Hassan Jaber, Executive Director and CEO, ACCESS
50 years ago, the city of Detroit experienced a movement that shaped our region’s history and awoke many of its citizens. Known by many names, the Detroit Rebellion of 1967, not only challenged the socio-political status quo, but molded perspectives and experiences. This uprising, birthed by the growing inhumane practice of segregation and institutionalized discrimination, is one that resonates with ACCESS.
The Rebellion of ‘67 was not a movement fueled by spontaneity, or surprise. It was an uprising that manifested itself through years of neglect, severe loss of economic opportunities, failing educational systems and the overwhelming and hopeless impact of segregation and systematic injustices faced by the Black community.
Throughout the history of our country, Black Americans have faced the brunt of social inequity and injustice. The events leading up to the uprising of ‘67, unfortunately, still permeate our present day. Sadly, Black Americans have faced police brutality, systematic oppression and the disregard for the value of Black lives for far too long. Today, Detroit continues to be one of the most racially segregated cities in the country, with the majority of working and middle class Black Americans living in the shadow of today’s Detroit Renaissance. According to the book Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies, job opportunities for Detroiters continue to decline at an alarming rate, with employment opportunities falling from 735,000 in 1970 to 180,300 in 2012. Educational opportunities are also in a state of severe neglect and deterioration. In 2016, Education Week stated that Michigan schools ranked 34, among the very bottom of the 50 states, with Detroit schools being among the worst in the entire state.
While our experiences are different, the anniversary of the ‘67 Rebellion resonates deeply for Arab Americans, who have been the target of islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment, and who have faced the repercussions of biased policies — such as the most recent Muslim ban — that have been disproportionately leveled against them. Many Arab Americans understand the undeniable call to rise up in the face of systematic oppression, and thus recognize this anniversary and what it means for the Black community, primarily in Detroit.
As we near the 50th anniversary of this powerful and significant uprising, let us keep in mind the circumstances that brought us to that moment in time and that remain with us today. Let us not blindly romanticize the up and coming renaissance of Detroit. We must be wary of the systematic injustices of our past and ensure that they do not follow us into the future that we are working to build today. As agents of social change, it is incumbent on us to ensure that we honor every moment in our history that has driven us closer to the just and equitable society we all seek.
Today, Detroit holds the hopeful promise of a city that represents the best that our nation can offer. The diverse residents of this city are resilient, hopeful and full of promise. They contribute to Detroit’s greatness in innumerable and immeasurable ways. As we move towards the revitalization of the city of Detroit, ACCESS remains committed to contributing to the flourishing future of this city, while honoring and remembering the lessons of the Rebellion of 1967.
Joel Stone and Thomas J. Sugrue, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies, Wayne State University Press 2017.
“Michigan Earns a C- Minus on State Report Card, Ranks 34th in Nation,” Education Week, 30 Dec. 2016, http://www.edweek.org/ew/qc/2017/state-highlights/2017/01/04/michigan-state-highlights-report-page.html (11 July 2017).