Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Detroit/Oakland Sermon: Another World Is Happening!

Dear family, I flew in late from Detroit and man are my arms tired. (That joke sounds as bad in my head as it does in a sermon). Actually, the attempt to articulate what G-d is doing and teaching often doesn’t sound right to me. I have to ask myself on many occasions why in the world I am in a pastor. This feeling of unworthiness is only intensified by the looks I often get from the old and young alike who just can’t believe that someone so young, and let’s be real, so Black, could be a man of G-d. And then I look around me to find those other young, Black male pastors, and I start to think that this must be a fluke, not only is it exceedingly difficult to find other young Black male pastors, it’s difficult to find young Black men at all. This is not the role that society has deemed me worthy of, Black men are supposed to be in jail, hustling by selling some illegal product, or dead by my age, that’s the expectation that I’ve felt from others my entire life. But that’s not what G-d expects. No matter what I do, I know that G-d always does and always will expect my best. I also have to confess, that sometimes when I look around me I start to think that there are some who are more worthy than others. I had this experience recently in a group discussion in Detroit on the city’s current situation. Some people, when they spoke I felt my heart stir in my chest and I wanted to clap and shout, and others, when they spoke I felt like they were off in some utopian fantasy and I wished that they would just be quiet. And then I remembered a song from my childhood, you may know it, it goes, “All G-d’s creatures got a place in the choir, some sing low, some sing higher, some sing out loud on the telephone wire, and some just clap their hands or paws or anything you got now.” It reminded me that we need every voice in order to succeed. We need those who speak with practical solutions and hard truths, we need them to remind those skeptics among us that there are alternatives to our destructive systems. But we also need those who speak with blatant optimism to remind the other optimists to get up off of their seats and work for change and not just expect it to happen. In this sermon I hope to show you how these alternatives are being used in Detroit, but also I hope to show you why it is that part of the voice we need, is the voice of the church, to be the moral compass of this country, to continue to be the change we seek in the world, and to bring about the Kin-Dom of G-d, the Beloved Community. Yet sometimes I wonder if the church is worthy of such a task. It reminds me of a question I heard Detroit Pastor Barry Randolph ask on my trip, “Do you think you can be a Disciple of Jesus?” How many of us do? Well, if you can lie, be selfish, thickheaded, arrogant, unhelpfully competitive and runaway and hide in betrayal, then you are well on your way. The distinguishing mark is that you keep on trying. Jesus didn’t choose people because of who they said they were, he chose them because of who he knew they could be. Which brings me to the question, what in the world was I doing in Detroit? Detroit in many ways has been given the roll of the Black man in our society. Its numbers dwindle every year; incarceration, murder rates and the drug trade negatively affect many of the lives within; and perhaps the greatest similarity is that it has been deemed by many to be worthless. But as a Christian I know that can’t be the whole story. I know that that which we try and ignore, Jesus places center stage, that which we consider to be the least worthy of consideration, Jesus considers first. I see many of these same issues in our city of Oakland. In the short time I was gone, 7 people have been murdered and schools have been closed and suspected gang members are being swept up by the dozens. It is as if we the people are expendable, as if it were the downtrodden, the struggling, that are the reason for these inequities, this lack we see in our communities. But Jesus tells us that it is the ones considered a nuisance that will create change in this world. I saw that change being created in the city of Detroit, and I saw coming not from the ones who like to blame, but from we the people of nuisance. Once Detroit was ground zero for the Industrial Revolution, it was considered the most up and coming city in America, yet despite the fact that today it has the fastest declining population, it now the birth place of a new kind of participatory citizenship, for while it’s buildings are crumbling, instead of waiting for the city government to rebuild, the people are creating projects to rebuild themselves. While food deserts are extending, instead of waiting to be fed, people are growing their own food, making Detroit the city that has more urban gardens than any other in the country; while people are being shot and murdered, instead of waiting for the cops, people are building Peace Zones and developing neighborhood peace codes; while the youth run aimlessly, instead of waiting for youth structures to be built, they are building their own; while schools are failing, the people are creating their own community led schools; and while the unemployment rates continue to soar, people are learning to build things themselves. There’s a saying in Detroit, “There may not be any jobs, but everyone can join in on the work.” In the scripture we heard today (Matt 20:1-16) there was a group of laborers waiting to work, what they found was a job. I’ve heard this scripture many times before and assumed with so many that Jesus was talking about the relationship with us (the workers) and G-d (the landowner). No matter what time we start our work, G-d rewards everyone who faithfully puts in the work equally. It’s a beautiful sentiment, but unfortunately Obery Hendricks points out to me how much I missed in the story. Let’s start with the denarius, the unit of money that the landowner promises to pay each worker. Hendricks points out that, “One denarius could barely feed one adult, much less a family.” While the scripture says they agreed on the terms of payment, the truth is that because there is so little work, the laborers don’t actually have a choice but to accept the terms. It is clear that the landowner owns enough that he could pay more, what is also clear is that he does not take the time to analyze the fact that so much of his wealth is based off of the lack of the very people that he employs. Hendricks writes that the landowner, “knows almost certainly they are available for hire because their own lands have been taken from them by one unjust means or another [yet] he doesn’t even consider that they may have been victimized by rich folks like him.” In the end of the scripture, when one worker points out the discrepancy of paying everyone the same, unliveable wage, the landowner does what so many bosses have done after him, he fires him and tells him that it’s his money and he can do what he wants with it. As Hendricks says, the landowner might have a G-d complex, but he does not sound like the merciful and loving Father of Jesus. Trying to decipher exactly what Jesus is trying to do with this story can be difficult because the message is complex. We have all heard at some point the saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Many times I think this should the motto of the church. But what Jesus reminds me of the opposite of this saying, Jesus is more of a, “Do as I do, not as I say,” kind of a person. What Jesus is speaking about isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. In his world there were many disenfranchised, landless workers, waiting to be paid unfair wages. When they stood up against injustice they were shut down and fired. What Jesus does with this story is show, “how the elites hid their role in the worker’s pain and desperation by blaming them for their own plight.” The church then, “Like Jesus, must help workers understand what is their fair share of the fruits of their labor, how to get it, and what—and who—stands in the way.” We must be the ones that remind the world that, “if together [we] steadfastly stand for justice by confronting the [land] owners of [our] time with boldly prophetic sensibilities, ultimately [we] will experience the justice promised by the kingdom of God.” Isn’t that what the word demonstration really means? It’s not just about picking up a sign and going out and marching. It’s about demonstrating what this world could be. We, the church, pray every Sunday for G-d’s Kin-dom to come on earth as it is in heaven. We have an intimate understanding of what the Beloved Community is, detailed in our Lord’s Prayer. We also have a rich tradition of exorcising the demons of greed and corruption in our world and in ourselves. Another question in Detroit is, “What time is it on the clock of the world?” Well I want to tell you that the time is now, the time for the revolution of the evolution of humanity is now, it’s happening as we speak and it needs to grow or else we will not survive. And what we know about the love strategies of Jesus need to be shared with the world. This isn’t some abstract, fantasy. Everything we believe and understand can come into being and is coming into being. As Christians we say that another world is possible, in Detroit I saw that another world is happening. Sisters and Brothers, I went to the mountaintop so I know we can do it. I saw youth there with fire in their eyes, who showed me how to transform our communities. We have to bring the neighbor back to the hood, but the first step is that we have to call out our demons of injustice by name. That’s why, right now I want us to begin this journey of transformation by calling out the demons of injustice that need to be addressed in our neighborhoods and in our cities. Let’s just start with 10 big ones, what are the names of the injustices, call them out. Amen.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dear Family: What a journey this has been. Words cannot convey just how completely exhausted I am from all of the deep thinking, deep connecting and traveling back and forth from place to place. I've been stretched but I know there is more that I can do, and places that I can still go with my thinking. Friday was the last full day of our trip and we spent much of it doing touristy things. The tourist in us actually began Thursday night when we went out for Coney Island hot dogs, like the Detroit equivalent to the Philly Cheesesteak (though you know which one I'm going to say I like better), it's basically a chili dog with onions and mustard. Yeah I know, so good for the soul, but when in Detroit. I can't say I didn't enjoy it, I also can't say that I'll ever have one again, but never say never right? Friday was a more substantial day. After waking up for our last morning at our friends' place in Gross Pointe we wandered over to the Vedic Village Gardens where they work as farmers. It was beautiful to see the strange peas, the trellises of tomatoes and watermelon and the rows and rows of dark green leafy magic. Ellie and Michael accompanied us, taught us, and discovered with us that they are a part of the rebirth and reimagining of Detroit. We are so grateful to them. After we left them we decided to to take Rich Feldman up on his suggestion to go and to really experience the murals of Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of Art. We had already planned to visit some museums on Friday because we knew that one of our favorite musicians, Patti Smith, had a photography exhibit there. We stopped at her exhibit and I found myself floored at the intimacy with which she approaches photography, especially when I discovered that her initial reasons for taking photos had to do with her desire to know two of her grandmothers who died before she was born. Photography then becomes a method of touching the untouchable. She also utilized her photography to capture moments and the essence of those she loved and admired, for example, within hours of his death she had photographed the bed of Jim Carrol, her friend and an individual she considered to be "the most beautiful poet of my generation". In our image laden world I tend to forget the potency that a photograph can take. Nothing, however, could compare to seeing the murals of Diego Rivera of Industrial Detroit. It's hard to imagine such a mural being commissioned today, by any city, that lays so bare the brutality of their cash crop. There's the green of the skin of the workers dealing with toxic chemicals; the bloodshot eyes of the workers; the hellish flames of the furnace; the beauty of nature juxtoposed against the wretched conditions we put it under; the embryo in the body of the earth that we slice with our machines; the search for immortality that ruins the souls of our medical industry; the hunched backs of leaving workers; Henry Ford, face twisted, attempting to control the minds of the workers; people in gas masks making bombs; the wealthy portrayed cartoonishly as they come to observe the factory; the old gods who demanded blood for power being replaced with machines who demand work; and the goddesses of fertility. I'll never look at a mural the same again, this was truly the standard, and yet it lay behind the walls of the museum rather than on the walls of our street corners where it belongs. After we left the mural we were planning to go to the Charles Wright African American Museum but had gotten there too late and so decided instead to make our way to the Motown Museum. Going from Diego Rivera to Motown was a bit surreal. Having seen and learned so much about Detroit in our two weeks I began to think about how Motown was coming into prominence during the period of history where the might of the factories was beginning to wane. Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, worked his last job before his endeavor in the music industry in the Ford Plants. He said it was the worse job he ever had, and then began to employ some of the same lessons he learned in the factory in his own business. The stamp of industrialization was everywhere to me in HIitsville U.S.A. Studios. They pumped out hits like Ford pumped out cars, only this time the machines doing the work were human beings. As they say, you come in raw materials and you go out a star. And like any product, your expect to produce, you cease producing, you cease having any value in this system. Berry Gordy set the bar for the music industry that has suffered more than its share of critique over the years, and of course is not the fault of Berry Gordy. Motown is but a microcosm of something much bigger than it, and nothing has made this clearer to me than the lives of Black musicians that have been lost in recent years. Our music INDUSTRY, in fact our celebrity industry, wants to squeeze everything out of us that it possibly can. And we the people demand it. If our favorite artist doesn't come out with something every year or so we throw fits like they owe us something. And when they crack they are severely ridiculed. And after this is accomplished we do the same to one another and ourselves. But that's the thing, we aren't machines, and this world isn't a factory. We can't produce endlessly without rest, and no one should be able to demand of us things that we are not willing to give, that's not being successful, that's called slavery. I hope that we all remember that next time someone has expectations of us at the detriment of our own well beings. Industrialization cannot get the best of us. Peace, Tai Amri

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The End of History

“Unless we take agency and action in making history, it’s hard to know what’s going on.” - Rich Feldman (Paraphrase) Last night I had dinner with my Ann Arbor family and six of my friends. My father is a constant reminder of how essential history is for the {r}evolution of humanity. As we sat around the table he told my own history, both flattering and unflattering portions. The truth is that without my family there are huge parts of my life that I would have no clue about because my age had not allowed me to process it. And this sense of history and identity extends far beyond me, as my father also is a genealogist and is frequently reminding me of my lineage, helping me to trace where I come from and in so doing helping me to see where I need to go. Wednesday I spent time with the Detroit historian Rich Feldman. One of the questions that has been asked several times in our time here in Detroit is, “What time is it on the clock of the world?” Standing at the now defunct Packard Plant with Rich, he pointed it out where Detroit stands on that clock. He traces this current period of time in a 500 year swath, and he marks it’s beginning in a number of different ways which are: 1) The transatlantic slave trade 2) The rise of individualism 3) The turning of the EARTH into LAND, from protecting the planet to exploiting it and exchanging it for profit 4) The turning of WORK for our community into JOBS for corporations 5) The destruction of women’s way of knowing and the earth’s way of knowing and replacing it with the dominance of “experts” 6) The earth being used and abused for economic advancement Rich confronted what has become an assumed truth in our society, that knowledge is power, and spoke about how indeed it is this belief that has led us to ignore the education of our hearts and our souls and has led us to this current economic system that is almost completely devoid of any moral accountability. Perhaps there is nowhere in America that that is clearer than in Detroit, perhaps and perhaps there is nowhere in America that we can see so clearly that this 500 year period is coming to an end and is no longer working than in the Rust Belt. To prove this point Rich spoke extensively about the writings and teachings of Jimmy Boggs, the late husband of Grace Lee Boggs. Jimmy saw the ending of the age in a number of ways: First in the end of the labor movement and the rise of civil rights, because the agribusiness was overcome by the industrial revolution and then the factories of the cities that drew so many people from their farms began to move out into the suburbs, disenfranchising those who were already in many ways disenfranchised; Christopher, mi hermano in {r}evolution pointed out to me that the second big vision of Jimmy was the rise of the underclass/outsider class being replaced by robotics, where workers were no longer needed, there is an excess of human beings, 2.3 million prisoners, and super unemployment, something else that we must overstand is that the U.S. isn’t just a part of the evil empire of the New Age, but that after World War II it becomes The World Super Power, and that perhaps this was the plan all along, to bomb the hell out of Europe and Japan so that we could dominate the world market, which we had for about 35 years, sending our energy cartels all over the world to control the oil and gas market); third Jimmy pointed out that this movement is not just about socialism, but about how to use our technological knowledge for the advancement of humanity rather than for economic dominance and profitability. The question is always, how do we become engaged citizens rather than just consumers and producers? So here we are, in this world where there are at least a billion unemployed human beings, where there is a completely disenfranchised underclass of people, like those in our prison systems and those who get out of it and become returned citizens, where energy cartels are trying to run things, and where the empire is trying to convince us that unions, who Rich tells us have the responsibility to be a part of our much needed social transformation, and I’m trying to place myself on the clock of the world. I live in Oakland, I’m from Philly, and right now I’m checking out Detroit, and as I look around at what our cities are trying to do, it seems to me that all of our money seems to be going into civic centers, stadiums, condominiums, trying to build up our cities for big business like we were trying to build up our factories for big business 500 years ago. One of the most chilling things that I heard from Rich was that Detroit used to be the 6th or 7th largest city in America, that’s what number Philadelphia is today. So when Rich asks what will the world look like 107 years from now, tracking this past 107 year cycle in Detroit, we must all start asking ourselves if we will be living in the ruins of a condo world or in the green from the sweat of a new American {r}evolution. I know which path I want to choose, do you? One love, Tai Amri (aka Baby Pastor)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

{r}evolution begins in your neighbor/hood

Peace Family: Sorry this update is late, trying to listen to and follow of the example of those older and wiser than me, I decided to take a day of rest yesterday. I've been spending a lot of time contemplating the ways that capitalism has shaped and misshaped my identity. There is no doubt that to make true change it takes a lot of hard work and struggle, but capitalism is the voice in my head that tells me to work without stopping and without a breath because it assures that I will not survive long enough to detect my chains and discern a way out of my oppression. It's hard for me to look at anything in the world nowadays without thinking about how capitalism has affected it. Does that make me a communist or a socialist? Not necessarily. I'm reminded of the heavy critiques of Martin Luther King, Jr. on capitalism, and how often he had to fend off accusations of supporting communism. I'm also reminded of the accusations that are faced by individuals in our country who have the courage to question the actions and policies of our politicians and are told that they are unamerican and that if they don't like our country they should leave our country. So no, I'm not anti-capitalism, I'm also not pro-capitalism, I'm pro whatever brings dignity, unity and love to all of creation. I'm not anti-american, I'm also not pro-american, I'm pro-humanity and anything that heals the divisions in our communities rather than exploits them, which is what so many of our american policies tend to to do. To me, the places where capitalism's affects are most keenly felt are within those divisions in our communities and neighborhoods. There is no more disgusting example of this than America's crack epidemic. It made clear to the world how the American mindset was one in which there was both a willingness (and in many cases) a necessity to do anything for a dollar. But I am not using this an example of how people will buy and sell their own destructions, rather I use it because it shows exploitation at it's very worse in that the ones who benefited from this destruction were not the ones who were buying and selling, rather it was the ones who came in AFTER the destruction and bought up our neighborhoods which in many ways was also our histories. It is this kind of analysis of capitalism and our neighborhoods that makes me think of Detroit Leader Yusef Shakur. Here is a Black man who has every right to literally go around bombing the system, instead he chooses to stay and love his community and neighborhood and bring about it's re-evolution. He is constantly reminding us that we must "overstand" the entire purpose of capitalism is to sever us from one another, but most especially from our very roots, which is the thing that can most sustain you. "Putting the neighbor back in the 'hood," as he says then becomes the most {r}evolutionary act that one can do. Why? Because if we have a "strong neighborhoods we will have a strong city." And if we have strong cities we will have a strong country. And if we have a strong country we will have a strong world. It all builds out y'all. So please forgive me if I'm sounding negative when I say this, but my understanding of capitalism is that it likes to brag hella hard on itself and act like it's shit don't stink. That's kind of a lie. I want to encourage you all as you go throughout your days to think about how capitalism affects everything that you do and experience, and really contemplate the ways that it has wreaked havoc and destruction on your own relationships and communities. Because truly, we cannot heal until we identify our wounds. Thanks brother Yusef, for helping overstand what's good. One love, Tai Amri

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Detroit Summer Update #6: The Endless Winter

Dear Family, I wish I could give you some esoteric analogy of this day, but the rigor of writing these updates is starting to get to me. The deeper into the week the deeper my experience and the more time it is taking me to process what I'm experiencing. For example, one of the reasons it's taken me so long to write this update is because tonight Michelle, our college friend and partner at Detroit Summer Christopher, and I traveled down to Toledo, Ohio where our friend Mia lives. Toledo is a beautiful city that I've visited a few times to see her, and I've discovered that what is there is a smaller version of what is going on in the city of Detroit. There are urban gardens and revolutionaries growing out of the dregs of industry and capitalism. While here we talked with her roomates and found ourselves preaching the gospel of Grace, talking about the beauty and redemption we were seeing in Detroit, about the former Black Panthers who spoke of the revolution of loving everyone, especially those in our 'hoods that no one else seems to love, about the wisdom of the underground movements like the one in Detroit that does not seek big crowds but big results, and the conversation got away from us, and now it's 1 in the morning and I'm exhausted as can be. The truth is, I've been exhausted since I uttered my first word with Grace Lee Boggs. I had a question prepared for the meeting but it was challenged almost before it came out of my mouth. I didn't know how to finish it with her staring at me, begging me to step up into my fullest being. Have you ever had someone stare at you like that? It's not an easy thing to swallow. Couple that with the insane heat, seeing overwhelming examples of hope and despair, and you are left with one very tired Tai Amri. There is one other element that I'd like to add into the mix, I've been having major struggles with the technology that I've brought with me (surprise, surprise). It appears that the video camera that I purchased to record everything I'm experiencing and share it with the world is not compatible with my macbook. Also, for some reason the brand new batteries that I have for my camera are no longer charging. I'm pretty sure it's the charger but it's not relieving any stress. Sorry if it sounds like I'm complaining, I am, but also, I'm trying to think from a place of doing for others what I'd want them to do for me, and if I were thinking of documenting an important part of my life for others, I would hope that a friend of mine who was doing the same would tell me some things that I should think about ahead of time (like making sure the camera that I was looking at was compatible with my computer). Just trying to clear a path. That's what everything keeps coming back to for me, clearing a path. That's why I'm here in Detroit, because I believe that Detroit has cleared a path for the rest of America, and possibly the world, to follow. This path is one that reminds us to listen to our matriarchs, our grandmothers, the Grace Lee Boggs in OUR communities. Detroit talks about the Big Mamas in our 'hoods. This is the woman who looks out for everybody, who loves beyond "logic" and because it's just the right thing to do, who can talk sense it to those that the rest of society has deemed worthless. My first day here I was struck by an interaction where Grace was giving a talk in which someone approached her with the guise of asking a question, but really they just wanted to tell her that back in the '60's when they were a Black Panther and hated White people, she caused him to examine his core beliefs and brought him to a higher plane of consciousness, and he wanted to thank her, even though he hadn't seen here since his teens! Who is that woman in your 'hood? Who is that woman who knows how to talk to the people in words that they can understand? If you don't know her, find her. Grace was also stressing the necessity of defining the revolutionary and the counterrevolutionary. She wasn't just about identifying what is or isn't counterrevolutionary, she reminded us that the counterrevolutionary is a part of the true {r}evolutionary process, and she asks us to examine those aspects of ourselves that is also counterrevolutionary. I hope to never stop wrestling with the words of Grace Lee Boggs, and to begin to offer her words as words of {r}evolution to all that I come in contact with. And so, between this auspicious greeting, and some very intense sessions led by ex-gang members, and former Black Panthers (one of which was shot- and yet survived- in the house during the night that Fred Hampton was brutally murdered) this is all I am able to currently process. Please stay tuned, as what I am finding is that my process time lags a day behind, especially as I struggle to find the time to write these, and I struggle to fit all of these words and experiences into an appropriate length for an article. But as Grace says, there is no revolution without struggle. I love you all, may our love be the center of our struggle. In peace, Tai Amri

Friday, July 6, 2012

Detroit Summer Update #4

Dear Family:

The first day in a new place I find myself functioning from a flight or fight mentality. I'm not sure where I am all the time and there's something in the back of my mind constantly reminding me that this is not my 'hood, and when you walk in somebody else's 'hood you need to watch your back. But in this fourth day in the Rust Belt, bouncing between Ann Arbor, Detroit and Toledo, I've started to relax a little bit, and my heart has started to love a little bit more, and my passions and scars have begun to show.

Pressing on my mind is the knowledge that tomorrow I will be sitting at the feet of Grace Lee Boggs. I know this won't be literal "at her feet" but it shows a little bit of my hope. As I sit at these panels and group discussions I'm seeing seeds, sprouts and gardens, all that have been touched by her life. I want to be the good soil that becomes a receptacle for what Grandma Grace has to offer me, so that I can ensure that the people may live in harmony with all. And I know that what is happening here can be a beacon of hope. I also believe that we can all entertwine, we can all lift each other up, and that Detroit and Oakland can walk together in solidarity for this movement towards the Next American Revolution. Everyday I get clearer on ways that this can be achieved. This day has been no exception.

Tonight I heard the story from a woman that we are staying with that is not much younger than I am. She was told the story of how she grew up on the East Side of Detroit back when it wasn't such a bad place to live, and how her mother was held up at gunpoint twice for her car and how her father was stabbed 87 times when she was still in high school. She talked about how she found some way of resisting the racism that erupted in her family afterwards and how she found her solace in growing her soul through meditation and chanting which brought her to the point of being able to forgive and her father's killer. She also spoke about how his murder had caused her to fear and hate Detroit, but when I asked her what brought her back to this city after her many years of traveling the world, she said it was urban gardening. Not only has it inspired her to come back to the city, it's inspired her to love and be proud of it. I know that the same can be true of Oakland, and every other city in America. And as I write these words I think about my 4th grader who when I read him my, "I Dream" poem of Oakland, and I said, "I dream that someday the butterflies will come back to Oakland," he laughed and said, "Butterflies hate Oakland." Those are the kind of words that inspire the revolution in me.

My heart also broke open today, in all it's beauty and pain in our small group discussions on "Manhood, humanity, feelings & activism." I sat in a group of three attempting to answer the questions of how our micro and macro communities have broken down and how this is related to capitalism and I saw the damage that has been wrought by our isolationists values on womyn, men and trans folk and it made me sick to my stomach, and it showed me how numb I've become and it made me realize how much I loved every person who was willing to share their pain with me, all at the same time.

Aside from all of these revelations, healings, and run-on sentences, the day began with a panel and breakout session on alternative economies. You see, all of this capitalism this and capitalism that talk isn't about a political stance, it's about true liberation. It's all a question of what is feeding you and what isn't, on every single level. It's about understanding that we need to redefine the ways that we talk about our economy and about our work and our jobs, and making distinctions between them. Frank Joyce went so far as to say that we need to resignify the word job but terming it, J.O.B. because until we do that we will continue to blindly follow the pattern of searching for this thing that keeps us too busy, doing things we don't want to do, to purchase things we don't really need, where as work can actually be the thing that gives us meaning, the thing that feeds our souls as well as that of our communities. So while we may be speaking about the title of the event, "Re-Imagining Work: New Culture, New Economy" what we are doing is not just looking for something new, we are looking back at the things that sustained all of our ancestors for thousands of years, which up until relatively recently became devalued and ignored, and making them new and exciting once again. We're talking about reclaiming our lives and our livelihoods and not waiting for "the man" to give us a J.O.B. but creating them once again with our multiple communities. This is why healing is an absolute necessity, and if ever I begin to forget this fact, all I have to do is look into the eyes of the precious little girl who runs back and forth, hiding in every corner of the room, and drawing on everything she can get her hands on, to remind me that I can't stop now. They don't call me Baby Pastor for nothin'. One love,

Tai Amri

Detroit Summer Update #2: Looking Back To Go Forward

Peace Family:

After a very successful indiegogo campaign and a very busy month we've arrived in Michigan. I think you already know that you've helped make this possible, and I hope you all know how much I want to bring you all with us. It's actually been a reocurring theme at Detroit Summer 2012, this idea that what we do here can be shared and applied throughout our country and our world. It's why I'm here, it's also why we started our campaign and why I'm writing this email. So the people may live. I've also started recording both audio and video of our work. Unfortunately as soon as I started recording my computer has decided to stop charging its battery, so now I'm left without a computer to download my information onto so that I can share it with you all. Don't worry, you'll still receive it, but until I can get up and running, let me share with you some impressions from today.

The event we attended was a Round-Table called: The State of Our City. Some of the highlights (and lowlights) of the experience for me were:

~ Finding beauty in the failures of industrialization, and seeing this failure as an opportunity to look back at what used to sustain us before we were dependent on this unsustainable lifestyle
~ An emphasis on seeing every aspect of creation (from individuals to community and grassroots organizations) as completely essential to our survival
~ Making available and defining common space (is common space just what our tax dollars pay for i.e. our schools or our transportation system, or is the idea of ownership of land inherently oppressive?)
~ Yusef Shakur's insistence that civil disobedience is a necessity and that we must DEMONSTRATE our willingness to stand up for issues of justice
~ Should we be working to fix the old system or creating new systems?
~ What is the difference between revolution and delusion? (This question came up for me as a young man spoke about how we are all waiting for ourselves to start the revolution. I wondered if his words were empty or revolutionary, deciding in the end that "all G-d's children got a place in the choir)
~ "There are 1 empty houses for every homeless person in Detroit."!!!!!!!
~ VISION ACTIVISM: States that we cannot vision without images (or the imagination) of what is possible
~ The reason this country supports prosperity gospel over liberation theology is because it makes it easier to blame the victim
~ We need to know Charity Hicks and Detroit Works
~ Don't forget to look back at the next generation and look forward at the generation who may not be aware of major cultural shifts
~ Why shouldn't we preach to the choir? Choirs have rehearsals for a reason, because sometimes the choir sings off key and sometimes people sing solos when they shouldn't and sometimes the choir needs a separate sermon that occurs before church

If any of these preach to you or bring up answers or more questions please let me know, I'd love to hear them. In peace,

Tai Amri