I locked up my trusty Subaru and was welcomed into the doors of Trumbullplex, an anarchist commune collectivized in 1993 that has been a staple residence and performance space for artists and activists dating back to the 1970s. There, a duo of 100+ year old homes combine into one campus comprised of a performance space, housing, library, and green space.
The “Plex” as it is often called has been maintained by varying residents over the years with an over-arching value proposition of "paying It forward". The last time I stepped into the living space was as a budding18 year old undergraduate student in perhaps my most overtly anarchist phase of my life. Feel free to poke fun at me but just know that I have been engaging with Trumbullplex for 5 years now.
But most of my time over the years has been spent in the performance space just next door to the residence. Whether it was the latest local scene show, or theatre exhibition, I made an effort over the years to always make time for the Plex. This love I had for the space faded in 2018 when racist sentiments of Plex residents started denying the space from the very black folk that had contributed to its community. Being blamed for trash we never left behind and being "left on read" about shows that were once free for us felt shitty, for lack of a better word. But today, something was different. Frankly, this whole entire summer things have been different for the Plex.
I was welcomed in by Mykel Andre, a songwriter and producer who I shared many stages with from 2017-2018. It had been 3 years since I had last seen Andre, largely due to my own vacancy from in-person art spaces. But also because of his very own. So much of us leaving was healing from an art scene that was both transactional and polarized. The scene we remembered was one where sprawl-city robber barons hosted weekly safe spaces for their own white-leftist comfort. Spaces where black folk were talked down to, given bad show splits, and often holding together art villages while ironically dwelling on the margins of them.
"Honestly it feels like so many of us just felt burned out"
We both had a nostalgic laugh.
There was a shared understanding of each-others journey that only comes with growing up. We both had spent the past few years no longer fixated on winning but instead working in the background. From my decision to turn the “Altnubian” namesake into a decommodified music blog, and Mykel’s contributions to DVD City and other projects, we both acknowledged that we still had a desire to be in community with other black and brown creators. And that we needed to be in this room together at this particular moment.
"Going to New York for a month was such needed perspective. Like it was super motivating knowing that many of us are often 1 or 2 people away from working with our idols. Sometimes you don't always see that staying in just one place"
This summer, they opened the doors of Trumbullplex for weekly ballrooms to the soundtrack of electronic music, rap, and alternative. These soirees were raw, healthy, and reflective of healing that we had made as a community. The wall-clingers of old now populated the dance floor and gone was the animosity that came from forcing ourselves into competition.
Needless to say, the division and desire to satisfy white supremacy had finally left us. So many of us no longer felt the need to be diplomatic but instead focused on carving out spaces that were black as hell and proud.
While Detroit's targeted "comeback" has not always been kind to the very underground resistance that has influenced art communities the world over, you could still find an honest techno set right here in Trumbullplex. You could still find the legacy of Detroiters decades ago right here in this living space. From Dilla tracks still catching spins to independent artists like Gum coming to town, the Plex now adequately represents the power that's present in grassroots relationships of black and brown folk.
As I got cozy with the house cat and set up my iPad for notes, Mykel cued up his album.
The album has been in the pressure cooker for over 2 years with some songs still being recorded and mastered.
As I listened to the album so much of what I felt can be described as a meteoric experience. Interstellar sounds crashed to earth from start to finish, as digital converged upon soul and soil. Mykel sings a lot on this project. This is nothing new; his 2018 project Band-Aid featured a lot of rap-singing. But here it's sharper and considerably more R&B. You can hear both neo-soul and trap caked into this new sound with busy-body percussion and dynamic chord builds. If anything, this project is just as soulful and eclectic as the village that has pumped both time and life into this project.
And that’s exactly what it is--- a village! Mykel told me about how much time he and other musicians had spent helping actualize eachother’s visions. He rambled off names. Folk like: Caz Aglets, Cam Spacely, Ziggy Waters, Milf Melly, Indira, Family Man Xay, & DVD City. I could tell that for him so much of what he was passionate about musically was reciprocity. These allegiances were more than just music friends. They were inspirations and priorities in Mykel’s life.
We talked more about Trumbullplex, and that's when he told me.
Dating back to June of 2021, the future of Trumbullplex has been in question. Victor Anderson, a former roommate of Mykel and company decided to move from the Plex, taking much of the residence’s funding with him. $30,000 of donated money was donated to the Trumbullplex for maintenance and Anderson is still holding both the majority of that funding but also the ownership of the Trumbullplex's accounting and nonprofit status. These items were to be transferred to current residents so that they can preserve the building. That has not since happened, with the current residents only obtaining $5,100 so far-- half of which has been spent on electrical repairs and house debt.
Despite stating that he would facilitate this transition back in July, Anderson has not honored that agreement and has since then blocked the residents without provocation. This has forced Mykel and company to seek out friends of their former roommate for answers...to no avail.
As of recent, Anderson has sent a letter for Mykel and company to vacate the Plex, under claims that the $5,100 provided to them was spent on a $4,980 Cartier bracelet.
While I can’t speak to any truth in regards to a necklace, I can speak to actual receipts and expenses shared by Mykel that were put towards electrical repairs as previously stated. Those are presented below.
Record of electrical expenses spent for the Trumbullplex
It stands to reason that there is miscommunication and lack of accountability that has created harmful conditions for the black folk currently holding the building together. Just outside the front door stands a sign condemning eviction. Within the walls of the building lies years of communal and affordable living. The values of the Plex don't reflect evicting community-invested persons who are actively contributing to the complex.
So wherever you stand, there is no reality where Trumbullplex evicting black folk who have contributed to safer and equitable communities is ideal. This is doubly relevant given the surrounding pandemic and existing moratoriums on eviction. There is no way that what is happening is equitable or productive. For the first time in its history, the Trumbullplex is maintained by black and brown people--- the very people that are often on the margins of white-centered leftism. Folk with lived experience in a city where finding a place to live is nearing impossible for black folk.
So what’s this have to do with Mykel Andre’s upcoming album?
Everything! The Trumbullplex and black and brown spaces are the very conditions that allow this album and others like it to exist, and you absolutely hear it in every track. I find it almost prophetic that after meeting with the homies at the Plex, I grabbed lunch with two friends from Wayne State at The Petersboro. After a meal of duck dumplings and sesame chicken, one friend opened a fortune cookie, calling for us to work with our friends in times of uncertainty. Ask (IG: @milesthedirector) that actually happened by the way; I’m not just pontificating.
And no moment is more uncertain than the future of the Trumbullplex, which has served as a beacon for black and brown people to create, network, and support all in one decommodified physical space. I’m a firm believer of things happening for a reason. And seeing our art community coalesce around inclusion during this particular moment of isolation is paramount. Me hearing this album while sitting next to compromised walls and light fixtures is paramount. The many creators that this space has touched returning to host events of their own and advocate for the Plex is paramount.
And so that's why we extend the invitation to stay in solidarity with us. Build power with us! And you...no WE can start by getting together and organizing around how to preserve this space for us. When I mean us, I do not mean those who source talent from the hood all the while missing what makes the hood beautiful. I don’t mean folk who flock to urban situations when they want to feel better about their own racism. I mean us! Black and brown folk, of all shapes sizes. Tall, short, fat, skinny, queer, trans, neurodivergent, all of us! Together we can build both a community that does not simply just respond to moments of uncertainty, but prepares for it and strategizes around it. We can build a narrative that tells the true story-- the story the big name publications and bad actors won't tell of us.
We’ll be together September 2nd at 2pm at Trumbullplex for this very call to action. Join us in building both power but also a community. If you’re coming, click this link and just let us know! I’ll bring food & flipcharts! We’re ready and we know you are too!
Let’s Grab Crayons! Peace, Love, & Faith as in all things,