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Reflection on the August 17 People’s Forum

Rev. William Barber, NAACP president and spokesman for the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina COURTESY PHOTO

Rev. William Barber, NAACP president and spokesman for the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina

By Grace Lee Boggs
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Over 200 Detroiters of all ages and many ethnicities gathered for the Aug. 17 People’s Forum to remove the emergency manager.

Arriving promptly at 9:30 a.m. were a lot of oldsters, mostly members of the 50+ sponsoring organizations, but many unaffiliated. There was much hugging and kissing because we/they had not seen one another for years and were looking forward to the opportunity to be active together again.

But there were also a lot of young people, mostly African Americans, many of whom had developed a sense of their own agency from their participation in community projects like Feedom Freedom Growers.

Most folks came, I believe, with the hope that the struggle against the emergency manager would provide us with the opportunity to create a new, transformative  movement like the Moral Monday movement that has rallied thousands of North Carolinians at the state capitol in Raleigh.

An awesome photo of this movement appeared in the Aug. 14 New York Times. NAACP President Rev. William Barber, spokesman for the Moral Monday movement, has declared that we have come together “not for a moment but to create a movement.”

And movements take time to evolve. The Civil Rights Movement, which climaxed in the 1963 March on Washington, began with the 13 month-long Montgomery Bus Boycott, which the Women’s Political Alliance initiated soon after the arrest of Rosa Parks in December 1954.

I found last week’s forum disappointing. The rhetoric of speakers, I felt, was too liberal, too legal and too leftist, lacking the spiritual dimension (e.g. “We are fighting to save the soul of our country.”) necessary to create a movement.

But as I wrote last week, “We have just begun to fight.”

In Detroit, because the devastation of deindustrialization has created not only a nightmare but thousands of abandoned houses and vacant lots, we have been able to begin creating a new American Dream: community-based education of both head and hand, urban agriculture, a new model for service, beloved communities.

In my neighborhood, on Detroit’s east side, the Islandview Housing Co-op has just been organized. It will include six to 12 multi-age, multiracial, multi-skilled resident members who will work together to:

n Meet basic needs of food, shelter and clothing at minor monetary cost through hyperlocal cottage industries.

n Learn skills to meet basic needs and teach them to the community.

n Share resources and items with the community for purchase, barter and gift.

The cottage industries will vary depending on the needs and skills of the residents.

Other programs will include:

n Holistic Healing Center:

§  Yoga — classes for all ages and abilities

§ Massage and other bodywork therapies

§ Meditation — several scheduled sittings each week

n Each One Feed One — healthy eating for all

§ Weekly community meals from homegrown, purchased, foraged and donated foods

§ Preservation Corner — fermentation (kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut), root cellar, canning, dehydrating and freezing

§ Community garden — growing as much of our own food as possible on nearby vacant lots, involving neighbors of all ages

n Info Hub

§ Mesh Internet — inexpensive access to the web for the neighborhood

§ Computers and printers for community use

§ Lending library of books and resources

§ Digital fabrication

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