Detroit Dispatch #2: Easter Sunday

April 13, 2020

Detroit–As elsewhere, in Detroit numbers of cases and deaths continue to rise from COVID-19, lockdown is intensified, school is on hold, Black citizens are sick and dying in large numbers, and unemployment grows.

Although numbers are regularly reported, there may never be real data until the entire population can be tested, both for infection and immunity.  Quiet as it’s kept, city officials record eight times as many deaths on the streets and in homes since the start of 2020 as would normally occur.  With a Black population of nearly 85%, Detroit’s death rates from COVID -19 are higher than nearby communities.

Lockdown and enforcement have intensified. Some is community based: neighbors reporting businesses where social distancing violations occur. Yet many, especially in the Black community, fear that we will soon be under martial law and are concerned about the $1,000 fine for property owners who permit gatherings.  In Michigan, travel to family is restricted, landscaping businesses are shut down, and big box stores cannot sell certain construction materials or garden supplies.


Though schools have been closed since March 12, students were not given substantial learning packets until April 14.  Apparently, the Detroit Public Schools have been trying to obtain laptops for 45,000 children instead of using existing social and broadcast media to help families teach children how to understand and cope with the pandemic (there’s a good vocabulary/spelling word!). Hopefully some parents are also teaching physical education skills by requiring the use of brooms, mops, and dusters.

Detroit is no exception to  national news reports of overtaxed unemployment systems and overwhelmed food banks.  However, no one knows how many people operate in Detroit’s underground economy, which affects an estimated 70% of Detroit residents.  These people are not eligible for unemployment, but under the lockdown their casual employment has largely dried up. The city claims it has addressed alternatives to the shelters and churches where the homeless gather and has provided space for them to be quarantined.

On a local news program the reporter could not get the city spokesman to say why  Detroit was so hard hit. The city administration does not want to admit to the prevalence of per-existing health conditions treated with sub-standard medical care; the great number of people living in crowded unhealthy housing; thousands without running water and having easy access only to processed foods. As Reverend Larry L.Simmons, Sr., Posted on Facebook: “We are all suffering, but some of us are suffering more. The righteous work for Equity does not stop because we are spacing UP!  I pray for all those Black, white, Asian, native, Latin who have experienced loss. We will, prevail over this as we have prevailed over slavery, genocide, Jim Crow and James Crow.  All of these have been defeated by people of every stripe who believe in fairness. COVID-19 didn’t cause this it just exposed it.  Let us be vigilant in defeating inequity while we defeat COVID-19.”

–Susan Van Gelder


One thought on “Detroit Dispatch #2: Easter Sunday

  1. Update: Late afternoon, Monday April 13, the Detroit Public Schools announces that the packets would not be ready until NEXT week, April 20, FIVE weeks after the schools were closed March 12. ( And we won’t believe April 20 until we see it.). Not to downplay the huge accomplishment of serving nearly 400,000 breakfasts and lunches; nevertheless this is unacceptable! A lot more than the digital divide needs to be repaired.
    Meanwhile, a statewide car caravan is converging on the state capital to protest Governor Whitmer’s restrictions. While many people are grumbling aand raising legitimate questions a bout certain exceptions like lottery sales, this protest is from the right: conservatives screaming about governmental overreach. There are unconfirmed rumors that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her business interests are supporting it.

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