Much more obviously needs to be said regarding the brutally sustained and relentlessly rapacious corporate, racist, and physical/spiritual/ideological assault on my hometown of Detroit that this article alludes to--and will be very soon by myself and others. However in the meantime--if you haven't already--please read the following prophetic and truly profound books for the kind of crystalline clarity and essential depth of knowledge that will continue to be desperately needed as we fiercely struggle to save ourselves and all that we love and cherish from the absolutely ruthless and deadly forces of Capital and Plutocracy that are destroying this society and the rest of the world right before our very eyes...and pass the word...Our very lives depend upon it...
THE ORIGINS OF THE URBAN CRISIS: RACE AND INEQUALITY IN POSTWAR DETROIT
by Thomas J. Sugrue. Princeton University Press, 1996
THE SHOCK DOCTRINE: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
by Naomi Klein. Metropolitan Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2007
DETROIT: I DO MIND DYING A Study in Urban Revolution
by Dan Georgakas and Martin Surkin. South End Press, 1975. Updated second edition, 1998
FLAT BROKE IN THE FREE MARKET: How Globalization Fleeced Working People
by Jon Jeter. W.W. Norton, 2009
PLANET OF SLUMS. by Mike Davis. Verso, 2007
DEMOCRACY, INC.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. by Sheldon S. Wolin. Princeton University Press, 2008
March 20, 2013
City Arts: New York's Review of Culture
The collective spirit of financially beleaguered Detroiters mirrors a declaration from Celie in The Color Purple: “I’m poor, black, my situation is ugly, but God, I’m still here.” While the people stay put in Motown, will the city’s art museum survive a fiscal meltdown or be dismantled?
In response to ongoing deficits and long-term debt, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has used an unpopular state law to appoint an Emergency Manager [EM] to right the ship in Motown. The EM supplants Detroit’s elected officials, including the mayor and city council, and can renegotiate union contracts, eliminate departments, declare a municipal bankruptcy and sell city-owned assets.
Assets? The Detroit Institute of Arts, one of the nation’s finest urban museums and a most beloved gem for Detroiters, could be put into play. People are concerned that the museum’s coveted collection could fall prey to art vultures to lower the city’s deficit. With more than a billion dollars in city-owned artwork that includes Van Gogh, Monet and Cézanne, speculation is brewing about whether the art would be sold, or pillaged as some think, to help meet Detroit’s deficit. Clarity on the art’s fate is hard to find.
“Anything of value will be looted. Detroiters will have nothing left,” is the view of longtime Detroit artist/activist Ifoma. “New Orleans had a natural disaster and got help. We’re having a disaster by neglect.”
Ifoma may have a point. When New York City was on the brink of financial ruin in 1975, then President Gerald Ford approved a $2.3 billion federal loan during a national recession. That same loan would total around $10 billion today. Detroit allegedly has a $327-million accumulated deficit and $14.1 billion in long-term bond debt, but there is no talk of a lifeline from Washington.
Detroit’s economic demise has registered on the radar of a street artist who has taken credit for a controversial sign reading “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” installed at the defunct Packard Automotive Plant in the city. Translated from German, the “Work Will Set You Free” was posted over entryways of concentration camps. The activist artist, using the pseudonym Penny Gaff, issued an explanation on Facebook.
“ARBEIT MACHT FREI was cruelly placed at the entrances of the labor camps in irony, with the knowledge that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope, only death,” Penny Gaff posted. “We whore our lives away day after day for corporations and the empty promises of the powers that be. We have become wage slaves, with no alternative, essentially reinstating forced labor.”
It was Detroit’s labor that wildly enriched some of the 20th Century’s wealthy manufacturing barons who donated artwork to the city’s main museum. Manufacturing has significantly dwindled and now the art may follow the painful exodus along with the sanctity of the people’s vote and their hope for self-determination.
Emma Lockridge is a freelance writer based in Detroit. She enjoys street art and visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts.