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Arts & Life
In July 1967, five days of chaos erupted in Detroit. Citizens, police, and troops clashed in a violent conflict that left 43 people dead, thousands of buildings destroyed, and a lingering scar on the once-vibrant city. It was a pivotal moment for Detroit, and for the country.Today, many believe Detroit is having a renaissance. And there have been plenty of visible improvements in recent years.But for many Detroiters, little has changed for the better in the past half-century. Poverty is even more entrenched. There are few good jobs and even fewer good schools. Blight and foreclosure have erased entire neighborhoods.If we want to understand today’s Detroit, we have to consider the city’s turbulent past. That’s why Michigan Radio is revisiting the events of that hot summer in 1967.From July 17-28, Stateside and Morning Edition will hear from people who were there; explore the issues that led to the deadliest riot of the 1960s; and examine why it still resonates in the city today.

“After/Life” brings forth women’s voices from Detroit’s 1967 rebellion

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Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio
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Lisa Biggs and Deborah Chenault Green

One powerful way to bear witness to history is through theater.

AFTER/LIFE is a living history play based on oral histories of women and girls who lived through the Detroit ’67 rebellion.

The play was conceived by Dr. Lisa Biggs, an assistant professor in Theater and Performance Studies at Michigan State University. It features oral histories from women left out of news accounts, and teaches students about one of Detroit's pivotal moments.

Biggs, along with actor and poet Deborah Chenault Green, joined Stateside to talk about the performance, and Green’s personal account living through the ’67 rebellion.

“Women have been my greatest teachers, time and time and time again. When I was learning about the events of ’67, I was really concerned with the lack of their voices in the public narrative,” Biggs said. “I wanted to create a project in which we could listen to them and address some of those gaps.”

Directed by Kristin Horton, the play is a compilation of monologues, poems and dances. Green described what was brewing on 12th street before the rebellion with her poem "12th Street Pre-67."

Listen to the full conversation above to hear more details, memories from Green’s Detroit childhood, and her take on how the rebellion changed that community. 

The next performance dates are July 27 & 28 at the Joseph Walker Williams Center in Detroit. 

From July 17-28, Michigan Radio is looking back at Detroit in 1967, the Summer of Rebellion. We’ll explore the issues that led to one of the deadliest civil disturbances in American history and examine why it still resonates in the city today.

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