AFRICANGLOBE – With shouts of “legal gentrification” and “equal should be equal,” several Black Detroit businesses owners spoke to a crowd of around 30 people in downtown Detroit Tuesday.
By noon, the group had moved from Hart Plaza to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. Representatives of the Detroit Eviction Defense, Moratorium Now and the Metropolitan Detroit Cab Drivers Association spoke, but it was the owners of Bert’s Marketplace and the Tangerine Supper Club the crowd was most passionate about.
Bert Dearing, owner of Bert’s, and Darnell Small, owner of the Tangerine, both claim they’re being forced out of Detroit.
Dearing, who’s operated in the city of Detroit for 47 years said he’s not going anywhere if he can help it.
There have been several efforts lately to save Dearing’s Eastern Market establishment, which is known for its jazz music and soul food.
Small and his company have been battling with the owners of Atwater Brewery, ultimately meeting an eviction notice earlier this year.
Nicole Small, Darnell’s sister, said Tuesday that the Tangerine Supper Club has since fought the eviction notice.
But both business owners see the pressure on them to get out as a “pattern of practice,” which has racist roots.
The group gathered in downtown Detroit on Tuesday had a common message: “Black businesses matter.”
The business owners and patrons alike said it’s not right that there are so few Black-owned businesses in downtown and midtowns, places with some of the highest population densities in the city, and also the highest concentration of white businesses.
Those in attendance contested that they stayed when the white people left the city in the 1950s and 1960s, but now that white people are coming back, that doesn’t mean Black people have to leave.
“Treat us fair, ’cause we ain’t going nowhere,” the crowd chanted between speakers.
Vinetta Lloyd-Hughes, a Black business owner who owns and operates Shop Play Love with her husband, Cortez, in Eastern Market, said that Black business owners can put themselves in a mindset to not be chased from the city.
People feel like they’re being dismissed by city administration and newcomers alike, Lloyd-Hughes said.
Detroit is a melting pot city. That means everyone is welcome, regardless of skin color or heritage, but everyone has to blend together.
“Honestly, there seems to be an aggressive push” to get Black business owners out of the greater downtown area, Lloyd-Hughes said.
“It’s our businesses that every day are reported gone.”
Many of Tuesday’s speakers implied that it’s too convenient that, all of the sudden, landlords are coming up with overdue rents and eviction notices for long-time Detroit businesses.
But Lloyd-Hughes said Detroit’s brewing situation is not unique.
People are flocking to Detroit for the culture, Lloyd-Hughes said. Her shop, which is located next to Bert’s in Eastern Market, sells everything from art to T-shirts. She has a ton of white customers, whom she loves, but Hughes said she wants her customers to truly support the culture they’re so enamored with.
“Be in love with me for real,” she said. “If you want to be down, be down.”
She said that while it’s not the customers pushing out Black business, they need to be aware of the situation.
“I don’t think they understand that I need (support),” she said. “Wake up, everybody.”
While her business is new, Lloyd-Hughes grew up in Detroit. She said she won’t allow herself to think that her business might be forced out by some sort of shady dealings in the city.
And, again, she and her fellow marchers weren’t calling for another white flight. Everyone can live and work together.
“This is where the fire is,” Lloyd-Hughes said of Detroit. “This is where the love is.”
All of the newcomers need to be aware of how they treat the city, though.
According to Lloyd-Hughes, everyone’s coming to Detroit because it’s cool, but what’s made Detroit so cool for so many years is a unique Black culture.
If they push out the Black people, the culture everyone so loves goes with it, Lloyd-Hughes said.
By: Ian Thibodeau