Some of you may remember the name from the news. You may have seen him in the streets. Perhaps you gave him money. He wasn’t a stranger to the city of Detroit.
His name was Michael Alston and he was homeless. Some know him as “Dreadlock Mike” because of his wildly-unruly dreadlocks that covered his head and encased his face. Dreadlock Mike died recently, along with another Detroit homeless man, in a hit-and-run car accident.
This incident had a profound effect on young Detroit filmmaker, Colin Duerr.
Quietly working on a documentary about the homeless people in Detroit, Colin had filmed and interviewed Dreadlock Mike a few years ago, and with the news of his death, he felt compelled to finish it. Colin edited it into a short-profiling documentary about Dreadlock Mike, telling the story and message of Michael Alston for the way he should be remembered.
Colin was born in Detroit and grew up outside of the city in Royal Oak. He remembers Detroit as “being lovely back then. There was a comic book store, two independent record stores…I’m proud I experienced childhood in that town.” For the last six years, Colin lived in downtown Detroit and has just moved to southwest Detroit.
“It’s unfortunate that Mike’s death caused me to release the footage I had of him, but his words stuck with me and upon learning of his death, I knew they should be heard,” Colin said of his short-film about Dreadlock Mike, titled “This Is Ours.” “Knowing what I knew of Mike, in particular, it was like someone came and squashed a precious flower.”
Colin titled the short-film “This Is Ours” because they were words repeated by Mike in the film. “It speaks volumes about what we can do as people,” Colin added, “right now, that’s incredibly comforting to me.” Colin said those words can designate us as people, “It’s unifying and valuable, in that, despite our color, ethnicity, and tastes, we truly are one and our existence in this world is shared. It’s ours.”
“Detroit is an adventure and a fantastic environment if you’re an artist or worker,” Colin said about the city. “I’d like my weird filmmaking to be a nice blemish on the face of Detroit’s future.” As a filmmaker, an artist and a person, Colin still believes in the “spirit” of Detroiters. He adds, “Every day, I see Detroiters drive down 94 to work and endure their neglected surroundings so they can feed their families. That is the spirit if you ask me.”
Colin is a filmmaker – he’s always wanted to be and always will be. He directed a TV show called “The Ded Dave Show,” which aired on CW50, he’s directed music videos for various Detroit groups, and recently he’s been working on developing a feature film called “The First Grade G” – which he’s started shooting and is now seeking additional funding for.
“I’m just so happy that I was able to create ‘This Is Ours’ for everyone to see. This is how Michael Alston should be remembered and his message is something we should be able to draw upon in a dark time and employ our collective efforts in co-existing,” Colin said.