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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.

In ‘67 rebellion rap, Detroit students ask: “How much can we take ‘til we break?”

two young men in tshirts
Lyricist Society
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YouTube
Rappers perform their song in a music video titled "1967 Now." Watch it below.

It's been 50 years since 1967, the summer of one of the deadliest civil disturbances in American history. Teacher Quan Neloms knew now was as good a time as any to teach his students about what happened that year in Detroit.

"The problems that we had back then, we're still fighting today. So nothing's changed."

Neloms teaches ninth-grade social studies at the Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men, located right down the street from the famous intersection where the rebellion began. He also heads the school's Lyricist Society, an after-school program that promotes cultural awareness, achievement and literacy through hip-hop and digital media.

After learning about what happened in Detroit fifty years ago, some of his students wrote a song they called "D67."

We talked to the song's creators – students Arkyym Taylor and Mario Collins, and alum Michael Siebert. They said one thing that came out of learning about 1967 was a conversation about what to call the events of that summer. Writing the song also helped them reflect on their own lives, and think about how the rebellion still resonates today. 

Listen above to hear Taylor, Collins,  and Siebert talk about the experience of making music about the summer of 1967. You can watch the music video for "D67" below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMZ-qo--MDY&t=193s

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.

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or with this RSS link)