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Detroit Raw by Sam Riddle

Taras with priests; Ukrainian funeral

Taras with priests; Ukrainian funeral


By Sam Riddle
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Taras, the Ukrainian freedom fighter undaunted by Russians. Tamika, a Black woman totally disrespected at a Detroit Shell gas station but standing strong against big oil bullying. Both are Facebook friends of mine separated by thousands upon thousands of miles. Their fervor for justice appeared on the smart phone screen as I scanned my newsfeed to see what Facebook friends were posting.

Hmmm, that Shell gas station at I-75 and Mack had totally disrespected a sister who was now asking Facebook friends to join her in a protest boycott at the Shell station in a couple of days.

I shared Tamika Gaines’ post with my 5,000 Facebook friends and another 1,492 FB followers of mine while tweeting to an additional 2,099 Twitter followers. Techno-organizing was underway. That protest was entirely doable and only five minutes away, maybe 10 in the damn snow; onward to Shell. Jeez, I hate big oil bullies.

Tamika Gaines’ protests at Shell

Tamika Gaines’ protests at Shell

The cold was exacerbated by the shower of wet snow, but we stood strong even turning a U-Haul truck around after it pulled up to the pump; the driver left when informed that Shell does not respect our women or community. We demand respect for our people. Respect our women or we will shut Shell down!

My Facebook friend Taras P. Nykoriak responded to a picture I posted of us protesting at the Shell station. Taras said he could use our protest gusto where he was. Problem was that Taras was posting from Kiev, Ukraine. As I watched WXYZ interview Taras via Skype, the Interned reduces the size of the world.

I issued prayers for Taras’ safe return. Be careful my friend, because those Russians have been docking their boats there for a couple of hundred years and all those Russian gas pipelines run through Ukraine. And there is Putin asserting his manhood for a Russia that needs to reassert itself on the world stage. Still, as one protester to another, there was solidarity — Facebook and a bunch of armed-to-the-teeth Russians.

Any Shell apology must be done at a much higher level than the misogynistic racist clerk/franchise level. That has not happened yet. But much more is required on behalf of customers and Detroit because Shell has institutionalized racist disrespect beyond individuals.

Stay tuned as at least one national organization, the National Action Network, at the highest level, is prepared to move on a multi-national Shell that enjoys obscene profits while charging too damn much at I-75 and Mack in the D.

Even as Taras posted something about a bullet-proof vest, I cringed at the thought of having to inform him that when he returns to Detroit, we have a battle to wage against democracy-destroyers right here in Detroit as bankruptcy dollars trump human rights and democracy. Where is John Kerry?  Damn, it’s a small world.

We must never let haters cause us to lose hope or dislike ourselves and never let haters make you weak in your faith. Keep the faith. Stay on the battlefield.

Sam Riddle is political director of Michigan National Action Network. Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter at

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