A TIME FOR RESISTANCE: Detroit 2013 June 23-30.
Detroit Summer 2013 will be a gathering of movement activists from all over the country to broaden and strengthen the resistance that the American people are mounting to the abuses and assaults we are suffering from corporate and political elites.
Across the country, extreme right wing forces are systematically attacking our most basic values and most cherished rights and responsibilities. They are turning every thing we love into a way to make money, attempting to control our land, water, and the very sources of life and creativity. They are dismantling education, public services, and political life. They are waging perpetual war to control the resources of the globe. They are attempting to destroy our spirits, our history, our memories and our dignity.
Around the country We, the People, are mobilizing to resist these actions.
In North Carolina a coalition is emerging to bring public attention to the efforts of the state legislature to privatize schools, destroy unions, and assault communities. Groups of citizens and organizations, including long time civil rights organizations like the NAACP, the Beloved Communities Center, and local churches have agreed to send large delegations to Raleigh to participate in non-violent civil disobedience and to serve as moral witnesses to the attempts of the legislature.
In Wisconsin, Growing Power, a leader in urban agriculture and sustainable, just food systems, is joining with others to challenge the Monsanto Corporation. They are participating in a “teach-in” and March Against Monsanto and its effort to control seeds and foster chemically and genetically altered agribusiness.
In Jackson, Mississippi, a “Plan for Self Determination, Participatory Democracy and Economic Justice” has emerged, inspired by urban agriculture, people’s assemblies, participatory budgeting, freedom schooling, and new economic relationships. Spearheaded by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the Jackson People’s Assembly, the Plan is an initiative to apply many of the best practices in the promotion of democracy, solidarity economy, and sustainable development, combined with progressive community organizing and electoral politics. Its objectives are “to deepen democracy in Mississippi and to build a vibrant, people centered solidarity economy that empowers Black and other oppressed peoples.”
In Detroit growing numbers of people are attending meetings, demonstrations, and rallies, forming organizations and coalitions across the city and state. We have mounted petition drives and court cases, challenging the legality of emergency laws and privatization. We are organizing people’s conventions, neighborhood councils, people’s law schools, forums, and teach-ins.
We are demonstrating in Lansing, being arrested at city hall, marching in front of Federal, State and City Office buildings and the banks that are responsible for much of the pain in our city. We have moved people back into homes and challenged foreclosures.
We are developing non-violent ways of problem-solving in communities, turning to one another to resolve differences and to provide for our own safety and security. We are both protesting and projecting alternatives.
A spirit of resistance is growing in Detroit, echoing acts around our country. Every day we endure attacks from a corporate elite determined to remake our city into a place where the wealthy can live, work, play and be served by the rest of us. Corporate interests are grabbing land while people are unable to pay escalating utility bills and property taxes , and mortgages are forcing people out of their homes. Speculators are buying up apartment buildings, evicting long term residents in hopes of attracting newer, wealthier tenants. As some people, desperate and despairing, turn against one another, looking for a quick fix, a moment of relief, our neighborhoods have become war zones, with private police forces and federal agencies uniting to impose control.
These assaults have challenged us to deepen and grow our resistance. Drawing on our experiences as a movement city and the depth of relationships we have woven, we are struggling to recreate life in the face of abandonment. We are creating new forms of resistance, understanding that this assault is part of the global effort by corporate elites to consolidate their power and protect their privilege.
These are more than acts of protest. They are re-assertions of our humanity, acts of resistance to the immoral policies of vicious forces bent on the destruction of all that we cherish in the pursuit of profit and power.
We will not be silent as schools are closed, people go hungry, and lose their homes. We will not be silent as our land is taken for private gain and used as a dumping ground for the waste of the petroleum industry. We will not be silent when we are told we must kill other people to protect our way of life. We will not be silent when we are told there are no alternatives.
Enough is Enough! This is our city, our state and our country. We can and will create a new world.
We can create beloved communities that heal ourselves and our earth. We can create cities that value our children, reconnect our generations, provide for our needs, and promote a sustainable, productive and peaceful ways of life.
We are doing it every day. Some of us are creating new schools based upon a commitment to re-define, re-spirit and rebuild our communities. Others are creating Peace Zones for Life, engaging in restorative justice. Muralists, writers, spoken word artists, musicians and artisans are sharing visions across our city. Detroiters are creating food security, healthy food, urban gardens, and new policies that will allow us to feed ourselves and one another. Others are committed to digital justice, exploring new forms of work and culture. Cooperatives, neighborhood businesses, technology centers for children, and new forms of local production and self-sufficiency are emerging in our neighborhoods.
We resist the cynicism and hopelessness spread by the corporate media about our city. Detroit is not a city of ghosts. It is not a city of decay. It is a city of vibrant, resilient people, calling upon a deep legacy of struggle to create the relationship and values for a better future.
This is the story that we must tell ourselves as we build a new dream of the kind of country we can yet become.
Join us this summer as we unite to resist the mushrooming assaults on our humanity that we cannot accept.
For more information, contact Boggs Center 313-923-0797 or Tawana Petty 313 433 9882.
Driving Development: Week 9 of the Occupation
By Shea Howell
May 26th, 2013
The Report of the Emergency Manager has been greeted with little enthusiasm. It has not offered any clarity on plans for the development of the city under the new regime. The vague promises of improving the quality of life, while stripping the city, are as hollow as the document itself.
Meanwhile the city is developing. Dan Gilbert now owns 17 downtown buildings, totaling 2.9 million square feet of commercial space. His employs 7,500 full time employees, rivaling the workforce of the entire city government. His plans for reshaping Woodward Avenue are far reaching, attracting national and international attention. They were developed without any public commentary or discussion. Presumably, he will claim public endorsement from the Detroit Works Strategic Framework, as his “placemaking” plan begins to take shape along the lower Woodward Corridor.
With less fanfare and on a much more ominous note, developers began eviction proceedings against hundreds of people in the Cass Corridor. A 127 unit building on Griswold followed the efforts to evict 300 people from Henry Street. These eviction efforts have been met with strong resistance and are helping bring into focus the real impact of development in pursuit of dollars. The human cost of driving people out of homes so that developers can increase rent is becoming a common practice in the city. In response, drawing upon the experiences of fighting foreclosures, deeper coalitions are emerging, raising questions of ethical, just development. The Moratorium Now! Coalition has been holding a series of public meetings, taking testimony from people facing evictions. This resistance is not only helping people regain homes from banks, but it raising critical questions about who our city is for and who we need to protect with public policies.
And while the Emergency Manager Report hinted that Belle Isle is an expensive proposition for the city, more plans for its reconditioning are underway. Nearly $2 million has been spent on the Grand Prix Track for this weekend’s race. The historic horse stables are getting a new roof, costing nearly $1 million dollars and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum is finishing up a multi-million dollar renovation. Plans are evolving for renovations of the James Scott Memorial Fountain and the Nancy Brown Peace Carillon. The Historic Designation Advisory Board is pursuing getting the island designated on the National Register of Historic Places, a move that will require state approval and may limit the options of the Emergency Manger to use the island as a source of revenue to solve short term budget issues.
And now Livernois Avenue is again slated for a facelift. ArtPlace America supported by the Kresge Foundation and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation will be creating art installations along the Avenue of Fashion. This will be coupled with nearly $1 million in federal dollars for “beautification” of the street.
To the south, Matty Moroun and his pals the Koch Brothers are dumping petroleum coke along the riverfront. We are assured by the Environmental Protection Agency that we have nothing to worry about, as the mountain of black waste expands along the riverbank. It is a vivid reminder to all of us of the costs of our efforts to continue living in a petroleum dependent world. As Oil Change International points out, “It’s really the dirtiest residue from the dirtiest oil on earth.”
What is becoming clear is that our formerly elected government and our current appointed dictator have little to say about the forces driving development. The shape of our city now depends on how we the people engage with one another and with those whose decisions are affecting all of us.
Community-Based School Opens in Detroit
By Grace Lee Boggs
May 26th, 2013
I never planned to be a school teacher or to be engaged in a life-long struggle for a paradigm shift in education.
But fifty years ago, when I needed a job and Detroit inner city schools needed teachers, I became a “resource teacher.”
That was when I discovered that “education” today is a form of child abuse because instead of encouraging and supporting the natural desire of children to participate in solving the problems around them, the role of the teacher and the curriculum is to control and suppress these feelings.
That is why I am happy to announce that this fall a new community-based public charter school, will open on the east side. The school has been developed by Detroit Summer and Freedom School alumnae and has been named the James and Grace Lee Boggs School.
The Boggs school will not only provide a positive model for new community-based education, it will call attention to the responsibility of today’s schools for the atrocity that there are currently two million mostly black and Hispanic men incarcerated in our country’s prisons. Michelle Alexander has called it “The New Jim Crow.”
This “New Jim Crow” means that there are millions of children living without fathers. Millions of women living without partners. Millions of communities with few able-bodied men.
This New Jim Crow is not an accident. It is the product of an educational system that sorts, tracks, suspends and expels students, boring and dropping them out into a society where there are no useful options or work for them.
Through creating Detroit Summer in 1992, we discovered how passionately young people want and need to contribute to the well-being of their communities, to be part of community solutions.
That is why we need a new model of education and that is why parents and concerned citizens need to enroll their children at the new school.
You can apply for openings in grades Kindergarten through 4th grade by visiting the website: www.boggsschool.org or contacting Julia Putnam at email@example.com or calling 313-655-2665.
Reporting Out: Week 8 of the Occupation
By Shea Howell
May 19th, 2013
The Office of the Emergency Manager issued its “Financial and Operating Plan” for the city of Detroit. It is a limited document. As predicted, it said Detroit is in financial trouble. It repeats the concern for the $15 billion in long-term debt and adds that the city was out of money as of April 26, having $64 million in cash but $226 million in obligations. It goes on to tell us that much of the city is “dysfunctional.” Police, fire, water, lighting, transportation, and recreation don’t work. All require an overhaul. All will be studied for plans for improvement. And we have a problem with blight. That will be studied too. And then we can expect quick action.
The New York Times summed up the report as “dire.” The Times explains, “The picture of debt and disarray he paints may be bleaker even than earlier grim portrayals.” The best the Detroit Free Press could come up with was, “It’s hard to imagine how something could be disappointing and illuminating at the same time.” Nancy Kaffer noted it is “not exactly groundbreaking.”
As the Times suggests, the report is likely “to become a new focal point for debate for some in Detroit who have questioned the seriousness of the city’s troubles and the need for state intervention at a level rarely seen for a city of its size.”
But the limitations of the report rest more in the thinking it represents than in accounting.
Here unions are singled out as the major reasons for the problems of city finance. Pension and health care responsibilities are targeted as primary contributors to long-term debt.
There is no mention in this report of the serious, sustained disinvestment in the city by corporations. No mention of ill-conceived tax incentives given over the years to all kinds of development schemes. No mention of the role banks played in the encouragement of suburban over urban development. No mention of the foreclosure crisis and its acceleration of the depopulation of our city. No mention of the hostile state legislature that has done everything from remove residency requirements to renege on revenue sharing promises. No mention of the millions of dollars squandered by foundations.
The solutions the EM seeks will be directed primarily at what he has identified as the sources of the problem—unions, pensions, and healthcare. Moreover, the solutions are seen in isolation from one other.
He continues the worn out strategy of asserting “demolition” of abandoned structures will improve neighborhood life. He makes no mention of the use of “deconstruction” by neighborhood groups, churches and civic organization as a way to increase the economic activity in a community and to harness valuable resources. Instead, the current picture of “demolition” he advocates is one that conjures up destruction, dumping, and dollars leaving the city.
Nor does he talk about the connections between various sectors of public life. We know that increasing recreational facilities and opening public parks decreases criminal activity. Yet this report, in its desire to privatize and punish, talks of these areas as unrelated.
The Emergency Manager got one thing right. He said, “You don’t get the magnitude of neighborhood blight we have overnight.” He went on, “Without a vision for what you want your city to be three, five, 10, 20, 30 years out, the totality of those circumstances drove us here” will continue.
That is the challenge. We need to take every opportunity in our neighborhoods, block clubs, faith and civic organizations to talk with one another not only about how we want our city to look, but what values we want that vision to reflect. That, in the long run, is the only path to a new future.