I am 6 years old. I look through the big green curtains in the front room and see tanks going down my street with men in green clothes and helmets. It is 1967 - the TV calls it 'the riots.' They say that people are killing each other in the streets. All of the schools are closed. I don't know who is killing who. Some of the adults talk about turning over busloads of them. My mom doesn't let us go out. She tells me to get away from the windows.
I am 8 years old. I am standing at the corner with all of the neighborhood kids and their friends. Everyone comes to this corner because it is the last white street in the neighborhood. On the other side is the place they call the 'township.' The township is a scary place. The older kids tell us - if you are white, you'd better not go or you will get beat up. We are watching the older kids throw rocks, bottles and cans at a crowd of kids with black faces on the other side of the street. They are throwing rocks and cans back at us. I am hiding behind the big christmas tree on the corner. Everyone is screaming. The black and white faces are angry and scary. I don't feel good about this. I don't belong - but I stay and watch.
I wrote the above paragraphs as a young adult, it is an excerpt from an essay I wrote while remembering my strong memories of the hatred and fear I observed during my youth. The 60's and 70's were an infamous time of strife and tension in the Detroit area. The white news media called it the riots. While doing research for this webdocumentary, I read much of the history as to what led up to these times. One of the pieces I watched was Grace Lee Boggs prompting Bill Moyers, in an interview, to refer to it as the 'Rebellion, a protest by the people against injustice. Red-lining in neighborhoods had caused a greater divide between blacks and whites in Detroit after World War II. The first set of 'riots' or 'rebellion,' occurred in the 40's. This second occurrence began on a hot July night in 1967 which resulted in 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. The violence spilled into the communities, neighborhoods, and automotive plants over the next 8 years. During those times, music clubs were closed in Detroit and Uncle Jessie and his family opened their home on 29th street to black and whites alike to continue their friendships and comeraderie while the outside world was in turmoil.
The Bill Moyer and Grace Lee Boggs interview can be found at this link:
Grace Lee Boggs on the Detroit Rebellion
Other links on the subject can be found at these links:
Wikipedia on Detroit 1967 Riots
Detroit - blood that never dried
Detroit Revolution or Riot Discussion
Times 2012 Detroit Article