'Last White Household in Our Neighborhood:' Writer Looks at '67 Detroit

The exhibit opens June 23 and is expected to run three years.

The latest assignment handled by Sherri Welch, a senior reporter at Crain's Detroit Business, is deeply personal and sure to resonate widely among longtime Detroiters.

She previews an extensive, immersive exhibit opening Friday at the Detroit Historical Museum. It's "centered on the events of 1967," she writes, deliberately using a neutral word for what happened 50 summers ago.

Early on, exhibit visitors see "an interactive screen asking what you call the events of 1967," explains Welch.

Do you call it a riot? Uprising? Rebellion? Something else? Does one word speak to the behavior and another put rationale behind it?

You're asked to answer that question again near the end of the exhibit, to see if your perspective has changed.

Her answer comes near the end of a 1,700-word article that reaches far beyond a just-the-facts exhibit overview.

Sherri Welch: "My family -- the last white household in our neighborhood on Detroit's east side -- moved out of the city in the early 1970s."
(Twitter photo)

Here's some of what the displays evoke for this daughter of Detroiters, a Crain's writer since 2003:

What came to mind was the black-and-white pictures of shattered Detroit storefronts that my dad took during the riots. That's what I'd heard them called, and that's what I'd seen growing up.

As a direct consequence of those events and others that took place before and after, my family — the last white household in our neighborhood on Detroit's east side — moved out of the city in the early 1970s.

My parents signed our house over to the state around 1974 when they were unable to sell it, and they moved to a nearby suburb to start over with their eight kids.

They still brought us back into Detroit some Sundays after church, for fishing on Belle Isle, drives through their old neighborhoods and for special occasions like the downtown Christmas lights, the Grand Prix as it roared through the downtown area and the fireworks.

During every trip, they'd point out the places they used to go when they were young, painting a vibrant picture of Detroit during its glory days. They wanted us to see Detroit the way they had seen it.

I grew up with their perspective, but I never really had the opportunity to hear other views — until Friday during an advance peek at the "Detroit '67: Perspectives" exhibit. . . .

Not everybody experienced the 1967 events in the same way.

To see which word -- riot, uprising or rebellion -- Welch chose on her way out, read about her walk-through of self-discovery. It's full of details about an extensive presentation that includes original TV footage, a realistic Army tank model, nearly 500 and .  

At life-size mock storefronts, she writes, "you're immersed in the uprising as shadow passersby stop to look in windows, smash windows and begin looting as others stand watching. Soon, fires spark up.The immersion is possible through the use of augmented reality technology."

"I plan to come back to read more and listen to some of the oral histories," concludes the journalist from "the last white household in our neighborhood on the Detroit's east side."

Read more:  Crain's Detroit Business

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