Metaphor For Detroit

Metaphor For Detroit
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Aug 15, 2010

Last week I wrote that, since it’s founding by Luther Keith and Arise Detroit in 2007, Detroit Neighborhoods Day seems to have been “mainly an Events Day, a day of parades, visits to libraries and museums, appearances by celebrities and non-profit sponsors etc.”

I am glad to report that this year’s Detroit Neighborhoods Day on August 7 was much more. In many neighborhoods (perhaps because of the 2nd USSF) volunteers assumed responsibility for forging new ties to rebuild their neighborhoods.

For example, on W. McNichols a group cleaned up a vacant building to turn it into a community hub for social justice and incubator for small business.

“Elsewhere residents cleaned parks, cleared invasive plants from forest areas on Belle Isle, hosted a funeral procession to symbolically bury violence on the city’s east side, built a new playground in the city’s Brightmoor neighborhood and helped build and renovate houses.”  (Detroit Free Press, August 8)

As one volunteer put it, after pulling weeds and building a bench at Gordon Park on the corner of Rosa Parks Boulevard and Clairmount, near the site of the 1967 Rebellion, “It’s kind of like a metaphor for Detroit. If we want to see something different, we have to do it ourselves.”

When he was leading the pre-World War II struggle against British colonialism, Gandhi said that in order to change the world, we must become the change we want to see in the world.

In the 18th century, long before Gandhi, the American colonists had to do for themselves because the British government was so far away. The result was the first American revolution.

In the 21st century we find ourselves again at a point where we cannot look to those in power to meet our daily needs. Capitalism has abandoned us. Replacing human beings with robots and exporting jobs overseas to make more profit, it is no longer providing us with jobs.

The U.S government cannot meet our urgent domestic needs, e.g. for meaningful work, for green energy and for infrastructure (mass transport, new bridges) because it is squandering trillions of dollars on unwinnable wars in the Middle East and hundreds of military bases all over the world.

So if we want to see change in our lives, we have to change things ourselves. That is what Detroit is about and that is how the next American revolution is beginning.

The Social Forums, declaring that “Another World is Necessary and Possible” (which began in 2001 after the 1999 Battle of Seattle launched the struggle against corporate globalization) have also inspired a generation of young people to begin living their lives in non-alienating, more cooperative ways that preserve life on Earth and at the same time transform themselves.

For examples of these “pre-figurative” efforts and a deeper understanding of why they are emerging, I recommend a new book, Uses of a Whirlwind, edited by the Team Colors Collective, published by AK Press and available at the Boggs Center.

One article, p.19,  describes how a woman’s bookstore in Manhattan became a café and events space where staff and volunteers strive to create horizontal rather than hierarchical relationships as they work  together to  carry out their many responsibilities.

In “Organizing Encounters and Generating Events,” p. 245, Michael Hardt explains how people want to go beyond representative democracy and create spaces where we/they can create a new social fabric. In “Radical Patience: Feeling Effective Over the Long Haul,” p. 305, Chris Carlsson describes how, as capitalism seeks to commodify us and all our relationships, some of us are struggling to become actors in our own drama.

The concluding article, p.347,  is a discussion with me on “The power within us to create the world anew.”



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