Geneva Kachman


Geneva Kachman


Geneva Kachman remembers hearing about the unrest as a child when her family could not spend the day on Belle Isle. Instead, her family went home and watched the news about what was happening. She also includes a poem that references the unrest.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written Story


Madison Heights Belle Isle


I was a little girl in Madison Heights, Michigan. That Sunday, our parents took us kids down to Belle Isle. On the expressway in, there was hardly any traffic. My mom said, "Maybe there's a parade going on." So we were on Jefferson, almost to the Belle Isle Bridge, when we saw a line of police officers on horseback. One of them rode over to us. My dad rolled down the window. The officer said, "Where are you folks headed?" My dad said, "To Belle Isle to play on the swings." The officer said, "Haven't you heard? The riots have started. Go home."

So we went back to Madison Heights, and turned on the TV. What I remember is the Channel 7 logo, and then there was a photo of a policeman with a shotgun in his hand. I remember we had to close the curtains, because of the glare on the TV. I also remember thinking, because my parents fought a lot - I felt kind of reassured as a little kid because, look, there's nothing to be ashamed about my parents and their fighting, breaking things, etc, because that's just what adults do. (Lots of alcohol). Look at those people in Detroit, destroying things. So that's just what adults do when they get mad. They destroy things. It all made a weird kind of sense (I was six years old).

I wrote a poem about someone I knew in Detroit, that says something about the '67 Riot (although I have heard it called a rebellion and civil disturbance). Then I painted a sign. Poem and sign below.

So glad you are keeping the history alive. It's - really - unpleasant? Painful? The idea that Detroit can have all this development going on, an arena, etc - and yet - how is not simply recreating the pre-1967 Detroit? Didn't some magazine do a story on Detroit, on it being a "model city?" Also what I've read about "HCOP" areas - High Concentration Of Poverty" areas - and how that correlates with race in SE Michigan.

Scatter My Ashes

(A posthumous persona poem, in the
voice of a master 4H urban gardener)

Scatter my ashes on the Detroit River.
Handfuls lifted from my red hummingbird feeder,
My grit to nourish lake trout and walleye forever.

Alive I startled - like fireworks over open water.
Let our residues work a new alchemy together:
Scatter my ashes on the Detroit River.

Razors scraping lines of cocaine on mirrors
Seem unstoppable as icebreakers. But my powder
Shall sting the eyes of drug dealers forever.

My first act as otherworldly mayor?
I pronounce the '67 riots finally over.
We're all Detroiters now – from Pontiac, on out to Ann Arbor.

Alive, I startled the dopeman with a garden tiller,
Taught the young ones 'bout green bean and sunflower,
To scatter wood ash down the furrow's center.

Great Lakes squeeze through this passage so narrow,
Channeling all that effort, desperation and power.
Scatter my ashes on the Detroit River,
My love will flow past this city forever.

Original Format


Submitter's Name

Geneva Kachman

Submission Date



Geneva Kachman image.png


“Geneva Kachman,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed January 18, 2022,

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