Monday, July 2, 2012

it is morning in michigan, and i am sitting in grey light with windows wide and the sound of birds and an oncoming thunderstorm. i slept on top of the sheets with a wet washcloth on my body while a fan hummed in the window. i am enjoying this time alone before everyone else gets up and trying to think how to tell you about what i have seen.

tai amri and i arrived in detroit last evening and drove straight to the opening of detroit summer after nearly 12 hours of travel. it was 93 degrees and humid. we packed into the ecumenical theological seminary to hear opening remarks, paperboard fans in hand. near the front of the sanctuary, dressed in a t-shirt that said “{r}evolution,” was grace lee boggs, sitting in her wheelchair and sweating along side the rest of us. it’s a funny thing when you have occasion to see someone whom you have idolized: you remember (especially if they aren’t putting on any airs), that they are people, just like you. i remember, a few years ago, sitting in an over-stuffed wheeler hall on the ground near the foot of a podium awaiting a speech by the famous feminist thinker, gyatri spivak, and when she stepped past me i was close enough to see that she had very dry skin on her feet. i remember feeling very moved by that small thing. it is, in fact, what i remember most about that evening, never mind that she obviously said some brilliant things. fame makes people in the image of stars, but a good leader wants only to shine amongst others. a leader like grace wants us all to rise to the enormous challenge we tend to set at the feet of the chosen few.

grace’s speech was short and sweet, focusing on the upcoming fourth of july holiday, and how it relates to the work at hand. she reminded us that we must not busy ourselves only with the work of BBQ’s and fireworks, but that we must face honestly the fantastic responsibility that the declaration of independence impresses upon us: that when any government produces, “a long train of abuses and usurpations,” the people not only have a right, but a “duty to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security.” following her remarks, a series of community leaders spoke about the responsibilities they have assumed, in a variety of ways, my favorite being the work being done to create “peace zones for life,” in which community and connection are used to combat both violence and complicity with police brutality. i’ll end with a pledge which you and i can take together – today, and as often as necessary – as offered by H.O.P.E. and the urban network.

Neighborhood Peace Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to do my part in restoring the neighbor back to the hood.
I pledge to develop myself, my family & my household to the greatest extent possible of being a shining example of being a husband, father, son, brotha, wife, mother, daughter & sister in my neighborhood.
I will learn all that I can in order to give my best to improve the quality of my neighborhood.
I will work diligently to honor my family in my neighborhood with good deeds, & treat my neighbors as my extended family.
I will keep myself mentally sound, spiritually grounded & physically fit; building a strong body, mind & spirit that will exemplify positivity & productivity in my neighborhood.
I will unselfishly share my time, knowledge, resources & wisdom with my neighbors (young & old) in order to build & maintain a healthy neighborhood.
I will do my part to keep my neighborhood clean & safe.
I will discipline myself to direct my energies thoughtfully & constructively to maintain peace, harmony & love in my neighborhood.
I will train myself to never hurt or allow anyone the harm someone in my neighborhood for an injustice or through negative behaviors of stealing, gun violence, verbal abuse, police brutality, selling drugs, rape, or any other social ill that works to destroy my neighborhood.
This is my pledge to do my part by being a caring neighbor in my neighborhood by working to keep my neighborhood a peace zone instead of a war zone.

in solidarity

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