Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to an anti-Vietnam war rally at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul on April 27, 1967. Detroit will host the 4th annual MLK Day march and rally on Jan. 15, 2007. (Photo by St. Paul Pioneer Press).
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Event: Detroit Martin Luther King Day Rally & March
Monday, January 15, 2007, Rally at Noon
Central United Methodist Church, Woodward at Adams
March: Beginning at 1:30pm the March Will Commence Through
Contact: Detroit MLK Committee, 5922 Second Ave. Detroit, MI
48202, Telephone: 680-5508
Detroit Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Rally and March Set to Commemorate Federal Holiday With Renewed Push to End War and Racism
This year's annual Detroit MLK Day Rally and March will place a special emphasis on the struggle to end the war in Iraq and the rising tide of racism in the United States. The event, which will be organized for the fourth consecutive year, comes at a time when the majority of people in Detroit and throughout the country are looking for answers to the escalating conflicts overseas and the growing crises inside the country.
The passage of the anti-affirmative action proposal 2 on November 7 has illustrated the continuing scrouge of institutional racism in the state of Michigan. The peace movement must join in solidarity with the civil rights and immigrants rights movements to make a final onslaught against the triple social evils of pre-emptive war, institutional racism and anti-immigrant biogtry.
All throughout the nation the negative impact of the $2 trillion wars in the Middle-East and Afghanistan has hampered the ability of society to produce adequate jobs, economic opportunities, affordable housing, health care and quality education for everyone. At the same time we look with horror at the police murders of Sean Bell in New York, a 92-year-old grandmother in Atlanta and a 16-year-old youth in Detroit. This is taking place in conjunction with anti-immigrant raids by Homeland Security where thousands of people are being disappeared daily. It's time to fight back and build a multi-issued popular movement aimed at creating a better world within our lifetimes.
Highlights of Detroit's commemoration of the federally designated holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday will include: messages from City Councilwoman the Honorable JoAnn Watson, Maureen Taylor, Co-Chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Debbie Johnson, spokesperson for the Detroit Area Network on Reproductive Rights and a keynote address by columnist and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson. Cultural presentations include a performance by the Mosaic Youth Theater, the Ann Arbor Trail Marching Band, essays and art work displayed by Detroit area students and puppets designed by the Matrix Theater.
A "Detroit MLK Spirit of Detroit Award" will be presented to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton for his tireless work aimed at acquiring peace and social justice throughout the world. The invocation for this event will be delivered by Rev. Ed Rowe, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church.
Moreover, this year's Detroit MLK Day Freedom March and Rally will provide a forum for people seeking outlets to express their desire for genuine democracy and peace. People are encouraged to bring their own signs, literature and forms of expression that emphasize the need for a fundamental change in the present war policies implemented by the Bush administration and Congress.
For more information on this year's Detroit MLK Day Rally and March just contact the numbers and web sites listed above. Flyers for this event can be downloaded from the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) site at: http://www.mecawi.org
Forward to January 15
End War & Racism
Detroit MLK Committee
[Published, in edited form, in "The Michigan Citizen"
(Highland Park), January 18th-January 24th, 2004, A8:
UP NORTH: MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., IN GROSSE POINTE
By Paul Lee
Special to The Michigan Citizen
PART I OF II
Hugh Morgan, a reporter for the Associated Press wire service, vividly described the circumstances
behind a familiar, haunting photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It was taken at a news conference that Dr. King, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), held after a speech that was overshadowed by tight-jawed white demonstrators outside of the hall and repeatedly interrupted by brazen hecklers inside of it.
Although the estimated 200-300 picketers that marched
in front of the building were mostly quiet, the placards they brandished read loud and clear: "BEWARE--KING SNAKE,"
"RED SCUM GET OUT OF TOWN," "ANTI-CHRIST MUST GO." The handful of hecklers that made their way inside screamed "Traitor!" and
"I remembered trotting to King's side," recalled Morgan in a 1989 article, "and blurting out something insensitive about what he thought about the protest.
He was sitting bent over in a straight-backed chair and he held his head in his hands, like Rodin's famous sculpture.
"But he was not thinking--he was mourning and he waved me off. 'I can't talk right now,' he said and he returned his head to his hands. I knelt beside him and I noticed how he kept his eyes closed, and how he sighed in a series of short breaths that was more like a sob. Finally, he composed himself and invited the
journalists to ask questions."
"I have never received a reception on this level," the Nobel peace prize laureate said matter-of-factly. It was "the worst heckling I have ever encountered in all
This would have been an unremarkable statement if he
had made it in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 or '56, where his life was regularly threatened during the black bus boycott that catapulted him into international prominence.
Or if he had said it in Albany, Ga., in 1962, Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, St. Augustine, Fla., in 1964, or Selma, Ala., in 1965, where he led campaigns against racial segregation and the denial of the vote to African Americans.
Each of these challenges was met by determined, sometimes lethal white resistance, but, in the strategic logic of nonviolent civil disobedience that he pioneered and perfected in the U. S., this headline-grabbing opposition was used to pressure the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
His reaction would not have been noteworthy if he had said it in June 1966 during his frightening visit to Philadelphia, Miss., a notoriously racist backwater--even by Mississippi standards--which he described as "the meanest town in the country."
He intended his visit to call attention to the murders
of three young civil-rights workers--two white and one
black--that occurred on the first day of the 1964 "Mississippi Summer Project" in which idealistic white college students joined their hard-eyed black counterparts to challenge traditions that declared
black people inferior and expose laws that ensured this status.
Nor would it have been surprising had he said it in August 1966 after a march that he led through the all-white Chicago suburb of Marquette Park was ringed
by a jeering white mob and he was felled by a rock that struck him in the temple. A shaken Dr. King declared that he had "never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I've seen here today."
But the demonstrations and heckling that a somber Dr.
King described didn't occur down south or in the American heartland. It took place "up north," in the neat, affluent, lilywhite suburb of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., a scant 10 minutes northeast of the teeming, increasingly black industrial metropolis of
Of course, this incident, much less Dr. King's reaction to it, is not what people in southeastern Michigan usually recall when they seek an association with the now-iconic figure.
Instead, the image most commonly recalled is fixed in black-and-white photos and faded newsfilm of a smiling Dr. King leading a procession of blacks and whites estimated at 125,000-strong down Woodward Avenue, Detroit's main thoroughfare, in the historic
"Walk For Freedom" on June 23, 1963.
Or they remember sound bites of his address before a mammoth rally at Cobo Hall (now Cobo Conference-Exhibition Center), where he delivered an early version of his "I Have A Dream" speech that he made famous at the March on Washington two months later.
GROSSE POINTES AND GROSS POINTS
Dr. King appeared in Grosse Pointe Farms on March 14, 1968, to address a meeting at Grosse Pointe High School (now Grosse Pointe South High School). He was probably briefed on the community beforehand, but his remarks suggest that, while he intended to be respectful, he felt no compulsion to defer to its more
Grosse Pointe Farms is part of a five-city community that is collectively, and rather grandly, known as the Grosse Pointes, or simply "the Pointes"--in reference
to the peninsula upon which they were settled.
But, to many black Detroiters, another version of "the
points" evoked feelings of disgust and resentment--namely, the infamous "Grosse Pointe Point
System." This was an elaborate screening process used by the local realtors' association to determine the "suitability" of prospective homebuyers.
Under the system, a realtor would find a potential purchaser for a home and a private investigator would compile a report on them. A committee of three brokers would then use the report to assign "points" to the buyer.
Points were given for the extent to which the buyer was
"Americanized" and their "general standing."
This assessment included
"swarthiness of appearance," friends, dress, religion, education and even "use of grammar" and "accent."
If a house were sold to a buyer that did not survive with a favorable point total, the realtor would forfeit all sales commissions to the association.
Though African Americans were conscious of the system, they (along with "Orientals") were not affected by it since they were not even eligible for consideration
--that is, their disqualification was automatic.
Indeed, whites of Eastern European-origin had to be exceptional just to be considered on par with White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS). Of course, the flip side of this ethnic scale meant that Northern Europeans from England, Germany, France and Scandinavia were exempt from being screened.
However, blacks and other "non-Caucasians" were specifically barred from buying homes in the Pointes by restrictive racial covenants.
Though such covenants were also used in other parts of
the Detroit area and throughout the nation, the rising
expectations of the civil-rights movement made any blatantly exclusionary device--no matter how well intentioned--seem like a slap to the dignity of self-respecting black people and an outrage to sympathetic whites.
All of which conspired to keep the Pointes an island onto itself--an isle of white.
POINTES OF LIGHT
Of course, there were also white persons of good will in the Pointes. Significantly, they, unlike the majority of their fellows, were willing to back up their sentiments with good works.
It was a group of such people that invited Dr. King to
bring his message of racial reconciliation and social
justice to their community in November 1967.
"...I received a list of possible 'big name' speakers
that I should try to contact for an appearance in the spring,"
recalled Jude Huetteman, then the program chair of the Grosse Pointe Human Relations Council (GPHRC), in a 1977 "Detroit Free Press" interview.
The council began informally in 1960 as a result of
racial episodes connected to housing in Detroit.
Conscious that it would be unpopular to voice such
concerns in "segregated Grosse Pointe," as the council's official history described the community,
the fledgling group avoided publicity by meeting in
members' homes, where they listened to black and white
speakers and tried to find ways to "encourage integration and open housing."
In June 1963--the same month of the great Detroit freedom march, and perhaps inspired by it--the council took its first public act by walking through the
Pointes in support of open housing. A year later,
the group was formally organized under its first president, Dr. Charles E. Brake.
In March 1964, the council had 79 members. As movements for social justice built momentum nationwide to bring about changes in all sectors of society, the membership of the council more than quadrupled to 334 in May 1965. In March 1969, a year after Dr. King's appearance, the membership stood at 500.
The council sponsored lectures, plays, films, newsletters, ad campaigns and vote drives to "further its aim of an enlightened society," in the words of its history.
ONLY THE BEGINNING
However, in the wake of the catastrophic Detroit disorders of July 1967--which the media and most whites referred to as a "riot" and many black people called a "rebellion"--the council felt a need to do something MORE.
Of the famous names on Hutteman's list, none was better known than Dr. King--which is why she was so surprised when she received his acceptance letter on Dec. 8. "Little did I know then that the next few months would be the most hectic, fear-filled, nerve-shattering, sad and important weeks of my life,"
she later wrote.
Dr. King apparently timed his visit to coincide with
his two-day participation in the Lenten services at Detroit's Central Methodist Church, located at the mouth of Grand Circus Park, on March 14 and 15, 1968.
For at least a decade, he had addressed this service almost annually after establishing a warm rapport with the church's longtime pastor, the Rev. Dr. Henry Hitt Crane.
(Indeed, after Dr. Crane retired in June 1958, he shocked many of his parishioners by urging them to petition Dr. King to replace him. "Dr. King is the greatest Christian alive," he told "The Detroit News" in 1965. Dr. King respectfully declined because of his commitment to the southern civil-rights struggle.)
"The first job was to rent a place large enough to accommodate the crowd we hoped to have," Huetteman recalled. The high school "Gymnatorium," as it was called, was considered ideal. Under normal conditions, this would have been a formality, but Huetteman soon discovered, with respect to bringing Dr. King to the Pointes, nothing was normal.
Despite a Detroit newspaper strike, publicity was no
problem. "When it was announced that Dr. King was going to come to speak ... it was THE topic of conversation," remembered Bill Pace, then a Grosse Pointe High School junior, in a 1990 Detroit public television documentary on the event.
"Everybody had an opinion."
But first the GPHRC had to secure the venue. The debate in the school board spread over two months and was punctuated by "shouting exhibitions," as Huetteman
described them, which were a portent of things to come
at the event.
"Our Human Relations Council president," Dr. Harry C.
Meserve, "pointed out that every man has a right to speak," Huettman wrote, "and that the council was a group of local people, not some outside agitators imported to stir up the community."
HIGH COST OF FREE SPEECH
At its meetings on Dec. 18, 1967 and Jan. 8, 1968, the
board ruled in the GPHRC's favor, but two members, Arnold Fuchs and Calvin J. Sandberg, insisted on a
Since the Farms police were greatly concerned about
the possibility of violence occurring at the event,
the GPHRC was required to obtain a one million dollar insurance policy to avoid a higher premium for taxpayers if school property was damaged.
In a tense, standing-room-only board meeting on March
11 at Maire School, Fuchs once again made a motion to
rescind the rental permit, but it was defeated five to two. (Three of the five board members, including the president, also belonged to the GPHRC.)
Fuchs then demanded that the rental requirements be
reiterated, which revealed that the insurance policy purchased by the GPHRC would only protect the board "if a member of the community was hurt due to negligence on the part" of the GPHRC, reported "The Grosse Pointe News."
Ray MacArthur, the director of business and finance,
explained that it had been belatedly discovered that
the coverage originally discussed was not available from the insurance carrier. He added that, even if it had been, the price would have been prohibitive.
The board's attorney, Thomas E. Coulter, pointed out that the school system's policy would cover any property damage after the first $500. The GPHRC, he said, had indicated that it had sufficient funds to cover this initial amount.
(However, in a subsequent statement directed to "All
Grosse Pointe Residents," the GPHRC claimed, "Grosse Pointe taxpayers will be forced to pay for additional police protection which will be required outside the High School building.")
Undaunted, Fuchs then asked what school activities had
been postponed because of Dr. King's visit. None, he was advised, except for some adult education classes that wished to attend the talk.
NEVER SAY 'SPEAK'
In a last-ditch effort to scuttle the program, the matter of police protection was raised. In a letter read at the meeting, city manager Andrew Bremer indicated that, since the Farms police had to hire extra officers for the event, the school board should absorb the cost.
Attorney Coulter replied that the GPHRC had the funds
to pay for extra protection, but board member Sandberg
pressed him for a precise fee. Coulter was unable to
offer an exact amount, but suggested that it could run
from $600 to $1,200. He promised to obtain a letter from the GPHRC verifying its payment for extra police
Though Fuchs was not persuaded, he had run out of ammunition.
As it turned out, the authorities DID have good reason
to worry about the disruptive tactics of outside agitators,
but not by "black militants" or "rioters."
Donald Lobsinger and his Detroit-based, ultra right-wing group, Breakthrough, would proudly fill the
END OF PART I
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