Rev. Horace Sheffield, III, Responds to the Suggestion of “Burning it [Detroit] down.”
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(Detroit, MI 3/28/2012) – Rev. Horace L. Sheffield, III, Executive Director of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations (dabo) released the following statement related to Minister Maleek Shabazz’s comments to “burn it (Detroit) down.
“On November 16, 1967, New Detroit Board President J. L. Hudson, Jr. met with the Detroit Council for Political Education, an organization my father founded, to discuss his concerns about the “riot”. While at that meeting Mr. Hudson asserted that the riot was due to ‘the fact that we have simply been talking to the wrong (Negro) people.’
When I watched and heard all of the responses to Minster Malik Shabazz’s comments I thought about this statement and how if they had listened to and done something about the conditions of the Black community, being addressed by “moderate voices” in 1967’ then perhaps what resulted could have been averted. Sometimes, because we don’t listen to those who are more soft spoken, it takes someone being blunt and out of order before we notice or move to do something. So, what’s really festering beneath the surface with people who have reached their end is that they have nothing left but to lash out at those who they hold partly responsible for their entrapment.
I am tired of Detroiters being totally blamed for this imperiling predicament we find ourselves in as poor and African Americans who are either forced to stay or who choose not to leave. And to continue to hear people suggest that Detroit’s demise began thirty years ago is insanity. Likewise, it is further folly to imply that somehow from then to now we have not only failed but not even tried to address what was important and critical to our survival.
Again, in 1967, my father, Horace L. Sheffield, Jr., in the aftermath of the 1967 Civil Disturbance, addressed these same and similar sentiments in his Michigan Chronicle Article, As I See It;
“Inherent in this kind of nonsense…is the suggestion that the ‘recognized’ Negro leadership has been advocating measures that did not address themselves to the problems and needs of the Negro people. This is so patently ridiculous and untrue that one must conclude that it is merely an attempt by them to assuage their own guilt ridden consciences. Negro (recognized) leadership has actually understood and interpreted the Negro peoples’ problems. It wasn’t lack of communication that white leadership suffered from. Like the old story of the mule that would not move until you got his attention…Some of our white leaders seem to be like that mule…in that it took the near destruction of our cities before we could get their attention.”
While I don’t agree with what Minister Shabazz has said, I do understand it. And more importantly, I fervently believe that if we continue to ignore and not addressed the issues which gave rise to his and others frustrations about Detroit, like chronic unemployment, crime, and economic deprivation, the truth is others rather than he may do just what he said.
Over forty years have passed since 1967 and the point has now been sufficiently been made. No one has been listening. Detroit did not get this way by itself and it will not come back by itself.
So, today, once again, I call on the Federal Government and President Barack Obama to immediately come to the aid of the city that put the world on wheels and then ran out of gas. If we can prop up foreign countries, aid foreign governments, and bail out the domestic car manufacturers than we can come to the aid of our cities and help save Detroit and together make it a model for the world to see how we treat our own.
And finally, I call on Detroiters to do their part. Spend your money where you live. Clean up where you sleep. And stand up and make this city safe and competitive again. We can do it, Yes We Can.”
Rev. Horace Sheffield, is the Executive Director of DABO, The Detroit Association of Black Organizations.