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Deborah Bunkley is someone many of us walk by everyday, but rarely stop long enough to listen to. If you have been a UM student, faculty, or staff member in the past ten years, you have probably encountered Deborah without even realizing it. She has worked for UM as a supervisor for Housing and Dining Services since 2005. Tomorrow night, February 18th, Deborah will speak on a panel discussion - along with Heather Thompson, Ruth Johnson and Peter Hammer - for the Detroiters Speak community course in a historical session entitled: "From Failed Urbanism to Failed Regionalism." The public is welcome to join us for this session at the Cass Corridor Commons (4605 Cass Ave.) from 7-9pm.
Deborah grew up in Hamtramck, MI during the 1950s and 60s - a small city surrounded by the city of Detroit. When the I-75 highway was being built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Deborah's family was one of hundreds that were displaced and forced to relocate. What happened to her family, unfortunately, is an experience shared by thousands across the city during this period of so-called "Urban Renewal." Indeed, when it came to deciding where to build highways in Detroit at this time, poor black and brown communities were the main targets for removal; and this phenomena was repeated across our entire country.
What makes Deborah's story quite unique, however, is that her family was one of very few throughout the nation who successfully won a class action lawsuit against the federal and city governments for housing discrimination based on race. In 1971, Federal Judge Damon J. Keith ruled that the City of Hamtramck, with oversight of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, had violated the civil rights of African-Americans by deliberately targeting them in the construction of I-75. Check out this New York Times story if you'd like to read more about this case.
Deborah Bunkley is one of Detroit's everyday scholars, and I would like to thank her in advance for sharing her wisdom and experience with all of us tomorrow night. Deborah reminds us that Detroit is full of brilliant teachers. This truth is one of the main reasons Semester in Detroit has developed into such a meaningful and dynamic learning community for its students, faculty, staff and community partners.
Please join us tomorrow night for a dynamic evening of Detroit's everyday scholarship.