Ferndale mayor Craig Covey recently described AJ’s Music Cafe (240 W. Nine Mile) as the “epicenter” of Michigan’s grass-roots progressive movement, and although portraits of FDR and Barack Obama adorn its walls, owner AJ O’Neil doesn’t necessarily adhere to the Democratic agenda. He considers his cafe to simply be a “sounding board” for the community.
AJ’s is a place where notions become issues and activism is celebrated. His causes benefit primarily the American working class from all across the ideological spectrum. “The country was founded on the principal ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’ not ‘of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations,’” O’Neil remarks, “[who] have all the control and are gaining more by the minute while we terminally bring ourselves further and further into debt.”
And further into debt means an even greater crippling dependence on foreign goods and aid. “We need a total redefinition of what this fiduciary responsibility is between government officials and people on Main Street,” he advocates. “The haves are really running things while the have-nots are getting wedge issues and all the other bullshit they throw in there… like gays in the military, Koran burning, anything of the myriad of things that mean absolutely nothing to people but will create apathy and confusion and everything else that goes with it.
We need to be sound, wholly, so we can be the best neighbor we can be to the world… I disagree with the approach of doing it through anger, fear, racism, separation—you’re never going to get anything done unless you embrace all that we are,” urges O’Neil. “Mean, racist, corrupt, greedy people—those people gotta be eliminated from the power structure for all this to work.”
O’Neil hopes domestic manufacturing will once again become the cornerstone of America, and feels it is up to us—how we live and what we buy—to make it happen. “We stand for something that you don’t hear much about, which is ‘we’re all in this together, and we gotta get along,’” he stresses, or we’re likely to surrender even more of our parking lots to the weeds.
AJ’s is currently fighting for Michigan House Bill 5634 (banning the insurance industry from using credit scores and education level to rate premiums), a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in Michigan and against the nefarious practice of gerrymandering. Join the movement via ajsmusiccafe.com.