Marking the first day of the Trump administration with Debbie Dingell and Gretchen Whitmer, firsthand accounts of the DC, Lansing and Ypsilanti women’s marches, and a discussion about the role of community-based art in improving society… on this weekend’s edition of the Saturday Six Pack

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This weekend’s episode of the Saturday Six Pack, our first under the Trump administration, will be told in two parts.

First, we will be talking with people on the ground in D.C., and elsewhere, about the response to the Trump inauguration, with special emphasis on how women are standing up and letting it be known that they intend to fight to protect their rights, safety, health, and families. We’ll be talking on the phone with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell about her experiences at the Women’s March on Washington, which will have concluded just as our show is starting. And State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, who just recently announced her run for Governor, will be calling in to talk about the Women’s March on Lansing, where she will have just delivered the headline address. And, on the local front, we’ll have organizer Desirae Simmons with us in the studio, discussing the Ypsi March for Love, Resilience and Action. [The Ypsi march, if you’d like to join, is scheduled to get underway Saturday at noon, at the intersection of North Washington Street and Michigan Avenue.] And, as if that we’re enough, we’ll also be taking as many calls as we can from friends, family, and Saturday Six Pack listeners around the country about how they spent their first full day under the Trump administration, marching, resisting, and hatching plans for the future. So, if you weren’t lucky enough to score a bus ticket to D.C., tune in and join us for what I hope will be a long series of conversations with women, both young and old, about how they intend to spend the next four years. And do feel free to call in and join us, if you’d like for your voice to be among those collected in this audio time capsule marking the official beginning of the fight against Trump. [If you’re going to call, we’ll be opening up the lines between 6:30 and 7:15.]

It’s something that we’ve discussed here before, but it’s probably worth repeating… In spite of Trump’s long track record of misogyny, and the fact that we’ve all heard him say on tape that his celebrity status entitles him to “grab” women “by the pussy” without their consent, a significant number of women in this country voted for him to be their President over Secretary Clinton, the first female major party candidate for president in United States history. While 94 percent of black women, and 68 percent of Hispanic women voted for Clinton, a staggering 53 percent of all white women voted for Trump. [51 percent of all college-educated white women, and 62 percent of all white women without college degrees, voted for Trump.] It’s one of the most interesting things to me about this last election, and it’s one of the big reasons I’m as enthusiastic as I am about events like the Women’s March on Washington, which are striving to bring women together to discuss these vitally important issues.

While some, as you might expect, are playing up the abortion divide, suggesting that it might kill any chance of a women’s movement that extends beyond already established political boundaries, I’ve got to think there’s still potential here. Even women who voted for Trump, I’ve got to think, have to be concerned about things like access to birth control, quality healthcare and sexism in the workplace, even if they felt more strongly about other issues during the election. And I suspect there are going to be innumerable opportunities for women to find common ground over the coming months, as the Republican endgame becomes more clear. And, for what it’s worth, I suspect that even the divide over abortion could thaw to some extent, as we see Planned Parenthood de-funded, and begin to experience the ramifications. I know, for some, there’s no possibility of compromise, but I have to think that some who consider themselves to be pro-life could get to a point where they finally accept that, yes, thanks to increased access to healthcare, sex education and family planning resources, abortion under the Obama administration hit an historic low.

Abortion aside, though, I’d have to think that there’s potential for substantive discourse between those women who voted for Trump and those women who didn’t vote for Trump on how they can work together now that he’s in office to ensure that their rights are protected. Take, for instance, Rebecca Gregory, a 46 year old nurse from Roseville, Michigan, who was recently interviewed for a piece in the New York Times titled, ‘You Focus on the Good’: Women Who Voted for Trump, in Their Own Words. While I have quite a few issues with what she said in the Times piece, I’m thinking that, given her stated support for Planned Parenthood, she might be amenable to a conversation about safeguarding access to women’s health resources. And I have to think there are more like her out there… Here, in case you missed the article, is what Gregory had to say.

In 2008 and 2012, I voted for Obama, I was pro-gay marriage, Planned Parenthood was very important to me. But after eight years, I saw there was much more racial divide than there had ever been, I didn’t like the way the economy is going and I didn’t like the stance he took on police. My husband is a court officer and volunteers in the police force. [President Obama] didn’t support law enforcement the way he did the community that felt they were being unjustly treated. I think he could have done a better job instead of pointing blame. Instead of saying we need to educate people on how to behave when they’re being pulled over by the police.

I’m seeing a barrage of patients coming in from different countries. An Iraqi immigrant came in last night, he needs dialysis. He will never be productive in the U.S., he will always be dependent on Medicaid. I feel for him, I want to help him, but we have to take care of our own people first. Driving to work yesterday, I saw three homeless people. They need our help.

If I turned down every candidate who objectified women, I’d vote for no one.

Regardless of how successfully women are able to build a broad coalition to fight Trump, I just love that, on his first day in office, thousands of busses will be rolling into D.C. full of women who are ready to protest against him, and remind him that he’s being watched. [He’s not only been watched, he’s being sued. Attorney Gloria Allred, in case you missed it, announced yesterday that she was representing a former contestant on Trump’s television program, The Apprentice, who claims to have been kissed by the billionaire without her consent.]

Speaking of the Women’s March in D.C., in case you haven’t seen it, here is the declaration of principles put forward by the organizers. My guess is that it will guide much of our conversation come Saturday.

We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.

ENDING VIOLENCE Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies. We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.

LGBTQIA RIGHTS We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.

WORKER’S RIGHTS We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. All women should be paid equitably, with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave, and healthy work environments. All workers – including domestic and farm workers, undocumented and migrant workers – must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage.

CIVIL RIGHTS We believe Civil Rights are our birthright, including voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability. We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

DISABILITY RIGHTS We believe that all women’s issues are issues faced by women with disabilities and Deaf women. As mothers, sisters, daughters, and contributing members of this great nation, we seek to break barriers to access, inclusion, independence, and the full enjoyment of citizenship at home and around the world. We strive to be fully included in and contribute to all aspects of American life, economy, and culture.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS Rooted in the promise of America’s call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. We believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed – especially at the risk of public safety and health.

Seems like a pretty good foundation to build a movement on, doesn’t it?

And, then, during our second segment, we’ll be talking with Ypsi High art teacher Lynne Settles, one of her students, and local historian Matt Siegfried about the silent march across Yspilanti that they coordinated this past Martin Luther King Day, and the multi-venue art exhibit that awaited all of those who attended the march at it’s end. And, I imagine, we’ll talk about author and statesman Frederick Douglass, the man around whom much of the work revolved. [This past MLK Day, as some of you may know, marked the 150th anniversary of Douglass having delivered the speech, “The Perils of the Republic,” at the corner of Michigan Avenue and North Washington Street.]

Here, for those of you who missed the event, are a few photos taken by local photographer Nick Azzaro. [I hope to have video of the event to share shortly.]

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[That last image is of the speaking Frederick Douglass statue that the students made. Just as I left the room to make room for others, who were waiting patiently outside in the cold, it was reciting the following line from the speech that Douglass had given 150 years earlier, to the day. “(O)ur government may at some time be in the hands of a bad man,” the statue of Douglass said in the voice of an Ypsi High student. It was a surreal moment.]

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NEVER TUNED IN TO THE SIX PACK BEFORE, HERE ARE THE DETAILS ON HOW TO LISTEN:

Unless you live inside the AM 1700 studio, chances are you won’t be able to pick the show up on your radio. As that’s the case, I’d recommend streaming the show online, which you can do either on the AM1700 website or by way of TuneIn.com.

And for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the show, and need to get caught up, you can listen to the entire archive on iTunes.

And do call us if you have a chance. We love phone calls. So please copy down this number and slide it into your sock – 734.217.8624 – and call us this Saturday evening. The show is nothing without you.

One last thing… If you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, feel free to share the Facebook event listing.

And, here, thanks to AM 1700 senior graphic designer Kate de Fuccio, is this week’s poster, in case any of you want to print copies and leave them at one of your favorite highway rest areas.

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Posted in Art and Culture, Civil Liberties, Politics, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Elizabeth Warren grills Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, saying she’s unprepared to protect American tax-payers against the waste, fraud and abuse of higher ed swindlers like Trump

There’s a lot to discuss about DeVos’s performance during yesterday’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. There’s one part in particular, however, that I’d like to share. It’s an exchange between the billionaire anti-public education activist and Senator Elizabeth Warren on the subject of how, as Trump’s Secretary of Education, DeVos protect against waste, fraud and abuse. [Warren deftly ties in the fact that our President-elect, up until recently, operated a fake university that swindled Americans out of millions.] Here’s what Warren had to say about the exchange on Facebook last night, followed by video of the exchange.

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Also of note, in case you missed it, was the part of the hearing when Senator Bernie Sanders asked DeVos if she would you be sitting in front of their committee, being considered for this incredibly impertinent Cabinet position, had her family not donated millions to Republicans.

As I’ve said before, there are a lot of truly terrible nominees that are being considered right now, but this one is on us. DeVos is someone who we know, and it’s incumbent on us to make sure the rest of the nation knows the devastation she wrought in Michigan, and what she’s likely to do to public education across the United States if given the opportunity. So, if you haven’t already, please read my last post about DeVos, share it with everyone you know, and ask them to call their Senators, especially if they happen to sit on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and ask them to vote against DeVos, a far right religious zealot with a long track record of pushing initiatives that weaken public education and deliver poor outcomes for children.

Posted in Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

If all goes well, in a few days, I’ll be meeting a man whose father built the secret tunnels beneath Harry Bennett’s castle on the Huron River

Every now and again, as I’ve written about him a few times in the past, I get an odd call about infamous Ford enforcer Harry Bennett, who built a fortress not far from here in 1930 to protect him from his many enemies. Not too long ago, as you might recall, a man contacted me from Palm Springs, where Bennett retired about 50 years ago, wanting to share photos of paintings that he’d been given by the former head of Ford security as a kid. [Bennett had taken up painting in his retirement, and this man had grown up next door to him, helping him around his house.] And, just a few days ago, I was asked by a man if I’d like to talk with his 96 year old father about the secret tunnels that run beneath the estate off of Geddes that Bennett built in 1930. [The tunnels, as I understand it, were built years later, after Bennett escaped a failed murder attempt.] Apparently, from what I’m told, his father built the tunnels, and has stories that he’s ready to share. [Hopefully they involve the lions Bennett supposedly kept in the tunnels to thwart his potential assassins.] So tonight I’m doing research on the house, its tunnels, and the stories of labor organizers who may have met their end on the property, as I have no idea where this discussion may lead.

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For those of you who may never have heard of Bennett (seen above with Henry Ford), here’s something I posted a while back that should give you a pretty good idea of the man.

According to legend, Henry Ford hired Bennett, a former Navy man, after having seen him kick someone’s ass on the streets of New York. He was apparently just the kind of man that Henry wanted, a brutal enforcer who could take care of “problems” within Ford at a point in history when organized labor was becoming a force to be reckoned with. Bennett came to head Ford’s “Service” Department, which was essentially a private army within the company comprised of the most cruel hoodlums and ex-convicts that money could buy. The men of the Service Department, under Bennett’s direction, made sure that the plants kept running efficiently, no matter what the cost… Word is that Hitler’s Gestapo was modeled after the Ford Service Department, so that should give you some sense of what they were like.

Coincidentally, during this same time in Michigan, there arose a political organization known as the Black Legion. A splinter group of the KKK, the Black Legion was dedicated to stopping Communism in all of its forms, especially, it would seem, through the killing of men organizing workers in Ford plants… Following are two clips from a pamphlet published in 1936 titled The Black Legion Rides, which touch on some of the connections between Ford and the Legion.

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Interestingly, the Black Legion was known to have dumped bodies on a property near Pinkney owned by Ford… Even more interestingly, Ford and Bennett refused to cooperate when authorities asked for permission to drain the mill pond and search for additional bodies in the summer of 1936, after the body of a man was found on the property, and interviews led the police to think that there were others.

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And, here, for those of who who still want more, is a clip from the book The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War.

bennett2Henry Ford was relaxing in a New York hotel room one day when he met a man named Harry Bennett. He was a little figure — five-foot-seven, 145 pounds, with hard blue eyes, receding brown hair, and a bulldog jaw. The New York Times columnist Arthur Brisbane introduced the two. Bennett was from Ann Arbor, Michigan, not far from where Henry lived. The twenty-four-year-old was just out of the navy, where he had served as a deep-sea diver and had boxed under the name “Sailor Reese.”

Henry took a liking to Bennett. The little man had sly eyes that were calculating and fearless and a picaresque past that made him sound like a character out of a gritty detective novel. Every scar on his face had a story. Harry Bennett had learned to brawl as a kid from his father. In fact, his father had been killed in a barroom fight.

“I could use a man like you at the Rouge,” Henry said. “Can you shoot?”

“Sure I can,” said Bennett.

The men at the Rouge were “a pretty tough lot,” Henry said. “I haven’t got any policemen out there.”

Soon after, Henry hurled Bennett into the iron jungle. “There may be a lot of people over there who want to fire you,” he told Bennett, “but don’t pay any attention to them. I’m the only one who can fire you. Remember, you’re working for me.”

Born in 1892, Bennett was a year older than Henry’s son Edsel. In his basement office in the Rouge, he kept a small desk, a fireplace, and a couch. He hung a picture of his daughter on the wall. Other than that, the office was spare. It had two doors, one in front of him controlled by a button under his desk, and another secret door behind him so that Henry could come and go without being noticed. Bennett hung a target in his office for .32 caliber target pistols. He and his boss Henry sat for hours firing away. According to Bennett, “Mr. Ford was a dead shot.”

Each morning Bennett dressed in a suit, his trademark bow tie (a hanging tie could be grabbed and used in a fight), a fedora, and a holster in which he packed a handgun at all times. He picked up Henry at his Fair Lane estate and took him to work. Whatever Henry needed done, Bennett was there for the doing. The fact that he couldn’t change the oil of an automobile stirred confusion among the ranks. When asked what his job was, Bennett answered, “I am Mr. Ford’s personal man.” And then: “If Mr. Ford told me to blacken out the sun tomorrow, I might have trouble fixing it. But you’d see a hundred thousand sons-of-bitches coming through the Rouge gates in the morning, all wearing dark glasses.”

Henry paid Bennett “peanuts for a salary,” according to the ex-navy man. But he had access to a safe full of cash for special expenses. He moved into a winged Gothic home owned by Henry on the Huron River in nearby Ypsilanti, where he threw wild parties and showed pornographic films with titles like “The Casting Director” and “A Stiff Game.” He called his home “The Castle.”

In the 1920s, Bennett began to amass a private security force called the Service Department — a group of ex-boxers and ballplayers, cons, bad cops kicked off the force, and characters from Detroit’s La Cosa Nostra, which during Prohibition ran a thriving booze trade, smuggling liquor over the Detroit River from Canada. Service Department men were noticeable for their size, rough language, and cauliflower ears, and for the fact that they hung around without doing any work.

“They’re a lot of tough bastards,” Bennett described his burgeoning Gestapo, “but every one of them is a goddamn gentleman”…

Harry Bennett found opportunity in the Depression. As head of personnel, Bennett ruled the Rouge. People were desperate for work. If a man wanted a job — well, then, maybe he’d have to do somebody a favor. Maybe he’d have to vote a certain way in an election. Maybe he would have to wax one of Harry Bennett’s yachts, if he didn’t want to get his teeth knocked out. By 1937, Bennett had succeeded in building the Service Department into what H. L. Mencken’s American Mercury magazine called “the most powerful private police force in the world.”

“There are about eight hundred underworld characters in the Ford Service Department,” labor leader Benjamin Stolberg said. “They are the Storm Troops. They make no pretense of working, but are merely ‘keeping order’ in the plant community through terror.”

Among the Service Men employed by Bennett: Norman Selby, an ex-pugilist who fought as “Kid McCoy,” married ten times, paroled to Bennett after serving twenty years for murdering his sweetheart. Joseph “Legs” Laman, admitted serial kidnapper, nicknamed for his ability to evade the law on foot. Joe Adonis, a mobster called by the New York Post “a gang punk” and “dope king.” Sicilian mob boss Chester LaMare, the “Al Capone of Detroit,” who controlled Detroit’s waterfront during Prohibition. Former journeyman pugilist Elmer “One Round” Hogan, Sicilian gangster Joe Tocco, Jack Dempsey’s former manager Leonard Saks…

Under constant intimidation by Bennett’s Service Men — the “Ford Terror” — workers at the Rouge suffered nervous breakdowns and an anxiety-induced ailment known as “the Ford stomach.” “I think it was just fear that caused this tension in the company,” recalled engineer Roscoe Smith. “A lot of people, when [Bennett’s men] came around and started taking them apart, just couldn’t take it. They couldn’t stand the pressure.”

Meanwhile, the speed of the assembly line increased…

So, wish me luck. If all goes well, I should have new stories later this week of what it was like to work for Bennett and dig his tunnels.

Posted in Ann Arbor, Corporate Crime, History, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Secretary of Education pick Betsy DeVos caught on tape, talking about defunding public education in order to “advance God’s kingdom”

With the Senate confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, set to begin tomorrow, the folks at Politico just released a 2001 recording in which the Amway billionaire explains that her work to defund public education has been done in order to “advance God’s kingdom.” Her comments, according to Politico, were made during an annual conference for wealthy Christians called “The Gathering.” During the session, DeVos and her husband Dick talk about why they invested so heavily in the unsuccessful 2000 ballot initiative which would have allowed public dollars to fund private and religious schools by way of a voucher system.

This tape, says Michigan Democratic candidate for Governor Gretchen Whitmer, “gets to the heart of why Betsy DeVos wants to dismantle our public schools.” Here, for those of you who might not trust Whitmer’s interpretation, is a clip from the recording in which DeVos’s husband Dick laments the fact that public schools have “displaced” the Church as the center of our communities, suggesting that, if we could just find a way to close them, we’d not only bring America back to God, but also decrease the number of godless public school teachers in our communities.

Is this tape likely to generate the same kind of outrage that the new audio of Warren Mayor Jim Fouts comparing black people to “chimps” and calling old women “dried-up cunts” is getting? Maybe not. But one hopes that maybe there are enough people out there who care passionately about the separation of church and state to make sure that this becomes a central part of tomorrow’s hearing, right along with those 41 questions of Elizabeth Warren’s, and the news that broke a few days ago about how DeVos had neglected to mention a $125,000 anti-union donation in the disclosure forms she filed with the Office of Government Ethics.

As I’ve said before, there are a lot of truly terrible nominees that are being considered right now, but this one is on us, Michigan. DeVos is someone who we know, and it’s incumbent on us to make sure the rest of the nation knows what she did to Michigan, and what she’s likely to do to public education across the United States if given the opportunity. So, if you haven’t already, please read my last post about DeVos, share it with everyone you know, and ask them to call their Senators, especially if they happen to sit on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and ask them to vote against DeVos. It’s strong public education that made this country great, and, if anything, we should be redoubling our efforts right now, in the face of so many global challenges, not retrenching. We should be building public schools, not putting programs in place to weaken them, especially when the evidence shows that those programs have failed so miserably in states like Michigan. If anything, we need smarter, more engaged young people right now, and unaccountable, privately-owened charter schools just aren’t giving us that. Yes, they may drive more people to religion out of desperation, as they wonder how they’ll keep their families fed, but is that what we want for our next generation?

Posted in Education, Politics, Religious Extremism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Ypsi High students mark MLK Day with silent peace march and art exhibit

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Both EMU and UM have great events lined up for Martin Luther King Day tomorrow. My family, however, will be spending the morning with Lynne Settles and her Ypsi High art students, who will be silently marching from Ypsilanti’s water tower, starting at 9:00 AM, to the building on Michigan Avenue where, 150 years ago, to the day, abolitionist, author and statesman Frederick Douglass delivered a speech titled “The Perils of the Republic.” And, in that building, at the intersection of North Washington and Michigan Avenue, the students will be sharing their most recent creative work, which includes a life-size sculpture of Douglass, that, I’m told, will be reciting “The Perils of the Republic” with their voices. Given the incredible and inspiring work that Lynne and her students have done in the past, I suspect it will be awesome… Following are images of Lynne’s students, building the sculpture of Douglass along with University of Michigan’s Mark Tucker.

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Here, by way of Facebook, is a little more detail from Settles about the “Our Voices Will Be Heard” silent peace march and art exhibit.

We have a voice that needs to be heard. We are THE future, It’s about the problems we are facing now. They are trying to divide us when we need to come together as ONE; to go forward instead of going back to the past, There have been protest all over the country. A different approach maybe? A peaceful march from us, the STUDENTS our actions will speak louder than any word. We will come together and march in SILENCE. We will march for our future, our future children and their lives, on MLK day this is also the 150th anniversary of Frederick Douglass speaking in Ypsilanti, our voices will be heard TODAY!

Leading our march will be Rhea McCauley the niece of Cvil Rights leader Rosa Parks. The march will start at the Ypsilanti Water Tower and conclude at the “Yes” Gallery, 8 North Washington St. in downtown Ypsilanti.

The gallery will host a YCHS student Art Exhibits “Our Voices Will Be Heard.”

In addition to having work at the Ypsilanti Experimental Space, the students will also be displaying photography at the new Go Ice Cream event space just a few doors down, on North Washington. Here’s a photo courtesy Nick Azzaro, the man behind the Ypsi High photo studio.

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If you don’t happen to live in the area, or just can’t make it out tomorrow, my hope is to be posting video in the next few days, thanks to Donald Harrison at 7 Cylinders Studio. And, not just that, but Lynne Settles, one of her Ypsi High students, and local historian Matt Siegfried will be joining me this weekend on episode 55 of the Saturday Six Pack, talking about the march, Frederick Douglass, and the importance of art in post-Trump America.

Posted in Art and Culture, Civil Liberties, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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