There is a convenience in ignoring what others have done, and are doing, in favor of what some would like to say is based upon what they see and know, right here and now. However, everything is not always what you see, nor can you know what you didn't see, when you are new to Detroit.
The social experts, visiting scholars and even some artists have successfully elevated 'deteriorated,' 'hopeless,' and 'abandonment' to a seemingly normal and accepted reality. Such portrayal of what our eyes see is often a shameful representation of truth, disrespectful of history, and the hopes and dreams of long-time residents.
With such outsiders, I have little to no shared past. I cannot easily forget nor dismiss all those who have been here and the many who have died, however the manner of their passing. Many of their lives were lived each day with diligence and duty to work for livelihood, creativity, love and active involvement in civic and family affairs. Yet, such lives attract no interest and are hardly the source of any real investigation. Current interests seem to be the preoccupation of outsiders in order to advance their agendas.
I've shared many years with other Detroit residents fixing homes with very small budgets. Watched children born into loving homes and raised on the streets of Detroit in communities where people never stopped doing the right thing. Children attended public schools and after school activities all year round. At the same time, the transformation of the urban environment began by digging by hand with shovels, first in backyard gardens, then clearing vacant lots with neighborhood children and teens. No grants. No corporate volunteers.
Efforts were often opposed by city workers, city planners, police, and community non-profits who still held onto dreams of building rows of prefab housing units on the government's dime. Our help in the neighborhood came from many living with out meaningful employment, on the fringes of existence, searching for payable work and opportunity for their children.
And, we took time to attend the funerals of teenagers, young men and women, and our elderly neighbors who lived their entire lives in Detroit.
Now, there are those wanting to be a Detroiter? Support Detroit? Which Detroit? The new invaders are suburbanites, out-of-staters, or investors. Most criminal are the downtown welfare capitalists creating a space where you will soon be pressed to find anyone from Detroit, and these new arrivals will own it all. While sports entertain millions only a few get very wealthy. We are currently witnessing the corporate leaders consumed with empire building struggling to grab pieces of downtown and our wallets.
There aren't enough reporters who will give up their angles and report the story they are being told. Well, perhaps there's a greater reason. Let people judge the accuracy and meaning of a seemingly simple story.
With the transformation of everyday life by technological inventions, we should recognize by now the failed promises and embrace the fact that not all solutions will come from new technology. Not many look where the proven solutions are found in traditional wisdom of humanity, discussed in kitchens, backyards, garages, and in the hearts and minds of the people. And, most of all solutions are found in the daily 'doing' of what needs to be done. The unchangeable 'everyday life' is guided by nature and the demands of changing seasons but our human needs remain the same: winter, spring, summer or fall.
Alley Culture presented the first VOP in 2005 (images) as a response to the “quiet” that seemed to have settled on the world's psyche. Bush had just scored round two, we were at war with the world, and at war against our own people, the press was still in lock down from 2001. Jobs were trickling out of country in batches of 20,000 or 50,000. Now, in 2012, there isn't a light bulb left on in a factory. We have given away the means of production. We're still at the wars, and raising the stakes of the war on our citizens with the recent signing of NDAA. Guantanamo is still an unacceptable reality. Between 2005 and now it has surfaced that somebody has taken our money as well. Enough looting to empty out half the houses on a block in neighborhoods from Phoenix to Detroit. The people now living in their cars or tents seem to have been relieved of their savings and pensions along with their homes. The looters of lives, livelihoods, homes, freedoms and the earth have created an abstraction of living from their strange perch.
“For what?!” Richard Mock almost yelled into CJAMs mic in 2000, “This global devastation is being wrought for an abstraction. Money is an abstraction!” voice of the people 2012 is an installation curated and hung by the people.
The Occupy Movement is coming towards being a year old at this point, although it already feels as though we might as well be talking about '67 as both have fallen into the media's collective trash bin titled “The Past.” Remnants of Occupy still linger (although the same can be said of summer '67). Occupied spaces, social centers, eviction defense, and a host of other small operations in Detroit all still cling onto the Occupy banner.
The phenomenon seems strange at first. The definitive aspect of Occupy Wall Street was its unique process and institution: the General Assembly or GA. GAs are a phenomenon that started in Europe in countries like Greece and Spain, both of which have a tradition of radical protest. So when Occupy Wall Street started, the original organizers adopted the same radical platform.
This institution is no longer in place in Detroit, or at least it is far from what it used to be. Still, we have a dozen or so micro-projects united by their claim to the first few weeks of Occupy Detroit. While it seems silly to claim to be Occupy Detroit, the projects that are still intact have learned the best aspects of the first few weeks of camping, as well as the best parts of Occupy's European counterparts.
In the first few days of camping, there was a clear divide. This divide lead to the creation of the term “in the suburbs” on one side of camp. While people from the suburbs did not necessarily disrupt anything, it was the people who, even when they were south of 8 Mile, were mentally in the suburbs that had a hard time grappling with new surroundings. These campers grasped tightly to the institutions of Occupy Detroit: the General Assembly, the “security committee,” or any other number of subcommittees, or subcommittees of subcommittees. (continued below)