Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

"African Town" Toned Down

19. October 2004 • Murph
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The Detroit City Council has backed down somewhat on a plan to create an all-black business district dubbed “African Town”. The Council yesterday decided to scrap the portion of the plan that would designate city money for a business loan fund available only to black entrepreneurs, and also to discard a resolution designating blacks to be the City’s official “majority minority”. In September, the Council had voted to override Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s veto of both measures, which the Council had originally passed in July.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The city’s Hispanic, Asian and Arab community leaders protested the council’s previous actions, calling the report anti-immigrant and the July resolutions exclusionary.

“We need to fix what’s wrong with this and then move forward,” said Council President Pro Tem Kenneth Cockrel Jr., who introduced the compromise resolution with councilwoman Alberta Tinsley-Talabi. “The resolution allows us to recognize the first resolution was deeply flawed.”

He and other members agreed that at the heart of the issue is the need to help blacks build wealth.

Despite withdrawing direct funding, the compromise resolution maintains the idea of supporting a black business neighborhood.

The resolution the council did pass Monday calls on the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., an economic development arm of the city, and the City Planning Commission, a council department, to work with the city’s black business owners and trade associations to develop a business district in the mold of ethnic neighborhoods, such as Mexicantown and Greektown.


  1. Thank God those retards finally realized what a bad idea this was.
    (Resisting the impulse to make a comment about DC being “Niggertown” in the parlance of the ‘60s protesters).
       —js    Oct. 20 '04 - 01:40PM    #
  2. JS-
    Okay, I’m trying to understand your comment. The notion of developing an ethnic enclave for economic purposes does not seem unintelligent to me, and I surely would like to know your commentary on DC. Dumi
       —dumi    Oct. 20 '04 - 03:31PM    #
  3. While working to create ethnic enclaves and empowering them economically is not prima facie evil, Detroit is the one of the most segregated cities in the nation, and definitely the most segregated in the north. That, combined with the fact that within the city limits, African Americans are the majority, means that this is not only a specious idea full of political pandering, but one that will be seen as furthering the divisive nature of the city. For a lot of people, myself included, Coleman Young and his rampant racism did more to destroy Detroit (especially during the later years of his administration, where he held court like a 3rd world dictator) than white suburbs surrounding him.
    As for the Niggertown reference, I had to dig that up. I had been told that it was a common term for DC during the Vietnam days, used pejoritively by leftists to refer to DC’s segregation.
    In looking over what I could find on the web, the best citation I got was refering to the Hair lyric (from the musical) “Prisoners in Niggertown, it’s a dirty little war,” from the song “3-5-0-0.” The only online explanation for the lyric was that it was supposed to refer to a predominantly black POW camp in Vietnam that had an uprising, but that was after the lyrics to the song were written, so that connection is specious at best.
       —js    Oct. 22 '04 - 01:18AM    #
  4. An “ethnic” neighborhood emerges in a city to provide a whole set of services and strongly connected community for a minority that shares some common cultural links. This happens both for actual “ethnic” communities (e.g., ChinaTowns), as well as other self-identified communities (e.g., “gay” districts, like Boys Town in Chicago). One important feature of each of these neighborhoods is they work because the community is organized around a true minority in the city. In Detroit, blacks are not a minority; so this kind of neighborhood won’t emerge and won’t work like a ChinaTown or a BoysTown for blacks.

    Admitedly, some of these neighborhoods cease being community centers for a minority and become tourist traps—Greektown is like this. But there isn’t a whole lot of “Greek” left in Greektown anyway. If the City Council wants to create another entertainment district like “Greektown” but call it “Africantown,” it’s just going to be a Disneyland mock-up of what an “Africantown” might really look like in a city were blacks are a smaller minority. I don’t think it’ll work; I think they’ve picked a strange model to try and replicate.

    I get the sense that someone, somewhere said “In Detroit there’s a Greektown; there’s a Polishtown (Hamtramck); there’s a Mexicantown; but there ain’t an Africantown! There should be an Africantown, because there are so many african-americans in this city!”

    Which reminds me of the moronic reasoning of whites who say “How come blacks have “Ebony” magazine, but if whites started an “Ivory” magazine focusing on white people, that’d be ‘racist.’”

    There did used to be a “black” district in Detroit. It was called Paradise Valley and it was slowly demolished from the ‘50s to the ‘70s by I75, Lafeyette Park and Elmwood.
       —Scott T.    Oct. 22 '04 - 11:28AM    #
  5. 1) The decision to have an Africantown is not one of trying to mimic other ethnic enclaves. An ethnic enclave emerges when a population is not served in a necessary way and enclaves provide at lower costs and contribute to the community at large. In the case of Detroit, business are very decentralized and because of this there are lower quality things available to many Black residents and many of these businesses lack a connection to their surrounding communities.I would be interested to know the percentage of Af-Am businesses that are owned within the city limits of Detroit. Detroit’s current economic situation reflects a mutuation of internal colonialism (Blauner).
    2) Detroit is one of the most segregated cities, in the fact the most segregated large one (for the record Gary, Indiana has a higher level of segregation). Because a number of intiatives, such as the Ren Center, have failed to bring businesses that bolted from the city back into the city, the pursuit of an Africantown is not a bad idea. There needs to be continued efforts to get businesses back in the city, Africantown, and definitely since it’s been modified, would not serve to hurt the efforts to get more businesses in.
    3) I knew that your reference to niggertown had a link, but I would certainly advocate if you can’t verify its origins that you make sure not to reference it. It could/is highly offensive.
    4) The fall of paradise valley, the black bottom, bronzeville, ashbyville, etc. all black sections of major cities, are well documented and related to a number of factors. These spaces held great value in urban areas in the past and have the potential to do so in the future.
    Just my 2 cents. Dumi
    p.s. I’ll be interested to see how AT progresses.
       —dumi    Oct. 22 '04 - 02:16PM    #