Welcome to Eastern Market and the Assembly Line Concert, our 4th Guinness World Record attempt for the longest non-stop concert and welcome, one and all, to Detroit.
To get to our 4th concert attempt, (we’ve won then been overtaken by Statesville, N.C., Atlanta, Ga. and Las Vegas NV since 2009.) we can take a trip back through 10 years to when we first opened the doors in a small suburban music cafe in Ferndale on of Detroit’s northern, 8 Mile border.
It was about this time in 2007 that the doors opened to AJ’s Cafe. It was only a week later that the town’s anchor store, Old Navy shut its doors on the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward, leaving a huge, boarded up building at the major intersection in town and just a few buildings down from ours. It was the beginning of what the country called the Great Recession or as we in Detroit had long called our “Depression.”
You see, here in Detroit, no one ever wants to be bailed out. After all, it was right here in Detroit just over one hundred years ago that had a pretty good hand in creating the working class as we know it today, all across the globe.
We’ve learned, sometimes painfully, even tragically not to kick our wounded. We’ve learned that we must covet everyone here in this melting pot of humanity we call Detroit. Yes. make it no doubt, there’s a bit of Detroit in us all.
And, there’s a bit of us woven throughout this great, beautiful city as well. Home to large segments and cultural gifts from African, Middle Eastern, English, Irish, Polish, Ukrainian, Italian…on and on it goes and most came here originally in search of a better life from whence they came.
My family’s Irish roots, not surprisingly trace back to Ireland and the early years of the Potato Famine. We settled the northernmost parts of Upper Peninsula at Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula, just as the new state of Michigan was adopted into the union of United States.
Many in our large African community originally settled here as a safe stop on the Underground Railway that brought escaped slaves here to Detroit by the thousands providing freedom and bringing “we the people” one step closer towards equality for all.
And where would anyone want to go, including my family to find a better way of living than Detroit when Henry Ford announced the $5 a-day wage , far above the average of its day in 1913.
This single handedly transformed the marketplace into a “cross-trickle” not trickle-down economy because now people could make a sustainable wage that allowed for expendable income to even afford to buy what they built, and build what they buy, which was much more than a Model T. It was the ordinary joe’s and jane’s that became the stakeholder’s here who built this community paving a model of abundance in America that would last over a century.
This is the ongoing legacy of Detroit. In the 10 years since that little cafe opened, the economic crises that had been gnawing at Detroit for decades crossed over 8 Mile road and into suburbs and hamlets all across the country and a global economy was hit badly by the “housing crash.”
Now people in Waterford and Berkley,Wyandotte and hamlets and villages near and far were in homes that were overpriced and under water. We all felt the sting of knowing people having to leave their homes because they could not make good on the too high monthly payments. I was one of them. We all felt a bit of what Detroit has been all too aware of; hard times.
But, we learned to do what Detroiters do, which is to dust yourself off, pick yourself off and keep moving forward. Here we are 10 years later and look at our Detroit begin to shine once more.
One of those people who have been a stoic example of leadership through love is this year’s Legacy Award recipient, Melvin “Butch” Hollowell. An unwavering friend to this city whose family roots run deep in this town. Butch is currently the lead attorney for the city of Detroit, as Corporate Counsel. He’s a 3-time Assembly Line Concert performer alumni and has helped Detroit get its legal paperwork in order as it weathered bankruptcy negotiations as our main advocate. It would be an understatement to say that Butch is a “people’s lobbyist.”
String those guitars, tunes those cords, and have a seat. Listen to some extraordinary music by ordinary heroes who go to work every day. Grab a coffee, walk around and visit the shops and sheds at one of the world’s finest open air markets, Eastern Market in the heart of our rejuvenated downtown . More neighborhoods are becoming populated again as a new hope pulsates through our city. We are part of the great social experiment called the United States. You, Butch, all of us have a stake in that. How cool is that!
The motto of Detroit is “Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus” which translated in Latin means: We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes.” Yes we do, yes we will.
Oh, that corner building that used to be the Old Navy in Ferndale is celebrating 5 years as a hip artesian space called The Rust Belt Market. Dust yourself off, pick yourself up, and if you can’t. We’ll have your back until you can.
There’s a Bit Of Detroit In Us All.
AJ O’Neil – Founder