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MOTOR CITY JOURNAL: Anti-profiling theme loud at concert

Ethnic, world music rips at Detroit event

October 22, 2001

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER It was early Sunday morning at the Majestic Theater on Woodward Avenue, and lots of people were strutting, clapping and smiling to "El Cuarto de Tula," a hynotically danceable song by the Detroit-based Latino/rock band, Benny Cruz y la Buena Vida.

"The title is 'Tula's Room,' " said bandleader Benny Cruz, who explained a verse that talks about music so exciting that it blew out a candle in Tula's room. "In other words, the music was smoking," he said with a smile.

The music smoked all night at the Majestic. Arabic music. Reggae music. Latino music. World music.

And it carried a message.

The dancers were brown-colored people. Black people. White people. Mocha people. Caramel people. Bronze people. Olive people.

They were metro Detroiters who came to protest collateral damage on the home front from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: racial profiling of Mideastern people, or those who look Mideastern. Some came to protest the war.

"I came to show that I'm against profiling, and to show support for the Arab-American community in Detroit," said one enthusiastic dancer, Lucine Eusani, a 22-year-old Detroiter who described herself as being from a "plethora of ethnic backgrounds," including Italian, Armenian, German and French.

"It was a good reason for people to get together and show community," added Susan Yeghissian, 52, of Southfield.

The concert, titled "Rock Against Profiling," was sponsored by groups as varied as the crowd, including New Detroit Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Association of Chinese Americans, La Sed and the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Service (ACCESS). Several hundred people paid $5 to take part. There were green ribbons to show solidarity with Arab and Muslim Americans, and the American Civil Liberties Union distributed pamphlets explaining what to do if stopped by police or federal law enforcement.

"The music and the audience represent the diversity and richness of this city, and we're not going to let that be attacked without fighting back," said Peter Werbe, the concert emcee and host of the long-running "Night Call" talk show on WRIF-FM.

Ismael Ahmed, executive director of ACCESS, said the vast majority of Americans have been supportive since the Sept. 11 attacks. But his agency, which has received numerous threats, has heard many complaints about profiling, both by the public and police.

"We live such segregated lives, and when people think things are wrong, they don't often have the opportunity to come together," Ahmed said. "That's why we're bringing people together from different communities, from different colors and backgrounds, to enjoy themselves and talk about it and share with everyone what they are doing."

In addition to Benny Cruz, Ezzat Chamseddine played the loud, a guitar-like Mideastern instrument, and Dub Culture provided reggae.

For hard-driving world music there was the Layabouts, a 20-year-old group of middle-age Detroiters whose high energy and belligerent politics belied their birth dates.

In "Thin Ice," from their CD, "Workers of the World, RELAX," the Layabouts sang: "Sitting home watching color TV/ The president, he comes to me/ He says that I must fight his wars/ I've got to kill the enemy . . ." Questioning U.S. policy in Afghanistan was a subtheme of the evening. Activists Liza Zador and Ric Urrutia urged people to get involved in Detroit's antiwar movement.

"I don't think war is the answer," Urrutia said. "And no matter how angry they are with the attacks, I think there is some hesitation among the American people."

Cruz said in traveling the Midwest, he and his band members have been subjected to racial profiling. He thought it was important to participate in the concert to remind people to feel good and be happy about life.

"It's a crazy world out there," he said. "We just love to play and share the music. And people really respond."



Contact BILL McGRAW at 313-223-4781 or

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