by Lee DeVito
My grandfather always told me, "Jazz is universal. Music is universal. NEVER let music die." Our family's fifth generation entrepreneur, Bert Dearing Jr., has owned businesses all over the city of Detroit for 47 years, centered around the worldwide phenomenon, jazz. Bert's Market Place Entertainment Complex is located in the heart of the Eastern Market, where people come from all over for the freshest fruits and vegetables. We've helped make this area such a big attraction. 30-feet long grills filled with ribs and rib tips seasoned to perfection, footlong polish sausages, and 1-pound "Oh My God Burgers" created an irresistible smoke that everyone smells as soon as they get off the I-75 freeway. Live entertainment in every room ranging from Sweet Willie Tea's down south blues to live karaoke on the streets welcoming anyone in the area. That's exactly what my grandfather is about: his area, his community, his city.
Unfortunately, Bert had open heart surgery last April, and with the tragic incident we fell behind on a few months' payments on our mortgage. Leaving our lease in the hands of the bank, who soon sold it to heartless, big-money people. Days later after buying it, we found our business on the auction block. Our family's blood, sweat, and tears, taken right in front of our eyes. We've established more than a business, but a home to everyone we encounter. So many great artists have used our clubs as stepping stones to the next level of stardom. Ralph Armstrong, James Carter, even Kid Rock have all indulged in music and soul food at Bert's. My grandfather not only helps the upcoming stars, but he is always advocating for his city. We host an annual Health Fair Screening for the impoverished and homeless, give away dinner baskets during all the holiday season, and has employed over hundreds of young people to help make a difference.
My grandfather is the wisest person I've ever met. He's taught my father, my uncle, and I so many lessons to carry on in our lives, it's amazing the work that we can accomplish. My father, Jai-Lee, opened Rockefellers Oyster Bar and Grill, which is known for its fresh oysters and live jazz. My uncle, Bert III, travels and participates in festivals sharing our one-of-a-kind taste of heaven to cities other than Detroit. I plan to attend a historically black college to study business management to come home and franchise our legacy.
It's heartbreaking that we are in the situation that we are. They don't want our money — they want our land and they are willing to do anything to get it. Not many black businesses with the history we have has lasted through similar situations like this. We would like to be the family to reverse the statistics. This is more than a Detroit problem. This is a problem for the black community along with the music community. I refuse to let jazz die in our establishment in my grandfather's namesake. I am preparing myself for whatever price this auction lands in order to keep my grandfather's word. We've created a GoFundMe account to accept donations to assist with the preparing of the monetary actions soon to take place. The link to donate is gofundme.com/saveberts. Every penny makes a difference. Thank you for saving a legend.