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Language of possibility

By Shea Howell
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Nearly 500 people gathered in the sweltering heat of Detroit to re-imagine a new world. Two women biked from Baltimore. People came from Arkansas, Ohio, Sweden and Australia. A group in Oakland, Calif., raised money to send committed community organizers to learn, document and report back. Wisconsin farmers and New York artists joined together with Detroiters to talk about how we can create a more just, sustainable and playful world.

This is the Detroit the corporate-government-foundation complex rarely acknowledges and never understands. But it is the Detroit that is driving deep changes in our city and offering hope to people around the country.

Over 35 local organizations endorsed the invitation to come to Detroit 2012 to honor the 45th Anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion and of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call for a radical revolution in values against the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism. The invitation to join Detroit activists said:

“This is our time to provide a clear vision for an alternative way of living our lives. This summer, we are convening a national gathering in Detroit from July 1-15 called Detroit 2012: {re}Imagine the World, Transform Ourselves, Fight for the Future. We are meeting in Detroit because the city’s unique history has created a space in which growing numbers of people are inspired to move beyond protest and toward visionary transformation. This paradigm shift encourages new ideas, alternative institutions and revitalized communities.”

People came to work in urban gardens, refurbish churches, tear down abandoned houses, build and repair bikes, clean parks and paint murals.

And they came to talk with one another and with Detroiters who they recognize are creating something very new.

There were conversation in gardens and greenhouses, at lunches and diners, walking down the street, looking for water, or in formal meetings. People talked about why they love Detroit, why they came and what we are all learning. It seemed that no matter what the topic — education, technology work, leadership, land use or democracy — a new language of possibility was emerging.

People are speaking in ways that give new meaning to the work we are doing to create a new city. As we talk with one another, we are defining the vision and values that shape our future.

We asked, “What does it mean to be a human being?” “What time is it on the clock of the world?” People talked of living in the midst of a great transformation. We made distinctions between jobs and work, protest and resistance, opposition and creating alternatives. We talked of how to listen to place, in our education and in our politics, of transforming ourselves as we change the world, putting the neighbor back into the ‘hood, turning war zones to peace zones and finding ways to turn to each other.

Hear from Michelle Puckett of Oakland, after a morning at D-Town Farms:

“We then returned to Cass Commons for an event called ‘Feed one, teach one’ led by the Young Educators’ Alliance, an amazing crew of Detroit youth who showed us a framework they had developed to help other youth (and adults!) identify themes they might want to lead community events to address, such as violence, pollution and access to transportation. It was yet another reminder that young ones are the absolute best at thinking well about our collective future and I was so pleased with their playfulness and obvious pleasure at being together.

“And the day was still not done! We finished it at Feedom Freedom Growers on Manistique with Myrtle Thomas. Once again, it was the youth of Detroit who led us in a roundtable discussion on the food system and food sovereignty. I am telling you this: there is a cadre of leaders rising in Detroit that are just stupefyingly brilliant and hungry for justice … I am full, full, full of gratitude to the lovely, deeply human and wise people of this city.”

This is the other Detroit that is happening all around us.

To learn more, visit www.Detroit2012.com

Contact Shea Howell at howell@oakland.edu.

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