HELP SAVE THE CASS COMMONSAn Appeal to the Social Justice Advocacy Community in Detroit
From the Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council
In 2011, the Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) received as a gift the property of the First Unitarian-Universalist Church (First UU), located at the corner of Cass Avenue and Forest Street. This property consists of the august church building and sanctuary, as well as the adjoining elegant parish house, which has a spacious vestibule and parlor, a very large social hall, a kitchen, and several floors of multipurpose rooms. Constructed in 1916, the structure has been awarded an historic designation, and occupies a prime site in midtown Detroit, a central hub of corporate gentrification.
Protecting and Securing a Vital Base
Given this synergy of organizational activities over the years, the property has become a true “commons” for social justice advocacy and cultural development. However, the care and maintenance of an aging, 44,000 – square feet facility involves heavy financial responsibilities. Though EMEAC has succeeded in securing grants, a few major rental contracts, and intermittent income from rentals for events such as weddings, workshops and conferences, these strategies have not generated the volume and regular flow of funds required to cover operational costs.
An Immediate Goal of $60,000
As major corporations appropriate the heart of the City, dislocating and dispossessing working class neighborhoods, people of color and the poor, we social justice activists who are current EMEAC board members want to secure this valuable, strategically located community center. We are convinced that this base is indeed treasured by many community members. Therefore, we are inviting those organizations and individuals who have created projects and relationships here — relationships and mutual efforts which, in fact, constitute the commons, to join us in implementing a program that will secure this property while advancing our capacities to build movement unity. Our immediate goal is to raise $60,000. Then we will work to generate an income of $10,000 each month.
Silence of the Good
Every year, on March 2, I listen to the speech Dr. Martin Luther King gave at my college in 1967. This year marks the 50th since I first heard him there. A month after he was in Marietta, Ohio, he would speak at Riverside Church in New York, “Breaking the Silence” on Vietnam. There he would proclaim that America was the “greatest purveyor of violence” in the world and that we needed a “radical revolution in values against racism, materialism, and militarism.” A year later, he would be killed.
King’s subject was the future of integration and, while acknowledging progress in civil rights, he explained that “the murder of civil rights workers is still a popular pastime in the south.”
He chronicled, “In the state of Mississippi alone over the last eighteen months more than fifty-six Negro churches have been burned to the ground…Since 1951 over the southland more than eighty-six deaths have occurred of Negroes and whites who have been involved in civil rights.”
This violence was directly related to a “white backlash.” He says, “We have to discuss this problem very honestly. People tend to think of the so-called white backlash as a new phenomenon and I always say that it is a new name for a very old phenomenon because the fact is that there has never been a solid, monistic, determined commitment to the question of racial justice on the part of the vast majority of the white Americans.”
“America, King says, “Has constantly taken one step forward but at the same time it took a step backwards on the question of racial justice.”
Today, with the ascendancy of Donald Trump, the forces of white supremacy have again pulled us backward. King recognized such moments as times for action.
He says, “I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation, the forces committed to negative ends of our nation, have used time much more effectively than the forces of good will. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the violence of the bad people but for the silence of the good people. Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God; and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so it is necessary to help time and to realize that the time is always right to do right. Edmund Burke said some time ago, “When evil men combine good men must unite.” This is a great challenge facing America. When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. When evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice. This is the great challenge facing America.”
DetroitMindsDying.org The site is the home for Kate Levy’s documentary-in-progress on water shutoffs and water affordability in Detroit.
Moonlight: Masculinity, Sexism & Misogyny on Trial in the Pursuit to Dismantling Patriarchy
Moonlight is an incredible movie that dismantles masculinity without dismantling
the manhood of men and boyhood of boys. Through the social and gender orientation experience of a little boy, named Chiron, growing up in a tough and predatory environment in urban amerikkka, masculinity finds itself on trial. Chiron is portrayed as a shy and very reserve little boy. He immediately becomes a target of the other boys in the area because he has not adopted the socially prescribed rules of masculinity of being tough and hard from growing up in the “hood”. His un-sureness of himself at times leaves him lost, confused and victim of his peers and environment as he finds himself in a tug-a-war in search of his social and gender identity that is complicated as a result of the conflict that is brewing between him and his mother. Chiron’s father is missing in action, which makes you ponder what impact this has had on him. There was a time I would have immediately argued that having his father in his life would have prevented him from being confused about his gender identity/orientation. But as the movie educated the audience the presence of a man goes beyond gender identity/orientation in its truest sense. For instance, one day after school a group of boys chase Chiron home, and he finds himself running for dear life. He escapes the potential beat down by hiding in an abandoned house. The neighborhood drug dealer rescues him from this shit-uation and befriends Chiron. The drug dealer takes Chiron home to comfort him as he is shaken up by the events of the day. The relationship they develop becomes the most powerful part of the movie. It is through Chiron that the drug dealer finds his own humanity that transcends his masculinity.
As a result of the relationship Chiron and the drug dealer develop; the drug dealer begins to undergo a social transformation. One-day Chiron experiences being humiliated by his mother, who is losing her battle with her drug addiction, when she calls Chiron a faggot! He is hurt and confused by his mother’s actions and words. He immediately runs to the drug dealer’s house for comfort. During dinner Chiron drops a bombshell at the dinner table and asks, “What is a faggot?” As the drug dealer and his girl friend absorb what he just asked Chiron follows up with another question. “Am I a faggot?” The drug dealer looks at his girlfriend before he responds, and chooses his words carefully. “No you are not a faggot,” he says in a comforting voice, and he also goes on to say something to the effect of “a faggot is a degrading term used to describe some people.”
At that moment during that discussion Chiron begins to question his gender identity, and at that moment for the drug dealer what was at stake wasn’t Chiron’s gender identity buthis humanity. In all actuality the drug dealer had become the father Chiron didn’t have, and the defining moment of the conversation was how the drug dealer had dismantled a twisted version of manhood wrapped up in being overly masculine by basically telling Chiron that his gender identity is not a concern right now because he is just a kid and whatever it becomes down the road it will be. The social norm of the “hood mentality” that governs the drug dealer’s social identity normally would dictate to him that the relationship he builds with Chiron is rooted in their masculinity. As most men growing up in the “hood” as boys, we grow up fast and hard. Searching for our manhood on street corners occupied by men, who are haunted by broken dreams and hearts fueled by pain and hurt. This pain and hurt is hidden behind our masculinity, where it dictates of us to be hard and never to appear soft because to appear soft is to be weak and weakness is associated with the feminine. This social indoctrination that most boys undergo, and that we carry with us into our manhood, ultimately socially handicaps us because of our need to overcompensate for being masculine.
Sexism & Misogyny
Chiron’s mother in a single parent home raises him by societies definition. But society fails to see it as a social crime for a mother to be raising her son by herself. Therefore the domino effect from this social crime is that Chiron’s mother’s worth as a woman becomes in question in association with her social status. She, like many women, becomes socially stigmatized as a result of being a single parent. This is the ramification of sexism and misogyny. These social norms of sexism and misogyny by oppressing, exploiting and degrading women are the children of patriarchy. They take on an invisible and visible form in the lives of women in our society. The invisible form is patriarchy itself, which is at the core of this society and interacts with women in every way fashionable. The visible form is sexism and misogyny in the physical form of men who are the agents of patriarchy, which plays itself out by how men interact with women.
For many women being left as a single parent they become stigmatized for not having a man around to help them raise their children as if it is their fault the father left. Chiron’s mother equally feels this stigmatization because she is socially degraded; as if it is solely her fault her son’s father is missing in action. Societies sexist and misogynist expectations magnify her struggles. As a result the ramifications leads to depression and being dehumanized. Depression takes root as the pressure of being both parents begins to mount on her shoulders. She sacrifices her dreams and goals for the sake of fighting to secure a future for Chiron with little resources. Because of poor employment and poverty, she is forced to seek assistances from the state, which is another degrading and dehumanizing process for women. Her social life is either non-existent or she is just deemed as a good fuck by men, but not a woman that is worthy of being committed to building a long standing relationship with that can end up in a life long commitment.
Under these social conditions drugs or alcohol easily becomes a coping mechanism for many women, and sometimes are introduced by the men they find themselves being entertained by. Sexism and misogyny is a social disease that all men suffer from in some form or fashion, and ultimately perpetuate its ramifications differently that all men take with them with their interactions with women. But what remains the same is the oppression and exploitation that women experience from it. In Chiron’s mother’s life you can see vividly how sexism and misogyny socially abused her and left her to fend for herself the best way she can by adopting a survival of the fittest mentality. The works of sexism and misogyny is the evidence necessary to put patriarchy on trial as it has dismantled the humanity of women for years and left children suffering as a result.
Most men think in dismantling patriarchy they will dismantle their manhood, and as a result it prevents us from truly overstanding the oppressive ramifications of patriarchy towards women, LGBTQ people and even against ourselves. As a result of not having a clear overstanding of patriarchy, we as men become agents of its destruction.
Feminism shouldn’t be a threat to the welfare of men. LGBTQ identities shouldn’t be viewed as a threat the welfare of men. As a man to be pro-feminism, is basically to be pro-women. As a man to be pro-LBGTQ, is basically to be pro-human. Our sexuality shouldn’t define our humanity, but our humanity should define our sexuality. Our values and principles is the anchor of our humanity, and our values and principles shouldn’t be dictating of us oppressing each other but ultimately working for the liberation of us all.
Patriarchy in association with capitalism and white supremacy is a threat to us all. As a Black man in a capitalist society, I find myself negotiating my manhood in some form or fashion. As result of white supremacy and patriarchy this is the same way women and LGBTQ people may find themselves. The key differences not only are women and LGBTQ people become forced to negotiate their humanity, but also forced to surrender their humanity to appease patriarchy. For liberation to be manifested not only must white supremacy and capitalism be destroyed, but also patriarchy the primary architect.
By no means do I consider myself an expert on this subject, but because of my experience of being an agent of patriarchy through acting out sexist and misogynistic behavior towards women helps me overstand the need for the dismantling of patriarchy. The first blow of defeating patriarchy is by deconstructing our sexist and misogynistic thinking. Hyper masculinity, sexism and misogynistic behaviors are the creations of patriarchy. This is the root of the oppression of women, children and LGBTQ people. By putting patriarchy on trial, we put ourselves on trail to become agents of its destruction. The verdict becomes to dismantle patriarchy is to dismantle ourselves.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Revolution! The word means different things to different people. It has been made seductive by the work of artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda, in his groundbreaking musical, Hamilton. Perhaps a more palatable “call for revolution” is Bernie Sanders’ new organization, Our Revolution, which asks Americans to “reclaim democracy for the working people of our country by harnessing the transformative energy of the ‘political revolution.’”
Invocations of revolution have long held a special place in the radical imagination of Black freedom struggles all over the world. KEEP READING