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Welcome to the Motor City

By Sara Perryman

Because The Michigan Citizen readers are probably curious about those visiting our city over the next two weeks for Detroit 2012: {Re}Imagine the World, Transform Ourselves, Fight for the Future! I’d like to introduce you to a few of them.

Since a primary motivation for this gathering is to build an ongoing network of like-minded folk, it seems important to find out what other people are up to and why they are excited about Detroit.

But first, a brief update on events thus far. Detroit 2012 started off with a heartfelt bang on July 1, when over 500 people attended Grace’s 97th birthday party at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The program included the Detroit premiere of “We Are Not Ghosts,” a documentary film about new forms of work, community and creativity in our city.

The following night, folks from coast to coast met at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary for opening ceremonies. The event encouraged participants to get to know one another around the dinner table and set the tone for a spiritually healing and intellectually nourishing gathering.

So, who might you meet if you decide to come join us? First, let me introduce Tai Amri Spann-Wilson and Michelle Puckett from Oakland, Calif. Tai Amri is the co-pastor of a socially progressive church and a teacher in East Oakland. Michelle is a poet who runs a working-class poetry series and works at a disability rights organization in the Bay Area. Both have been deeply involved in the Occupy Movement and are inspired by the work of Grace Boggs. Because traveling to Detroit for two weeks isn’t cheap, Tai Amri and Michelle started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for their trip. The effort was so popular that IndieGoGo decided to put it on the front page of their Web site. Tai Amri and Michelle were able to reach their goal of $3,500 and, as delegates of the Oakland Peace Center, are bringing enthusiasm and imagination to the gathering.

Jim Godsil and Emmanuel Pratt, longtime collaborators with the Boggs Center, will be coming from Milwaukee and Chicago, respectively. Jim is the co-founder of Sweet Water Organics and the President of the Sweet Water Foundation. Emmanuel is an architect and the executive director of the Sweet Water Foundation. Currently, he is also director of the newly-formed Aquaponics Center and professor of Urban Planning at Chicago State University. Both are interested in the relationships between urban agriculture, new forms of education and sustainable design systems. They come to Detroit with loads of experience, as well as excitement about local Detroit projects.

Dena Eakles and a crew from Echo Valley Farm in Wisconsin are joining us to learn and think creatively about urban and rural relationships. Nestled in the Kickapoo River Valley, Echo Valley Farm is a 40-acre rustic retreat committed to sustainable engineering and design, including solar and wind power, water catchment, repurposing of materials, greenhouses, earthen ovens and more. Because of the recent drought in the Midwest, Dena has indicated that some members who were planning on coming to Detroit may have to stay behind to tend animals and hand-water gardens. When nature calls, we must abide by her rhythms. However, we hope to see and welcome as many folks as they can spare.

All of these activists, as well as many others, have been participating in weekly conference calls to lay the groundwork for an ongoing national network that can share resources, ideas, expertise and enthusiasm. The next two weeks will be a time to work together and show them our city and everything we have to offer.

Come join us!

For a detailed calendar and live tweets of daily activities, visit www.detroit2012.org

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