THINKING FOR OURSELVES
Misinformed and Misinforming Media
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, Sep 19, 2010
A few days after Jesse Jackson called urban agriculture “cute but foolish,” Will Allen convened Growing Power’s National-International Urban & Small Farm Conference in Milwaukee. Billed as an opportunity to become part of the “good food revolution,” the conference taught participants how to “plan, develop and grow small farms in urban and rural areas” and stressed that “you can grow food year-round, no matter what the climate.”
Growing Power believes that by creating new food systems we will not only foster better health but more closely connected communities.
Several Detroiters attended the conference, including people from the Black Food Security Network, D-Town, Earthworks, Greening of Detroit, Catherine Ferguson Academy and Feedem Freedom Growers. Grace Boggs gave the Saturday keynote by SKYPE from Detroit.
Jesse Jackson should stop giving advice when he is so uninformed. He needs to make the short hop from Chicago to Milwaukee and spend some time with Will Allen. The son of a sharecropper, Allen is widely considered one of the most visionary thinkers in the world today. This May Time Magazine included him in a list of the World’s 100 most influential People. In 2008 he was named a John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation Fellow, receiving one of their “genius” awards.
Our mainstream media editors also need to visit Mr. Allen. Of all of the things Jesse Jackson has to say, why did they choose to highlight his uninformed comments about urban farming? Why was the headline of the article one that diminished urban farming and not something like “Jackson encourages urban homesteads, backs plan to give small lots to residents?” Or how about “Jackson warns of possible gentrification?”
Where were the headlines the next day when Jackson said, “People who live in Detroit get the problem in Detroit. You must avoid, for example, any scheme of gentrification, where the city become smaller and the people get sent out beyond the city boundaries. Detroit belongs to the people of Detroit, and I think that legacy should be honored.”
And where was the mainstream media coverage of the conference in Milwaukee or Will Allen’s visits to Detroit?
Instead we find a recent article by Detroit News columnist Laura Berman with the headline “Detroit Farming is Slow to Grow.” Berman simply has her facts wrong. Casting urban agriculture under a cloud of “fantasy,” she notes that a professor and two students see it “as a pathway to economic development and health.” Berman then says that there are an estimated “113 to 260 community gardens here” whereas most estimates now count over 1000 gardens. Maybe this is why Berman thinks the movement is “slow to grow.”
Rather than being slow to grow, the Detroit agricultural movement is one of the most vibrant and hopeful movements in the country. But you wouldn’t know this from the media.
While the mainstream media chronicles gardens here and there, they seem incapable of recognizing that gardens are part and parcel of the new story of Detroit. With little in the way of resources, other than imagination and heart, Detroiters have been making a way out of no way, turning open land into productive, beautiful community spaces, envisioning art, music and theater, remaking city life.
Rather than tell this story, the mainstream media takes every opportunity to undermine the very idea that urban agriculture is a vital part of our future. It consistently downplays any initiatives that foster the decentralized independence of people.
Instead, it promotes the Mayor, foundations and business interests seeking to make money in traditional dead-end development schemes.
As we engage in the process of discussing and shaping the future of our city, the mainstream media are the last ones we should look to for information or direction. They are now sources of misinformation.