Open Letter

By Tom Stephens

Jones Day edition, October 13, 2015


On September 26 I saw a little hanging sign at an eastern market tchotchke popup that says “Carpé Detroit”; Seize Detroit – WTF?


On October 12 what’s still celebrated in some places as “Columbus Day” – wasn’t celebrated much in Detroit, where Cristoforo (“Christ-Bearer”) C is mostly & accurately remembered as a slaver and bringer of genocide;[i]


On October 13 at DIA (Detroit Institute of Art) the Jones Day law firm will celebrate its criminal enterprise, in what Detroit-raised poet Marge Piercy has called the sacking of Detroit by the rich; and


On November 19 the Detroit legal community will honor Chief Judge Gerald Rosen and retired Detroit bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes for their supervisory roles in the aforesaid sacking of Detroit by said rich.

There’s a ‘rich’ and growing literature related to the general topic of racism and white newcomers in Detroit. (links @ the end)  My adding this short point to that critical discussion is connecting things.

Connecting opportunities enjoyed by all the forces under the “Detroit Future City” (DFC) policy initiatives; Detroit’s creative, foundation-funded and nonprofit-organized white youth; revitalization contractors; down- and mid-town vibrancy hub movers and shakers.

I want to try and connect all that to Detroit’s 2013-15 experiences with emergency management, bankruptcy and restructuring in the new Jones Day.  “Seize” Detroit indeed, under judicial control but without clear precedents, limits to unilateral decisions or accountability to the residents of the community.  Are these issues we should be thinking and acting on?

As has repeatedly been stated, Detroit is about 139 square miles, a big piece of real estate;

Connection Downtown-  it’s recognized and even celebrated (e.g., at the DIA this October & November) that billions of dollars of investment are concentrated in only about 7.2 square miles downtown and up M-1 (the Cass Corridor) to the New Center.

Connection Neighborhoods-  moreover, the exploding economic inequality between folks like the tax break-opportunized Ilitch billionaire 1%, and the half million or more overwhelmingly African-American residents suffering around the official poverty level in the other 130 plus square miles of exploited residential neighborhoods.

Connection Austerity Policies-  the majority of the city’s People in neighborhoods that are even now being swept by yet another foreclosure plague.

Connection Cultural and Biological Genocide – Detroit Public Education utterly destroyed under state EMF emergency management, and Flint’s People forced to drink contaminated water also by said EMFs.

Are the connections still unclear to anybody who’s paying attention and in town for more than 6 months?

The predictable – and predicted – results of EMF-management and Jones Day-controlled bankruptcy in Detroit are (hopefully temporary) loss of political agency, self-government, accountability and critical social capital in the City.

These results are racial.  While acknowledging this reality may be uncomfortable for beneficiaries of unearned privilege, it is important.

These results are ultimately inseparable from the basic idea and thrust of “development” as envisioned & shaped by Detroit philanthropic and nonprofit leaders, largely under the “DFC” continuous rebranding exercise that determines capital flows.  Celebrated at DIA twice this fall.

Get it?

Some things you should do if you can:

  1. Support the People of Detroit
  1. Question, critique and protest the seizing of Detroit by white supremacists for corporate power & profit – Picket DIA on the evenings of October 13 and November 19
  1. Advocate accountable and democratically elected local government to represent the interests of the People of Detroit – Stop Foreclosures and keep People in their homes!
  1. Stop Water Shut Offs! Support the Water Affordability Plan
  1. Support Community Benefits Agreements
  1. Support other policies that bring equity, social justice and racial healing to the revitalization of Detroit



Marsha Music, “What Happened to the Kidnapped Children of Detroit?”

Kelly Guillory, “New Detroit”

Bill Wylie-Kellerman, “Desecration of Belle Isle”

Jessica Care Moore, “Why New Detroit Feels Unwelcoming”

Frank Joyce, “The Real Story of Detroit’s Economy”

Frank Joyce, “Beware of Grand Bargains Part 4”

Karen Twomey and Tom Pedroni, “Detroiters Must Have Control Over Public Schools” (that’s something they have to argue? WTF?…)

Karen Twomey and Tom Pedroni, “Detroit Schools Plan Shows Lack of Faith in Democracy”

John Telford, “Zeitgeistian Wishes: 3”

Tidal Magazine, “Learning from Detroit”

Dianne Feeley, “Hurricane Without Water”

Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM), “Whose City? Our City!”

[i] I previously tried to apply the blood-soaked legacy of Columbus to current events in Detroit, thru the lens of Frederick Turner’s “Beyond Geography; the Western Spirit Against the Wilderness”, in an essay entitled “Detroit Lives!” that’s posted here: