MOTOR CITY JOURNAL: Anti-profiling theme loud at concert
Ethnic, world music rips at Detroit event
October 22, 2001
BY BILL McGRAW
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
It was early Sunday morning at the Majestic Theater on Woodward
Avenue, and lots of people were strutting, clapping and smiling to "El
Cuarto de Tula," a hynotically danceable song by the Detroit-based
Latino/rock band, Benny Cruz y la Buena Vida.
"The title is 'Tula's Room,' " said bandleader Benny Cruz, who
explained a verse that talks about music so exciting that it blew out a
candle in Tula's room. "In other words, the music was smoking," he
said with a smile.
The music smoked all night at the Majestic. Arabic music. Reggae music.
Latino music. World music.
And it carried a message.
The dancers were brown-colored people. Black people. White people. Mocha
people. Caramel people. Bronze people. Olive people.
They were metro Detroiters who came to protest collateral damage on the
home front from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: racial profiling of
Mideastern people, or those who look Mideastern. Some came to protest the
"I came to show that I'm against profiling, and to show support for
the Arab-American community in Detroit," said one enthusiastic dancer,
Lucine Eusani, a 22-year-old Detroiter who described herself as being from a
"plethora of ethnic backgrounds," including Italian, Armenian,
German and French.
"It was a good reason for people to get together and show
community," added Susan Yeghissian, 52, of Southfield.
The concert, titled "Rock Against Profiling," was sponsored by
groups as varied as the crowd, including New Detroit Inc., the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Association of
Chinese Americans, La Sed and the Arab Community Center for Economic and
Social Service (ACCESS). Several hundred people paid $5 to take part. There
were green ribbons to show solidarity with Arab and Muslim Americans, and
the American Civil Liberties Union distributed pamphlets explaining what to
do if stopped by police or federal law enforcement.
"The music and the audience represent the diversity and richness of
this city, and we're not going to let that be attacked without fighting back,"
said Peter Werbe, the concert emcee and host of the long-running "Night
Call" talk show on WRIF-FM.
Ismael Ahmed, executive director of ACCESS, said the vast majority of
Americans have been supportive since the Sept. 11 attacks. But his
agency, which has received numerous threats, has heard many complaints about
profiling, both by the public and police.
"We live such segregated lives, and when people think things are
wrong, they don't often have the opportunity to come together," Ahmed
said. "That's why we're bringing people together from different
communities, from different colors and backgrounds, to enjoy themselves and
talk about it and share with everyone what they are doing."
In addition to Benny Cruz, Ezzat Chamseddine played the loud, a
guitar-like Mideastern instrument, and Dub Culture provided reggae.
For hard-driving world music there was the Layabouts, a 20-year-old group
of middle-age Detroiters whose high energy and belligerent politics belied
their birth dates.
In "Thin Ice," from their
CD, "Workers of the World, RELAX," the Layabouts sang:
"Sitting home watching color TV/ The president, he comes to me/ He says
that I must fight his wars/ I've got to kill the enemy . . ."
Questioning U.S. policy in Afghanistan was a subtheme of the evening.
Activists Liza Zador and Ric Urrutia urged people to get involved in
Detroit's antiwar movement.
"I don't think war is the answer," Urrutia said. "And no
matter how angry they are with the attacks, I think there is some hesitation
among the American people."
Cruz said in traveling the Midwest, he and his band members have been
subjected to racial profiling. He thought it was important to participate in
the concert to remind people to feel good and be happy about life.
"It's a crazy world out there," he said. "We just love to
play and share the music. And people really respond."
Contact BILL McGRAW at 313-223-4781 or email@example.com.