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Detroit Postcard: Empty Promises Post Rebellion

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All this hour we've been hearing people reflect on this city's tumultuous past and complicated present. Here's another voice. Pat Watts was 16 years old at the time of the riots. She lived just two blocks down from 12th and Claremont - the epicenter. She tells us what it was like when her neighborhood erupted.

(SOUNDBITE OF AL GREEN'S "HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART?")

PAT WATTS: Of course, you know, we came outside and there's like chaos, chaos just everywhere, people everywhere. There were black people coming in from other neighborhoods, White people, Spanish people, all colors of people coming to loot and steal. Next thing you know, there's National Guard. And they would say, you can't go to the store, you know, get in house. There's a sniper on the building behind you. Get in the house. I see it as starting off as a rebellion.

And once things began to happen like shooting little boys in the back because the little boy in the neighborhood was 11 years old. He was going into the 5 and 10-cent store to get what he could get. You know, and they shot him in the back. And he, you know, became paralyzed. That made people angry. And when they did finally clean it up, all we heard was promises of what they were going to develop and do with 12th St. We're coming back. It's going to be this. It's going to be that. So all the promises that were made, they did one little strip mall right in that close area. And they did the apartment buildings. And other than that, nothing came back - nothing.

(SOUNDBITE OF AL GREEN'S "HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART?")

MARTIN: That story came from the Detroit Historical Society and was produced by April Van Buren of Michigan Radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF AL GREEN'S "HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART?") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.