Excerpts from my journal while in Detroit, moving backwards (not always), last to first.
About deindustrialization, depopulation, residential and commercial vacancy, corruption of capitalism—and the rise of urban gardens, local resistance and activist organizations—ending with news about the US Social Forum, Allied Media Conference, and the first public national gathering of anti-Zionist Jews in the United States.
In several parts, with periodic photos and videos.
Ultimately photography is about who you are. It’s the seeking of truth in relation to yourself. And seeking truth becomes a habit.
—Leonard Freed, 1929 – 2006
June 25, 2010, Friday, Detroit, home of KD
Another short sleep night, 1 AM to 6:15, mainly because of miscommunication with Karen about the jazz club, how long that would continue.
But first, how the day went. Searching for the United Auto Workers’ building to check out my workshop venue, dropped off at the wrong building by Karen’s boyfriend, Michael, the healer, the 2 women in front of the city building that he thought was the UAW not knowing where the building was, a man walked by who knew. Ron turned out to be the leader of a Social Forum walking tour. We walked together to the correct building and he talked me into joining the downtown Detroit protest-oriented walk.
Locating what I thought was my room, I met 2 women with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, WILPF, and verified that the organization has a strong interest in water issues. I’d been trying to connect with them for years and now I had stronger leads. Meeting Ron, meeting these 2 women, were both providential. Later I discovered this was not the room, it had been changed and I barely located the correct room on time.
My workshop, The Hydropolitics of Palestine/Israel, I thought, given my inexperience with this sort of workshop format—highly interactive—went well enough, even possibly very well, but I’m not sure that is the assessment of others, especially Karen who seemed tepid about it. 20 or more showed up, which itself is an achievement for me since prior workshops in Atlanta at the first US Social Forum had not drawn more than a handful. I tailored this presentation of my Hydropolitics show to the format, selecting portions that seemed most relevant and helpful, interjecting questions and leading discussions periodically thru the show. Since one main emphasis of the forum is on finding solutions and working together, I highlighted that theme.
Detroit River (from the Detroit side, Winsor Ontario, Canada on left),
photo courtesy of the Internet
One brainstorm I had while checking out space was to invite the participants to view the Detroit River [connecting Lakes Erie and Huron, via Lake St Clair] from one of the windows, asking them, where do you see hydropolitics here? Which indeed led to a fruitful opening discussion. Then to instances of hydropolitics in the States, then the world. And now let’s turn to successes over water rights, where do we find that? More discussion. All this before the show itself.
I could have rehearsed better, I could have chosen episodes better, I can and will simplify the statistics, but with what I have and who I am I am guardedly pleased with the result. Karen added a great deal of insights, knowledge, experience, and passion. Reviewing this now I realize I’d forgotten to ask people to introduce themselves, even tho I’d prepared by considering how other leaders do that vital opening. Chock this up to how rattled I was by initially setting up in the wrong room. I’d not printed out my lesson plan either and then couldn’t easily access it on my computer during the show. I might have used the white paper in the room to outline the agenda, forgot to do that as well. Many slips between full success and partial. This was partial. Next time will be improved.
The walking tour began at the UAW building near Cobo Hall, headed up Woodward Ave, the route of the march Dr King led on June 23, 1963—he gave an early iteration of his famous dream speech then—, entered Cadillac Square, stopped in a few parks, and more or less returned to central area. Since the theme was protest and political organizing generally, we learned about Detroit labor history, a little too much detail about local politics for me but the group seemed to appreciate it. Also urban renewal, some solutions working well, others bringing more misery.
The problem last night that brought me home so late was a combination of miscommunication and mismatched expectations. Sure, the jazz club, but how about returning home at a decent hour? Karen is a night person, I a day, and never the 2 shall mix. She became awake, I went to sleep. As much as I love raucous jazz, the sound was piercingly loud, nearly painful, and sitting around listening or waiting to listen is to me just boring. Beginning at 9 PM—we’d eaten at Niki’s in Greektown—I thought we’d leave around 10 like we did the week before. Instead, we sat thru 2 sets, the raffle at midnight, and then awaited David Lippman’s decision about whether to play or not. He played and it was grand—and time to leave. Karen reminded me that she’d picked me up at 7:30 AM, extremely early for her, from the bus-train station, suggesting it is now my obligation to return the favor and accommodate her wish to stay late.
Surprisingly I gained new energy after initially nearly falling asleep at the table. And if not for this morning’s duties, might have wished to remain alive all night for the jazz.
Yesterday I met Anne R, my comrade on Quaker Palestine/Israel issues. Also ran into Carol Urner who I last was with 11years ago in Lesotho, Africa. She used a walker. I recognized her by her braids. Sad that her husband Jack died in an auto accident in Lesotho, and that she was so badly injured. Despite her disabilities she plods on, a model of endurance.
TO BE CONTINUED
“How labor won its day” by Patricia K. Zacharias / The Detroit News
“Black history, labor history intertwined in Detroit” by John Rummel
“47 Years Ago in Detroit: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Delivers First ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech” (interview with Grace Lee Boggs)