Wednesday, July 4, 2012

tai amri and i were lucky enough to have two of our best friends, mia gonzalez and christopher santee, join us today all the way from toledo, ohio, and lawrence, kansas, as well as our detroiter friends ellen and michael scandirito. we all went to the "peace zones for life" (PZL) discussion on belle isle and, after quite a while spent searching, we finally found the site. we'd almost left, but we later felt so glad we didn't - even in the 97 degree heat. we gathered under the shelter and introduced ourselves, where we were all from, and the various reasons we had attended the event. and what a crowd it was! activists from all over the country were there, each doing beautiful things for peace. brooklyn and oakland showed a particularly large presence, but the mix was really wide and varied, as well, and we exchanged contact information with a few of our fellow oaklanders and made an agreement to meet later in the week. 

the brilliant and loving ron scott told (and facilitated the telling of) stories of some of the successes that PZL has had - everything from helping two feuding families hold funeral services at different times of day to prevent a violent clash, to the incredible story of recruiting a retired detroit police officer, herself a victim of police brutality, to serve as the primary investigator for the organization - restorative justice, indeed! ron also pointed out that 80% of the calls to detroit police are for domestic abuse or drug usage, and that we, as communities, can be the "first responders" in such situations. his wisdom was that it is important not to make moral judgements on what people feel they must do to survive, but rather to offer an alternative. he reminded us that the best "weapon" any of us has is a verbal one and that de-escalation is real and can work when we approach people with love and respect, but went on to insist that women in our communities need to be safe and he recognized that any move toward community policing must include a deep commitment to recognizing sexism and working to abolish it. he also lamented the loss of the "big mama's" who used to serve as wise elders in their communities and he agitated for a return to elder and woman led community-based de-escalation processes. i don't know what could be more human and dignifying.  

one of the things that i love about ron is the balance he is able to articulate between sympathizing with the struggles of our neighbors under unbelievable oppression, and holding one another accountable in peaceful and humanizing ways. his love is apparent by how he speaks and moves, by his commitment to contradict the dominant culture that prefers to call certain people "ex-offenders," rather than to greet them as "returning citizens." it is more than semantics. this is about whether we can agree that each person is really worthy and precious. it is a deep question, one that we have got to keep in sharp focus if we are to move beyond punitive and commodified views of ourselves and others so that we can truly live into the beloved community that was each of our birthrights. each new baby comes into this world expecting it, and nothing short of a mighty and crushing hand can quash the drive for it, but that first desire can never be completely lost in a human being - only dimmed. the truth shines through the eyes. i saw it, lots of times, in the sweaty faces of my brothers and sisters in detroit today. 

in peace.

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