[embed-1]The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture is partnering with the Terrace Theater for an August 3 free screening of Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, which tells the story of the 1967 Detroit riots and the Algiers Motel incident. The screening is part of the CofC’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, or RSJI, which promotes awareness and dialogue about race and social justice issues. Tickets are available at rsji.cofc.edu while supplies last.
On the night of July 25, 1967, the Algiers Motel incident took place; it was the second night of the 12th Street Riot. After gunshots and reports of snipers, a riot task force entered the building and found a group sheltering from the riots, killing three black men and badly beating the other occupants — seven black men and two white women. All members of the task force, which included the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Army National Guard, and a private security guard, were found not guilty.
Avery’s executive director Dr. Patricia Williams Lessane says the issues shown in Detroit parallel current issues facing the black community. She points to policing as a specific example. In 1967, the Detroit police force was 93 percent white, with many working in majority black neighborhoods. According to 2007 Justice Department data, the North Charleston police was 80 percent white. North Charleston is only 37.9 percent white, according to the 2010 census.
“Black life in Charleston is just as vulnerable as black life in Detroit was in 1967,” says Lessane. “Until the centuries-old Jim and Jane Crow policies and other systemic barriers black people face in terms of quality education, sustainable living wages, opportunities for career advancement, unjust racial profiling, and the billion dollar prison pipeline are abolished, we will continue to fall short of the precepts set forth by our forebears.”
Starting at 6 p.m., the screening features opening remarks from activist and former Michigan state legislator Ed Vaughn, who had firsthand experience with the turmoil.
[image-2] “Ed Vaughn was the owner of the country’s first black book store, Vaughn’s Bookstore, right there in Detroit,” says Lessane. “His bookstore was a meeting place for black students and organizers. As a result, his bookstore was flooded by the Detroit police during what he calls the 1967 rebellion — not riot.”
The Avery Research center previously partnered with Terrace last spring for a screening of I Am Not Your Negro after Terrace owner Paul Brown brought the film to Charleston. It was a success, so teaming up for a second time was a no-brainer.
“It was a natural fit,” says Lessane. “We thought that because of Paul Brown’s commitment to bringing films to Charleston that residents might not get to see otherwise — especially ones dealing with race and social justice — it would be great to partner with him again.”
Other upcoming RJSI programs include the release of a racial disparities report on September 15 and a screening of a film about Ferguson, also at the Terrace. The Initiative is also hosting its first scholar in residence this fall, Dr. Lisa Brock, the founder of Kalamazoo College’s Arcus Center.