1967 in Detroit was the result of the “bubbling, bubbling, bubbling” of segregation, unemployment, poverty and police brutality. The local Black American community was being targeted by a brutal police force and had enough. It was a rebellion, pure and simple; a rejection of the status quo. This bout with criminalization existed as a part of an institutionalized effort to hold back the Black American community.
The year 1967 was also an incredibly significant one in the Arab world, as Israel moved to occupy even more Arab land. The fact that the Metro Detroit area also has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the US, makes this connection even more interesting.
50 years later, specifically in the last several years, we have faced similar systemic challenges for both the Arab American and Black American populations. Our lives are affected by what happens both near and far, while we deal with a rise in white nationalism, militarism, attacks on basic rights, such as healthcare and freedom of speech, as well as a predatory criminal justice system that has led us to continued police brutality and mass incarceration. We have to be vigilant and strategic. In this moment, if we are divided, we will surely continue to fall prey to this system, but together we can push back.
It should be no shock that in 2017 communities are still suffering at the hands of such a system. Dr. King warned us of the three drivers of decay we are facing: Racism, Militarism and Poverty. Dr. King, just like many here in Detroit, paid the ultimate price for waging a war against injustice. Detroit has been facing renewed efforts to change the make-up of the city. Whether through gentrification on the ground, or commercial ads envisioning Detroit as a white hipster holy land, we know that the battle is still present.
Arab Americans have now been a part of the Metro-Detroit community for decades. We have been a part of the United States for well over a century, but what mark will we leave? We have the Arab American National Museum as a testament to some of our key contributions—a truly beautiful sight—but we are nowhere near done yet. There is no better place to make this impact than right here in Detroit; a city with an 85% black population. Building coalitions with the local community that are led by the local community, is the only way forward. Support these local organizations with your time, your blood, sweat, tears and, yes, your dollars.
We need to take action to create re-action. We have to see the change to be the change. I look forward to working with the local community to help bring to fruition the dreams of the Detroit Rebellion.