Kurashige’s latest book is “The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How the Political Crisis Began in Detroit” (University of California Press). On July 23, 1967, the eyes of the world fixed on Detroit, as thousands took to the streets to vent their frustrations with white racism, police brutality, and vanishing job prospects in the place that gave rise to the American Dream. Mainstream observers contended that the “riot” brought about the ruin of a once-great city; for them, the municipal bankruptcy of 2013 served as a bailout paving the way for the rebuilding of Detroit.
Challenging this prevailing view, Kurashige portrays the past half-century as a long rebellion whose underlying tensions continue to haunt the city and the U.S. nation-state. He sees Michigan’s scandal-ridden “emergency management” regime, set up to handle the bankruptcy, as the most concerted effort to put it down by disenfranchising the majority black citizenry and neutralizing the power of unions.
Are we succumbing to authoritarian plutocracy or can we create a new society rooted in social justice and participatory democracy? The corporate architects of Detroit’s restructuring have championed the creation of a “business-friendly” city, where billionaire developers are subsidized to privatize and gentrify Downtown, while working-class residents are being squeezed out by rampant housing evictions, school closures, water shutoffs, toxic pollution, and militarized policing.
Grassroots organizers, however, have transformed Detroit into an international model for survival, resistance, and solidarity through the creation of urban farms, freedom schools, and self-governing communities. This epochal struggle illuminates the possible futures for our increasingly unstable and polarized nation.
Kurashige is professor of American and ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell. His prior books include “The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles” (2008) and “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century with Grace Lee Boggs” (2011).
Phi is a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist whose poems and essays are widely published in numerous publications, including Screaming Monkeys, Spoken Word Revolution Redux, and the “2006 Best American Poetry” anthology. His first book of poems, “Song I Sing,” is widely taught in classrooms across the U.S. and garnered a positive review from The New York Times.
His second collection of poems, “Thousand Star Hotel,” was published by Coffee House Press on July 5. His first children’s book, “A Different Pond,” illustrated by Thi Bui, will be published by Capstone Press in August and has already received three starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist.
Attendees are asked to arrive early to purchase books. Admission is free but donations are accepted to cover the venue fee. There is a free parking lot behind the Pacific Resident theater, 701½ Venice Blvd.; street parking is also available.
For more information, call (310) 822-3006 or visit www.beyondbaroque.org.