Category Archives: Detroit

Mark Abbo Says Detroit Rape Kit Backlog is “Low Priority”

Half-built jail in the middle of Detroit. Photo from FADED DETROIT

Half-built jail in the middle of Detroit. Photo from FADED DETROIT

Wayne County Chief Financial Officer Mark Abbo proposed a new budget that includes cutting $1 million of funding for what he referred to as “low priority” initiatives like testing evidence from the Detroit rape kit backlog. High priority initiatives include allocating $81 million dollars to the county’s waste management facilities so it can be turned out for future profit, and fixing other failed projects like the new Wayne County jail, which is currently sitting half-built in the middle of downtown Detroit, looking much like one of the city’s famed abandoned buildings.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano put construction of the new jail on hold after blowing through $170 million and needing a $91 million budget increase beyond the original $300 million estimated cost. The County is currently talking to Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert, who wants to add the jail to his fast-growing collection of Detroit city property.

The rape kit backlog, discovered in 2009 and dating back to 1991, requires an estimated budget of $5 million to rectify. Prosecutor Kym Worthy is currently suing Wayne County and Ficano’s office for that amount. In the interim, Wayne County has restricted her ability to further test the rape kit backlog unless money comes from external grants. On March 9th, the Prosecutor’s office will hold a fundraiser to support continued testing of the rape kit backlog. Mariska Hargitay of The Joyful Heart Foundation and the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will be speaking at the event to promote Worthy’s efforts to eliminate Detroit’s rape kit backlog.

Since this is a blog and not a newspaper, let me reiterate a few numbers:

Abbo & Ficano take $1 million away from sexual assault victims to put toward an $81 million project–their second of two get-rich-quick schemes involving turning out Detroit contract services. $1 million doesn’t mean shit to these guys–it’s just over 1% of their new proposed budget. This is how little Abbo & Ficano care about the 11,000 rape victims who have spent decades waiting for justice.

I’m Thinking About Fisting

Image via Deadline Detroit

Image via Deadline Detroit

Last week in Detroit, an enormous can of Crisco was placed next to the Joe Louis Fist statue by The Dirty Show director Jerry Vile. It was an art installation that lasted for six hours. You can read about it here.

It is assumed that Fox News’s widely publicized Facebook comments about the installation were asked from a position of naiveté, but can anyone explain what “Vessel of Hope” means? We all kind of have an idea that putting a can of Crisco by the fist re-frames the meaning of the sculpture to be a sexual act that is as unpleasant as bankruptcy–in other words, a sexual act that is unwanted by the person receiving it. The Crisco makes penetration/bankruptcy a little easier and less painful (and less dangerous?). No journalist or blogger has actually demonstrated that they are capable of reading the message, let alone interpreting it. So let’s give it a try…

Vile claims the intention of the piece is to ease pain of bankruptcy in Detroit. This positions Detroit/we as the “vessel” of the installation’s namesake (“Vessel of Hope”)–the vessel that is receiving the fist. Detroit/we are the ass. Detroit/we are the pussy. We need the Crisco because the fist feels bad. But what/who is the fist?

The fist has to be the City of Detroit: violent, duplicitous, masculinist, intimidating. These are the qualities under which the City of Detroit operates.

The good news is that that type of power structure has failed. It went bankrupt. It doesn’t work. But not after fucking the people first–fucking them not with a cock to give them pleasure but with a fist to give them pain (again–why would we need the Crisco). It is a disheartened message delivered without empathy from a disheartened messenger.

A few years ago when I wrote about Sex Positive Detroit I maintained that there was a diverse chorus of voices in Detroit regarding sexuality. I think that I was overly optimistic. Just because someone is talking doesn’t mean that messages are being sent and received.

I feel sad and angry and hopeless that Jerry Vile’s Dirty Show is the only public sentiment on sexuality from the area…the only voice loud enough for people to hear. In the public realm, sex in Detroit is totally disturbed. And although I moved away from Detroit and I have no solutions, I will continue to push for awareness and cognition.


Is Marche du Nain Rouge Racist?

nain rouge detroit

This weekend I attended one of Detroit’s favorite community gatherings–Marche du Nain Rouge. Each spring, Detroiters gather in the Cass Corridor for a celebration ritual in which they get to call upon a myth from the city’s founding and “chase the red dwarf” out of the city. According to legend, an evil red dwarf will be seen in the streets prior to violent tragedies, beginning with an attack of the first white settler in Detroit in 1701 and including Detroit’s surrender in the War of 1812, the Battle of Bloody Run, and the 1967 riots. All of these events are struggles over race and territory.

About 3 seconds after it crossed my mind that the “nain rouge” (“red dwarf”) is probably a reference to Native Americans and that historically, the myth was probably used to villainize Native Americans in Detroit, I saw this:

The woman holding this sign is Doc. She stood alone at the beginning of the Marche du Nain Rouge, affecting the necessary shock to present some critical information that seems to have been lost somewhere in Detroit’s compulsion for community. By the end of the parade, a small group gathered around Doc and conversations ensued about race relations in Detroit, the relationship between the historical European American oppression of Native Americans and African Americans, the lacking conversation about race in Detroit, the practice of ritual, and the making and re-making of meaning. You can watch a video of Doc explaining the history of Marche du Nain Rouge on the sidelines of the parade in the Cass Corridor.

What do you think–how much history still exists in this newly-revived Detroit tradition?

Concept Over Quality: Erotic Film Fest Hits Detroit

detroit-film-festOn August 26, Detroit will host its first erotic film festival, Detroit Independent Video Erotica (DIVE), a one-night showcase of international short films and videos. I got the opportunity to talk with “the DIVE team” about porn, Detroit’s erotic art scene, and how affordable, user-friendly technology gives everyone the opportunity for creative sexual expression. Check it out: 

Jane Fader: In Detroit, the most successful and beautifully organized art events–the Dirty Show and DAMNED especially–always seem to have sexual themes. Where do you locate the DIVE film festival in Detroit’s artistic landscape?

The DIVE Team: Even though the DIVE Festival is not based on the Dirty Show, the erotic poetry slam, the Noir Leather fashion shows, or any other event, those events do go to show that there is strong demand and participation in the field of erotic art in the Detroit area.

JF: DIVE’s call for art strongly emphasizes the difference between erotica and pornography, but doesn’t offer a definition of either outside of the exemplary. Could you elaborate on the difference between erotic and pornographic?

DIVE: As for the distinction between erotic and pornographic, it’s difficult to say. With mainstream cinema, there are some depictions of sexuality that are pretty explicit, as in films like Shortbus, Y Tu Mama Tambien, and Shame. However, that did not make those films pornographic. All we can say is that we’re not likely to be interested in videos of the kind one would see on, the sex for its own sake without any sense of style, story, or artistry; the gangbangs; the misogynistic stuff.

JF: What kind of videos and films are you interested in?

DIVE: The goal of the DIVE Film Festival is to inspire people to make (or submit existing) creative erotic/sensual works on video. The criteria for submission is being left somewhat vague because we don’t want to limit people’s creativity. As I’m sure you know, the range of expression of sexuality is vast, in terms of the range of preferences, and in individual expression. We want to be accepting of all of it. The great news is that creating video works no longer depends on having professional-grade equipment. Most newer cell phones and point & shoot cameras have very good video quality, and editing and soundtracks can be done with software provided free on many home computers (like iMovie). These are easy tools for “amateurs” who want to create and contribute a piece. Ultimately, the finest image quality is less important than the overall concept and style. Beyond that, we’re hoping to draw in the artists, too–the people who have a unique vision that they can use to approach this subject matter. In talking with people in the art community, I’ve heard tales of some video work that sounds incredible, and hope that the creators of those works will submit them to the festival. While we expect that most videos will be live footage, there’s always the possibility some will be animated, claymation, stop-action or even a Ken Burns-style montage of still photos that use zooming and panning to create the dynamics. That would be fantastic! Works need not be literal, either. The depictions can be metaphorical or abstract. They can be as short as a television commercial or any length up to six minutes. We want the audience to leave the festival…over-stimulated…(pardon the bad pun).

DIVE is currently accepting submissions of films, videos and animations of all genres ranging anywhere from a few seconds to 6 minutes. More information and updates on the DIVE Facebook page.