Having written that post on the Detroit Tigers and their claim to fame this season one cannot write about the other side to that story. For in this town all stories do have a flipside. For every story on succes there are stories on loss and pain. Newcomers in town, ‘transplants’ in the local language, are heralded by most and scoffed at by others. Investments in town are welcomed by business peeps and are laughed at by those who like Detroit as it is: a breeding ground for urban experiments. What both groups share is a certain neglect for what was here before. As an European from a museum-alized city [in the sense that we cherish our medieval city centre so much] it is surprising at the least to see that neglect in mainstream media. Because when reading on baseball in town it took some time to find mentions on the Negro Leaugue stadium in Hamtramck.
For the Europeans: As playing in the Major League baseball clubs was forbidden during the de facto apartheid years in US history African Americans organized their own baseball competition. That period started to end with Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League baseball in 1947. Many claim this moment to be one of the contributing moments to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement.
As most countries the United States doesn’t have a culture of raising monuments for the ashaming aspects of their history. But when a baseball park as Roesink Stadium in Hamtramck does still exist, the European culture of maintaining its’ past would surely have propelled that stadium into being a musuem before a long time. Here in Detroit that discussion is just starting. Local historian and baseball fan Gary Gillette dove into the history and local authorities received him to hear the story.
“What would be the benefit?”, was one of the questions during the session with local government in 2010. Like having a historical piece in itself couldn’t be a benefit. But well, as one of the few Negro League stadiums remaining, it surely will atract tourists and “that preserving the stadium would generate national media interest, propelling Hamtramck into the national spotlight.”
Now with such recommendations one supposes it would be a matter of time for the stadium to be on lists for historical preservation, for a small renovation on the stands, and bam to be launched into that national attention. But now, one and a half year later the stadium is a neglected as it was last decades. Serving as a symbol of both neglect for African American history and of the poor economical situation of this city and its’ surroundings. Just this week the mayor delivered a speech Detroit had to be cutting yet another 10 percent on personnel budgets. National media report on the ‘Great Recession’ the US of A is in and Time Magazine ran a coverstory on “Can you still move up in America?” and one doesn’t have to be a great mind to guess what’s the answer.
With foreign commentators writing about Obama finally understanding that building bridges in the divided political landscape that is Washington will not benefit him, but that focusing on and charging at the ‘fat cats’ who got richer and richer over the last decades might do that, the picture emerges: This country is coming to a point understanding the American Dream is destroying more than it builds up.
To some there’s nothing new in that. But to many it seems a new thought. An idea that opens new roads, with directions towards unknown places called equality or sharing. Directions towards a new American dream? Now, that would be something revolutionairy indeed.