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Aretha Franklin was so Detroit. Bring her pocketbook onstage at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center and swing her fur coat behind her as she sits at the baby grand, Detroit. Pay Aretha in cash, Detroit. Stash that cash in her bra, Detroit. Unapologetic and black, Detroit. Lived in and represented Detroit till the day she died, Detroit.

There is a recording of a 14-year-old Franklin singing Thomas A. Dorsey's "Take My Hand, Precious Lord." Even at that age, Franklin was confident enough to make that gospel classic her own, to moan whole lines, to give herself, as they say in the church, "up to the Lord." This performance is evidence of her preternatural, unmatched talent, but it is also used as evidence that Aretha, from the beginning, was "fully formed," a woman-child capable of channeling the great voices of women like family friend Clara Ward. Like the best church performances, this one is buoyed by the congregation, who affirms her with praise as she lifts to the heavens with her voice and soul their collective burdens, their hopes. 

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On Tuesday evening, the family of Jalal Mansur Nurridin, 74, released a statement describing his death, writing that "Jalal slipped quietly away this evening into the arms of Allah," and asked that we use the last ten days of Ramadan to make dua for him. Nurridin lead the best-known iteration of the legendary Last Poets, a spoken word and percussionist collective formed on Malcolm X's birthday and that, at its best, embodied the spirit of Malcom as street hustler, soldier for the people and revolutionary sage — none more so than the Brooklyn-born Jalal, the Godfather of Rap. Lightnin' Rod. The Schoolyard Bard.

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“I only want problems worth having,” a wise but exasperated Detroit native (a stranger seated nearby) once said over dinner. Detroit has a food problem. Our new food problem isn’t connected to our old food problem, which was misdescribed by the concerned as everything from “food desert” to “food swamp.” What, in fact, began happening when I was born in my beleaguered hometown in the ’70s was a corporate boycott of our super black city. It extended from restaurants to grocery stores that would open, say, up to half a dozen locations in historically Waspy neighborhoods like Grosse Pointe, while pretending Detroit itself didn’t exist. Detroiters, who, it turns out, do indeed eat food, solved that problem long ago by transforming over a thousand vacant lots into beautiful food gardens. No, our new problem is the same old segregation that led to the white mob riots in 1943 and the black rebellion in 1967. We've got new restaurants seemingly so averse to hiring from Detroit's local population (83 percent of whom are black), that they posted billboards in Brooklyn and Manhattan looking for waitstaff. (full article continued)

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It seems so long ago, but it has been only a week since Mr. West came out of the closet as the same-dragon-loving, Trump-supporting, slave-shaming, alt-fact fire breather. Last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live,” hosted by the actor and musician Donald Glover, turned Mr. West’s weeklong trolling into the horror film it felt like. But ending the week laughing at Mr. Glover’s sendup of Mr. West hasn’t made watching him unravel any less infuriating or heartbreaking. (full article continued)

The White Stripes' "Little Room" is only 50 seconds long. Jack White sings about working on "something good" in his little room, only to have that something good move him to a bigger room, where he's lost and has to consider downsizing to re-center. It is riotous and lean. While it's almost certainly an inventory of personal success, even a manifesto on the subject, for me, in this moment, it is also about Detroit.

I moved back to my hometown of Detroit just after my homeboy Jack White moved to Nashville. Despite its downturn I've always been proud of historical Detroit: We practically invented the high school-educated, home-owning middle class. But living in a past when industry and art was booming is neither possible nor even desirable.

I moved home because another Detroit is happening.

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