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

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