There are lots of places in Detroit where people can go live their lives without tragic incident. It’s important to emphasize this, and Tom’s Tavern is one of them.
If you’re not familiar with Tom’s Tavern, it reminds me of a cross between a modern day speakeasy, hobbit house, and Dr. Who’s Tardis in the shape of a forgettable car lot shack. You might not even notice it at night because it looks almost like part of the parking lot. The floors gently roll and there’s a bit of space that can accommodate a few dancers if the band and audience isn’t too big.
It’s a special place in the middle of a very rough section on 7 Mile road in Detroit where community violence remains as much a reality as the kindness, enthusiasm, and care you can find within the tavern.
For me, and perhaps many of us who come from outside the area, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to walk into a pub, order a drink, and brush past another patron as you chat with the tender. Most of us take it for granted because it’s what we’d expect as normal.
For my friend Greg, who grew up on the streets of a nearby neighborhood, Tom’s Tavern is a gem to find: live music, friendly people—overall, a relaxed and often vibrant atmosphere.
He repeated as we drove back to his house: “It’s refreshing. 33 years of living here, and I never imagined this place could exist.” Because less than 15 minutes away from Tom’s, he tells me that getting nudged or bumped in a bar can escalate into a fight or even gunshots depending on the crowd.
For stats on gun violence in the U.S.:
Gun deaths in the U.S. are now as frequent as car accidents (please drive safely, especially if you do choose to join Markita and me tonight!) .
The top causes for gun violence seems to come from suicides, then homocides, then mass shootings (mass shootings being a tiny fraction of these) [2, 3].
It may seem naïve, but intentions can do a lot when it comes to bringing people together, and how we might choose to interact. It can help people feel and know they are respected and that people seek to understand them.
Having studied the prison system and how ghettos happen alongside with students in Ryan Correctional Facility for a semester and worked with some really inspiring and dedicated community champions from across the U.S. and locally, I recognize a lot goes into what happens when violence breaks out. Part of it can be environmental. At the same time, having performed for small and large audiences throughout the US and part of Canada, I also know there’s a lot that artists can do to cultivate more conscientious communities whenever they convene an audience.
The point here isn’t to dwell on the negative parts of reality that the community faces or to tout Detroit dangers. Whether or not you’re able or even want to join on the 24th [rescheduled to the 10th], I believe it’s important to acknowledge what we see and act with wisdom when we have the capacity to do so.
I also shared the story about my visit to Tom’s Tavern with Greg to recognize there’s a gift in giving our shared presence and ability to enjoy casual moments in a pub, restaurant, or concert venue without substantial threat, and knowing that we’re capable of doing something when discord happens. The opportunity I think we share is to recognize what the ingredients for real peace look like even in mundane places like a dimly lit bar, or at a concert. The challenge we share is to create more of them wherever we are and wherever we go. At its root, that’s the core idea behind what some people call community policing and self-policing.
How can we make more vibrant and resilient neighborhoods and communities?
What in our every day lives contributes to the moments of peace that we might take for granted when we walk into a bar or play a concert?
How does security differ from peace?
You don’t have to answer them now, or to me, or at all. I do hope those questions will spur your curiosity and look forward to learning and highlighting whatever solutions and tools may emerge as we explore together.