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November 17, 2005 - Image 15

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-11-17

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A city decline, and how it can rise up again
By Larry GantI Associate professor, School of Social Work

SHOPEATDRINK
Inside aut
Kerrytown bar serves gay community
BY Sarah Zlering | Daily Arts Writer

I

t's important to under-
stand that the popula-
tion (and economic
benefits) of Detroit have
risen and fallen with the
auto industry. And it's

also important to understand that Detroit
had its peak both in population (2.1 million) and
city-based industrial employment in 1947
It's important to understand that the population (and economic
benefits) of Detroit have risen and fallen with the auto industry. And
it's also important to understand that Detroit had its peak both in
population (2.1 million) and city-based industrial employment in
1947. Since that time, Detroit has slowly lost both jobs and popula-
tions to suburban environments - due largely to the cheaper land
costs, need for acres of land for development, etc. So understand
that the move outside Detroit followed the construction of more
auto plants to the suburbs as early as the 1950s. Also understand
that while auto jobs moved to the suburbs, they're also declining in
numbers. In short, the auto industry will never be the massive indus-
try, employer and benefactor to the city that it was in the past. Unfor-
tunately, to secure bailout funds in the 1970s and 1980s (during the
first and most severe of the auto industry shakeouts), a lot of dis-
cussion ensued about how the cash infusions would bring new and
more jobs to Detroit. I think that corporations, city government and
residents wanted desperately - for their own reasons - to believe
thIat it WAS possible to bring the city (and jobs) back to prominence,
and that these sentiments and tangible investments prevented - in a
profound way - the search and exploration for new industrial bases
and new jobs.
Certainly, the rebellion in 1967 accelerated a largely white move-
ment from the city, but the flight from Detroit was already well under-
way. The departure of whites - and jobs and capital - resulted in
a city that became poorer, had fewer resources and became more
black. These three demographic realities - income, capital resources
and African-American ethnicity - have become sadly conflated,
such that in Detroit, black is synonymous with poverty and diminished
resources. Quite honestly, the plight of the city would have resulted
with whomever remained the working class. For instance, Toledo, pre-
dominantly white, suffered and still suffers from the collapse of the
industrial glass and automotive plants surrounding its city. It, too, is a
poor city, but predominantly White. Oddly enough, however, the equa-
tion of White = poverty = diminished resources never took!
The formula for increased poverty is a simple, yet powerful one.
Detroit has become poor because 1) industries declined and fell 2)
associated well-paying jobs disappeared 3) other jobs and people
with resources left the community 4) industries relocated to (cheaper)
land outside the city and 5) poor people, having no ability to move,
remained and thus became more concentrated within Detroit. Re-
member, Detroit may be No. I in poverty rate now, but the state of
Michigan also ranks within the top ten states for lowest job production,
lowest rate of new job starts and lowest economic growth. That's also
meant that state fund appropriations to Detroit have dried up dramati-
cally - almost as dramatically as state appropriations to Michigan's
public universities (including the University).
Southwest Detroit is growing - the only part of Detroit that is
growing - due to an influx of largely Mexican immigration. In
many ways, however, Southwest Detroit is a remnant of what Detroit
used to look like - diverse populations pretty much getting long.
Naturally, comfortable diversity does not make headlines. The influx
of immigrants to Southwest Detroit (largely Mexican), nearby Dear-
born (largely Middle Eastern) and Hamtramck (largely Asian and
eastern European) does not raise tensions as much as the resources
4pparently provided to immigrants (in contrast to black citizens).
In the meantime, many people have discovered - and decided
- to outline a general plan of response, then work within a dimension

In 2001, aut BAR faced what
its owners have labeled,
"one of the gay community's
worst enemies." Fred Phelps, a
nationally known anti-gay activist,
was challenging not only the bar's
right to exist, but the rights of the
gay community in general. And aut
BAR fought back.
Since 1995, aut BAR has posi-
tioned itself at the center of gay
nightlife and issues in Kerrytown.
The political consciousness of aut
BAR stemmed not only from the
owners' previous involvement in
community issues but from the
tense situation that erupted upon
Phelps' arrival, with picket signs
in hand. The bars owners and loyal
community following were able
to turn the picket into a benefit
serving a local LGBT community
center. Since then, the proactive
actions of the bar have created a
national buzz that has attracted a
number of well-known supporters.
"Aut BAR is a gathering place
for everyone in our community.
Young, old, gay, lesbian, bi, trans,
single, coupled, ally, dem, pro-
gressive or Republican," said bar
co-founder and owner Martin Con-
treras in an e-mail. A strict policy
of non-discrimination exists at aut
BAR which aims to bring com-
munity members together through
acceptance and pride for diversity.
Noticing Ann Arbor's lack of a
venue that catered to all aspects
of the gay community, Contreras,
For too long we've
to dark places t
become your ei

FOREST CASEY/Daily

The auto industry was the catalyst behind Detroit's peak population in 1947.

where they can make a difference. These dimensions are - increas-
ingly - individual neighborhoods, small communities and individual
institutions. Sowhilethe Detroit Public School systemcan't bereformed
immediately, a school principal can make real change (working with
teachers and families and interested others). While the Housing Com-
mission can't create thousand of affordable housing units, community
groups working with Habitat for Humanity can build a score of houses
and help recreate a small neighborhood or community. And while the
city can't provide broadband access to city residents, small neighbor-
hood based concepts like Steeples to People can provide small, easy to
maintain hot spots in many neighborhoods.
There are other initiatives that are jumpstarting Detroit, but pro-
vide only a jumpstart in some areas. Thus the location of sports are-
nas near downtown is spurring limited market rate development of
homes and businesses that attract young people without children who
are interested in an urban lifestyle. This initiative, termed "bread
and circuses", should not be interpreted as a blueprint for urban
reform. It's a nice component, but not the comprehensive answer.
Again, I think that the solution lies in small community growth
across many communities. That's where I continue to see move-
ment and development. Local foundations provide some support and
direction for these efforts, and that's encouraging. There is growth
and movement within Detroit. It doesn't always make the headlines,
but it is there.
I coordinate a program - the Community Based Initiative - in
the School of Social Work at the University. Students take three
classes in the city of Detroit, and work with communities and orga-
nizations on specific projects throughout the year. I take students on
tours of Detroit communities, and they are almost always amazed
at the local level progress and movement. Nothing in their educa-
tion or their knowledge of Detroit prepared them for the positive and
creative efforts and movements throughout the neighborhoods here.
Of course, there are areas and parts of the city that still require lots
of help and response. There are areas and communities that might
never be reclaimed. But there is always action and activity. There are
a lot of other programs and activities sponsored by University units
and departments in Detroit, and that the University's latest initiative,
Detroit Center at Orchestra Place, provides a venue to consolidate,
coordinate and leverage the power of many university/research part-
nerships in many areas.
What does this mean for students? Students need to realize the
fundamental connections people share. The differences between

aut BAR
Where: 315 Braun Court
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mon. to
Sat. 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sun.
along with co-owner Keith Orr,
decided to be the change the com-
munity desperately needed.
"There is a big difference
between 'gay-friendly' and 'gay
inclusive,' " said Orr in an e-mail.
"Try kissing your same-sex part-
ner at an anniversary dinner at a
mainstream Ann Arbor restaurant
and the resulting stares and sudden
chill will show that difference."
Aut BAR, however, has taken on
a role much larger than many local
bars and entertainment venues by
consistently placing itself at the
center of community issues and
causes. "The bar gave us a vehicle
for our community involvement in
ways we never could have imag-
ined," Orr said. Hosting a variety
of events, meetings and gatherings
both organized and spontaneous,
aut BAR provides a safe forum for
voices that are eager to be heard.
According to the bar's website,
OUTfest, Washetenaw Rainbow
Action Project, SAFE House and
the University's Office of Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered
Affairs are just a few of the many
organizations that have gained
increasing notoriety as a result of
aut BAR's support.
The bar has attracted support
been relegated
to gather. You
nvironment.
- Martin Contreras
aut BAR Owner
ORDER ONLINE!
(htcan be any easier? You'l never need a paper menu or a phone again!)
FREE & EASY TO USE
(Why 2Goclub.com? Na fees or does. A large variety of restaurants to choose
from, Earn free food. No mere language barriers or inaccurate orders. No
more bony signals or being put on held. Rfestaurant menus are pot on the site
- simply click to nrder! JOIN TODAY!)

from well-known gay rights sup-
porters such as David Sedaris,
John Waters and 2004 presidential
candidate Howard Dean, who vis-
ited the bar while on the campaign
trail and had also been picketed by
Phelps in Vermont for his stand on
civil unions.
Finding a niche
"For too long we've been rel-
egated to dark places to gather.
You become your environment,"
explained Contreras. "When con-
See AUT BAR, Page 12B

Bill Twarog serves drinks in the aut

U

PETER SCHOTTENFELS/ Daily
The state of Michigan ranks near the bottom in job production and
economic growth.
affluence and poverty can be wiped away in an instant, as Hurricane
Katrina quickly, painfully and efficiently demonstrated. Students
should also know that there are simple things they can do that indeed
make a difference. Students also grow (and sometimes the growth is
painful) when they meet and work with others who - while human
- have very different backgrounds. Maybe students can't - and
shouldn't - solve some problems. But students can learn to provide
help and assistance to those in need and maybe use their resources
and privilege to change or challenge an infrastructure or infrastruc-
ture sector that, if reformed, could serve people instead of not.

8B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Michigan Daily-

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