The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday December 5th

Panel draws comparison with historic riots to events in Charlotte

After a Playmakers Repertory Company performance of Detroit ’67 Saturday, panelists weighed in on how race relations and police brutality are still relevant 50 years after the Detroit Race Riot in 1967 in 2016 Charlotte.

Perry Hall, a professor in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, witnessed the 1967 Detroit riot as a 19-year-old college student home for the summer.

Hall said he was driving a girl home from a date in the early hours of July 23, 1967 when he drove through the intersection of 12th and Cumberland where a large crowd was gathered. The next day, he witnessed the looting of a grocery store.

“I stood there right next to the door of the grocery store, like some sort of sociologist, looking at the people trying to figure out what was going on, because it all seemed foreign to me,” he said.

Hall said when the riot occurred, he thought police and race relations were getting better in Detroit.

“It wasn’t until years and years later that I realized things were getting better for me, but they weren’t getting better for the people who were out there looting the store,” he said.

Hall said recent clashes between police and protesters reminded him of the Detroit riot.

“The first reaction I had to Ferguson was how much it reminded me of Detroit, in terms of police and community relations,” he said.

Andre Pettigrew, a Durham resident who attended the play and conversation, grew up on 12th Street in Detroit. He moved to south central Los Angeles when he was 13 in 1966, less than a year before the riot broke out.

He said he still identifies as being from Detroit, a city he sees representative of economic opportunity despite industrial decline.

“It was interesting for my family to watch the rollout of the riots in a neighborhood that we were familiar with and we had grown up in,” he said. “I literally remember being able to read News Week and Time Magazine and see store fronts from my neighborhood, and people I knew jumping out of windows while watching the news.”

Psychology major Ariana Rivens said self-care is important to keep in mind when being an activist.

“It is really painful to consume black death, black pain, black struggle and simultaneously balance the fact that you want to be informed, you want to be engaged with what’s happening,” Rivens said.

Ruthie Allen, a public policy major, said she was struck by how journalist Phillip Meyer benefited from the Detroit riot, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize.

“Communities of color and people rioting barely, if ever, benefit from those riots,” she said. “A lot of the time, it’s generations after them (who benefit)…It just made me think about the protests and current events in a different way. Like, who’s benefiting.”

Brandon Yelverton, a political science and sociology major said the perception of people of color as criminals must be changed.

“Be an ally,” he said. “Actively listen. Don’t let fear strangle the desire to help…Even if you’re not personally affected by these things, if you see something is wrong, don’t ever be afraid to reach out to someone and figure out how you can help.”

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