I have been going back and forth to Detroit over the past few months preparing for our Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow as part of the Detroit Historical Society (DHS) Detroit 67 Project – a citywide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Detroit uprisings/riots. DDFR will be working with communities across the city to create an photographic celebration/investigation around the narratives of one of the greatest cities of the country – told through the photo albums of everyday Detroiters.
My Grandfather, a life-long amateur photographer, advanced his hobby considerably during the 50s & 60s when he began using kodachrome slide film. He took over 10,000 images mostly of the family and his church, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal on 132nd street in Harlem. Occasionally he shot images of neighborhoods such as the Detroit street scenes above, which was taken in 1964 during my first visit. This in fact was my only visit to the Motor City until Digital Diaspora Family Reunion brought me back. I was an toddler at the time of this series of photos so I have no recollection of this city other than the plentiful family stories and relationships that always seem to lead back to Detroit.
Somehow it seems that everything became unglued in the late 60’s – the assassination of Dr. King, the end of the civil rights & antipoverty movements (and the concordant intensification of policing and neglect of Black communities in the North), and my parents’ marriage. My great aunt Tessie moved back to Albany, New York leaving her sister behind in Detroit. Detroit cousins would come to visit us in New York City – some would stay and others return. But I never recall as a child asking why we never went to visit them in Detroit. Until now.
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