A Look At What We’re Up Against: Short Sighted “Follow-ship” Verses Visionary Leadership
Lottie V. Spady
(Published in the Michigan Citizen, week of Kwanzaa 2012)
principle number 17 requires that
, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth's resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.
The principles of Kwanzaa ask too that
pledge to solve problems together for the good of community (Ujima), recommit ourselves to supporting and building our own shops, stores, and businesses (Ujamaa), and rededicate ourselves to preserving and appreciating our heritage and passing that same dedication to future generations (Nia).
Looking at Detroit’s history,
have seen a systemic disinvestment in city infrastructure, land, neighborhoods, and school system.
have watched Detroit’s resources be squandered, wasted, and destroyed in such a way that encouraged, if not mandated residents to leave. Very similar to the “scorched earth”
which involves “destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area. It is a military strategy where all of the assets that are used or can be used by the enemy are targeted, such as food sources, transportation, communications, industrial resources, and even the people in the area.” (Wikipedia)
However, as evidenced by the community turn-out at city council meetings, rallies, and public hearings, there are hundreds of community members and dozens of churches and community organizations who have grave concerns and vehement opposition to the ways in which Detroit’s resources are being handled from water and land to fiscal oversight.
Therein lies the untapped, devalued energy of what could be a
solution process which would benefit those most impacted by housing and land loss, job loss, and food insecurity. Instead of seeing the whole of Detroit’s community as a resource, resident’s emotional testimony was met with the indulgence one gives a wayward child before locking him in his room “for his own good”.
With the John Hantz land grab in particular which involved the sale of a 140 acres of Detroit’s lower east side to one owner for what basically amounts to pocket change, there was example after example of residents, landowners, and shop keepers bearing witness to the red tape of trying to purchase land themselves. They were ushered out the door and down the hall to planning and development for their consolation prize land-purchase application.
To add insult to injustice, Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr., spun an incredulous justification statement for the press, saying that “… urban agriculture isn’t a silver bullet to fix Detroit’s problems, but …it is an important component of redevelopment. A ‘no’ vote would have sent the message to the world that Detroit isn’t really serious about urban agriculture.”
But, this Hantz land grab is not even designated for any agricultural production whatsoever. Hantz is just going to plant some trees and keep the grass mowed, , remember?
I’ll allow you a moment to collect your jaws from the floor.
It’s truly a sad and frightening thing when the majority of city council and the mayor finally find alignment around plans that displace, disenfranchise, disempower, and dismantle in the name of gentrification in its age old mask of “progress” and “improvement”. Those same five council members voted in favor of emergency management for the city as well.
The most capable of
leadership, Councilmembers Watson, Kenyatta, Jones, and Spivey, were able to see this sale for what it is, and voted accordingly. They have been ridiculed and admonished by the myopic who apparently cannot see the forest for the trees.
During this week of Kwanzaa, as
reflect on the year past and think about the year to come, let’s take the crafting of vision to heart. As
about our community, take note of the garden at the end of the block, the patch of land that you’ve been caring for next to your house, the home that has been in your family for generations, the grandmother who feeds the whole block from her front porch, the teams of community members who station themselves at schools to protect our children, the peace zones and beloved community work that is happening on a daily basis. Feel the stirring of long vision that is rooted deep in Detroit’s soil.
As humanitarian and activist Danny Glover said during his visit to Detroit to openly give support to the community opposed to the Hantz land grab,
are the architects of our rescue!
have to develop the vision for restoring our community and at the same time restoring our humanity. This is a critical moment in the history of the city, nation and planet.
There is nothing
about repeating the consumer and corporate cycles that keep part of the community silenced and disempowered.
There is nothing
about plans or projects in Detroit that follow the global equation of community abolishment in order to privatize, regionalize, and corporatize.
“This work is protracted, the work of remaking our selves and our community is not a sprint, it’s a long distance run,” Glover said.
are not invisible, our voices are not mute, and our lived experiences have value. Our history of resilience, innovation, and determination will be repeated as
co-create the community
want to live in and the community that
want to pass down to our children.
Lottie V Spady is part of the Justice Communications team at East Michigan Environmental Action Council and can be reached at