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.
Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares
she raises her voice.
At the busiest corners she cries out;
at the entrance to the City gates she speaks.
June 20, 2010, Sunday, Detroit, home of KD
One major epiphany during the Allied Media Conference workshops yesterday: the parallel between the Wounded Knee massacre and the Nakba . Both were pivotal events in the history of the peoples affected, both were deeply meaningful to me, and I suffered neither of them.
This came to me during the indigenous workshops that described the first-ever US indigenous delegation to Israel-Palestine. The official title was Palestine is Turtle Island, Indigenous Organizing to End the Occupation. Last August a group of youth connected with Haskell University in Kansas, once a notoriously punishing American Indian school, saw the parallels between Indians in this country and Palestinians. They met with comparable youth in Palestine and now are hoping to connect with similar groups in this country, namely PEP, the Palestine Education Project. And indeed, this was the source of their insight. They’d attended a PEP workshop last year, inspired by what they learned. The story of the occupation spreads.
Earlier I’d attended a workshop called “Hurricane Season: Unearthing Solutions in an Era of Unnatural Disaster,” which brought me close up to the two women who’d performed the night before at the plenary. They performed more excerpts from the piece called Hurricane Season: the Hidden Messages in Water, traveling to 50 cities across the US with an all women crew. As I wrote X, this was among the best photo presentations I’ve ever seen. I am simultaneously intimidated and inspired. I videoed portions of it, hoping to include also the section with narration by Arundhati Roy—which I was unable to do.
The 2 performers, Alixa and Naima, the soul-sister duo known collectively as Climbing Poetree, ended by inviting people to connect via a rope—say what you’re doing for justice and grab a section of rope. One initiated the rope net by stating what he was doing providing free medical services, another chimed in about a free food service project, etc, until about 10 people were linked together. I thought of adding my volunteer work in Israel-Palestine, but deferred to youth so they could tell their stories.
Continuing the array of exciting workshops I attended was Our Hearts are Bigger Than Their Maps, presented by PEP based in Brooklyn. This is a group of largely high school youth who offer workshops that demonstrate the parallels between life in American cities and life in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Especially centered on prisons. We were invited to form a prison machine, made by individuals miming some aspect of the prison, such as control, cement, noise. I met again Carlos who I spoke with later about visiting the Brooklyn high school where they work, thinking on one of my trips to visit family I can drop by the school. I videoed portions of this workshop, when folks wrote on large paper what they could do without, and what they needed, such as injustice for the first and fairness for the second.
For the opening workshop I arrived late, How Social Media can Amplify Palestinian Voices and Support the Global Movement for BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanction). I remet the woman from American Muslims for Palestine as she and 2 others from Jewish Voice for Peace laid out action plans for supporting the BDS movement.
In each workshop I was moved and learned a great deal. In the BDS workshop I was moved to tears during a series of videoed interviews with University of California Berkeley students working for divestment, especially when Jews were shown, so heartful and honest and courageous.
On the bus to the center of Detroit, from where I was staying to the Conference, I finally realized I could make a video showing the vacant lots, empty store fronts, wide streets (perhaps planned to encourage auto use), and the people who inhabit these areas, largely black and poor. So I made one long take out the window, with a dim reflection showing passengers. I continued this and heard, nearly missed hearing, a discussion between a passenger and the driver about Grand Boulevard, my connecting stop. Good grief, this is my stop! Forgetting to turn the camera off I continued videoing as I confirmed with the driver that this was the connection with the Dexter Ave bus and where to catch it. Just in time, all on video.
By now, as I suggested to Karen, I’m becoming an expert on some sections of Detroit. Just in time to leave. Altho since I’m committed to nearly 3 weeks in or around Motown, I have a few more days to build and demonstrate my expertise. Meeting Karen at the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network assembly, we drove home together, a ride of about 15 minutes, compared with 1 hour by bus in the morning when all is well, and 3 hours at night when all is not well.
Accepting a general invitation from the Media Conference organizers to “dump” our video and photo files for their later use, I visited the media lab. Participants were building small output radio transmitters, learning how to make music via computer, editing videos, and one, me, was dumping files. How these will be used, whether these will be used are questions I cannot answer. In the spirit of sharing and trust, I donate my work.
By contrast with the Media Conference and its spirited use of popular education teaching principles—interactive, engaging, fun, lively, sharing wisdom and knowledge—the 2010 US Assembly of Jews Confronting Racism and Israeli Apartheid used, at least last night for its opening session, that old banking model. This is the top down, lecture mode: assemble a group of experts who will impart their knowledge to a relatively empty vessel, you and me. As thrilled as I am to be a small part of the first-ever such assembly, an historic occasion no doubt, after the buzz of the Media Conference, last night’s Assembly was dull.
But I learned a few things: Barbara Lubin, co-founder and director of MECA, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, is Jewish and not happy with Jewish-only organizations working on Israel-Palestine. I’m not sure why, maybe because the spread should be wider, as evidenced by MECA. Someone else compared snowflakes to diligent activism: snowflakes are virtually weightless, but when enough of them land and collect on a tree limb they can break it. Same with popular movements. The Israel Lobby has alerted its membership to the activity of this Assembly and the Assembly organizers have taken steps to prevent trouble, namely, organizing a group of peacekeepers and keeping tight security. Registration is required and all must wear their nametags. Those wishing not to be identified wear orange stickers on their nametags.
But beyond all this, the picture laid out by Mich Levy, formerly of Israel apparently—about the fact of Zionism being racist, that the Assembly is not going to debate Zionism, the anti Zionist struggle is part of a larger struggle against colonialism and imperialism, and action is the main theme—was comprehensive and itself—despite my reservations about the banking model—educational and powerful. I’d like to read it again, delve into its superb analysis.
The constituency differed also, from that of the Media Conference. Older, whiter, more conservatively dressed, but with the same presence of young daring vibrant women, probably many of them gay. Short hair predominated, across the age spectrum. As was true at the Media Conference. The young women are bucking the fashion of long, blow-dried hair prevailing with their peers.
Later, after KD and I had met, feeling the same mild zing with her that I felt and reported earlier, as if a dear long term friend I’ve known for decades, growing up together, fitting naturally together, not necessarily a romantic sexual partnership, we together, almost a couple, met Rick and his 4 friends, including Grove. We are all together in Karen’s house, me at the early hour of 5:30 AM, at the moment apparently the only one awake and working. Once again not much sleep, no nap, little food, the usual pattern for a conference, a fine opportunity to ditch my routine and not be so damned bored.
Today, the final day of the Media Conference, I’ve chosen to continue attending the Conference, despite my draw to the Anti Zionist Assembly, partly to attend certain workshops that appeal, such as the video conference between American Indian and Palestine youth, also to continue forging new relationships with fellow travelers. One of the benefits of staying with the Israel-Palestine theme in choosing workshops and events is I see the same people over and over and begin to form alliances. As with Carlos, for instance, and renew friendships, with Dunya and Hannah for other examples. Then the closing ceremony and I shall attempt to find my colleagues later at the Jewish Assembly.
TO BE CONTINUED
Hurricane Season: the Hidden Messages in Water (link may not work)