|But what does this meme mean? Simply put: 82 percent black Detroit looks like Obama's city|
The Detroit City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution calling for a federal investigation to see whether civil rights charges are warranted against George Zimmerman, who was acquitted July 13 of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
The resolution, sponsored by Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, sparked a discussion over the need for city leaders and others to focus more on violence in Detroit.
“We need to have that same level of outrage with respect to the black-on-black crime that takes place in our community,” Councilman Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said. “How many people were shot — maybe even shot and killed this past weekend in the city — mostly likely by folks who look just like them?”
Watson said there are many events held regularly to address violence in Detroit. “Because the so-called major media does not cover all of the expressions does not mean it does not happen,” she said. “So that’s not correct.”
The city’s African-American Chamber of Commerce also opposes the bill, calling it unconstitutional, but has said it wouldn’t file a lawsuit.
|Conservatives who point and laugh at the bankruptcy do so without understanding why the punch line is so funny...|
The Detroit Institute of Arts, the nation's fifth-largest art museum, is crumbling because of financial problems. Strong fences have been built around much of its base because of the imminent risk that sections of the outer walls will fall away from the building's corroded steel frame. Employees place sponges and mop heads just below gallery windows in the museum during snowstorms to catch the condensation dribbling down the single panes of thin glass.
A block away, the same city government that owns the art museum has just finished building the nation's largest museum of black history and culture. The double-paned glass dome over the rotunda at the new Museum of African-American History is specially designed to admit light while keeping the building at a steady temperature and humidity. The museum's outside doors are bronze, and many of the inside doors are mahogany. The towering decorative masks over the main entrances are partly plated with 14-carat gold.
The visible contrast between the museums partly reflects the difficulty of raising money to maintain old cultural institutions and the relative ease of fund-raising for new buildings. But behind the contrast also lies a remarkable example of how race, class, labor unions and big-city politics can affect cultural institutions. These issues have echoes in cultural battles in other cities, although seldom are the fights as nasty or as public as they have been in Detroit lately.
For the Proletariat, Not the Bourgeoisie
At a tumultuous special session in March, the Detroit City Council ended up siding with the unionized workers and blocking the management transfer. ''I am for the proletariat, I am not for the bourgeoisie,'' declared Kay Everett, the City Council member who held the council's rotating chairmanship during the special session.
Union officials told City Council members that Detroit, the nation's largest city with a black majority, should not transfer control of one of its cultural jewels to a group of mostly white suburban residents. ''The race issue was probably made the key role,'' said Bret A. Ceriotti Sr., the museum's chief union steward, who is white. He also told the council that it would be better to close the museum entirely than give more control to private donors.
But some of the same issues of race and class have helped the black history museum win broad public support. Voters here have approved two bond issues to cover most of the $38.4 million in construction costs.
The ample budget has produced a breathtaking museum, with a core exhibition designed by Ralph Appelbaum, the exhibition expert who also designed the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Like the Holocaust Museum, the black history museum derives its emotional power from photographs, videos and clearly worded explanatory panels.
Yet the black history museum is relatively weak in actual artifacts. Indeed, many of the traditional African masks are on loan from the art museum.
By contrast, the art museum has a remarkable collection of masterpieces, including one of the largest and most famous murals by Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist. But with money in short supply, there are virtually no signs explaining the context or importance of the artworks.
Two years ago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York borrowed Fra Angelico's ''Annunciatory Angel'' from Detroit and sold posters of the painting to commemorate the occasion. The 15th-century Italian Renaissance masterpiece now hangs in an obscure gallery here, ignored by visitors, with a simple label and no text to explain its significance.
The new Museum of African-American History, which was founded in 1965 by a local physician, Dr. Charles Wright, has prospered in this contentious political climate. Coleman Young, the populist black Mayor here from 1974 through 1993, actively promoted the black history museum, while often criticizing the art museum for not exhibiting enough works by black artists.
Construction Costs Paid by the City
The city paid for construction of a large building in the mid-1980's to house Dr. Wright's collection, which is still owned by a nonprofit corporation he set up and which occupies city-owned buildings free of charge. Shortly before leaving office, Mr. Young decided that the city should build the even larger building that opened last month.
Excavation for the new building began immediately, even though architects had not yet come up with a design. A $20 million bond issue for construction was also approved by voters, still without any architect's plans. ''We dug a hole and left it there for almost a year,'' until the design was ready, said Harold R. Varner, the chief architect.
Mr. Young left his more frugal successor, Mayor Archer, with little choice but to finish the project. Mr. Archer ended up spending another $18.4 million in city money to that purpose. Detroit officials have not yet decided what to do with the building that housed the black history museum for 10 years.