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From Devil’s Night to Movement City and Bioneers

Devils NightBy Grace Lee Boggs
Special to the Michigan Citizen

On Oct. 25, I participated in the Movement City symposium at the University of Michigan, and on Oct. 26, I was given an award at the opening session of the Ninth Annual Bioneers Conference at Marygrove  College, which over the weekend offered dozens of workshops on Detroit’s rebuilding.

At the Bioneers Conference, I learned Gloria Rivera, founder of Detroit Bioneers,  Malik Yakini, director of Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and Lottie Spady, associate director of Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Committee, had all been invited to the recent National Pioneers Conference in California to tell the story of Detroit’s miraculous resurgence.

Since then, I have been reflecting on how and why Detroit has changed so drastically in the last decade.

Only a few years ago, Detroit was notorious locally and nationally for Devil’s Night, an annual torching — the night before Halloween — of abandoned houses and factories by young people rebelling against the continuing decline and deterioration of the city.

Zeev Chafetz achieved a national reputation overnight by writing “Devil’s Night: And Other True Tales of Detroit.”

In an effort to combat this orgy of arson, city leaders renamed the night Angels’ Night, hoping the new name would rally concerned citizens to protect their neighborhoods against the arsonists.

The renaming brought out a few concerned citizens; but being much older and on the defensive, they were helpless in the face of the rebellious youth arsonists.

It was only when other concerned Detroiters began re-spiriting and rebuilding Detroit with community gardens and peace zones, hope emerged and with it the revolutionary/solutionary movement I report in my book, “The Next American Revolution,” which is increasingly being recognized by people around the country and the world.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks thought it took a vanguard party and Soviets seizing state power to change the world.

But this quote from sociologist and anthropologist Margaret Mead more accurately describes what has been happening in Detroit in the last 10 years:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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