Reading the title, you might wonder how these three topics connect. After all, the three are very important. Detroit 1967 is one of the hashtags for the new movie “Detroit,” which centers around the infamous events that happened at the Algiers Motel in Detroit in 1967. Which, in turn, set off the Detroit riots that the city is still recovering from to this day. Motown music needs no explanation. I will explain how these two things connect with public education.
On the day before the local opening for the movie “Detroit,” I stopped by one of old school Detroit’s restaurants, The Clique, for lunch. There was a line out the door. I’m not patient when it comes to eating, so I turned around to leave. As I turned around, I bumped into Martha Reeves. She was the lead singer of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas during Motown’s music heyday in the 1960’s. We knew each other, so Martha asked me, “Where are you going? You can sit with my friend and I.” Almost on cue, a waitress sat us down at “her” table that is usually ready for her.
She began to share that she was part of the local premier of the Detroit movie and tell me her stories of what happened in my city 50 years ago. She talked about how she was singing on stage at a show and had to be the one to warn people about the rioting outside and to be calm. She explained in detail the feeling of seeing military tanks and soldiers in our community. Troops posted on streets like Grand River Ave., Woodward Ave., and West Grand Blvd.
Martha’s friend shared how she remembers as a little girl watching a soldier sitting on top of a tank pointing a rifle at her and her friends and telling them to go into their homes. While they were playing in their own backyard. That’s a problem!!
Then Martha got into what sustained her through that terrible night and what made stick with her music: a great public education. She is a graduate of Detroit Public Schools.
She attributes her singing career to her dedicated teachers who would not let her give up on herself and pushed her to succeed. She is a big supporter of strong Arts and English programs in Detroit. She truly believes if it weren’t for a strong Arts program when she was in school, there would not be a Martha Reeves the singer and entertainer. Her teachers recognized her talent and empowered her to be the Motown legend she is today.
Apparently, her English teachers were a big help. I can’t think of a harder speech to give on stage, telling people to be calm during such chaos. Whether you call that night a riot or a rebellion, it was one of the worst nights in Detroit’s history. And we still have a lot to learn from it today.
Just like the issues we have with education in Detroit today, the movie “Detroit” reminds us we still have a long way to go to improve our city on so many fronts.
Let me know how you feel this blog and others on our site @DetroitSchlTalk or on Facebook at Detroit School Talk. We look forward to working you to improve education for “all” Detroit’s kids. #Detroit1967 #Detroit #Detroitk12 #SchoolChoice #MotownMusic