Global visit to Detroit
By Rich Feldman and Tawana Petty
Special to the Michigan Citizen
On Sept. 21, 18 participants from the Future Generations Graduate School in West Virginia arrived in Detroit for a learning journey sponsored by the Boggs Center. The school offers a global masters-graduate program dedicated to community and peace building. This two-year program combines online study with four-month long residency studies in Haiti, India , Kenya and the United States. The students came from Afghanistan, Tanzania, Haiti, Nepal, Guyana, Bolivia, Uganda, Namibia, the United States and Nigeria.
The Boggs Center provided an opportunity for our guests to engage in conversations with Detroit philosopher activists, urban gardeners, community builders, organizers and artists from across the city.
On Sept. 22, they toured Detroit from the perspective of the theme, From Growing Our Economy to Growing Our Souls. The next day, they had a tour of Incite Focus, where Blair Evans shared the evolution of the Fab Lab and the emerging programs to create intentional communities, emphasizing his programs committed to create a new work economy and community production.
There were discussions on Restorative Justice, Creating Peace Zones with Ron Scott and Diane Reeder. The group also visited the Conscious Corner for spoken word, dinner and critical discussion on the practice of creating community and food security with Myrtle and Wayne Curtis of Feedom Freedom Growers. There was also a workshop with the Allied Media Project, and visits to the recently opened Boggs School on Mitchell Street, and CanARt and the windmills on the east side.
Barbara Jones from Wayne State University’s Peace and Justice Center shared a slide show from International Peace Day. The group had a chance to meet Yusef Shakur and discuss the concept of “putting the neighbor back in the hood,” as well as view Grace Boggs’s new film, “An American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.”
The trip also included a tour of southwest Detroit and Dearborn. They saw Detroit is both a Black city — 82 percent of the city’s residents are African American — emerging from the great migration of African Americans out of the South, and a city of growing Latino and Arab American communities. We visited the Alley Project in Southwest Detroit and participated in a program with Warrior on Wheels (WOW) and Matrix Theatre introducing our global friends to the concept that a community which excludes even one of its members is no community.
They were all able to live in community at The Hush House Black World Community Museum and Leadership Training Institute for Human Rights located 6179 Wabash. Mama Sandra Simmons and Papa Charles Simmons and the staff of Hush House provided warm and supportive living arrangements for the entire group.
We walked Belle Isle on a sunny day and had the privilege to participate in two presentations by brothers from Kenya and Haiti. From these presentations and the amazing conversations that followed, it was clear people across the world face similar questions, such as: If the industrial age is over, how do we create a new economy, a new mode of production? If unemployment is 30-50 percent among people in cities and towns across the globe, how do we create new work and community?
When the politics of our governments and the institutions are systematically failing and the nation-state is more and more powerless to global capitalism, how do we create local sustainable economies?
It was clear that community self-reliance, the respect for the land, and the writings of Wagari Mathei were part of moving beyond the post-colonial, and independence movements of the 20th century. The brother from Kenya, who presented historical and contemporary movements emerging and the challenges they face, clearly emphasized that we need to move beyond capitalism and socialism.
We are all in solidarity to create the beloved community where we live and a commitment to create a new epoch in human history. Detroit was an important place for them to join with Americans who are experiencing both the pain of this change and the hope for the future through the projects and work that they visited and the people they met.
As Grace says in the opening of her film: “I feel sorry for anyone who does not live in Detroit. We see giants fall and live at a time when we have the awesome responsibility to create the future and shake the world with a new dream.”