About

This project was conceived in 2018–five years after the State of Michigan suspended democracy in Detroit and imposed an emergency manager on the City. Shortly thereafter, emergency manager Kevyn Orr ushered in a devastating wave of austerity measures and declared bankruptcy on behalf of the city, marking the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history. This era of austerity has been defined by publicly-subsidized developments downtown and water shutoffs, home foreclosures, and school closures in the neighborhoods. In the largest majority-Black city in the nation, it appears to many that Detroit’s “revitalization” has amounted to the dispossession, displacement, and disenfranchisement of Black communities.

In the years since, common stories about the period of emergency management and bankruptcy have blamed Black Detroiters for an economic crisis fueled by systemic racism and celebrated Detroit’s “comeback” driven by wealthy white developers downtown. These narratives have been built by marginalizing and silencing longtime Black Detroiters and grassroots organizers who have different perspectives of “revitalization” and competing visions for the future of Detroit.

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"I came to appreciate the unwavering commitment to social and economic transformation by community organizers in the city of Detroit."

"Throughout the long, ongoing struggle against systemic racism...the people of Detroit have never stopped fighting."

Project Team

  • Peter Blackmer, Producer and Lead Interviewer
  • Martina Guzman, Series Producer
  • Peter Hammer, Series Producer
  • Aysha Jamali, Communications Specialist
  • Rhiannon Chester, Operations
  • Derrielle Goodwin, Operations
  • Sydney Sinclair, Research Associate

Research

  • Sunanda Samaddar Corrado, Education
  • Ludmila Ferrari, Land
  • Hira Majeed, Water
  • Sydney Sinclair, Interview Research

"This is the project of a lifetime"

"I think this is a great way to introduce students to grassroots activists in Detroit!"

"I would definitely make sure this website got in the hands of educators as a tool to use in the classroom."

Thank you to these folks who devoted their time and energy to the collection of these stories. Truly this was an effort of many!

Interviewers

  • Marcia Black
  • Peter Blackmer
  • Oriana Yilma

Video Production

  • Herbert Taylor, Cinematographer
  • Shakeb Ahmed, Cinematographer
  • Antoine Wells, Camera Op and Key Grip
  • Douglas Washington Jr., Production Assistant
  • Sharday Watkins, Makeup

"As long as you two stay alive and come back with cameras every 40 years...this message will not be lost"

Transcribing

  • Marcia Black
  • Colleen Cirocco
  • Laura Kennedy
  • Lauren Lincoln
  • Meaghan McGowan
  • Annika Peterson
  • Brian Schamber
  • Belle Teesdale
  • Sarah Tropper

Writers

  • Biba Adams
  • Kenneth Alyass
  • Peter Blackmer
  • Theresa Bridges
  • Davion Cameron
  • Lloyd Simpson
  • Ashley Welch
  • Eleanore Catolico
  • Chara Conway
  • Jasmine Dankwa
  • Peter Hammer
  • Damien Gendreau
  • Ermani Preston 
  • Michele King
  • Kelsey Law
  • Cassidy Lepore
  • Joe Mchahwar
  • Kennedy Minnick
  • Paige Perkins 

Filming Locations

  • Bethel Community Transformation Center
  • Cass Corridor Commons
  • Central United Methodist Church
  • Church of the Messiah
  • Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, Wayne State University Law School
  • Feedom Freedom Growers
  • Grace Community Church
  • St. Elizabeth Catholic Church
  • St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
  • The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
  • Woodside Church (Flint)