sunday where she said “Personal triumphs are overrated.” and “When given the choice between fame and glory, take glory. Glory has a way of sneaking up on fame and stealing it’s lunch money later anyway.” Both statements speak to your call for people to be bigger than themselves, something we could all stand to do a bit more.

  2. Willie Stylez says :

    I have GOT TO admit… I’m a former resident of Detroit, I left because I did weep for my city and I left my city BECAUSE I was tired of shedding tear, while trying to help rebuild the city! Do I feel its a lost cause? NEVER! Its just a HARD fight I decided to fight from the outside! I still work in the city, have a business that employs the efforts and skills of city residents, and I still try to spread knowledge & empowerment to my brothers still there! Am I wrong for leaving, did I give up, maybe, maybe not, that just depends on how you look at it! I sometimes question it myself, but at this point in my life, I am comfortable with the decisions I have made for me & my family!

    But I digress! This fight, in my opinion, is BIGGER than you & I! It takes a full scale & dedicated effort from individuals, the community (ppl, police, businesses, etc) AND politicians! Everyone has to do their part, making a conscience & collective effort to take the city back to its glory! That is why its so easy for folks to give up! Because at election time, politicians are scrambling to “clean things up” & “make changes” but once they’re in office you never hear from them again! When First 48 is taping, the Obama’s are in town or when job cuts come the police are posted on every corner, busting down doors & kickin ass in the streets! But when the Obama’s leave, the cameras stop rolling & everything’s cool in DPD payroll, you can’t get a cop to drive down your street! When 2 or 3 kids getting killed makes the news, or its Angels Night, then the community is ready to pitch in! But any other day if you need someone to report what they saw when your loft was robbed, or call the police when they see a car being stripped in broad daylight, then the community scatters like roaches & there is noone in sight!

    Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some GOOD politicians, there are some REALLY GOOD cops & there are some folks in the community that just DON’T SLEEP until they have done their part to uplift the neighborhood each day! But COLLECTIVELY and a visual majority are stereotypically uninvolved! So essentially I’m saying that this city is not HOPELESS! It just needs an insurgence of more people who care AND contribute EVERYDAY! Not just when a situation is on the news or Dateline! One day, I pray, Detroit will see that insurgence and that full faith effort from ALL its people and then we will see a GREAT city reborn!

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