We are working together to create media that re ect local activism and the profound new work being done in and around Detroit neighborhoods.
We envision deepening relationships through media that serve as an essential part of weaving beloved communities.
We will celebrate personal Detroit stories and the process of evolving ideas.
In the midst of the anguish and chaos flowing from the Trump administration, new reports about water were issued with little attention. They raise serious questions about the quality of our drinking water and predict that clean, affordable water is rapidly disappearing.
In December, as we braced for Trumps inauguration, Reuters released an alarming report that concluded nearly 3000 localities in the United States currently have drinking water with levels of lead “at least double the rates found in Flint’s drinking water.”
This was followed a few weeks later by research from Michigan State University concluding that water rates are becoming increasingly unaffordable. “If water rates continue rising at projected amounts, the number of U.S. households unable to afford water could triple in five years, to nearly 36 percent.” This means, “As many as “13.8 million U.S. households (or 11.9 percent of all households) may find water bills unaffordable.”
Further, water rates have increased 41 percent since 2010, and if they continue at that pace over the next five years the number of households that cannot afford water and wastewater services could soar to an estimated 40.9 million, or 35.6 percent of all households.
The United Nations estimates that by the year 2025 as much as two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in conditions of serious water shortages and one-third will be living in conditions of absolute water scarcity.
Water scarcity will be accelerated by the Trump administration. Within the first week in office Trump moved forward on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), threatening the entire watershed flowing from the Missouri river.
In addition, he is commitment to privatizing public goods and turning the bounty of the earth into private profit centers. This kind of thinking proved deadly in Flint. A recent article by Tracey Chaplin published in Next City explains, “The flaw in the logic is simple, but devastating. An economic strategy will function in a different way if applied within a different sector, because there are two totally different bottom lines in operation. Efficiency and profit are the key motivators in the private sector. Conversely, creating the greatest public good for the greatest number of people is the bottom line in the public sector. But when private sector drive for efficiency at any cost is applied within the public sector, public good takes a back seat. Power is concentrated among a few individuals. The voice of the people is silenced. Safety and human rights are sacrificed. Lives are lost in the name of efficiency and economic solvency.”
Detroit has the opportunity to point another way forward to protect our waters and our people. For more than a decade community activists have been arguing for a water affordability plan based on income and designed to encourage conservation.
Mayor Duggan has steadfastly refused to adopt such a plan. He has shut off 50,000 homes from water since 2014. His assistance plans have been a disaster.
In the beginning of February the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department unveiled a system of block rates to encourage conservation and shift some of the burden from lower income people. While this is welcome first step, Duggan will have to do much more if he expects to truly address the crisis we are facing. As Roger Colton, a Massachusetts-based economist who sat on the panel, said the inclining rates are “a progressive step to address inability to pay.”
“Inclining block rates can be a good tool,” he said. “They are not adequate unto themselves, but they are a step ahead.”
Protecting our water and our people are fundamental to our future. While we resist Trump and his national assaults, we can make a tremendous difference here in our own city. It only requires imagination and will.
Social Action of/in/through Yoga
Saturday, January 21st, 2017 was shaped, for me, by this animating question: What is the relationship binding social action and yoga?
In the morning, B led us in an empowerment flow. On our mats, we moved and breathed to songs born of the anti-apartheid freedom struggle. Voiced from within the movement, these songs carried the struggle, hope, and soul of a people in pursuit of survival, justice, and liberation. They manifested active nonviolence in the heart of the most abusive of legal, social, economic, and political structures. From the birthplace of humanity, at the southernmost tip of the African continent, the cry of freedom echoed outward, calling the international community to a greater awareness and a deeper reckoning with its complicity in global systems of social and economic oppression. They said: “see and hear how our cities and our families have been torn apart by your ‘development.’” “Khawuleza, mama!” “Senzeni na?” What have we done to deserve such abuse? In this human family, we are all subject; these songs call us, however “us” was or is or will be understood, to account for our deeds and rise to nobler heights:
Singing begins with breath. On my mat, I breathed. My heart sang with Miriam Makeba and I contemplated the dramatically different definitions of “power” manifesting themselves in the world around me, and within me. What is it about softening into a posture that strengthens?
Off the mat, I met and joined my colleagues who, on this day, were coming together for the first time to begin a journey into yoga teaching training. Together, our small group took the decision to join the Women’s March and embarked on our walk from the studio to the Lansing Capital building. As we walked, we worked to clarify our motives, our inspirations and our dreams. Never did we claim to be the same, yet the pursuit of a common question united us in dialogue. I imagined all of the human beings around the country and the world who also felt moved to join what became one of the largest days of protest in US history and globally. Women-led marches took place in over 600 locations, spread across the seven continents of the world. We were joining them, in their tremendous diversity of experience, expression, and intent. We joined them in the quest/ion of social action, in the struggle of “chaos or community?” that must be faced by a global people awakening to their shared humanity. I wonder who they’re talking to.
Outside the capital, I observed and heard and felt the differing motivations and concerns of my fellow marchers as they stood in the sun, walked through the mud, held and hugged and greeted one another. There is nothing more beautiful to me than people who care about people. Sometimes, their hopes were intoned with notes of despair. Sometimes, the cry “freedom,” was reduced to the protesting of one man’s inauguration and the “others” who let it happen. Advocacy efforts are too easily coopted by the falsities and loss structures of partisanship, of gender binaries and the naturalized violence of white supremacy in a sensationalized market culture. Therein lies the challenge and responsibility for those of us who believe in unity as an active principle, and not as a rhetorical tool to silence those voices and bodies who have been written in as “outsider.” “Showing up” is complex, and just as two people who look the same in a yoga posture will always feel it differently on the inside, it is easier to claim unity with our physical presence than it is to advance a unity of thought and action capable of aligning words with deeds and principles with practice. For some, “social action” is surviving and living in the bodies God gave them and the circumstances into which they and their parents and their ancestors were born.
Yoga as praxis is a process of unification; it means “union,” the communion of breath and movement, body and mind, the reconciliation of the fragmented, disparate parts of ourselves into a whole. If yoga doesn’t humanize, it is not yoga. And humanization is, for me, the sole objective of social action. The distance between the minds and hearts of these bodies, of my body, gathered together for a common-cause-in-the-making, is a source of motivation, a challenge and opportunity that lives in the vision of the beloved community.
What does it mean to have a world-embracing vision? How do we locate the voices of the vulnerable? What are the crying needs and unique opportunities of this Day? What is the source and meaning of our power? What substance and programs and policies will fill our slogans? These are movement times. As the world of humanity becomes increasingly able to envision itself as one body, united in spite of the myths of national borders and false hierarchies that have displaced and governed for centuries, how can our actions, individually and collectively, come to embody the principle of the oneness of humanity?
At other points in human history, the study and practice of the life system of “yoga,” its roots and branches, began by teaching its ethical principles: the yamas and niyamas. Long before the asana was introduced, the spiritual implications of movement were contextualized and clarified. In a time when the material advance of civilization has far surpassed the maturity of its thinking and the quality of its relationships, I urge myself and every concerned individual to place the question of spiritual development at the center of definitions of “progress,” and to commit, through dialogue, to clarify the meaning and practice of “development” wherever it is invoked.
Yoga requires of us the sacrifice of a material attachment to self, in the service of a higher purpose: an ongoing, moral becoming. It is “the true union of our will with the will of God.” Undertaken as both individual and collective practice, in the context of community, it is social action. Social action, when uncompromising in its belief that every soul was created equal and noble, when seeking to advance social, material, and spiritual conditions for all people, and especially the vulnerable, is yoga.