A group of Detroit activists is calling on an author to rescind her offer to recognize Mayor Mike Duggan as a "Black Bottom Saint" — a largely symbolic gesture related to a fiction book she wrote to celebrate the Black neighborhood demolished for redevelopment in the 1960s.
Activists led by charter commissioner and now-City Council hopeful Nicole Small gathered near a school in the area that used to be Black Bottom Monday to call out author Alice Randall, who is selling playing cards depicting characters in her book, Black Bottom Saints, and donating some proceeds to the city.
Initially, activists were under the impression Duggan would be featured in the deck, but city officials tell the Detroit News that's not the case. Randall, who was born in Detroit, has said she plans to have an artist depict Duggan as a "Black Bottom Saint" as a private gift. The News was unable to reach her for comment.
Duggan is not deserving of the honor, Small and others have said, because, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, he presided over a period of mass water shutoffs and foreclosures in Detroit, the latter of which occurred in part because the city overassessed residents' tax bills. The city is also suing demonstrators who protested in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in an unprecedented move critics say chills free speech.
The city's arts and culture director, Rochelle Riley, responded on behalf of the administration, telling The News:
"All I suggest is that people make sure the things they’re being told are true and I hope everyone reads this book, which is a love letter to Detroit and the magical, beautiful neighborhood that was taken from it years go.”