Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Suburban Blues

Last week's MetroTimes had a blurb about the sixth annual BUD LIGHT Ferndale Blues Festival which was very kind. It mentioned the multitude of warm and friendly venues hosting more than five dozen concerts. MetroTimes has been a sponsor of the festival since its inception in 2001. But the writer made one statement to which I beg to differ; that being that in effect, the suburbs are an unlikely place to expect the Blues. The conventional wisdom being perhaps that true Blues must happen in a big urban city, probably one associated with the problems that some cities experience.

But many of us believe that one need not be poor, or Black, or downtrodden to appreciate or even create good Blues. While no one would challenge the history of the Blues, that it came from the experience of slavery, poverty, and hard life of the rural South, there is also no question that the shared pain of bill collectors, cheatin' spouses, and broken hearts transends any racial or economic or geographic group. The Blues is loved worldwide.

Ferndale may be viewed by some now as a trendy, yuppie-filled smaller version of Birmingham. Those folks either dont know Ferndale, havent been here, or have bought into the old tired suburban-city divide. Perhaps we in Ferndale have been too successful with our own hype. This city was and still is a hard-scrabble working and middle class town. Fifteen years ago, our downtown was as empty as any blighted block in Kansas City or Memphis or Chicago.
We've been able to rebound because we have rejected the worst aspects of the Eight Mile Road divide. We choose neither to follow the glitterati of Birmingham or the urban decay of the big city. We have chosen a third way.

Even the stereotype of the gentrified "Gay" neighborhood doesn't fit Ferndale. We are a mixed community that values and embraces our diversity. We love our residents, be they advertizing executives, teachers, or factory workers. The students in our schools represent very color of the rainbow. We are proud of our city, we appreciate our culture, and we certainly love our music.


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