The Spirit of Detroit
ahead and laugh at Detroit. Because you are laughing at yourself.”
LeDuff: Detroit, An American Autopsy
I am naturally an optimistic person,
however, after the elections of 2012 when most of the small amount of people
who did manage to vote, voted for their oppressors of the Democrat or
Republican Parties, I was feeling a little hopeless. There were at least 25
other candidates to choose from and 98.4 percent the people chose War Party A
or War Party B.
After decades of propaganda and mass
marketing of politics, it seems like the American people have nearly lost the
ability to critically think and see through bullshit and that’s discouraging.
One of the goals of the Tour de Peace
is to encourage others to break free from the chains of partisan politics and re-connect with our
own values. Few people that we have met on this tour have the values of war,
economic oppression and environmental destruction, but they keep voting for
that. People not only vote for people that grossly deviate from their own
principles and essentially hand their power over to scoundrels, murderers, and
crooks. But, on Tour de Peace, I am thrilled to report that we have encountered
communities that are beginning to reject any kind of governmental oppression
and are turning away from it to each other.
We have been in countless of these fine
communities, but I have to think that Detroit is the best example of this. Who
would have thought that in Detroit my fountain of hope would be filled—and this
is not “hope” based on illusion, but reality-based hope.
(June 7-9), Charles and Sandra Simmons founders of Detroit's Hush House hosted
the Tour de Peace. The Hush House is a “Black History Museum” and community
center in Detroit’s District 8. Charles and Sandra have deep roots in the
community, and, in fact, the grandparents of Charles lived in the house that
has been set up to be this museum and community center. Our team stayed in two
bedrooms upstairs and we were treated to delicious vegan and gluten free
community meals that were catered by locally owned black chefs and caterers. As
soon as we arrived, we instantly felt like valuable and loved members of the
de Peace left Ann Arbor, MI towards Detroit via Seven Mile Road. Until we hit
Grand River Blvd, the road was lined with McMansions and white suburbia.
Incredibly, we even saw a lawn jockey at the end of one driveway. Seven Mile
Road was mostly wide shoulders and clean roads once we hit Grand Mile, however,
that all changed.
down Grand Mile Road was a wonderful experience of life and urban art. We came
across a miracle called the African American Bead Museum and I missed Oakland
where I used to live.
spent hours talking to “Baba and Mama” Simmons and other members of the family
about the attack against the poor in Detroit that has been ongoing for decades.
think most people understand the Detroit has “problems” but to sit with our
brothers and sisters and hear their stories, that weren’t unique, but systemic was
heartbreaking. Mothers with young children and breathing equipment who can’t
get the Detroit power company to restore electrical and gas power. In the
suburbs, gas and electrical are two different bills, but in Detroit they are
linked and both shut off with any delinquencies.
heard of a young mother of three who refused to vacate her home when it was
scheduled for demolition. In Detroit, after a home is condemned, it is often
burned down and entire neighborhoods are often slashed and burned. This mother’s
home was endangered by one such plan of urban “renewal” and she stood fast and
the fire department eventually helped her, but her children had to live with
debris and toxicity and she was forced to sleep in the living room with a gun
on her lap to ward off hostile invaders demanding that she leave.
the much-celebrated “bail-out” of the auto industry was accomplished off the
backs of the workers who were forced to make terrible concessions in order for
the top tier executives to not have to make any significant ones. With
unemployment at 65% the corporate unions are also diabolically quick to sell
out the workers.
voters in the city voted down the plan to have an Emergency Manager (EM) who
would co-ordinate massive police state collaboration between the FBI, state,
local, and private security and police forces called Detroit One. However,
governor Rick Snyder and Detroit mayor, Dave Bing, collaborated in some
political hanky-panky to foist it on the embattled citizenry, anyway. Along with
the EAA (Educational Achievement Authority that has long had this EM concept),
Detroit One is bringing the people together to fight it.
were told horrific tales of elementary school principals walking around with
baseball bats and chaining young children into their school cafeterias during
lunch in sweatshop conditions that is inviting trouble, not preventing it.
gives me hope in the midst of all this blight and oppression generated from
above is that through it all the embattled Detroiters refuse to become embittered.
The oppressed Detroiters refuse to be oppressed and turn toward each other as
they have discovered that the solutions lie in their churches and
neighborhoods, not in WashedUp, DeCeit or Lansing.
are almost no fresh food grocery stores in Detroit, so community gardens are
springing up. Children must walk to school past condemned buildings on
sidewalks bounded by weeds higher than them. Elders come out to make sure these
youngsters get back and forth to school safely. Women, wonderful women, are
running for office to be in city government. Some of the abandoned buildings
are being reclaimed for these revolutionary communities of compassion.
was profoundly honored to be invited to speak at the Historic King Solomon
church where Malcolm, Martin and the mother of Emmet Till have spoken. For the
leaders of that community to mention my name in the same breath and sentence
was very humbling. I never forget that we stand on the shoulders of giants and
our work must always strive to recognize and honor that.
de Peace was also welcomed at the Liberty Temple where I spoke during Sunday
services and was so sad for a mother there who had recently buried her son. I
was able to tell her that she would never “get over” it, but with the help of
her community and family, she would get through it. After I spoke, the dynamic
pastor told me that I was a “jewel” and a “gift” to this world. The love and
support extended to us combined with the tales of thrival (new word I coined in
Detroit) are some of the reasons that being in Detroit re-filled my hope tank.
de Peace was also able to share with the family in Detroit about how the
“great” experiment of the attack on the poor, privatization, and increased austerity is now being
extended into every community we have been in, but now we will also be able to
share with each community that we pass through how Detroiters are learning to
overcome their problems together, in community.
am not a huge church person, but when I see believers who are honestly engaged
in the work that is the ideal of Jesus of Nazareth, I don’t have a problem like
I do with the war-loving sects and their hypocrisies.
Sunday morning at the Liberty Temple, I was reminded of a song that I sang when
I was a youngster in Sunday school that is exemplified in the people whom we
were with in Detroit, but tragically rejected by most:
loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow; black
and white; they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of
the struggle is long and hard, it’s very encouraging to be reminded of why we
are in it.
Tour de Peace arrives at the African Bead Art Museum in Detroit
Cindy speaking at the Liberty Temple
Press Conference at The Hush House
Cindy and Mama Sandra touring the neighborhood
Mama Sandra and Cindy
Grace Lee Boggs and Cindy at the Boggs Center
CINDY SPEAKING AT HUSH HOUSE
CINDY SPEAKING AT HISTORIC KING SOLOMON CHURCH
ALL PHOTOS AND VIDEO TAKEN BY DAN LEVY OF DAN LEVY PHOTOGRAPHY