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Detroit: Cultural capital

Michigan Citizen writer Steve Furay says Detroit is a cultural capital and much of our resources, public policy and planning must be devoted to supporting this city as such. What if the schools, the administration and City Council all worked together to make sure Detroit thrives as an important cultural destination? That may mean music and instruments return to schools, computer programming is offered so students or citizens can make, own and distribute their own video games, apps or other digital projects.

Detroit could be a place where writers or filmmakers work. Why isn’t every mayoral candidate asked about how they are going to deepen Detroit’s role as a cultural capital? All roads could lead to cultural competency in Detroit. Detroit artists have influenced jazz, hip hop, electronic music and created the Motown sound and techno. And this is only music.

This week, we are celebrating two important cultural events — Dilla Day and Black Women Rock. James “J. Dilla” Yancey was an influential Detroit producer who, in working with his own group, Slum Village, and others — including The Roots, D’Angelo and Janet Jackson — helped shaped the sound of hip hop music. He died of lupus complications in 2006, but his mother and others help organize an annual event to celebrate his life and honor the music legend. Black Women Rock will perform at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Formed by jessica Care moore, poet, publisher and Detroiter, Black Women Rock breaks apart all of the tropes of Black women in music.

No weaves, girl groups or platform shoes found here. Black Women Rock is a collaboration of Black women artists who are inspired by genres such as punk, rock, metal and hip hop, to name only a few. The collaboration, with a revolving cadre of Black women artists, has been performing since 2004.

Black Women Rock is important for so many different reasons. Care moore has basically formed an institution in which creative Black women vocalists, musicians and visual artists can play music, draw, sketch, paint, take pictures and pay some bills. It is also a celebration of creativity and authenticity. Black Women Rock celebrates and encourages being yourself — whoever or whatever that may be. The groups show our daughters, sisters and mothers new images. Black Women Rock changes iconography.

Black Women Rock forces us to ask ourselves and list all the ways Black Women Rock — they are mothers, artists, guitar players, Gullah warriors, punks, tattooed poets, activists. Black Women Rock expands our consciousness and contributes to — if we consider our history as Africans in America — our identity as Black people. Black Women Rock adds to OURstory.

Revolution happens outside of existing political frameworks.

Politics gets tiresome in this city and the current trajectory — formed by money, might, gentrification and Lansing — is downright depressing, if not degrading. Yet, these artists are inspiring new thought and action in the city. This is invaluable. Support culture and the arts in Detroit.



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