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Culture

John Conyers

 

Published 9/17/2003

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U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, epitomizes the spirit of the city — idealistic hell-raiser; fighter for Democratic and union values; tireless advocate for justice for minorities. Last year, Conyers was elected to his 19th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, winning 83 percent of the vote in Michigan’s 14th Congressional District, which covers swaths of Detroit and Dearborn, and all of Highland Park and Hamtramck, plus Melvindale, Allen Park, Southgate, Riverview, Trenton, Gibraltar, and Grosse Ile Township.

Born on the east side, this Detroiter knows what it takes to call our city home — his father was a factory worker and UAW rep; Conyers himself worked in auto plants and was a union officer before he went to Vietnam. Upon his return from the war, Conyers got a law degree and was elected to Congress in 1964. He’s the second-longest-serving member of the House. Conyers says one of his greatest acts was to introduce the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday bill four days after the civil rights leader was assassinated. “It took me 15 years to get it signed into law,” he says.

Conyers is currently working on a bill to provide universal health coverage. “My bill would create a system where health care is a matter of right from the moment you are born,” he says.

Now living in northwest Detroit, Conyers says his choice for “best thing about Detroit” is Baker's Keyboard Lounge. “Jazz is the unique music that came from the African-American existence. Detroit has produced more musicians than any other urban area,” says Conyers. As for Baker’s, “whenever I get 45 minutes to myself in Detroit, I go to Baker’s.” The elegant jazz joint is a place where “people can honestly relax,” Conyers says “It is a humongous institution of great recognition across the country. They still bring in our best musicians. They still provide an open mic for aspiring musicians. It’s a very, very important spot in the city, culturally.” And, don’t forget, “the dinners are standup and there’s no cover.” Whenever he goes, Conyers gets catfish, yams, black-eyed peas, cornbread and green beans. “They’ve got great cooks. If you add that plus the music, plus the friendly environment, plus the diversity, there aren’t many places anywhere that can compare.”

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