Renaissance

Update: Detroit Poet Expands on Why She Sees 'New Detroit' As Unwelcoming


December 18, 2014, 4:04 PM by  Alan Stamm

The beat goes on in follow-up social media posts Thursday morning by Corktown resident Jessica Care Moore, a lifelong west-sider, and one of the three owners of UFO Factory, a relocated bar and music club that opened in September near her home.

Views are clarified, sometimes pointedly, and they agree to meet at the neighborhood bar. "Facebook can be icky and extremely divisive," businessman Dion Fischer, 42, says to the 43-year-old poet and performer. 


Dion Fischer: "Seems to me you are the one who has made a pre-judgment in this case. . . . I have zero interest in division." (Facebook photo)

Below are excerpts from Moore's response on her Facebook page to comments Wednesday by Fischer of the Trumbull Avenue business. His reply is under hers in full, as is Moore's follow-up pledge to visit UFO Factory because "dialog is a great beginning [and] doesn't happen enough here." (Minor style and punctuation charges are made.)

Jessica Care Moore: Dion D. Fischer, to be clear: i picked up your flyer like any other person who is looking for something cool to do in the city. It was colorful and I read it.

We've never met and I didn't even name the business in my original post because it wasn't an attempt to slam it. I planned to come meet you, but here we are. . . .

When I saw the "New Detroit" -- just the two words -- on the bottom, it honestly made me a feel a certain way. I don't think this was your intention, but you cannot have a business right in the middle of, yes, black Detroit . . . and operate in a bubble.

Hey, I live two blocks away from your place! it's my neighborhood and I grew up on the west side. I was born here. I love this city, but your flyer made me feel like I was wasn't welcome. . . . I integrate the white-owned businesses in Corktown. I support them. I eat at their tables and I suggest spots when the service is great. I'm def much more than online chatter. I'm an internationally known artist, I'm an activist and I love and work with good people of all races.

Of course as a business owner, you are gonna defend your space. I understand, but there is a dialog -- a healthy one -- that can be had so that you can have a better understanding of why this offends many of us -- not just online cuckoos, but real people and really amazing artists that you would def want IN your bar.

Everyone defines things differently, but when i hear my white friends...or i strike up a convo with someone on a plane and they are optimistic and happy about "New Detroit" it's because "Midtown" and downtown are becoming more white and heavily policed, just like Belle Isle Park! Race is a sensitive subject in this city for good reason. . . . If we are gonna "move forward." it can't be done by not having respect for who built this city and the people that made it great.

I grew up in a really great city. It's not just becoming that -- it IS that. We've had issues -- schools, politicians, yes -- but tearing down the beauty that is already here and shunning everything that is I guess "old" is just not progressive. It's actually divisive.

I'm just honest about how the flyer made it feel. And then when I saw the address as New Detroit, MI, i was just done. That corner I stood on countless times with my daddy on the way Tigers baseball. Man, that's not New Detroit. Corktown is the oldest hood in the D. That's why i like it. . . .

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There are better ways to describe a really great new spot and pull a diverse crown in, because so many of us are offended by the slogan "New Detroit." That flyer said "white hipster kids" to me. Maybe I'm completely wrong about that. Maybe all my black artist friends have been up the street and just didn't call me. . . .

Detroit has the potential to show the world how to do it. but the white business owners and new kids have to connect with the black people and artists in this city. We have lots of amazing artists, people, working-class grit, black businesses and we need coalition-building and healing. .Even though your intention may not be to divide, New Detroit unfortunately has racist undertones that people like me really feel.

With hopes of moving forward in peace with more understanding and respect. -- jessica

Dion D. Fischer: So let me understand this? I left flyers / open invitations at the gym i attend (whose membership is approx. 84% African American) . These were INVITATIONS to my venue to people I don't know of varying race/age/orientation, etc  HOW DOES THIS EXCLUDE ANYONE? Seems to me you are the one who has made a pre-judgment in this case.

Come find me at the gym. I'm the guy with this patch (for many years) on my raggedy winter coat. Let's chat in real life. Come to UFO -- have some popcorn or a beer. Facebook can be icky and extremely divisive . I have ZERO interest in division among peers, people  or cities.  

Moore: Dion. it's not a blame game. It's about understanding what this makes some native black Detroiters feel. I think my response was balanced & open and honest. I def said it wasn't your intention, but I'm telling for sure that's how it makes many of us feel. This convo and issue are much deeper than FB could ever solve. I'm def planning to come because I don't believe in self- segregating. . . . We just need honest dialog. . . . .

Conversation is healthy and necessary in Detroit, Harlem, Brooklyn. It's not just a Detroit issue. 


Original article, Wednesday afternoon:

It's Detroit, so nothing is simple. That includes using a branding phrase that evolved from optimistically fresh to fighting words.   

The words are New Detroit, which the UFO Factory bar adopted as a catchphrase long before relocating this year to Corktown. Back when it was an Eastern Market gallery and performance space, It slapped the slogan on T-shirts and cloth patches.

The black Ts are sold out, but "New Detroit" survives on flyers promoting bands, happy hours and other events in the "social club" that reopened three months ago at 2110 Trumbull near Michigan Avenue.     

Five decades before it became a hot button, "New Detroit" was coined in 1967 with sense of rebirth a goal of racial unity shortly after Detroit rioting in July 1967. It was the name of a civic committee that later incorporated as a nonprofit. The coalition, still alive, describes its mission as "addressing the issue of race relations by positively impacting issues and policies that ensure economic and social equity."

In 2014, the words have a negative meaning to some people -- which sparked a Facebook flare-up over handouts touting the bar as part of "New Detroit."


Jessica Care Moore: "I'm so not New Detroit. Is this the code word for white hipsters?" (Facebook photo)

"I picked up flyer in the gym today for a new bar in my neighborhood," prominent poet and performer Jessica Care Moore posted on her Facebook page Wednesday. "It's a cool flyer, 'cept on the bottom are the words 'New Detroit.' For some reason it made me feel uneasy."

Moore, who has 4,200 Facebook followers, added:

It made me think of the "white only" and "colored only" signs for water fountains. It made me think of segregated bathrooms and restaurants.

I know the owners didn't mean it to say all of that, but why say THAT at all? That ain't a new street you on, dude! . . .

Do the NEW people not understand or respect how much this city means to US?!! The people who made it absolutely fresh and black cool? I'm so not NEW Detroit. Is this the code word for "white hipsters?" . . .

I just think it needs to be made public that this type of marketing/branding sounds/feels like segregation.

Her post drew more than 80 comments in five hours -- at first mainly from friends with similar feelings. "'New Detroit' is about as offensive as HopCat's 'Crack Fries' at the corner of Canfield and Woodward," says one comment.

After Deadline Detroit sent club co-owner Dion Fischer a link to the thread for a response, he joined the conversation to explain:  

I knew this one was coming. . . . We started using "New Detroit" back in the early to mid-2000s as a cute little way to describe a diverse, yet like-minded, art and music scene that was always bubbling under. Think of it like "New Wave" or something, but . . . "New Detroit" instead. . . .

I suggest taking the term "New Detroit" back from the Internet trolls and the big business world, and instead using it as a term to describe any positive, forward-thinking movement in the city of Detroit. Less talking, more doing. Detroit isn't a blank canvas — it's a real city, a real continuum with a diverse population. It has always been ever-changing and always will be. Let's face it, Detroit does need some "new." 

Yes, there is so much wrong with the way millionaires get the red carpet and low-income gets shafted in cities like Detroit. I have only been in the city for about 20 years, so I'm no expert, but seems to me most of the "New Detroit" criticism is pointless, misguided online chatter.

In a follow-up reply, Fischer messaged in part that his business is "inclusive, not exclusive" and told Deadline he's "not interested in knee-jerk click bait Facebook chatter [that] has NOTHING to do with anything."

UFO Factory is a fun place for adult kids to hang out and soak in art and music. Please visit us and please avoid  pre-judgments. Thanks.

A defense of the bar also came from someone whose role may seem ironic. Kelly Guillory, an artist who published a provocative online essay in October titled "New Detroit," jumped into Wednesday afternoon's conversation with a time-out whistle:

UFO Factory was using that terminology before "New Detroit" meant the inequality thing. . . . UFO is not associated with the newer meaning of the term. . . .

I feel bad for them, honestly, but words change and phrases change. Language is alive and constantly shifts.

Guillory -- who wrote earlier that some New Detroiters "see race, but don’t talk about it" or "talk about it very briefly before changing the subject" -- added in In an offline exchange with Deadline: "I don't regret my essay at all. It's done a lot of good in promoting conversation."

As for UFO Factory, it has earned positive coverage in recent weeks from Hip in Detroit ("an awesome new venue"), WDET ("creative, plugged-in . . . impressive") and Metro Times ("Corktown's latest bar, music venue, art gallery and artisanal hot dog joint"). 

The club, which spiffed up the 1930s-style Art Deco facade of what had been Hoot Robinson's, features live music, movie nights, DJ nights and 4-7 p.m. happy hours with $1 domestic beers and well drinks. Its Facebook page is here.   

Disclosure: The writer participated in the original Facenbook thread before this article was posted. 



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