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‘Detroit’ visits harrowing moment in U.S. history

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Catholic News Service

A dark chapter of the Motor City’s history is revisited in “Detroit,” a searing period drama.

John Boyega stars in a scene from the movie "Detroit." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. .(CNS photo/Annapurna Pictures)

John Boyega stars in a scene from the movie “Detroit.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. .(CNS photo/Annapurna Pictures)

The setting is the summer of 1967, when race riots broke out in several cities across the country. In Detroit, simmering discontent over systemic discrimination and growing unemployment erupted in African-American neighborhoods. As protesters clashed with police, businesses were set afire and looting was widespread.

The crisis, which lasted four days, resulted in 43 dead, over 7,200 arrests, and the destruction of more than 2,000 buildings. “Detroit” zeroes in on one notorious incident of the so-called “12th Street Riot”: the police raid of the Algiers Motel that caused the death of three unarmed men and the brutal beating of several others.

As violence engulfed the city, the hotel became a refuge of sorts, harboring both innocent patrons and shady characters. Among the former are Larry Reed (Algee Smith) and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), members of an up-and-coming musical group, The Dramatics. Separated from their friends, they seek shelter at the Algiers.

At the hotel pool they meet two giggly prostitutes, Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) and Julie (Hannah Murray), white women from Ohio who are making the most of the “Summer of Love.”

Upstairs, 17-year-old Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell) decides to show off by shooting blanks from a toy pistol. Turning his attention to the growing police presence outside, he next fires the gun into the crowd.

Suspecting a sniper, the police respond in droves, and a reign of terror descends on the Algiers and its residents, including Greene (Anthony Mackie), a decorated Vietnam vet.

The raid is led by a trigger-happy cop, Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), who has a reputation for shooting looters in the back. Krauss rounds up everyone and, with the assistance of fellow officer Flynn (Ben O’Toole), unleashes a ruthless, demeaning interrogation.

A witness to the unfolding horror is Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega), a black security guard charged with protecting a nearby grocery store from looters. Dismukes suspects wrongdoing, and inserts himself into the maelstrom at a key moment.

Needless to say, “Detroit” is not for the squeamish. Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), working from a script by Mark Boal, directs at a furious, gut-wrenching pace, placing the viewer in the very center of the fast-moving storm and incorporating real-life news footage to enhance the immediacy.

However, though graphic, the portrayal of police brutality is never gratuitous. Coupled with the subsequent miscarriage of justice, the harrowing events re-enacted in “Detroit” offer a powerful reminder to mature viewers of a sad but significant incident in America’s past.

The film contains intense bloody violence and torture, brief female nudity and pervasive profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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Detroit parishioners gather on city’s streets praying to end violence

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Catholic News Service

DETROIT — In a city with the second-highest murder rate and highest violent crime rate in the country, peace can often feel like a hopeless cause in Detroit.

Parishioners from several Detroit parishes gather Aug. 25 to pray for peace, an effort organized by the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Black Catholic Ministries. (CNS photo/Dan Meloy, Michigan Catholic)

Parishioners from several Detroit parishes gather Aug. 25 to pray for peace, an effort organized by the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Black Catholic Ministries. (CNS photo/Dan Meloy, Michigan Catholic)

But on a warm August night, with thunderstorms looming, at the corner of Gratiot and McClellan avenues on city’s east side, peace and prayer were on the lips of Detroiters, friends and strangers alike.

Taking Back the Night is prayer group started by the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Black Catholic Ministries. Its objective is simple: asking God for peace on the streets of the city they love.

“I just wanted to join with the group in praying for peace; fighting crime, racism and all its effects,” said Genevieve Kocourek, a member of St. Augustine and St. Monica Parish on the east side. “A group prayer is great because it brings people together, not just Catholics, but anyone who can join us in praying in public.”

The group offered intercessions for loved ones and the community, mixed with Hail Marys and Our Fathers, while people held signs reading “Pray for Detroit” or “Honk for Peace.”

Many motorists on Gratiot were honking, an encouraging sign for Leon Dixon Jr., director of Black Catholic Ministries.

“When I hear a honk, I know what we’re doing is right. When they honk, it’s a small way to contribute to the prayer,” Dixon said. “Events like these are successful, because you’re actually being a bold witness to Christ.”

Taking Back the Night was at the corner of Gratiot and McClellan, in the shadows of Nativity of Our Lord Church, Aug. 15-19. The group relocated to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Woodward Avenue Aug. 22-26 and was at St. Thomas Aquinas-St. Christopher Parish on the city’s west side afterward.

Dixon said it is important for the group to meet at night, because that’s the time of day when most of crime happens. It also forces people to think of the ministry as “outside of the four walls” of a regularly daily job.

“We’re here at 9 p.m., because we need to be here 24/7, we need to set the night in the appropriate tenor,” Dixon said. “We can’t just be ‘9-to-5’ministers, inside four walls; we need to go to street corners, go to where the people are. When troubles arise in our community, It’s easy to minster in walls. But what Christ is asking us to do is go out into the streets.”

Going into the streets is what appeals to members of Taking Back to Night, publicly showing people someone is praying for them, even if they’ve never thought so before.

“We’re here to continue to lift up those in our prayers, standing in the gap for those that can’t be here to pray,” said Lawrence Jenkins, a member of St. Charles Lwanga Parish. “It’s what we’re called to do, to intercede on the behalf of Christ. Come out to support and witness together.”

Most importantly, Kocourek said, “We’re asking God to bless the neighborhood, work beyond our understanding and power, that’s the greatest thing. I think public witness is not only powerful, but peaceful, because it causes people to pause what they’re doing, to reflect on God and what he can do for the community.”

Jenkins and other members said every honk of a car horn was an acknowledgement that people appreciate what the group is doing for Detroit and a reminder that God is present in the city.

“They don’t have to get it and pray to know there are people in the community that are praying for them,” Jenkins said. “Public acts of prayer inspire people going through difficult times that Christ is still with them, holding on to today and fighting for tomorrow.”

— By Dan Meloy, a staff reporter at The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

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Gordie Howe, ‘Mr. Hockey,’ recalled at funeral as tough on the ice, generous off it

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DETROIT— Family, friends and fans crowded into the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament June 15 to pay tribute to the life of “Mr. Hockey,” Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe.

Howe, a hockey Hall of Famer and one of the most celebrated athletes of his generation, died June 10 at the age of 88.

Former Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gordie Howe is pictured in a 2008 photo in Nashville, Tenn. Howe, the man forever known as "Mr. Hockey," died June 10 at age 88. A memorial Mass for the hockey legend was celebrated June 15 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. (CNS photo/Jeff Kowalsky, EPA)

Former Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gordie Howe is pictured in a 2008 photo in Nashville, Tenn. Howe, the man forever known as “Mr. Hockey,” died June 10 at age 88. A memorial Mass for the hockey legend was celebrated June 15 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. (CNS photo/Jeff Kowalsky, EPA)

The memorial Mass at Detroit’s cathedral drew dozens of NHL dignitaries from across North America, including NHL greats Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Ted Lindsay, Guy LaFleur, Steve Yzerman and Chris Chelios, along with many current Detroit Red Wings and alumni. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daley, and former Red Wings coaches Mike Babcock and Scotty Bowman were among the attendees, as well as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

Howe’s casket, decorated with red and white flowers, the Red Wings’ colors, was placed in front of the altar during the Mass next to a picture of the late Hall of Famer, as the cathedral choir sang traditional hymns.

While Howe’s prowess and toughness on the ice was well-documented, it was his generosity and selflessness off it that touched mourners.

“He was a role model as a hockey player, a role model as a father, and a role model as an ambassador,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told The Michigan Catholic, Detroit’s archdiocesan newspaper. “Everyone knew him as a superstar on the ice, but he was humble off the ice.”

Dr. Murray Howe, who gave a eulogy for his father before the Mass, recalled that “Mr. Hockey” always had time for everyone, no matter where he was.

“Dad was upright. He believed in being compassionate, respectful and using good manners, but also standing up for what is right. He tried to instill those traits in all those who were around, especially kids,” Murray Howe said.

“If a fan told him a story, he would not interrupt, no matter how long they spoke. He would not correct them, even if they insisted they watched him play in the summer Olympics in 1906,” he said to laughter.

Although Gordie Howe “did not lead the league in church attendance,” his son said, “his life was the epitome of the faithful servant.”

“Jesus tells us, ‘Whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did to me.’ ‘Mr. Hockey’ loved God, but he loved everyone,” Murray Howe said.

Though Gordie Howe was not Catholic, he would always respond generously whenever asked to help, and sometimes even when he wasn’t, said cathedral rector Father J.J. Mech, a longtime friend of the Howe family who celebrated the memorial Mass at the family’s request.

“Gordie loved to help,” Father Mech said in his homily. “He loved to be busy. In recent years, he was taking turns living with all the kids, rotating around, and they’d wake up and he wasn’t there. He was raking the neighbor’s lawn. You couldn’t stop him.”

Mike “Doc” Emrick, NHL play-by-play announcer for NBC Sports, described Howe as “a wonderful human being who could also play hockey really well.”

“He really lived what Jesus taught. He may not have been someone who talked about the Scriptures and all of that, but he lived it,” said Emrick, a southeast Michigan native.

Emrick painted a picture of Howe’s graciousness, saying if there were a map of the United States with a red dot for every fan whose hand he shook, “you would see lights in every state and enormous concentrations of them,” Emrick said. “He met so many people in his lifetime and he was good to all of them.”

Howe was known throughout the Detroit area as being generous with his time and talents, said Deacon Bill Jamieson of St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms. Deacon Jamieson, who from 1982 to 1996 worked as public relations director for the Red Wings, said Gordie needed no instruction when it came to being charitable.

“He was always available when we’d do a charity event, and he didn’t need much guidance,” said Deacon Jamieson, who in 2009 assisted at the funeral of Gordie’s wife, Colleen. “I’d just try to step back and watch, and I was allegedly the coordinator.”

 

— By Mike Stechschulte, managing editor of The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

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Detroit music minister writes ‘Mass for Motor City’

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DETROIT — Aaron Kaleniecki said he didn’t see how changing the wording to prayers was going to work musically with the new Roman Missal.

“When you are expected to keep the melody the same and use words with additional or fewer syllables, it gets clumsy,” said the music minister at St. Aloysius and St. Patrick parishes, both in downtown Detroit.

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