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

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