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Events, Programs Explore Themes Surrounding Charlie LeDuff’s ‘Detroit: An American Autopsy’


Charlie LeDuff’s ‘Detroit: An American Autopsy’

JSC Events, Programs Explore Themes Arising in Downfall of America’s Motor City

September 6, 2013

Johnson State College has scheduled a number of events and programs this fall tied to its Common Reading Initiative, based on journalist Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy. The events include a visit by LeDuff, an art exhibit, performances, presentations and film screenings.

Incoming first-year students and members of the Johnson State community read LeDuff’s book as part of the annual common reading experience. The book selection could not be timelier: In July, Detroit declared bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. The city’s debt is estimated at more than $18 billion.

Once a thriving metropolis – a true leader in the nation for production, wealth and opportunity – Detroit is now the nation’s poorest city, leading the nation in unemployment, arson and other social ills. As a Detroit native and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, LeDuff tells the tale of the city’s decline. His book explores pertinent themes to prompt discussion and debate in a college community, including the United States’ role in the global economy; class and race in America; the interplay of government, the press, business, labor unions and citizenry in democracy; and community-building and urban renewal.

As part of its study of Detroit and related social, economic and political issues, Johnson State has scheduled these events and programs in the coming weeks:

  • “Detroit: Current Reflections” features the work of two artists, Karen Guth and Emily Lanctot, in the college’s Julian Scott Memorial Gallery through Saturday, Sept. 14. Scenes of Detroit emerge through Guth’s and Lanctot’s work to show a city that LeDuff describes as “full of good people who know what pain is.” Documenting everyday scenes, these artists illustrate some of Detroit’s pain through video installation, black and white photography, and other images.

  • Clothing designer/homeless advocate Veronika Scott will speak on Tuesday, Sept. 10, about The Empowerment Plan, a non-profit she founded as a 20-year-old product design student. Based in Detroit, her organization hires homeless women as full-time seamstresses to make coats that transform into sleeping bags for those living on the streets. Her presentation is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Stearns Student Center Performance Space. For more information on The Empowerment Plan, see

  • Poet, artist, publisher, rock star and activist jessica Care moore presents an evening of poetry and discussion on Detroit starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, in the Stearns Student Center Performance Space. A five-time “Showtime at the Apollo” winner, moore was a returning star of Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam. She has been featured on an album by hip-hop megastar Nas (Nastradamus).

  • LeDuff will discuss his book Detroit: An American Autopsy and tell tales from the streets at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, on stage at the Dibden Center for the Arts. A question-and-answer session and book-signing will follow. The Wall Street Journal writes of his book: “One cannot read Mr. LeDuff’s amalgam of memoir and reportage and not be shaken by the cold eye he casts on hard truths. … A little gonzo, a little gumshoe, some gawker, some good-Samaritan – it is hard to ignore reporting like Mr. LeDuff’s.”

  • A screening of the documentary film A Band Called DEATH will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, in 207 Bentley Hall. The film chronicles the story of the Hackney brothers – Dannis, David, and Bobby – as they abandon their funk music band in Detroit in the 1970s and take up rock-and-roll and punk, forming a new band, DEATH. In addition to being a rockumentary of the first black punk band and exploring the Hackneys’ roadblocks to success, it also is a family story that led to the creation of the Vermont-based band Rough Francis (see below).

  • A performance by Rough Francis is scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, on stage at the Dibden Center for the Arts. The Vermont-based Rough Francis began as a tribute to Detroit’s 1970s proto-punk band called DEATH. Thirty years after Bobby Hackney Sr. co-founded DEATH, his three sons discovered the original DEATH recordings in their parents’ attic in Vermont. Already well-steeped in the hardcore and punk scene, the sons and several friends created Rough Francis, a punk-rock band known for its wild, on-stage antics and maximum volume. Tickets are $5 general admission and free for the JSC community.

  • A screening of the film A Place at the Table is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, in Room 207, Bentley Hall. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America – where 50 million people struggle with food insecurity – through the lens of three people, investigating the larger social, cultural and economic implications. A question-and-answer session will be facilitated by Theresa Snow, executive director of Salvation Farms, a not-for-profit organization focused on building increased resilience in Vermont’s food system through agricultural surplus management.

For information about any of these events – all of them open to the public and free (except the Rough Francis concert, which is $5 for members of the public and free to the JSC community ) – contact Emily Neilsen, or 802-635-1408.