The Gentrification Parade

March 24, 2014
Artwork by Seth Tobocman, from “Spatial Deconcentration,” by Yolanda Ward, Seth Tobocman & Chuck Sperry, in World War 3 Illustrated: 1980-1988

Artwork by Seth Tobocman, from “Spatial Deconcentration,” by Yolanda Ward, Seth Tobocman & Chuck Sperry, in World War 3 Illustrated: 1980-1988


Dropping by the bar in Hamtramck last night, I met several revelers who’d been to the Marche du Nain Rouge. If you haven’t been, it’s a great springtime party on foot, where lots of young people living in the city parade through the old Cass Corridor to chase out the red dwarf who brings evil tidings to our fair city. I’ve been a few times, though not in the last few years. One of the guys who’d attended pulled me aside and asked with a laugh, “Did you go to the gentrification parade?”

I laughed at that one, a new joke, evidently told by somebody who participated and had a good time. Was it a little self-deprecating good humor, or that kind of snark that shows one can be in the thick of it and yet oh-so-above it all? I must say, it kind of threw me, because, in years past, the march seemed to be a countercultural goof, an excuse for the Cass Corridor’s freaks and “cool kids” to go on a lighthearted art rampage and end up stewed at the Temple Bar. In the mind of this joking acquaintance, was the march somehow now aligned with the forces of development and power? If so, how did that happen?

I shrugged it off, thinking it was the same sort of joke that drives white hipsters to joke about “white hipsters,” that, for this generation, the ultimate sincerity is winking disdain.

Then, however, I ran into somebody involved with the march, and he said it was off their projections by several hundred participants. Perhaps Cass Corridor needs its cheerleaders less when the whole shebang looks like it’s going to be another arena district in the grip of another local billionaire? And with artists evicted from Capitol Park, maybe the crusade to change Detroit is getting really complicated all of a sudden? Again, this is something totally unscientific and speculative when it comes to alleged attendance figures, and perhaps those “yuppie parade” comments were just a bit of black humor.

All that said, the G-word is out of the box now, and seems to be on everybody’s mind in a way it hasn’t before. And, if these few quips are any indication, the topic will be coloring much more than a springtime lark in the near future.

  • Dashjr

    Thank you for writing an article about an off hand joke heard at a bar. Way to peel that layers back jagoff.


  • Kathy

    As part of the group that feeds people in Cass Park twice a month, I was turned away from getting to the park three times by an abundant presence of our finest, even though I showed up way early long before the marchers or runners were anywhere in sight. If any of them were around on other Sundays they would know how many people we feed, and recognize us. I ended up driving down a one way street, the wrong way to get there, just to feed hungry people. Which activity has more meaning?

  • Hank

    As someone who lived for several years across the street from the park in a working-class apartment building, I can say one of the worst things to take place in the Cass Corridor is the “charity” that takes place in Cass Park. Giving homeless people, many with mental health and addiction issues, some used clothes and crappy food (plus a Bible verse!) in a public park doesn’t really help the homeless.

    Greater Grace was the worst offender, which was absurd considering their megachurch facility would more than accommodate more humane social services for the homeless. Instead they come to the park and after the holy rollers get back into their Cadillacs, the people they “help” used our alley as a bathroom and the Cass Park swing set as a shooting gallery.

  • Kathy

    We make good homemade food, we don’t serve up the Bible. Don’t confuse us with holy rollers.
    How do you suggest homeless people, with mental health and addiction issues be helped?

  • Toka313

    We do a lot of talking about it. Sound and fury amounting to nothing. No EM or city council or mayor here is wiling to take any meaningful steps to prevent displacement or other bad effects of gentrification.

    What good has the conversation done without municipal action?

  • libertarian 313

    Help me understand how this works. When white people began leaving Detroit in droves in 1967 it was called white flight. In the 21st century whites come back to Detroit and they’re castigated because they want to take advantage of the pent up demand for housing for single employed 20 and 30 somethings. Just tell me what the rules are please

  • Toka313

    You’re showing exactly why libertarians are viewed as “tone-deaf” when it comes to race issues. It’s not about castigating white people for moving into the city. It’s about the displacement that occurs. Integration is a good thing. But when you displace people of color, that doesn’t accomplish integration.

  • muckraker_steve

    Interestingly, the Nain Rouge was saying supportive things about gentrification at the end of the parade. This, of course, was to mean that gentrification is bad because the Nain Rouge supports what’s bad for Detroit. I looked around and saw nothing but a sea of white faces, and thought, “how ironic.”

  • david r.

    It’s ironic that the parade itself is for the settlers who displaced the natives, in fact one of the rouge sightings, was a battle with the natives where the settlers suffered significant losses. So it’s come full circle. Now I don’t want this to be mistaken as the parade is the cause or even a real contributor of gentrification… but unless the poor and working people fight, they will always lose out to those with money, and because of the dire poverty here, being a middle class professional is money. As for the people who are moving back in, your parents or parent’s parents moved out because they didn’t want to live around black people, that’s white flight. Did people move out for other reasons sure… but thats not what decimated the city… now after your racist parents or grandparents moved out because they didn’t want to live next to a black person,to send their kids to schools with black kids… but now you want to move back after Detroit has fallen so low, that you can take advantage of the opportunities? Those who didn’t have the means to move, who suffered through the last 40 years here, are now pushed out because you want to come in and take advantage of the situation… is it surprising people are pissed?

  • Bryan Metro

    They should just merge Nain Rouge with Opening Day and be done with it all

  • libertarian 313

    So based on that logic it’s alright to displace, whatever that means, people who aren’t of color?

  • Toka313

    That response doesn’t make sense. White displacement isn’t a “thing.” When it becomes one I’ll get back to you.

  • Tim Flannery

    This is so unbelievably simplistic. Sounds like you figured it all out. As for my “racist” grandparents who left the city…
    Fuck you

  • david r.

    It’s not a complicated cause, it’s complicated because it’s been left to fester… as for your grandparents, I’m not sure whether your challenging if they are racist, in which case I’m not talking about them, or if you think them being racist didn’t contribute to the problem… or do you think white flight wasn’t based on racism?

  • libertarian 313

    What’s your solution? I’m willing to bet it involves more government spending.

  • Toka313

    Actually, no. There are plenty of policies that preserve racial and economic diversity in areas going through gentrification that doesn’t spend money. It requires regulation. Regulation, is not a dirty word when done correctly.

  • Corey Hall

    Certainly the lack of actual spirng weather accompanying this parade had nothing to do with the lower than projected turnout. Or maybe it was because BB3 wasn’t at the end of the parade route, which dissuaded the throngs of Miller swilling Clinton Township dude brahs who are running all the locals out of CC.
    Nothing to see here, let’s all move along.

  • Corey Hall

    Certainly the lack of actual spirng weather accompanying this parade had nothing to do with the lower than projected turnout.
    Nothing to see here, let’s all move along.

  • RowdyYates

    A lot of white flight was about the deterioration of the city following the ’67 rebellion. Some white folks stayed in the city well into the 1980s or 90s, but left after becoming victims of crime repeatedly. Same goes for the black folks who left. Some people were racist, for sure, but from an economic standpoint, if your property is losing it’s value and it clearly is only going to get worse, you will unload your home asap regardless of what color you are. And if your property is losing its value because of the racist practices of realtors, you aren’t racist for moving out, you’re pragmatic. I guess I’m saying it isn’t fair to call some white grandparents racists for moving out of Detroit.

  • Briacula

    White displacement isn’t a “thing”? It may not be a “thing”, but it is a fact of reality. Look at the the history of Detroit and how black crime and drugs initiated white flight. Look at what happened in Poletown, Southwest Detroit, and East Dearborn. Look at the demographic trajectory of this country which is supposed to be majority non-white Hispanic by 2050 due to mass immigration. Look to Europe where all of the countries are struggling with forced mass immigration from Africa and Asia. Yes, white displacement is real.

  • robpollard

    “When white people began leaving Detroit in droves in 1967…” You’re off by at least good 15 years there. Once the blacks started moving in, and Eisenhower & co starting building the freeways, whites started high tailing it out to Southfield and parts north — as far from black people as possible.

  • Matt

    Are you with Food not Bombs?

  • Wolve Rine

    Man refuses to leave Packard Plant in Detroit, demands to be parking attendant

    Wow, you are truly a pandering whore of slander.
    Without question, you have ferreted out the criminal source responsible for the social and economic decay of Detroit.
    Moreover, I truly admire how you seemlessly melded “self-described, war veteran and boozy breath” into a despicable amalgamation, in which a liar is a veteran, and a veteran is an alcoholic.
    Good on you, Steve!
    You pandering whore shitbag.
    I love the smell of muckraking censorship in the morning.
    It smells like….diarrhetic shit.