People’s Forum uses hip hop and Detroit culture to oppose EM
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Over 200 people attended the State of Emergency! People’s Forum Nov. 30 at the Northwest Activities Center on Detroit’s west side. The community forum was held to discuss methods of resistance to the city’s emergency manager. It was organized by the group Detroiters Resisting Emergency Managers (D-REM), a coalition of the city’s social activists, cultural creators and hip hop ambassadors.
The event’s title references the song “State of Emergency” by Ilana “Invincible” Weaver, an emcee and activist who was an organizer and co-facilitator of the discussions. Performances by herself and BRYCE helped provide a positive and energetic hip hop soundtrack for the gathering, supported by Sacramento Knoxx and his video presentation of The Raiz Up hip hop community and their initiatives.
“It looks like everyone is really excited about what’s going on,” poet/activist Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty told the Michigan Citizen. “Everybody’s eager to contribute their energy and information — a definite share of knowledge in the room — and I love the fact that it’s so intergenerational and so cross-national. I think this forum is the example of the way to go forward.”
People came to the discussion with information, questions, emotion and vision. They expressed the ways in which they share common ownership of the struggle to maintain their voting rights and economic freedom. Group discussions, featured speakers and multimedia were all used to contribute perspectives of identity and concerns for public welfare.
“We’re building our resistance out of a sense of community and relationship with one another,” said Shane Bernardo, a social activist during one group session. “This is the idea of ecosystems, not just between the human world and the natural world, but the ecosystem of relationships. Where do we create these common entry points for all of our struggles?”
Murals were on display, and a meal was provided by SunflowerMama’s Vegan catering. The final breakout groups divided people by their focus for future action, including various upcoming art projects as well as media action. Social media usage was encouraged to share information about the financial and political injustices currently taking place.
“Those small group breakouts are the opportunity for one of our greatest intentions of today to come into fruition,” said Invincible. “And one of our greatest intentions of today was to have this gathering be an opportunity for an entry point for people to be involved and participate and contribute and feel like we are all able to work together to address these issues in creative visionary ways.”
A student debate was also held about whether an emergency manager was good for the city. Petty’s son, Tyree Williams, a senior at Cass Tech High School, developed an argument for accepting the EM in the city, despite his own strong personal stance in opposition.
“I agree that no person in the city can solve all these problems by themselves,” said Williams. “That is why we need to have this discussion with them. And that’s why we need to open communication and cooperation rapport to voice our issues, voice our problems and voice our opinions.”
Brooke Lindsey, a junior at University Prep High School, voiced for the opposition to the EM in the debate.
“I know the government has historically not done much for my people, the brown people, the undesirable people, the poor people, and it’s amazing to me that anyone could believe we should be cooperating with the emergency manager,” said Lindsey. “I don’t know if you feel that we should be cooperating with somebody who is not necessarily going to do something in your best interest.”
Having these young voices speak encouraged intergenerational dialogue, which was balanced throughout the room by older activists. Various organizers in the room pledged to keep contact with participants to follow up on initiatives in the coming weeks.
Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management can be followed on Facebook or at www.d-rem.org.