Detroit is a movement city. From the earliest resistance by the Obwandiyag people to English colonial empire, through the Underground Railroad a century later, the sit down strikes of the 1930s and the civil rights and Black power movement of the 1960s, Detroiters have collectively struggled for some of the deepest hopes of human beings.
This summer is the 45th anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion. We are inviting Detroiters and people from around the country to mark this occasion by coming together July 1-15 to accelerate the visionary organizing that is taking place in our city.
For more than four decades, Detroiters have been developing ideas and actions that represent the best hope for the future. Faced with the crisis of deindustrialization, Detroiters have been making a way out of no way, drawing on memory, imagination and vision to turn abandoned lots into gardens and empty factories into places of art, beauty and productivity. We have been learning new ways to create peace among our neighbors, to educate our children, while building our communities, and to turn to one another for support and inspiration.
Now, corporate forces are gathering to restore the old order.
As people around the world look to Detroit for a glimpse of a future of cooperation, self-determination and renewal, corporate interests are finding new ways to profit from the city they forgot. They have set aside democratic pretense, appointing emergency managers to privatize schools and sell off city assets. They are declaring vast sections of the city “unlivable” and threatening to cut off basic services. They intend to drive people off the land so it can be “cleared” for development. They have accelerated the assault on the poor, the young and the most vulnerable among us. Corporations, foundations and the governments they put into office plan a smaller, whiter, wealthier city.
This summer we will project a different vision for Detroit. Rooted in communities that have been reimagining life as cooperative, productive and joyful for all people, this vision needs to be deepened and protected. By coming together to share ideas, learn new skills and strengthen neighborhoods, we can advance a vision of how we can live more simply, so that others may simply live.
The old solutions will not work. We cannot tinker with the existing system, but we must begin anew. Long before No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top or emergency managers, schools were failing our children. Over half of them were voting with their feet, walking out of classrooms that had become irrelevant to their daily lives. In response to this crisis, some visionary educators began to see we needed a new paradigm for education.
The problems of the community could become the basis for learning in ways that engaged, young people, parents and elders with their neighborhoods. This kind of community-based learning can be seen in schools like Catherine Ferguson Aca-demy, Nsoroma Institute and the Boggs Educational Center. It can also be seen in programs like Detroit Future Youth Network, EMEAC, Brightmore, Maker Space, Matrix Theatre and Detroit Summer. All share the common vision that our young people, with their heart, mind and energy, are the solutions to our problems.
Detroiters gave up believing that a single industry would provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of people.
Some of us have come to understand that the job system eroded our humanity and emptied our lives of meaning. It filled us with the desire to consume things that distorted our sense of self. We have come to see that our lives are more than our jobs, and our work is to create community again. In neighborhoods throughout the city, people are learning how to care for themselves and one another. Gardeners share food, cooperatives build bicycles, small businesses provide healthy bread and make a place for those who have spent too long locked up and away from community. Wind mills, hoop houses, sustainable design, water catchment, fish farms, bakeries, breweries and bike shops are engaging people in work that is life sustaining.
Meanwhile corporations are setting their sites on Detroit. They believe they can reshape the city in ways that will enrich them and control the rest of us. By privatizing education, attacking unions, gaining control of public assets and eliminating local representative democracy, corporations and the foundations and politicians they control, are moving aggressively on the city.
Two visions are competing for the future of Detroit. The corporate elite plan a smaller, whiter, wealthier city, surrounded by green space and industrial scale agriculture.
But the reimaging of Detroit has deep roots. We will not be moved from a vision of a sustainable, life-affirming community that values its people and honors the earth.
We need to protect this emerging vision. We need you to join with us to create circles of protection and support for urban gardeners, community-based schools, local businesses, artists, people of faith and public safety.
We are calling upon Detroiters who have yet to become engaged in these life-affirming activities to join with their neighbors. We have much to share, much to learn from one another, and much to offer people around the world who believe another world is already emerging.
Be part of another Detroit.
Opening Celebration July 1, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
Community engagement orientation July 2, ETS.