Detroit Journalism Cooperative

To focus on community life and the city’s future after bankruptcy, five nonprofit media outlets have formed The Detroit Journalism Cooperative. The DJC includes Michigan Radio, Bridge Magazine, Detroit Public Television, WDET, and New Michigan Media -- a partnership of ethnic and minority newspapers.

To see all the stories produced for the DJC, go here.

Scroll below to see DJC stories from Michigan Radio and other selected stories from our partners.

By Bill McGraw is a reporter for Bridge Magazine, a Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner

Though their sprawling region had long wrestled with segregation, and racial violence has dominated national headlines this summer, about half of all metro Detroit residents say local race relations today are generally good, according to an exclusive new poll by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Ali Lapetina / Detroit Journalism Cooperative

Attitudes about race have been improving in southeast Michigan, but there are still wide gaps on some issues between white people and black people. Those are some of the findings in a new survey commissioned by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. 

The survey included people from mostly black communities, mixed communities, and mostly white communities in the Detroit metropolitan area.

When asked to rank the importance of race relations, black and white people ranked that issue below issues such as education and crime.

Max Nussenbaum is the CEO of Castle, a company looking to make property management simpler and more efficient
Courtesy of Generation Startup

What's the barrier between you and the life you truly want to lead?

That's one of the questions Cheryl Miller Houser explores as co-director of the new documentary film Generation Startup.

It follows some young entrepreneurs as they build startups in Detroit. They try, stumble, learn, and try again.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

 A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows the majority of Americans think race relations are getting worse. Concern about race relations spiked shortly after the reports of white police officers killing black men. Since the poll, two black men have targeted and killed police.

The 12th Street Riot began in the early hours of July 23, 1967 following a police raid on an unlicensed after-hours bar on the corner of 12th and Clairmount.
Public Domain

In the summer of 1967, the streets of Detroit shook with violence.

Civil unrest over lack of housing for blacks and open animosity with the mostly white police department boiled over in the early morning hours of July 23.

What began with a police raid on an unlicensed after-hours club grew into rioting and looting that devastated parts of the city and lasted for days.

Then-governor George Romney called in the National Guard, and President Lyndon Johnson sent in paratroopers to help quell the violence. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The first thing you notice about the street in front of Walter Hicks' home is it's peaceful.  There are lots of trees, chirping birds, and most of the lawns are mowed.  

But then you see that the houses on either side of Hicks' home are boarded up. And there are lots of boarded up homes all down the street. 

That doesn't seem to put even a little dent in his pride of ownership.

Allen Academy is unimstakably a former Catholic church.
Allen Academy / via Facebook

How do you decide if a so-called “failing” school should shut down, and is there a right way to do it?

Three Detroit charter schools shut their doors forever at the end of this school year.

One of them, Allen Academy, was one of the city’s very first charters. And its closure leaves a wake of upheaval.

"The kids are going to be better off"

The ornate, red-brick complex on Detroit’s west side is unmistakably an old Catholic church.

The Saint Theresa of Avila parish closed in the 1980s. Since 1999, it’s been Allen Academy.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Racial tensions are growing as the perceptions and evidence of racial inequality are growing.

Many of Detroit's residents see billionaires buying up downtown buildings where new retailers open shop, selling items most of Detroit's impoverished citizens cannot afford. There's a marked divide between that prosperity in downtown and the poverty in the neighborhoods.

That divide is stark in the Cass Corridor. New residents, often white, are moving in. Rents are rising. New restaurants and boutique shops are popping up. The old residents, often black, are being pushed out.

Detroit's new Red Wings arena under construction.
Rick Briggs / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Detroiters may get to choose between two, competing ballot proposals in November.

Both lay out a process for negotiating community benefits agreements with developers of large, publicly-subsidized projects.

Community benefits can range from job opportunities to health and safety protections. Such agreements are sometimes touted as a way to make sure neighborhood residents see gains from big development in their midst.

A picture of Viola Liuzzo, in the park that bears her name.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit is launching a two-year investment campaign in some neighborhood parks, starting with a park named for a murdered civil rights activist.

Viola Liuzzo was the Detroit activist and mother killed by Ku Klux Klan members near Selma, Alabama in 1965.

The northwest Detroit park that that honors her was dedicated in 1982, but had fallen into disrepair.

Now, it stands to get almost $1 million in upgrades, from new playscapes and picnic shelters to some functional landscaping.

The Atlantic posted a piece on July 8th which gets to the heart of what Michigan Radio and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative have been reporting on this year: Have things changed since the Kerner Commission's report of 1968 was published?

That presidential commission report outlined the grievances of black America and remedies to ease racial tensions.

The Atlantic explores the issue and contrasts it with the current presidential election year.

 A mural by Louis Delsarte at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site.
Flickr user yooperann/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

This week, violence and race have hit us in a way many of us have never seen.

Violence and race, though, are not new. The Detroit Journalism Cooperative has been looking at the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Some of the core issues then are some of the issues we're still struggling with today.

You've got to understand the history to really understand what's happened this week.

Flickr user TS Elliott/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Race is very difficult for people to talk about.

Many white people want to believe we’re in a post-racial society. After all, we have an African-American president.

Many black people note the inequalities that exist, the segregation that exists.

How can Americans begin to have a real discussion about race when we’ve been comfortable in our own beliefs about that subject for so long?

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

A recent legislative overhaul to Detroit Public Schools is being challenged in court.

Governor Snyder signed bills that split the old school district in two last month, avoiding a potential bankruptcy.

But members of Detroit’s elected school board say there are a number of problems with those bills.

Thomas Bleakley, the board’s attorney, says one problem is the laws are written so that they only apply to Detroit — and the state constitution is clear about the process for passing “local acts.”

DPS EM Steven Rhodes, center, takes notes at a meeting with Detroit's elected school board.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ board of education met for the final time ever on Thursday.

The board has very little to do now as part of the "old,” debt-ridden DPS.

It will be replaced by a “new” district, run by a “transition manager”—currently the district’s last emergency manager, Judge Steven Rhodes.

Gov. Snyder just signed bills setting up this bankruptcy-style restructuring just last week.

Detroit is commonly and correctly thought to be doing better than it has been in a long time. There’s a sense of hope again. The streetlights are back, and the bankruptcy’s over.

 There are still more problems than solutions.

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Three Detroit charter schools are closing and two are merging this year, adding to the school turnover and churn families in that city are seeing.

One of the larger charters, Allen Academy, is being shut down because of poor academic performance.

“The test scores over the last several years, they’ve been outperformed by the resident district, Detroit Public Schools,” says Ron Rizzo, director of the Charter Schools Office at Ferris State University, which authorized Allen Academy.

The latest re-invention of public schools in Detroit is underway with the state trying yet again to overhaul the district facing huge financial and academic difficulties.

But it’s still too early to declare victory.

This new plan out of Lansing is without the support of legislative Democrats, the Detroit delegation and Mayor Mike Duggan. But it does return the Detroit public schools back to the control of a locally elected school board. This is coming after many state appointed emergency managers over seven years have tried but failed to turn around the district.

DPS website

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a $617 million bailout of the Detroit Public Schools – which he says represents a fresh start for the financially and academically struggling district.

The plan creates a new debt-free Detroit school district, which will focus on educating the district’s 46,000 students while the old district pays down the old debt. 

The bills signed by the governor also return control of the district to a locally elected school board following seven years of state control that saw it sink deeper into debt.

Mendez currently works with Minute Men Staffing Services, a staffing agency located in Southwest Detroit. She says the work environment treated her well, but she felt that as a woman she didn’t have as many advantages as a man would.
DJC

“Let’s go take my daddy out of that place. I miss him why is he there?”

These were the words of a three-year-old Dana whose father had just been detained to be deported.

The mother, Mireya, says the little girl cried every night, saying she wanted her father home and was confused as to why he was in there in the first place, demanding that he is brought home to her. The mother says on one visit to the detention facility, the daughter asked her to break the glass, unbeknown to the child that she would probably never see her father free any time soon.

A man begs for money from a patron leaving one of Midtown’s critically acclaimed restaurants, where a roasted mushroom salad is $14.
Bill McGraw / Bridge Magazine

While Detroit has seen positive changes in the police department and the inclusion of African Americans in civic life since 1967, the decline of manufacturing and flight of people over the past five decades have contributed to significantly higher levels of unemployment and impoverished residents in the city. Reynolds Farley, a retired University of Michigan sociologist, notes that in 1950, Detroit had the nation’s “most prosperous black population.”

Reporter's Notebook

I watched an old black man cry today.

Sitting at a picnic table in Chandler Park, by census estimates the poorest area of the city of Detroit, John Henry Irelang talked about poverty in his neighborhood. But, empathy for his neighbors was not the only reason he cried.

He cried because of lost opportunity.

“I put in 89 days,” he said. That’s one day short from transitioning from a temporary worker to a full time worker. “I was paid $5 an hour while the guy working next to me doing the same job was making $11.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Politicians and media reports indicate Detroit is in the middle of an economic resurgence. That’s true for the central business districts. That’s not the case for many residents in the poorest neighborhoods.

“Some people just don’t have the hope. And, especially living in an environment like this, it’s kind of hard. It’s kind of hard. It’s very stressful,” said Alita Burton.

Metro Detroit ranked third nationally in momentum of walkable urban development in a recent study.
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Residents of the metro Detroit area might be surprised to learn that, in a recent study, their region ranked third on the list of areas making the biggest strides toward increasing walkability. They wouldn't be the only ones. 

"We were surprised, too," said Michael Rodriguez, a transit planner who co-authored "Foot Traffic Ahead," a study published by the George Washington University School of Business.

The Detroit Police Department has had a frequently troubled past, particularly in regard to the way it treated African-Americans. 

Bridge Magazine​'s Bill McGraw is one of the reporters working with the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. His story in Bridge is an extensive look at Detroit's police department and its chief

According to Joshua Akers, nearly 20% of all land parcels in Detroit are owned by speculators
flickr user Berndt Rostad / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July 2013, claiming the top spot as the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the United States. The filing closed in December 2014, but its story is far from over. 

There's a new book about the bankruptcy, Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back.

According to author Nathan Bomey​, "Detroit's bankruptcy was the first time in which the city finally put the people of Detroit before the creditors of Detroit."

St. Louis Public Radio

  

More in this series from Michigan Radio and its Detroit Journalism Cooperative partners can be found at www.detroitjournalism.org

The news has been full of stories in recent years about police killing unarmed African-Americans. Those reports have been disturbing.

Brian Widdis / Bridge

Bill McGraw reports for Bridge, a Michigan Radio partner in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The Black Lives Matter movement was peaking a year ago, when protesters took to the streets of Baltimore over the death of a black man in police custody. On the same day, an angry crowd gathered on Evergreen Road on Detroit’s west side.

The situation on Evergreen quickly grew tense. An agent from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who was on a task force with Detroit police had shot and killed a 20-­year-old black Detroiter, Terrance Kellom, a parole absconder who was wanted for armed robbery.

“Huge crowd. We were surrounded,” Assistant Chief Steven Dolunt recalled in late March. “They were calling for the chief. I called him. I said, ‘You need to get here right away. Now.’’’

The chief of police is James Craig. The crowd knew him because in nearly three years at the top of the Detroit Police Department, he has become such a familiar figure on city streets and media outlets that some people, both friends and foes, call him “Hollywood.”

Craig’s style is low­-key and controlled, more Woodward Avenue than Sunset Strip, but he doesn’t mind the nickname. He says his visibility is part of a deliberate strategy to communicate with Detroiters.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

With all the attention paid to water issues in Michigan thanks to the Flint water crisis, the Detroit News highlighted another problem in the city of Detroit: water shutoffs.

Joel Kurth’s article begins with the following:

Photo courtesy of the Reuther Library

by Bill McGraw, Bridge Magazine

Was it a riot or a rebellion?

Or both?

Nearly five decades after the last fire was extinguished, the discussion continues over what to call the events in Detroit during July 1967.

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