And thou shalt write […] upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates – Deuteronomy 11:20
As the Detroit urban landscape suffers abandonment and the population dwindles, the desire and motivation to deliver a hand-written public statement to inspire and alert are stymied by lack of people and walls. The longtime resource of the “urban canvas” – residential and commercial architecture – is vanishing through neglect and decay.
We the People Press on East Jefferson delivered a series of political messages during the Reagan era which may have even more meaning today. Some of this text may still be visible.
“Please Secure” and “Adopt a Crackhead” were done by the same person who lives on Cardoni Street. I met him once. He certainly had a grievance against the City of Detroit about crack cocaine distribution in his community, and had produced an earlier statement on an abandoned storefront.
Still, many inspired individuals have thought it was a good idea to make a social, religious, or philosophical statement for all the world to see, and executed their messages on highly-visible doors, walls, and wooden fences.
All these surfaces were very affordable and, with a little paint, constituted a semi-permanent local advertising medium.
Someone in the greater Detroit community felt enough of a powerful connection to the people of Nepal after the 2015 earthquake to set up a lasting appeal for solidarity.
Brick walls, once painted, will always need to be repainted to keep the surface from dissolving. For a time, though, they passively lend their support if someone wants to motivate and inspire the community.
Prominent people are often honored with a direct quote that encourages using one’s own powers for the good of others. These are generally produced by someone with a graphic design background, and can rightly induce pride and uplift the reader.
In crumbling neighborhoods, churches are often the only functioning institutions that remain. Still, some messages – like the well-known verse from Romans 6:23 and Pastor Pinkens, “The Wages of Sin is Death” – are easier to understand than others, such as “Satan is a Lying Flag Burner.”
At the Redeemed Church of God in Christ (COGIC) on St. Aubin Street, a fresh coat of paint and a verse from The Book of Revelation have not (yet) been marred by graffiti.
Whether on Twitter, Facebook or a brick wall, they just turn up. The writer has something heartfelt to say, and says it. This work of writing therapy – “If only I could Steal the Looks in Your Heart” – obviously took a while to execute and some liberties with punctuation and spelling. I found this rant on a brick interior wall on Russell St. The message is still there. The location had previously been a bank and later the home of the Flying Tigers M/C.
I suggest the writer of “Free Souvenirs from Detroit” was tired of “ruin porn” tourists in the city.
I have always liked this collage of text and images I found nailed to a fence. A strong sense of poetry, solidarity, and love emanates from this piece of folk art.
The announcement of the West Indian American Association was hastily written and posted on a metal fence promoting Pre-Mother’s Day Cultural Extravagance on E. 7 Mile. The day’s event sells a lot of entertainment for a small price. Long gone.
It’s highly unlikely that Disney authorized the use of a Mickey Mouse image with a club foot and some non-Disney balloon text, but the genuine values of Ila’s Liquor Store on Gratiot Avenue come through. “We Love Our Customer Like A Fat Kid Love Cake.”
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