City wants man to prove he's black

Jerome Morgan asked for birth certificate

DETROIT - Jerome Morgan says he has seen it all.

Growing up as an African American, Morgan said he was called racial slurs and had friends who were pulled over for driving while black, but has overcome to become a successful businessman in Detroit.

But Morgan never thought he'd see the day when he would be accused of lying about being black.

"I was born a minority. I lived a minority since the date of birth," he said.

Detroit, in a massive financial crisis and suffering from a large population erosion, is fighting to get businesses to open in the city. Now, Morgan says the city is going after him to prove that he's black.

"It's somewhat insulting, yes, it is. But I understand the character of the people that we're dealing with," said Morgan.

Morgan believes the city in crisis should have bigger things to worry about than checking on his ethnicity.

"This is the way they're going to treat a Detroit-based business? A minority that's trying to stay in the city and operate?" said Morgan.

In Detroit, business owners can receive preferred status as a minority owned company.

Morgan has been doing business in Detroit for years. Now, the city is asking him to submit a birth certificate showing who is parents are and what their race is.

"It's very offensive when a minority doing it to a minority," said Morgan.

He believes the questions aren't out of the blue.

Morgan a target?

Last month, Morgan was involved in a Defenders investigation at Harbor Hills Marina, where Morgan is the operator.

The city tried kicking Morgan out for being late on payments; Morgan said they wanted to give it to a Dave Bing supporter at a fraction of the cost he pays for rent.

The Defenders later learned the mayor's office was ordering the Recreation Department to get Morgan out. When it became known that the city never received a court order, those sent to padlock the marina left.

A judge gave the operation back to Morgan. A court hearing is scheduled for July.

A few weeks later, Morgan received a letter asking for his birth certificate to prove that he's a minority.

The Detroit City Council said Morgan's treatment will be discussed later this week.

Some citizens are unhappy, including Keith Hines, who wore a sign supporting Morgan at city council.

"It's very much offensive, like we're in Africa," said Hines.

"All the information we get, everybody's been telling us, 'My direction comes from the mayor's office.' So who's in the mayor's office been leading this spearhead, this attack," said Morgan.

The mayor's office issued the following statement:

"Upon review, Ms. Hall-Wagner no longer requires his birth certificate to confirm his minority status. However, his application requires other documentation that he needs to submit as part of the required approval process. She was unaware of any issues Mr. Morgan had with Harbor Hill Marina when she reviewed his Human Rights applications."

Morgan plans to provide the birth certificate any way. He said he expects more problems from the city but won't leave without a fight.

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