Category Archives: Detroit

Filleadh ar an Scoil!

Now that September has arrived, it’s time for me to return to my Irish classes.  The first was on Wednesday, and despite the fact that the first two reminder emails for the class also mentioned a wake for someone and announced the death of another, we actually focused on vocabulary the entire time.  To be fair, the woman who died recently used to attend the class a few years ago (before I joined) and was a friend of many of the other students…but a large part of the reason that I stopped going last spring (no classes over the summer) was due to the return of our regular teacher.  For the first half of the year (and my introduction to the class), we would spend a full half to three quarters of our hour-long class talking about who was sick and in the hospital, who was undergoing chemo, who just found out they had breast cancer, or who had recently died.

Granted, most of the students in the class are much older than I am, and they have been part of the Gaelic League community for years and years.  There’s certainly something to be said for the camaraderie and community that the class provides for many of the students–it’s just hard when you are trying to learn a language and the class is the only opportunity you have to practice and speak to people.  I suppose it’s worth mentioning that my dad speaks Irish fluently and also teaches it sometimes, but he lives 700 miles away from me, so unfortunately I can’t avail myself of his tutelage.  One day soon I hope to be more comfortable speaking and writing and we can start practicing over the phone and over email.

Until then, wish me luck as I continue to learn.  If you want to come, it’s only $3 a class!


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Filed under Detroit, Irish language

The Basque History of the World

basque1.jpgI just finished reading The Basque History of the World  by Mark Kurlansky, the same author who wrote Salt: A World History (which I’ve heard a lot about but have not read).  It’s the first book I’ve read about Basque history, or Basque anything really.  I’d say it the book makes for a good introduction/overview–a basic political history of the area that’s not too heavy on the politics…even though it is the politics of the situation that I am after.  Hmm.  My friend wrote a book about radical Basque youth movements that I hope to read next, and I’m sure that will satisfy my hunger for a radical perspective on Basque nationalism.  Anyway, Kurlansky does a good job of weaving in Basque language, culture, dress and cuisine as the history of the people and their land unfolds.  Maybe Max will want to try out some of the recipes for us?

I will freely admit that–though I had heard of ETA–I knew nothing about the Basque country or their struggle until I went to Belfast for the first time.  Irish republicans express a lot of solidarity with the Basque struggle, and there is a significant Basque immigrant community in Belfast.  Each year the August Féile in West Belfast has a Basque day (which I managed to miss the past two years) and am still kicking myself about.

This year’s Basque day is Thursday, and Batasuna’s Pernando Barrena will be unveiling the Basque Solidarity mural that is currently in progress on the Falls Road’s international wall.  The mural is a recreation of Picasso’s Guernica, and the project is being led by Danny Devenny and Mark Ervine.  This is the sort of participatory project that Eoin O’Broin talked about when he was in Detroit for the AMC –if you were in West Belfast right now you could just walk right up to the artists and help to create the mural.  Anyone interested in this should check out Máirtín O’Muilleoir’s blog.  Máirtín has been keeping track of the artists’ day-to-day progress, complete with pictures and all.  I’ll try to post a picture here when it’s finished.

Here’s an article from the Andersonstown News about the artists that are collaborating on the project:

A new image for city’s future

By Ciarán Barnes

A former IRA prisoner and the son of recently deceased PUP leader, David Ervine, have spoken of their desire to get involved in an ambitious project to redesign Belfast’s murals.

Danny Devenney and Mark Ervine met for the first time last year at a photography exhibition – despite living less than 200 yards away from each other in East Belfast.
Danny is from the Short Strand, while Mark grew up on the Woodstock Road.
Their mutual love of murals and their desire to see a lasting peace between republicans and loyalists brought them together.
Last month the artists were asked to paint a series of murals throughout Liverpool, highlighting the role the Beatles played in shaping the city.
Danny and Mark now want to embark on a similar project in Belfast.
“I knew Mark’s dad, David, but I didn’t get the opportunity to meet him until last year,” explained Danny.
“We were at a photography exhibition in the City Hall focusing on Belfast’s murals. Being two artists we were in a photograph together and our friendship started from there. We hit it off immediately.”
Despite coming from different cultural backgrounds Danny and Mark have a lot in common.
They both share an intense opposition to sectarianism and the crime that blights working class communities in Belfast.
“There are so many issues that Mark and I care passionately about,” explained Danny.
“Take our opposition to sectarianism for instance, and our hatred of drug-dealing and death-driving.
“It is issues like these which we want to tackle through our murals.
“Issues that both republican and loyalist communities are having to face up to and deal with on a regular basis,” he added.
Danny’s most famous work to date is the Bobby Sands mural at the side of the Sinn Féin centre on Sevastapol Street in West Belfast.
Mark recently finished the ‘New Dawn’ PUP mural in East Belfast. He also worked with kids from West Belfast on anti death-driving and friendship murals that adorn walls on Beechmount Avenue.
Both men say they cannot wait to get to work on the Liverpool project, as they are both huge Beatles fans.
“Now at the age of 53 I am getting a chance to paint my heroes,” said Danny.
“This is positive imagery and it’s about bringing a smile to people’s faces. If you turned a corner and saw, for example, a portrait of John Lennon on a wall, it would definitely make you smile.
“The murals have brought thousands of tourists to Belfast. There is no reason why they can’t do the same for Liverpool.”
Mark echoed Danny’s words, saying it is a “privilege” to be asked to paint the Beatles.
He added, “For us it would be an absolute privilege, it would be a big, big honour to paint them.
“This is the chance of a lifetime – it could become an international tourist attraction.
“We hope that by involving others, that would give the people of a particular area ownership of the mural,” added Mark.
At the beginning of the week Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness announced a £570,000 funding programme to help replace paramilitary-style murals with cultural paintings.
The move was given a cautious welcome by Danny, who wants to see Belfast’s murals turned into an even bigger tourist attraction.
“For years the arts in Belfast have been under-funded, just look at the Féile and the Dubbeljoint theatre group,” he said.
“If the Assembly is serious about promoting Belfast’s murals and transforming the paramilitary ones into cultural murals then we need the full support of local government.
“It is no use just paying lip service to the idea, the funding needs to be there as well.”

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Filed under Basque country, belfast, Detroit, Falls Road, ireland, murals

“Irish in Michigan” event this Sunday

Irish in Michigan
Sunday, June 10, 3pm
Gaelic League, 2062 Michigan Ave, Detroit

Authors Seamus and Eileen Metress will share what they discovered about the Irish in Michigan as they researched this book, including:

• How the Irish, Detroit’s largest immigrant group in the 1850’s,populated
Corktown and established Holy Trinity church;
• How Irish immigrants, many of them fisherman from Aranmore and Donegal,
helped establish Beaver Island as the “Emerald Isle of Lake Michigan”;
• Support from the Michigan Irish, as early as the 1840s and through to
the present, for a united Ireland;
• Resources on Irish genealogy, cultural organizations, dance schools
and more…

This event is sponsored by: United Irish Societies; Irish American Lawyers; Irish American Unity Conference; Irish Northern Aid; Michigan State AOH

Free admission • For more information: 313.885.5618

Irish in Michigan is a title in the Discovering the Peoples of Michigan series published by Michigan State University. Copies of the book will be available at this event, and at area bookstores.

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Filed under Detroit, ireland

Eoin Ó’Broin at the AMC

Mark your calendars!  Eoin Ó’Broin will be giving a presentation about Belfast’s republican murals and more at this year’s Allied Media Conference in Detroit this June 22-24.  If you want to be a part of this incredible conference, or just come to see and hear Eoin, you will first have to register for the AMC!!

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Filed under Allied Media Conference, Detroit, Irish peace process, Sinn Féin, youth

Toxic waste and race

Thanks to Michelle for beating me to the punch and posting the recent Metro Times article about the 20th anniversary of the Toxic Waste and Race report.  Overall it was a decent article–really anything that highlights the reality of environmental racism and the work of environmental justice activists is a good thing.   My favorite part of the article was the quote from Rhonda Anderson (the EJ organizer from Sierra Club Detroit, who fucking rules):

There is another issue as well, says Rhonda Anderson, environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club in Detroit. It has to do with the nature of bigotry itself.

“You don’t have racism in compartments,” she says. “Environmental racism is a continuation of a problem that exists in society at large.”

If one group of people is considered inferior and of less consequence, then, she says, “it’s just too damn easy to put a polluting industry in their community.”

Thank you, Rhonda!  I’m an environmental justice graduate student at UM, and I’ve long since become jaded, frustrated, disgusted, and just all-around turned off with the way EJ is both taught and treated by the administration at the School of Natural Resources and Environment.  Sure, there are some great people in the department with politics that are right-on (though they are few), but believe me, you won’t have a discussion in any of your classes about how environmental racism is just one part of our racist society.  The way that it is taught completely compartmentalizes the issue, and if those who are really interested in creating change in this area approach environmental justice issues as separate from the broader context of racism in our society we’ll never make any progress.

As the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo of the UCC writes: “It is ironic that 20 years after the original ‘Toxic Wastes and Race’ report, many of our communities face not only the same problems they did back then, but now they face new ones because of government cutbacks in enforcement, weakening health protection and dismantling the environmental justice regulatory apparatus.”

Sure, it’s the 20th anniversary of an important statistical analysis.  But how do we accurately measure how much progress we’ve made in confronting racism, environmentally and otherwise?  Certainly not by counting our executive orders.

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Filed under Detroit, environmental justice, racism

Detroit’s Bishop Gumbleton replaced

bishopg.jpgAn article in the New York Times last week reports that Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit will be replaced due to what he believes to be retaliation from the Catholic church over his recent support for survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Gumbleton also openly supports the acceptance of homosexuality, the ordination of women, and is a dedicated anti-war/peace activist–views which have certainly not made him popular in the eyes of the Church.

The picture I have posted here is of Gumbleton doing court support for Ireland’s Pitstop Ploughshares. I interviewed Gumbleton in Detroit last year for Critical Moment, and he reflected on his use of Catholicism as a tool of liberation, the war in Iraq, and the closing of 18 of Detroit’s Catholic schools. I found Gumbleton to be a warm, fascinating man–certainly unlike any priest I had ever come into contact with in my Catholic upbringing. After coming out of that meeting, I found myself thinking (albeit briefly) about what it would have been like to have been exposed to such examples of leadership in the Catholic church when I was young. Would I still have rebelled against my father and stopped going to Church at a young age? Well, probably (okay, yes!). Though organized religion is not for me, I can’t help wishing that there were more people out there like Gumbleton in the religious world, using their faith in and dedication to humanity to liberate rather than opress, and to inspire others to make the world a better place.

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Filed under Catholicism, Detroit, Iraq