Bert’s at Eastern Market endangered in fraudulent deal by white entreprenuers, Duggan’s aide Tom Lewand leads effort to gentrify Market
Tangerine club closed by Atwater Brewery, owned by suburban whites
Black cab drivers being replaced by Uber, other unlicensed cab cos.
Retirees fight takeover of DWSD, largest asset of largest Black city in U.S.; referendum petitions continue to be circulated past original deadline
Stand UpNOW demands “Turn the lights on” in Black neighborhoods
#BlackBusinessMatters, #BoycottAtwaterBrewery, #SaveBert’s, #OurWaterOurVote, #Turnonthelights, #StandUpNOW
By Diane Bukowski
July 23, 2015
DETROIT – Black Detroit business-owners, cab drivers, homeowners, city retirees opposing the takeover of the Detroit water department and water shut-offs, and residents campaigning for streetlights rallied July 21 against what they called “The Great Black-Out” of Detroit.
Chanting, “Black Business Matters,” they marched from Hart Plaza across Woodward to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. They say Detroit “Mayor “Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, landlord-tenant judges, and other government officials are aiding a reverse “white flight” by corporate landlords, entrepreneurs, and hotel owners.
“We were here long before Dan Gilbert,” said Marcus Cummings, who chaired the rally at Hart Plaza. Its participants then marched around the Coleman A. Young Center, pledging to return every Tuesday.
Darnell Small, owner of Tangerine, a nightclub on Jos. Campau, along with his sister Nicole Small, and Bert Dearing, owner of Bert’s Warehouse and Theater in Eastern Market, spearheaded the protest. Small said he was illegally evicted May 15 from his elegant quarters by his landlord Mark Reith of Rivertown Holdings, who also owns Atwater Brewery next door. Protesters called for a boycott of Atwater Brewery.
Bert’s location at 2727 Russell was sold for $2.7 million on www.auction.com month, but he filed a court complaint July 21 alleging fraud to reverse the sale, with the assistance of RICOBusters. A major player in his eviction is Simon Group Holdings, whose CEO is Sam Simon of Birmingham, Michigan. The company has numerous affiliates including the Atlas Oil Company based in Taylor. Simon also owns Soaring Pine Capital Real Estate & Debt Funding, LLC, founded in 2014, which RICObusters says consolidated with another company to form 2727 Russell, LLC in order to buy Bert’s at tax auction.
(Full RICObusters report is at Fraud Surrounding the Auction of Berts Marketplace.)
“I’ve been doing business in Detroit for 25 years,” Small said. “I lured people down here to Rivertown. We litigated for over a year and a half, but Atwater Brewery, owned by a guy who lives in Grosse Pointe, had us put us out. The property was restored to us May 20, but we were not given keys. We’re out, our business is destroyed, Tangerine is no more. Our lease was a contract, and our nation is built on contracts. We are standing up against judges at 36th District Court who sign illegal eviction notices, and Duggan and Snyder.”
His sister Nicole said, “We’re the majority in the city. How dare you say we can be anywhere except downtown Detroit and ‘midtown’? We want prime real estate for $1 just like Gilbert and the rest. Gilbert just got a $1 million grant for Capitol Park through the City Council and the Mayor.”
Dearing recalled his jazz club’s illustrious history in Detroit.
“I’ve done business in Detroit for over 47 years,” Dearing said. “My club was at 150 W. Jefferson beginning in 1957, but I was displaced from there and forced to move to Eastern Market,” Dearing said. “What programs is our government putting together for people of color to survive in Detroit?”
Dearing’s Eastern Market location has been a popular venue for thousands around the world for years. Patrons hold mass meetings in his theater, attend jazz concerts and eat home-cooked soul food in his restaurant, along with barbecue dinners cooked outside during Eastern Market shopping days.
“Bert has been around Detroit for years and years,” a commenter in a local discussion forum said in 2013. “He used to be kiddie-corner from the Hotel Pontchartrain. . . .Bert has been holding outdoor BBQ’s, karaoke, and Jazz concerts since dinosaurs started playing stand-up bass. I’ve sent numerous out-of-towners to his Thursday open mic/Jazz thing . . . .In fact, Bert’s, @ Eastern Mark-Up was about the most peaceful, racially mixed crowd you could find anywhere in Detroit. When Eastern Mark-Up became privatized, things started changing. . . .Bert’s no longer “fit in” to Eastern Mark-Up’s grand scheme of things, and the fact that market goers wandered across the street to eat BBQ and sing karaoke, rubbed someone the wrong way. His licenses weren’t being renewed, citing ‘ violations.’”
Eastern Market was contracted out by the City of Detroit to the Eastern Market Corporation in 2006. The Corporation’s chairman is currently Tom Lewand, who is “Mayor” Duggan’s Group Executive for Jobs and Economic Growth. Since then prices have gone up, causing the commenter to call it “Eastern Mark-Up.” Lewand’s son F. Thomas Lewand is president of the Detroit Lions.
Kenneth “Kabaka” Reynolds of the Metro Detroit Cab Drivers Association spoke as drivers unfurled their banner and honked cabs driving around the CAYMC.
His group of mainly Black cab drivers has been fighting Uber, Inc., and Transportation Network Companies, being popularized in local media as “ride-sharing.” Reynolds said they use non-licensed independent contractors who operate their personal vehicles with non-commercial license plates. Despite a state “cease and desist” order to Uber issued in Dec. 2013, Detroit city government entered into an interim operating agreement in May, 2014 with Uber.
“When you get into a cab, you don’t know who is driving it,” he said. “The City and State have permitted these de facto taxi companies to flout the laws by deploying an invasion of unlicensed cars and drivers in Detroit and Michigan for over a year.”
He also said Detroit police are harassing legitimate cab drivers with stepped up traffic enforcement and fines.
“Over 37,000 homes in Detroit are in active foreclosure due to illegal taxation,” Errol Jennings of the Russell Woods-Sullivan Neighborhood Association said. “Over 10,000 people have had their water shut-off. Beginning in 1950, Detroit Mayor Albert Cobo oversaw the destruction of our community, including Black Bottom and Paradise Valley. Now we are seeing Black business after Black business being shut down again. Black street performers have been forced out of Greektown.”
He led the crowd in a chant of “Treat us fair, we ain’t going nowhere!”
Cecily McClellan, Vice-President of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), called on marchers to sign and circulate a legal petition for a referendum to be placed on the ballot regarding the City of Detroit’s contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority.
DAREA is a member of the Coalition to Save the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department. It says the coalition will continue circulating the petitions despite a previously-announced deadline of July 27. Public Act 233 of 1955, which authorized the contract, giving up Detroit’s largest asset, says 15,000 signatures of registered voters in the city must be collected within 45 days after the publication of a notice informing residents of the contract, and their right to a referendum vote. To date, no such notice has been published. See information on petition campaign and how to obtain them below.
Cynthia Johnson of StandUp Now called on members of the crowd to join her group at Dexter and Waveney, near W. Davison, Thurs. night at 9 pm for their weekly protest against the lack of any operating street lights in that neighborhood. The protest was vividly covered that night by Channel 7, which turned off its camera lights to show darkened streets lit only by auto headlights.
Johnson said the situation there has led to many traffic accidents and even deaths. The Public Lighting Authority, which is taking over Detroit’s Public Lighting Department, has said it will shut down 40 percent of Detroit’s street lights permanently.
Cabdrivers (flier for Metro Detroit Cab Drivers)
Referendum petitions, fliers for #OurWaterOurVote campaign to stop DWSD takeover: REFERENDUM ON CITY OF DETROIT CONTRACT PROPOSED BY INITIATIVE PETITION 4, BLOW THE GREAT LAKES WATER AUTHORITY OUT OF THE WATER 3, INSTRUCTIONS FOR CIRCULATING 2