Tag Archives: Detroit

Two Detroit sisters killed in Ghana

Published in Detroit Free Press, May 8, 2015

By Niraj Warikoo

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/05/07/elderly-native-detroit-sisters-slain-ghana/70980666/

Inspired by the social movements at the time, Jeannette Salters of Detroit got involved in the early 1970s with African-American and feminist causes, helping lead a black women’s group.

That led her to discover her roots in west Africa, where she eventually settled in Ghana, changing her name to Mamelena Diop. Her journey to Africa was part of a movement of Detroiters who sought to reclaim their ancestral roots during a revival of black nationalist movements.

Diop loved it there, say friends and family. But this week, her body, along with that of her sister, Nzinga Janna, was found near their home in Ghana in what may been killings in a dispute over land. She was 75 and her sister was 60 at the time of death, according to reports in a Ghanian online news site and family members. Two men have been arrested, according to the Ghanian news report and family members.

“I feel terrible about what happened,” said her son, Greg Salters of Detroit. “It’s a tragedy. Words can’t even explain how I feel about my mom being taken away from her home, murdered and put in a shallow grave 300 feet from her home.”

Salters said his mother and aunt were killed by people who wanted land she had legally acquired from the government in Ghana.

“Some locals decided they wanted to take the land from them,” he said. “My mom went to court over that” and won.

“I guess the locals decided they were going to take matters into their own hands,” he said. “And they decided to abduct and murder them.”

A report on MyJoyOnline.Com said the sisters “had gone missing and a search in their room Tuesday afternoon revealed blood on the floor and a bloodstained cudgel, believed to have been used to hit them.”

Her dogs had been poisoned several weeks ago, said family members and the media report.

The report said the dispute also may have been over who has the authority to be a chief, with others trying to say that the sisters could not legally be chiefs. But family members in metro Detroit say that story doesn’t add up since the sisters could not be chiefs in that area because they were women.

Friends and family of Diop mourned her loss, saying it was a tragedy for her to die in a land she loved so much. Diop had moved back and forth between Detroit and Ghana over the years and was a dual citizen of the U.S. and Ghana. She was last in Detroit two years ago for the funeral of a relative.

“She loved that place,” said Diop’s daughter Cheryl Salters. “She loved Africa. The people were nice.”

A family member or friend of Janna could not be reached for comment.

Diop’s close friend, Thea Simmons of Grosse Pointe Park, was in shock when she heard about the deaths.

“My mind went blank … I shed some tears,” she said. “It’s beyond a travesty that she should lose her life in her adopted homeland. She loved Ghana. And she loved the Ghanian people.”

Family are now trying to get her body back into the U.S. The U.S. Embassy has contacted them to notify them of the deaths of the sisters, said family members.

The family is trying to raise money through GoFundMe to ship the sisters’ remains back to Detroit.

Diop was originally from Cleveland, but moved to Detroit as a young woman, said Simmons. She “became involved in radical politics … social movements” in African-American and women’s movements.

In 1973, she helped set up the Detroit chapter of the now-defunct National Black Feminist Organization. She was also a social worker and counselor, said family members.

Several years later, she traveled to west African countries, the land of her origins. She settled in Ghana, getting involved with helping people, said family members. She was also into eating organic and using natural herbs.

“My mother was very articulate, very into herbs and holistic medicine, eating natural,” said Cheryl Salters.

A grandson, James Salters, said that Diop was involved with helping Ghanians with education, water systems and affordable housing.

He said: “I feel sad that someone would actually target an older woman when she’s over there trying to do good for that country.”

Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo.

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Dr. Ben Carson, a native of Detroit and Republican Presidential candidate, is profiled in New York Times Magazine

The New York Times magazine did a long profile Sunday of Detroit native Dr. Ben Carson, a surgeon who’s considering running for President as a Republican. A 7th-Day Adventist (a denomination founded in Michigan about 150 years ago), Dr. Carson is known for his conservative views. The story looks at his challenges growing up and how he fits into the GOP Presidential race.

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Jazz on a Friday night, March 21, 2015, at Bert’s in Eastern Market in Detroit

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Sign at Packard Plant in Detroit similar to Nazi sign at Auschwitz concentration camp

Photo by Niraj Warikoo of new sign at the overpass at the Packard Auto Plant in Detroit

I broke the story this week of the infamous Auschwitz sign being placed at the Packard Plant in Detroit.
It’s since been removed.

By Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Published: 9:44 PM, February 4, 2013

Big letters have been placed on the overpass at the Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit that read in German “Work will make you Free,” concerning some metro Detroiters, given the resemblance to an infamous sign at the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz. It’s unclear who put up the letters.
In capital red letters on a white background, the new sign at the decaying site on Detroit’s east side reads: “Arbeit Macht Frei,” the exact same words at the entrance to the concentration camps in Poland where Jews were forced to work and were murdered. The sign, which was used at other Nazi camps, became well known as an international symbol of cruelty.
“I found it disturbing,” said David Schulman, 53, a Huntington Woods resident who came across the Detroit sign while driving home last week from Belle Isle. His grandmother had family members killed in the Holocaust.
“It’s a form of hate speech,” Schulman said. “It really appalled me.”
An attorney who represents the owner of the plant said he wasn’t aware of the sign until contacted by the Free Press, but now intends to remove it or cover it up.
“This is a disgusting act,” said Troy attorney John Bologna, who represents the plant’s owner Dominic Cristini. Cristini is in a legal dispute with the city over the plant’s ownership.
The sign consists of separate white rectangular pieces for each letter. The style of the lettering in the Detroit sign has specific similarities to the Nazi sign at Auschwitz that made it unique: for example, the upper half of the letter “B” in “Arbeit” (“Work”) is bigger than the lower half, just like it is in Auschwitz.
The letters appear to have been hung there sometime this year, said Schulman. He didn’t notice them when driving about a month ago by the overpass, which sits across East Grand Boulevard near Concord Street.
The plant has become a symbol of Detroit’s industrial decline. Designed by the noted architect Albert Kahn, the Packard Plant used to be an auto manufacturing facility where thousands worked and was a symbol of the strength of blue-collar labor in America’s Midwest.
It’s unclear if the sign is meant to be a satirical remark on the decline of manufacturing and cities like Detroit. In recent years, artists have explored the plant, and installed or moved around objects to make commentary on urban and industrial decay.
Regardless of whether the sign is part of an art project or satire, Schulman said such a sign is quite offensive.
His grandmother and her sister were the only two members in their family to survive the Nazis, he said. Schulman has contacted the Michigan chapter of the Anti-Defamation League about the sign at the Packard Plant.
“I can’t explain why someone would want to do something like that,” he said. “It doesn’t belong there. It doesn’t make our city look well.”

Contact Niraj Warikoo: 313-223-4792 or nwarikoo@freepress.com

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Ohio woman who’s half-Jewish, half-Arab, files lawsuit against federal agencies for arrest, strip-search on 9-11-2011

Shoshana Hebshi, a half-Jewish, half-Arab woman from Ohio, filed lawsuit against federal agencies after being pulled off plane and strip-searched

By Niraj Warikoo

Detroit Free Pres Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013

A 36-year-old Ohio woman who is half-Jewish and half-Arab filed a lawsuit today against the FBI and other federal agencies, saying she was yanked off an airplane at Metro Airport on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, strip-searched, and jailed more than four hours in a dirty cell because of her ethnic background.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Detroit on behalf of Shoshana Hebshi of Sylvania Ohio, who was on a Frontier Airlines flight that landed in Detroit on Sept. 11, 2011. She and two Indian-American men sitting in her row were targeted by federal agents who entered the plane, ordered them off the plane, handcuffed them, and pushed them down the stairs into vehicles, Hebshi said.

She was then placed in a cell, where she was ordered to strip naked, squat, and cough while an officer looked at her. Hebshi said she was terrified.

“I was frightened and humiliated,” said Hebshi, a freelance journalist and mother of 7-year-old twins. “As an American citizen and a mom, I’m really concerned about my children growing up in a country where your skin color and your name can put your freedom and liberty at risk at any time.”

At the time, Hebshi’s case drew international attention, leading to reports from the Guardian to The Economist that raised questions about the profiling of minorities in the U.S. Hebshi told the Free Press on Tuesday that she hopes the lawsuit can lead to changes and “heightened awareness” of abusive law enforcement.

Hebshi and the two men were detained after people on the plane complained about two of them going to the rest room. Flight attendants had alerted the pilot that the men going to the rest room were “possibly of Arab descent,” the lawsuit said.

After landing, “men with very large guns, militaristic looking, ran on the plane,” Hebshi recalled.  Continue reading

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