LIVING FOR CHANGE
Media Coverage of the D
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Sept 29, 2009
In the September 22 issue of Gotryke, artist/journalist Tamara Warren lambastes the media coverage of Detroit.
“There’s a total gold-rush mentality about the D right now. Like the French filmmaker who came to shoot a documentary concerning the wildlife that have been returning to the city. Or the Dutch crew who decided to go explore the old project tower where Smokey Robinson grew up and promptly got jacked for their thousands of dollars’ worth of
“For decades global media sources have flocked to Detroit to parse out the roots of urban destitution and the beauty that emerges from the slums of despair. They come in search of the source for the music left in Motown’s shadow — techno, hip-hop, garage rock, or Northern Soul. The auto industry and the surrounding industrial decay in the inner city provide the backdrop. They rush around to meet the city’s luminaries, creating a buzz in the community. They tell folks they are here to do the city justice.”
But “while the representatives of these media outlets often consider themselves noble seekers of fact, these magazine articles, books and documentaries are generally not even available in Detroit, nor the U.S. They air on Dutch TV, the BBC or at an obscure film festival made in their native languages. Investigative journalism about racism, poverty, and history becomes another form of muckraking entertainment.
“They extract the souls of the city for their own credibility…What they make has nothing to with accountability or in depth responsible reporting.”
Tamara’s scathing critique is on target. But it’s not the whole story.
Over the last two decades small groups of visionary individuals who love Detroit and believe in its future have been revitalizing their communities. Recognizing that our devastation by de-industrialization provides the space and place to begin anew, we/they have been creating new 21st century ways to put the neighbor back into the ‘hood: community gardens, farmers markets, Peace Zones, rehabbing abandoned houses, new kinds of participatory education like the Catherine Ferguson Academy for teenage mothers — always involving young people, as in Detroit Summer and Hush House.
During this period we/they were able to use the Web to tell our own stories, instead of being dependent on the mainstream media, as we were in the 60s. So the mainstream media, local and national, has to catch up with us.
The most recent example is TIME Magazine’s buying and rehabbing a house with five bedrooms in Indian Village where visiting reporters for Fortune, Sports Illustrated. Money, Essence will stay.
Detroit is not the only city where grassroots activists have been telling their own stories of rebuilding, redefining and respiriting our communities.
On MilwaukeeRenaissance.com you can read how Will Allen’s small “ Growing Power” farm not only supplies fresh produce and fish for hundreds of local families, but also conducts workshops for thousands of visitors from all over the world. Not far from Growing Power is Walnut Way, a revitalized neighborhood in the shadow of the Harley Davidson plant,
This week a friend sent me the Los Angeles Neighborhood District Councils Newsletter describing how “activists, artists, community planners and neighborhood councils stepped up to the curb on September 24, put a quarter in the meter, and proceeded to transform parking spaces into temporary parks, engaging the public in a variety of discussions on public space and our community priorities for the use of our streets.”
This week I also learned about the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, We “dream of a world where everyone has civil rights and economic justice, where the environment is cared for, where cultures are honored and communities are safe; advocate for those wounded by domination and inequality — women, people of color, lesbians and gay men, the working class – create bridges between people by exchanging ideas and educating and empowering each other.”
Esperanza shares its visions of hope mainly by creating huge neighborhood art installations.