“And when the groove is dead & gone, you know that love survives, & we can rock forever…”
—MJJ’s “Rock with You” on Epic Records
Though now the motown sound is dirge
the smoking dragons have ceased
even to sputter, the migrations
have begun, again
& the city, beautiful, that only snacked
itself for decades has begun to eat its
tail in earnest, smaller, smaller gorging collapsing starving, again
& much has returned to seed
perhaps, as god intended swallowed up in grief
& the ground is poison now,
perhaps, choked by the soot & fumes
from earth to sky—
my mama’s buried there
& the wounded city lies gaping, abandoned,
still smoldering from the burning
storefronts, the white-hot combustion
of black rage turned inward,
& there is no chorus, no doo-wop
no tambourine, handclap no soulful croon no wonder
only the mournful taps of
shined black shoes steeling for the inevitable weight that only the pallbearer knows
but you don’t hear me though—
my mama is buried there
we who keep time with the pulse
in our pockets, the beat
in our soles, know deep in our funky hearts
that sometimes, the miracles
don’t really get cooking
until after the second bridge.
Green, Yalonda JD. “Time (for Detroit).” Reverie: Midwest African American Literature (2010): 48-49.
This poem was originally written after viewing and reading TIME magazine’s article about the “beautiful ruin” that Detroit is/has become. Detroit is my forever home. I was honored when Reverie Journal — based in Detroit — accepted my poem for publication in its 2010 issue.
I decided to post this poem after viewing part one of the video Detroit Lives with Johnny Knoxville. I’m posting all three parts— they’re about 10 mins each — for you to view.
There is life in Detroit. It is not a black cesspool. It is not a wasteland. Detroit is not ruin or myth. Detroit is not dead. Detroit ARE NOT dead. People live and thrive and imagine in Detroit. It is a wonder. Detroit lives. My daddy grows his own greens in his backyard.
There is life and green and possibility and germination there.
Detroit is. And will be.
Toward creativity & light & life,
These are from the same concert by The Brazeal Dennard Chorale (Detroit), circa 1998. Features original songs/arrangements by Lori Hicks and Stacey Gibbs, and early performances by yours truly (the second solo on If I Can Help Somebody), Lori Hicks (before she was an opera diva), Angela Birchett (on both songs) and Lori “L’Renee” Hollins (the second solo on If I Can Help Somebody). We were all just on the other side of high school.
Many thanks to the homie, Marcus Collins, for digging these up. I got choked up listening to “If I Can Help Somebody.” That song changed my life forever. High fives to anyone who can find more (and even earlier) performances.
In the spirit of Sankofa,
Looking for articles that discuss the layoffs mentioned in my previous post [http://tumblr.com/xbmaj0nop], I found a letter from Joyce Schon, the attorney representing Detroit’s teachers to Prof. George Shirley. I am aghast. Please see the bold:
Hello, Professor Shirley,
I am an attorney for the Detroit Board of Education in a lawsuit against Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, over academic control of DPS. Bobb has given layoff notices to every music and art teacher in the district, including those at Cass Tech and Detroit School of the Arts. He plans to have one citywide chorus, one orchestra, one band etc, as extra-curricular activities that students may only qualify for only if they have good grades. Any music or art classes or programs in individual schools would be supported, if at all, only with private funds.
The School Board’s plan includes music and art in every school at every level, with a lobbying effort at the state and federal level to increase funding for art and music education.
Please accept my great admiration of your accomplishments and your career. I am a product of DPS schools, a life-long classical music and opera-lover, and a great believer in music as one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments. I personally cannot bear the possibility that Detroit’s students could be denied the very classes that I considered my lifeline for survival and growth as a student and as a human being.
We believe that removing art and music teachers from virtually all public schools would result in irreparable harm to the children of Detroit. Could you talk to us on the phone about these two counterposed educational visions for fine arts education for Detroit students?
Unfortunately, time is very short. We begin our trial on Friday, May 21. If you are in the country and could talk on the phone, please call me on my cell at your earliest convenience.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration of this urgent matter.
Please help by passing this along and sending your stories. Please.
One of many singing pics from my hs days:
Senior photo in my choir dress, my second skin:
We can’t let this happen,
This is a call to action,
I just got word on Facebook from Nina Scott, my high school choral director, that the Detroit Public Schools has laid-off ALL of its Fine Arts Instructors. I am a proud graduate of Renaissance High School in Detroit. Renaissance is a college prep magnet school that, for the last 15+ years, has had a stellar choral program. We toured the country, ventured overseas, won scholarships to colleges throughout the US, sang for our craft and for our lives.
I am stunned, puzzled, incredulous. distraught.
I am who I am—as a musician and a woman—because of my years participating in our choral program. I can’t imagine what a hell Detroit’s schools would really be without the arts…
Please find Ms. Scott’s call for our participation to save the arts in our schools:
DPS has laid-off all Fine Arts instructors. They plan to offer one all city choir, band, orchestra, and a traveling truck for art. Help us save fine arts in DPS.
Contact Robert Bobb email@example.com and the board’s (our) lawyer Joyce Schon, firstname.lastname@example.org tell how fine arts impacted your lives.
Schon's next court date is Friday, let's give her ammunition.
So I’m calling all musicians, painters, dancers, dj’s… if you were a black, white, brown kid in DPS that was saved by the arts in your school, please send your stories to Mr. Bobb and Ms. Schon at the addresses above.
Consider how our city’s—our children’s—future would look like without the presence of fine and performing arts: there could be no one, even, to paint such bleakness.
Please, let’s unite to protect the arts in Detroit’s Public Schools,
Yalonda JD Green
'98, musician and choir nerd
RHS Varsity Chorus, Renaissance Singers, A Chord, Brazeal Dennard Youth Chorale, Renaissance Ladies, All-City Honors Choir
[See continuation here: http://tumblr.com/xbmaj1xqt ]