Bankole: Kid Rock won’t decide Detroit’s future

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

I get the discontent over Kid Rock’s upcoming performance at Little Caesar’s Arena, because without the infusion of public dollars the arena probably wouldn’t have been built.

And it’s good that civil rights activists in Detroit successfully got him to stop showcasing the Confederate flag — a symbol of slavery — long before criticizing the rock star became fashionable.

But Kid Rock won’t decide Detroit’s future. Where the city goes from here depends on the people who wake up every day in a city where most of their neighborhoods are looking abandoned, deprived and begging for intervention.

Kid Rock, the Metro-area entertainer who uses outrageousness to promote his brand, is irrelevant to me. He, like many entertainers, cashes in on his scandalous behavior among fans to make more money. These entertainers and Hollywood stars have learned that publicity in any shape or form helps line their pockets. Some even manufacture a crisis or media event so they can sell their products and make more money.

Once in a while some of these entertainers will dole out a check to a charity and project a compassionate and caring image to their followers. But the truth is that’s marketing 101. Because it helps them sell more records and book more gigs.

But as they make more money, many children in Detroit are going to bed hungry, the single mother who is working three jobs is worrying about her children’s hospital bills, and homeless veterans, like those seen recently at a Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries graduation ceremony, are concerned about whether we as a society will give them their due.

At that graduation, where Rhonda Walker of WDIV, Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press and I addressed the 256 graduates, there was no dry eye in the banquet hall as we watched some graduates tell their stories. It was a reminder of how much suffering is in Detroit and of the number of people who are cut of out of the city’s comeback.

The graduates at the DRMM ceremony don’t care about Kid Rock’s bookings. They want answers from their elected leaders and other stakeholders.

The 57 percent of Detroit children who are poor and their parents are not thinking of what songs Kid Rock plans to sing or who he might bring on stage for his arena opening. They won’t even be able to afford a meal at the arena restaurant being built and named after the artist.

Let’s face it: With 40 percent of Detroit families in poverty, should our concern truly be about a Donald Trump-like artist whose foul mouth is a part of his brand, or helping to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness?

Should our focus be on who is doing the opening of the arena or offer those who are left behind in the comeback with ladders to opportunities so they can transform their situations?

I want to hear about scholarship funds, entrepreneurial opportunities and training and retraining programs for those families

That is where we need more investment from the Ilitch group and other recipients of tax breaks. That is where we should direct media fire, because corporations that use tax dollars should account for it by demonstrating corporate social impact.

“Although Kid Rock prominently displayed a Confederate flag at his concert, and his opening of Little Caesars Arena is equally offensive, a protest simply affirms the power of those who chose Kid Rock over the rest of us,” said Detroit businessman Brian Cartwright. “Steve Bannon said Trump wins in 2020 if all we have is protests and no economic plan. We have economic power but lack the knockout plan. Protests are fleeting futility. Plans provide power for prosperity.”

In Detroit, we already have our work cut out for us. It is not devoting our precious time to Kid Rock. This city is in a state of economic emergency — with blacks and other minorities at the bottom — as shown in the recent Detroit Future City report, which should challenge all of us to purposeful and difference making action.

Social media is on fire now because of Kid Rock’s gig. How I wish the Detroit Future City report had created such high interest and frenzy.

I didn’t receive any sign-up notices about the need to take action in the wake of the report that said all the high paying jobs are clustered in the downtown area while neighborhoods are left stranded. But my Facebook account is being buffeted right now with urgent messages about signing up to protest Kid Rock’s appearance. My guess: Kid Rock is probably doing high-fives with his managers with all this free publicity.

Where is the moral indignation about the two Detroit phenomenon? Where are the sign-up notices on Facebook for that?

I would rather give attention to initiatives such as those of DRMM and other groups that are in the trenches trying to turn lives around, rather than putting energy into enhancing the brand of an acclaimed entertainer.

Our great city is in a crucial transition. This is a time when we should channel our energy toward things that can create a better future for those who have been neglected instead of dissipating it on frivolities.

After the Kid Rock protest, let’s begin a full-fledged conversation about corporate social responsibility. Let’s talk about plans, such as those the mayoral candidates Mike Duggan and Coleman Young II have to bring about even-handed governance. Let’s focus on the races for the City Council, which has a significant role to play in the city’s direction in terms of what development deals are approved.

We shouldn’t be giving voice to anything outside of these issues that will help determine the quality of life in Detroit. And Detroit’s crises aren’t being solved by participating in a media Palm Sunday that is being organized for Kid Rock to make a triumphant entry to the LCA.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

The writer hosts “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Super Station 910AM. This column appears Mondays and Thursdays.