'Going There': 3 Prominent Detroit Natives Reflect On The 1967 Riot

Former Detroit police chief Ike McKinnon (L), Motown musician David Coffey (center), and former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer (R).

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Denise Guerra/NPR

Detroit has faced a tumultuous past, but the most painful week in Detroit’s modern history arguably happened exactly 50 years ago. On July 23, 1967, after decades of discrimination, poverty, and mistreatment by police, many black citizens of Detroit erupted in violence. Some call that five-day period of burning and looting the “riots;” others call it the “uprising” or the “rebellion.”

Detroiters have had 50 years to contemplate the reasons for the civil unrest, and at our Going There event at WDET in Detroit, NPR’s Michel Martin spoke with three guests who remember where they were when the five-day rebellion started. They spoke with Michel about how that week of unrest changed their relationship with the city of Detroit, what impact the rebellion had on the city, and what the future holds.

Dennis Archer is former mayor of Detroit and a former Michigan Supreme Court judge. Ike McKinnon was one of the first African-Americans on the Detroit police force, and ultimately became police chief. Dennis Coffey is a former session guitarist for the Motown record label, and was in studio recording an album when someone came running to tell him the city was burning.

Interview Highlights

NPR’s Michel Martin talks with former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer about the conditions that led to Detroit unrest.

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Denise Guerra/NPR

On how the cops were told to deal with the civil unrest

McKinnon:Go out and lock people up. We were woefully unprepared to handle what occurred. We had received no training. And we could not have handled the situation because at that time we had close to 1,600,000 people [in Detroit]. And if you have 5,500 police officers — and all of us were not on duty at one time — and if we try and stop a rebellion as such, or people looting, it was impossible to do so. So we were undermanned to handle this.

On the roving police squads that terrorized the city

Coffey: Back in the mid-50s, they had two patrolmen in the front and two detectives in the back, and the detectives in the back had shotguns. And so they rolled down the window and said, “What are you guys doing?” Well, we’re walking home from school. And they said, “Do you know there’s an ordinance? You can’t have more than two people in a group.” And we said, “Yes sir.” Because the reputation — when they said do something, you did it.

McKinnon: I’d seen this before of other young men, but never to me. And at this point they grabbed, threw me up against the car, and proceeded to beat me. And I was, “But sir, but sir!” I’m asking — and the more I ask, the more they beat. And the look of anger — extreme anger — on these officers’ face, with the name-calling and beating. And they were good at what they did, I should tell you. They beat me between my neck and my belt. And toward the end of it — I’ll never forget this — they said, “Get your black ass out of here.” And I ran home. And I never told my parents. …[T]he reason being if you told your parents, they would go to the precinct and they would get locked up or beaten also.

On the cause of the rebellion

Archer: You’ve heard the explanation already, in terms of what people of color and whites as well were subjected to. But let’s talk about economics. The federal government would not allow blacks to have mortgages. You couldn’t live in certain neighborhoods. And when you consider that you couldn’t go into certain restaurants, and certain hotels and businesses if you happened to be black. … When people are able to live and they’re comfortable, and they’re able to do what they pretty much want to do… you take that away, and you strip people of hope or dignity and the like? You set up an environment that can be explosive.

On how white cops brutalized black cops

McKinnon: After about an 18-hour shift, I came off at the Chicago Boulevard and made a left turn, and as I passed the overpass to the freeway, these two white police officers pulled me over. And I was in uniform — had my shield on — people think it’s a badge but it’s a shield. I had my “2” for the precinct I was at. And you could clearly see I was a police officer. I was stopped by these two white police officers — one was an older guy with gray hair – but he got out of the car with his partner. And they said to me, “Get out of the car.”

I said, “Police officer! Police officer!” And I smiled, the way I am right now. And as I stepped out of the car, the officer with the short stub-nosed silver gun, he said, “Tonight you’re gonna die.” And he didn’t stop there; he said the N-word. And I looked at him, and I couldn’t believe this was happening. And as I looked at him, it was as if time froze. And when time freezes — and when there are exceptional circumstances — your senses are heightened. And I could see his finger pulling the trigger. And as I dove back into my car he started shooting at me.

Former Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon was beaten by Detroit police officers as a child. That made him want to become an officer when he grew up – so he could treat people the way they should be treated, he said.

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Archer: If we could invite in the 100 or so police officers who were African-American who were working in their precincts, you would hear a lot of similar stories, in terms of how guns were pulled on them in the precincts, and how they were fussed at, cussed at, and white officers saying, “I’m not going to ride with that blankity-blank.”

… And then I would just ask us to speed forward for a moment, and then you wonder why there’s a group called “Black Lives Matter.” And why those issues are very relevant today, as they were back then. And then when you start thinking about what we’re hearing in terms of the divisiveness that’s being openly talked about today, it hurts our country, it hurts our cities, it hurts people and it hurts all of us.

NPR’s Stacey Samuel edited this story for Radio. NPR’s Ashley Young produced this for radio. NPR’s Maquita Peters produced this story for the Web.

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Jessica Hernandez On Her New Motor City Sound

Jessica Hernandez describes her music as “Latin-punk-Motown-soul — it’s a little bit of everything.”

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Taylor Bonin/Courtesy of the artist

There’s no doubt that music is in the DNA of the city of Detroit. People around the world know this Michigan city for the classic Motown sound; the city also nurtured a vital rock scene and is often cited as the birthplace of techno. But along with Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Iggy Pop and Eminem, an up-to-date roll call of Detroit’s music scene would have to include Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas.

Hernandez is a Detroit native, the daughter of a Cuban father and a Mexican-American mother. She and The Deltas have been making gritty, soulful music in their local scene for a while now — but on their latest record, they tried something a little different. The band released two albums simultaneously: Telephone in English and Teléfono in Spanish.

As part of Weekend All Things Considered‘s trip to Detroit for the 50th anniversary of the 1967 riots, NPR’s Michel Martin spoke with Hernandez about the city’s influence on her sound and why she felt it was important to make her new music bilingual. Hear their conversation at the audio link, and read on for highlights.


Interview Highlights

On the many musical influences she drew from her family and her city

I grew up in a household with a father who was Cuban but came to the States in the ’60s when he was really young, so he grew up in the ’70s punk and garage-rock scene that was really flourishing at the time. So he was huge into Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop and MC5 and all the things that you think of when you think of Detroit rock music. … And then my mom’s young — we’re only about 19 years apart — so for her, she was introducing me to The Cure and Joy Division and ’80s new wave. And then my grandmother on my father’s side, who’s Cuban, was introducing me to salsa and merengue … and then my mom’s parents, who are Mexican-American, grew up in Detroit through the ’50s and ’60s, and they had The Four Tops and Temptations [and] Supremes playing at their high-school dances.

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On developing her own sound

Because I had so many influences … I had a really hard time deciding what I wanted to be as a person and an artist. And I think once I stopped trying to figure it out and just told myself, “Write whatever you wanna write, whatever you’re feeling that day. Let it happen. If it’s a salsa song, cool; if it’s an R&B song, cool.” … Once I let go of trying to define myself and my music, it definitely made it a little all over the place, but it also felt way more natural.

On why she decided to create a double, bilingual album

One of the big things was really my family. I think my grandmother — it was a hard thing for us, with wanting to get closer and with the language barrier. I speak Spanish and she speaks English, but my Spanish isn’t great, her English isn’t great … And she’s always said, “I want you to sing in Spanish so I can understand what you’re singing about … I want to be able to enjoy it in a different way than listening to your music in English.”

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And then I think with everything going on today, too — I think it was even more of a reason for me to want to kind of tap into my own heritage, feel more connected with who I am. … A lot of my fans are Hispanic Americans: Puerto Rican Americans, Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans. And they come to concerts, and I’ve had younger girls come up to me and say, like, “You’ve helped me feel comfortable with being Mexican-American. And I’ve wanted to reject being Mexican because I wanna be American, I wanna be accepted as an American. I’m proud to be here and have my citizenship, but I also feel sad that I’m not able to embrace where I’m from, and where my parents are from.” … And so I feel like that was something that really pushed me to want to do something like that.

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Snooty The Manatee Dies, And A Florida Community Mourns

Snooty the manatee, seen here in 2013, died after becoming trapped in an underwater plumbing area, according to the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Fla.

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Two days after his 69th birthday, Snooty the manatee has died in what the South Florida Museum says was “simply a heartbreaking accident.” The manatee drowned after being trapped by a hatch door, officials said Sunday.

Snooty was the oldest manatee in captivity — and he was believed to be the oldest on record, according to the South Florida Museum, which houses the Parker Manatee Aquarium in Bradenton, Fla.

“Aquarium staff is heartbroken,” said Jeff Rodgers, the museum’s provost and chief operating officer.

Staff members who arrived at work this morning weren’t able to find all the manatees, Rodgers said Sunday afternoon. He said an underwater hatch that accesses a plumbing area “had somehow been knocked loose” — and that while the other, younger, manatees had been able to go in and out of the area, Snooty had gone through but hadn’t been able to get himself back out. The manatee was roughly 1,300 pounds — about twice the size of the other animals.

When workers reached Snooty, he was no longer alive, Rodgers said. He said the hatch was normally bolted shut, and that an investigation is ongoing to determine how it opened. Rodgers also said the hatch hadn’t previously posed a problem.

Unfortunately no, this is the actual social media team and we’ve been in direct contact with museum leadership. We are devastated.

— South Florida Museum (@SouthFLMuseum) July 23, 2017

The aquarium is closed to the public today. The manatee’s fans have been posting messages of sadness and support online, along with some confusion: Snooty has been the subject of hoaxes before, in which bogus claims went out that he had died. The latest was just two days ago.

“Heartbreaking, I remember seeing him for the first time when I was 12,” Leslie Young said via Facebook.

Others left tributes at the museum — including flowers and a head of lettuce, as Carlos Munoz of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune noted on Twitter.

People are beginning to leave tributes to #Snootypic.twitter.com/NmqNdcxB1n

— Carlos R. Munoz (@ReadCarlos) July 23, 2017

When another person asked if the new claim is real, the museum’s staff verified that it was, adding, “We are devastated.”

“We grieve right along with these folks,” Rodgers said. “We’ve given a lot of hugs on the front porch of the museum today as people were coming in. A lot of people loved that manatee. We loved him too.”

Snooty was the first manatee to be born in captivity, in 1948. He had lived at the aquarium since 1949; he became the official mascot of Manatee County, Fla., back in 1979. He was also at the heart of the museum’s manatee rehabilitation program, which helps injured or animals recover and return to the wild.

There are currently three manatees in the rehab program, Rodgers said.

“We’re still processing Snooty’s loss right now. We don’t know if we’ll have another resident manatee,” he said.

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Father Of Girl Ticketed For Selling Lemonade Responds To Supporters: 'Make A Stand'

After a young girl’s lemonade stand in east London brought a fine of nearly $200, the local council apologized. Now the girl’s family is calling on more kids to open their own stands.

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A five-year-old girl whose sidewalk lemonade stand brought a $195 fine in east London has been invited to set up shop at several markets and festivals, as supporters reach out to her family. The ticket was forgiven; now the girl’s father is urging more kids to open their own stands.

Last weekend, Andre Spicer took his daughter to the end of their street to offer lemonade (50 pence for a small, 1 pound for a large) to people drawn to a music festival in a nearby park. But, as he said in a tweet that day, “She’s now sobbing, ‘I did a bad thing'” after four Tower Hamlets police officers descended on the stand, issued a fine, and sent them packing.

Took 5 year old daughter to end of our road to run lemonade stand. Fined £180. She’s now sobbing, ‘I did a bad thing’. Thx @TowerHamletsNow

— André Spicer (@andre_spicer) July 15, 2017

Spicer’s tweet didn’t bring a response from the local council. But after he wrote a column for The Telegraph, strangers began to praise Spicer and his daughter — and to wonder what was wrong with Tower Hamlets.

“So, about the lemonade standard incident… we are very sorry that this has happened,” Tower Hamlets said in a tweet on the morning after Spicer’s column was published. It continued, “We expect our enforcement officers to show common sense, and to use their powers sensibly. This clearly did not happen.”

The council said the fine “will be cancelled immediately,” adding that it had contacted Spicer and his daughter to apologize.

We expect our enforcement officers to show common sense, and to use their powers sensibly. This clearly did not happen. (2/3)

— Tower Hamlets (@TowerHamletsNow) July 21, 2017

On Saturday, Spicer posted this message from the family:

“We have been overwhelmed by the kind response from people across the world. Dozens of festivals, markets and businesses have offered us the opportunity to set up a lemonade stand. We hope they will extend this invitation to others who’d love to make a stand.”

“Children could sell home-made lemonade, hand drawn comics or vegetables they have grown. Young people could do more than sell things, like sharing film or music they’ve created, or gaining support for their local club.”

If that sounds like a message influenced by someone who’s used to thinking about people and commerce, it should: Spicer is a professor of organizational behavior at the University of London’s business school. He’s also a critic for the type of behavior his daughter encountered, having written extensively about what he calls “collective stupidity” that sometimes overtakes organizations.

In Spicer’s column for The Telegraph, he noted the difficulties of giving kids space to pursue real-world activities, particularly in an era of shifting parental norms, competition from electronic gadgets — and an abundance of regulations.

This summer, we want kids to make a stand. Our response to kind offers following lemonade fine. Spread the word! #MakeAStandpic.twitter.com/ItwyhNMHTn

— André Spicer (@andre_spicer) July 22, 2017

Before “Lemonadegate,” Spicer said, his daughter had been inspired by seeing kids running their own tables at a school festival. Afterwards, as he said in The Telegraph, he told her they could get a permit, only to hear her reply, “No. It’s too scary.”

Spicer, who’s a native of New Zealand, says his daughter’s run-in with police has made him contrast the situation with his own childhood, when he and his brother roamed far from home and supported their clubs by selling snacks.

Stressing the importance of learning through action, the Spicer family’s note states, “Making a stand is a great opportunity for kids to share their interests, build confidence and contribute to our communities.”

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American Jordan Spieth Wins Golf's British Open

Jordan Spieth celebrates on the 18th green after his final round 69 to win the 2017 Open Golf Championship at Royal Birkdale golf course in England on July 23, 2017.

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Golf’s oldest major championship has a 2017 winner: Jordan Spieth, an American.

A dramatic final round capped the tournament, with Spieth vying with fellow American Matt Kuchar for the top position. China’s Li Haotong finished six strokes back in third place.

Spieth, 23, started the day with a three-shot lead over Kuchar, but temporarily lost it after a shaky performance for the first 13 holes, including an almost catastrophic drive on the 13th that required him to take an unplayable and drop between sponsorship trucks.

. @jordanspieth in huge trouble at the 13th. What is he going to do here? #TheOpenpic.twitter.com/yvhcDmW602

— The Open (@TheOpen) July 23, 2017

But he regained his footing on the home stretch scoring a birdie, an eagle, and two more birdies to win the tournament.

Remarkable recovery from @jordanspieth. #TheOpenpic.twitter.com/VAR5J3lsgp

— The Open (@TheOpen) July 23, 2017

Only 23 years old, Spieth already has two major championship titles, and was heavily favored to win entering Sunday’s final round. Kuchar, 39, has never won a major title.

Earlier in the tournament, South African Branden Grace broke the record for lowest score ever in a men’s major championship – a 62.

NPR’s Tom Goldman reported on Saturday:

Afterwards, the 29-year-old South African said he wasn’t aware of history unfolding because he was in a zone. Said Grace, “sometimes it helps not knowing these things.” 62 has been a major tournament holy grail — players have shot 63 31 times, with several near misses. Last year at the British Open, American Phil Mickelson missed a putt for 62 by an inch. But Saturday, Grace calmly sank a putt from a few feet away on the final hole to claim the record.

Jordan Spieth’s win at the British Open makes him one of only two golfers to win three of the four major championships before the age of 24. The only other is Jack Nicklaus, who holds the all-time record with 18 major titles. Spieth will try for his fourth next month at the PGA Championship.

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Chris Froome Set To Win His Fourth Tour De France Title Sunday

Britain’s Chris Froome is expected to seal his third consecutive Tour de France win in Paris on Sunday.

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It’s expected to be a celebratory ride into Paris for Chris Froome when the Tour de France ends Sunday. The British rider added to his overall lead Saturday; he has also avoided crashes that took out some of cycling’s big names — including his teammate Geraint Thomas.

Froome’s opponents saw Saturday’s time trial in Marseilles as the last chance to take the yellow jersey from him, but they were unable to gain time on the reigning champion, who took third place. He now has a 54-second lead over Colombia’s Rigoberto Urán — who banged into a barricade during his time trial.

Ahead of Sunday’s 64-mile ride into Paris, the final spot on the podium was still up for grabs, as third-place Romain Bardet of France had only a one-second edge over Spain’s Mikel Landa — a teammate of Froome’s on Team Sky.

“With the expected win, Froome will claim his third straight championship and fourth overall,” NPR’s Tom Goldman reports. That will put him one away from an exclusive club of five-time winners that includes legendary riders Jacque Anquetil, Eddie Merckx, Bernard Hinaut and Miguel Indurain. American Lance Armstrong had his record seven tour victories stripped and stricken from the record books after he admitted doping.”

Froome took up the challenge of winning this Tour without one of the best riders on his Sky team after Thomas was lost to a crash in the race’s wild ninth stage. On the same day, Froome’s rival (and former teammate) Richie Porte was also forced to withdraw due to a horrendous crash. At the time, Porte was in fifth place.

Froome lost the leader’s yellow jersey in the Pyrenees midway through this year’s Tour, but he reclaimed it on stage 14, using strong team tactics and a final sprint that took advantage of a splintered peloton.

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