Tawana Petty aka Honeycomb
Over 50 years ago, ancestor James Boggs wrote “The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook.” In this book, he warned Americans of the insurmountable impact of automation, increased individualism as a result of that automation, a decreased desire of the oppressed to organize against their oppressors based on minuscule material gains, and a growing racial tension, rooted in the capitalism.
It is clear today he had foresight that we should have listened to. He was not under the illusion that jobs were going to be our saving grace. He was adamant about the fact we needed to create something new, but in order to do that, we needed to persistently resist the capitalistic system, while resisting the desire to have our silence bought out by the highest bidders.
“Most American workers have geared themselves to a standard of living that is based on a five-day week plus — either in the form of overtime or another job, part or full-time,” Boggs wrote in 1963. “And any time this standard of living is threatened, it is a personal crisis, which means that more and more decisions are being personalized and individualized rather than collectivized and socialized.”
In Detroit, we face a rapid increase in joblessness, emergency managers, corporate land takeovers, increased right-wing/counter-revolutionary governmental policies in Lansing, attacks on our water systems, our public parks, our educational systems and our food system.
In recent months, we have seen hundreds of renters evicted in brutal, inhumane fashion with little to no notice, in order to make room for entertainment downtown. We have seen an emphasis on gentrifying neighborhoods and the promotion of a superficial upswing in city value, while urban areas continue their decline in city services. We have been forced to endure over 20,000 water shut offs and rising, with no regard for the health and well-being of children and elderly. We have witnessed a school, which supported young people with disabilities, closed down, shipping them into various schools that cannot support their needs, with little concern for their welfare. And while our educational system has been reduced to standardized test preparation for the smart kids and suspensions for the “at-risk youth,” the city has heightened its militarization. With the formation of ICE, as well as former Mayor Bing’s initiative called Detroit One, which fosters a collaboration between the Detroit Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshal’s Service, Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Corrections, Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office, it is clear the City’s backward thinking solution to crime is what inspired the state-of-the-art juvenile detention center in the heart of a rapidly gentrifying downtown. Turns out oppressed people can live downtown after all.
Increasing law enforcement with no real plan to address the systemic issues in our communities, further adding to an already explosive situation, is yet another example of the negligence of city government. It is decisions like this one that makes it that much more urgent that we all come together as human beings in order to turn things around.
With all that has been said about the challenges we face, Detroiters and people across the country recognize we live in the land of opportunity. We live in a time where the empire is dying and those in government and finance lack the answers to provide us with solutions to move this city and this country forward. We live in a time where those who have the illusion of power attempt to continue their authoritarian rule with increased militarism at home and abroad. We live in a time where those in government and corporate America continue to evade the global environmental crisis, while flip flopping sides on where they stand, leaving the American people to suffer as a result of their indifference.
So, as we often say in Detroit, “we are making a way, out of no way.” We recognize now we must continue to resist, because resistance is constant, protracted like the struggle. Therefore, we cannot continue to suffer in our oppression, waiting on the system to bail us out. Resistance moves us beyond protest, because it involves the challenge to our movement and to those living in our cities as well as the suburbs to make a choice that makes it clear we are committed to the beloved community.
Resistance involves a moral struggle with our own people. It involves relationship-building and a commitment to healing ourselves from the cynicism and defeatism that allow us to dwell in hopelessness. Resistance involves telling our stories and regaining the dignity and pride in our stories, thereby redefining, reinventing and rebuilding our communities. It requires a long-term commitment to civil disobedience and the threat of public arrests, while standing firm on the fact we will no longer be silent while our schools are closed, while families in need are thrown off of food stamps, are evicted for the inability to pay inflated taxes, being foreclosed on by banks like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and while banks profit off the backs of pensioners. It means we will lay claim to our planet, rejecting environmental destruction on every level, including fracking, global wars and drone attacks. Resistance also creates an opportunity for us to develop new forms of participatory democracy and self-governing communities.
Grace Lee Boggs, 99-year-old widow of James Boggs and lifelong revolutionary/philosopher/activist is adamant we must always be cognizant of what time it is on the clock of the world.
In Detroit, we recognize that we live in movement times, although very different from the movement times of the 1930s and the 1960s. We realize the necessity to build upon the resistance and energy that emerged from the Battle of Seattle, the Occupy Movement, the Idle No More activism of native people across the Western Hemisphere and the Ferguson movement sparked by Black youth in response to the murder of Mike Brown. From the Motown slowdowns and blocking of freeway ramps, to the constant picketing and protests against Governor Snyder, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, to the standing up against the continued school and library closings, to the commitment to stop foreclosures orchestrated by Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, the resistance against the massive deportations and increased arrests and harassment of our young people, and the struggle against internalized violence and oppression that has us killing each other in our own communities, to the struggle against massive water shutoffs by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Detroiters have shown that we speak and act based upon our morals and principles, as well as a commitment to turn to each other, refusing to “beg” those in power to make our world better. We have demonstrated in Lansing, been arrested at city hall and while blocking Homrich trucks from turning off water. We have marched in front of the federal, state and city office buildings and invited the United Nations to witness the atrocities against us.
Many of us are creating new schools based upon a commitment to redefine, re-spirit and rebuild our communities. Others are creating Peace Zones for Life and engaging in a commitment to restorative justice. Community artists, poets, spoken word artists, muralists, DJs and MCs are sharing their visions of resistance throughout the city. Growing numbers of Detroiters are working to create food security and healthy food alternatives through urban gardening, while encouraging new city policies which will allow Detroiters to feed ourselves. Women and men are turning to each other and creating caring communities, while working feverishly to restore the village mentality We are exploring new forms of work, creating small businesses, developing maker spaces, utilizing 3D printers, as well as solar forms of energy in order to bring ourselves off the grid, while sharing a commitment to digital justice across our city.
We stand firm on the belief that an emergency manager is nothing less than a dictator, designated to give corporate restructure to the billionaires who have stolen from, are stealing from and are raping our city and region.
In Detroit, we are saying, “enough is enough!” We will not be silent about the Grand Bargain that leaves the least of us behind! We will not be silent as the millionaires and billionaires celebrate our demise! We will not be silent as the bankruptcy is lauded as a victory over poor people! This is our city, our state, and we are committed to creating a new world, for the people and by the people!
(Note: As an fyi, article was written prior to the nationwide rebellion.)
Tawana Petty a.k.a. Honeycomb is a mother/organizer/author/poet.
Tawana Petty aka Honeycomb