Tuesday, July 10, 2012

detroit summer 2012 update #9

i went to bed early last night so i could wake up today for a morning reiki session with the amazing and generous andrew plisner in the basement of cass commons. the morning was cool and the air felt soft. it was just the start i needed for such a full day, so i'm sending a shout out to him. 
my friend christopher and i headed out to d-town farms and grabbed hoes to weed a bed of corn. i am always reminded of how much fun it is to talk with friends while gardening - it's a little different when you are collaborating like that, and a little silly, too. my arms got tired really fast and christopher and i joked that that someone needed to invent a garden tool that would utilize a woman's center of strength, something like a "ladies' leg-hoe" that could use leg rather than arm muscles... we then helped harvest chard, arugula, and bok choy for market in the hot house. boy, i tell you what, walking out of that plastic dome when we were finished made it feel like the whole world was air conditioned for a few minutes, so great was the temperature difference between the two!
we then returned to cass commons for an event called "feed one, teach one" led by the young educators' alliance, an amazing crew of detroit youth who showed us a framework they had developed to help other youth (and adults!) identify themes they might want to lead community events to address, such as violence, pollution, and access to transportation. it was yet another reminder that young ones are the absolute best at thinking well about our collective future, and i was so pleased with their playfulness and obvious pleasure at being  together.
tai amri and i then jumped in the car and rushed to the boggs center to nurture community leadership for a more "in-depth" conversation on new work, new culture with frithjof bergmann, and when i walked in and saw the stairlift seat at the top of the stairs instead of at the bottom, i knew that grace had decided to join the conversation. what a treat it was! in this, our 3rd event with frithjof, i feel we finally began to deepen our understanding of his concepts, and to begin formulating in our minds ways to put them into practice in our own communities. he told us that, " the most important thing is to get people out of the sense of terrible depression," so that they can begin to think about what they really, REALLY want, which is his definition of freedom: the ability to think about and do what one really, REALLY wants. other notes from the convo:

  • if you hope to get the whole community on board, forget it - you never will. but we are not missionaries or salesmen. we don't need to coerce people.
  • frithjof says that it was the women of flint, michigan, who "gave birth to new work" there, one of the several places where he has been nurturing a community of new work. "the men were scared."
  • it is vastly easier to do new work in communities where it is blatantly obvious that the jobs are gone.
  • he told the story of a successful new work site where the workers decided to keep their business small and when he asked them why they said it was because "you can't eat together unless you are small."
  • "a pot of parsley is not self-reliance, it is more of a ritual." i.e. you can't just decide to do new work on your own. it requires a community of people who each desire to do something different to contribute to the community. 
  • he identified thinking about how to create your own electricity as one of the key questions and, when you begin doing this, you are getting closer to what new work is all about: economic self-sufficiency within community.
  • provocatively to some, he said that democracy is finished - it's been bought. so new work communities connecting with one another is paramount because we are going toward connected communities and away from nations as the way we organize ourselves.
  • the idea is to invest in useful technologies, i.e. fab labs that don't get really connected to the communities they are in are flops. "you might as well piss on them!" -FB
  • grace summed it all up very well and gave my mind a way of conceiving of the scale of change that new work and community production proposes: she asked us to remember how quickly we were able to go from big production companies being the only ones able to print books, make movies, and make music, to now having youtube and and video cameras in our cellphones. when i think of it this way, i feel so much more relaxed about our ability to do what FB is proposing. 
  • we are moving past outdated modes of relation with one another. "what kind of confederation do we want to make?" -GLB. 
  • grace asked us each, upon completion of detroit 2012, to write an essay on what we see as next steps for moving toward new work. i intend to take her up on that, and i will share my response with all of you once i finish it. frithjof also invited me to invite him to oakland. i am so excited by this prospect and cannot wait to see what might come of it.
IMAG0217.jpgand the day was still not done! we finished it at feedom freedom growers on manistique with myrtle thomas. once again, it was the youth of detroit who led us in a roundtable discussion on the food system and food sovereignty. i am telling you this: there is a cadre of leaders rising in detroit that are just stupefyingly brilliant and hungry for justice. they even cooked us a small meal from the garden and we broke bread and sat in a large circle discussing ways that we can transform our relation to our food by growing it and cooking it ourselves. a few highlights from that conversation:
  • someone in the circle quoted former US secretary of agriculture, earl butz, when he famously said, "food is a weapon," to remind us that having our food sovereignty wrestled from us is a covert war tactic.
  • "income levels aren't rising like our waistlines." - myrtle thomas on the systematic poisoning of our food system by sugar, sodium, and added fats
  • and most significantly, it is our relationship with our food that needs to change. it is not enough to fall into binary, judgmental thinking regarding food, afterall, "who am i to tell inuits and eskimos to 'go vegan'?"
IMAG0212.jpgneedless to say, DETROIT IS AMAZING! as they like to say out here in the rust belt, "another detroit is happening." as we pass into the last quarter phase of the moon this evening, and as i feel myself instinctively begin to prepare to wrap up my time in detroit and to start the processing of what all i have seen and done here, i am full, full, full of gratitude to the lovely, deeply human and wise people of this city.
god and goddess bless detroit.

love and justice:michelle

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