Learning Journey in Detroit
By Rich Feldman, Boggs Center
November 10- 17 2012
From October 25 – 29 I had the honor and pleasure of conducting “A Learning Journey” with visitors from around the country and the world. The journey was initiated and joined by Meg Wheatley, author of the best selling Leadership and Modern Science (1999) and recently of So Far From Home, a book dedicated to “warriors for the human spirit in today’s life-destroying world. “
Our journey included meetings with (among others) Church of the Messiah pastor Barry Randolph; New Work & Culture inventor Frithjof Bergmann, Boggs Educational Collective’s Julia Putman, Catherine Ferguson Academy’s Asenath Andrews, Allied Media Conference’s Jenny Lee, Peace Zones’ Ron Scott, Feedom Freedom Growers’ Wayne and Myrtle Curtis. We spent time at the 5 E Gallery and visited Youth Nation and the TAP project in Southwest Detroit.
On our final morning, we planted a tree in front of the Boggs Center and read the poem: “We are the Children of Martin and Malcolm /Our right, our duty to shake the world with a new dream.” Mama Sandra Simmons from Hush House shared some words and prayers as we ended this historic learning journey
Since then I have received many emails, poems, videos, slides shows and expressions from the visitors who now see Detroit differently and are in the process of re-examining their ideas about Change and Revolution.
For example, two New Yorkers emailed, “We would like to continue conversations and would value a shared electronic discussion rather than individual emails that we have to manage. What does it mean to re-imagine work, education, community safety, democracy and revolution?”
From another visitor: “I wanted to meet Mrs. Boggs and tell her how much her work and Mr.Boggs’ work has meant to me since I began reading their writings in the 1980s. “
And another: “The Journey was an amazing experience and inspirational!! I was very excited to see the solidarity culture and economy being built by ordinary people. To see this regenerated my own sense of commitment and hope. One thing I struggled with though, given the multiracial nature of the participants, was wondering the extent to which people (participants) see the beauty of black people, which motivated me to ask the question I posed to Mrs. Boggs: “How is the humanism of sustainable activism different than color-blind humanism?” I asked this question because some time I thought that some of the participants reduced humanism to abstract individuals. What makes us human is that we are historical, cultural and political beings. Part of anti-black racism was to deny this–that European and European Americans are the only ones that are historical, cultural and political beings. Sometime I felt (and having personal conversations with participants who sometime felt uncomfortable) that some participants approached black people as a problem and not a people with problems. The former (black people as a problem) assumes that others need to “fix” black people.
“I was very impressed with the urban agriculture projects and the efforts to create a local food system–one question I asked during one of the sessions: “Are there efforts to foster different ‘food cultures?” My thinking is that food is important to the development of healthy human social relations (within and between different groups of people)–in other words, the eating of food is essential for creating solidarity cultures, for creating and maintaining human relationships of solidarity. So it is both in the producing and consuming of food that relationships are made and continued. “
A young Turkish filmmaker and poet, Filiz, wrote a poem on the train. It begins
My heart is broken-open
because there’s nowhere to hide.
The city surrounds me,
I look in the face of brutality
and broken wings of human spirit.
I have no questions left,
why and how fled my vocabulary.
I hear children singing:
justice, they say,
“we want justice, it is time.”
I listen, I look
at windows and doors
that once were there.
In this house,
Aiyana Mo’nay Stanley-Jones
was shot in her sleep.
She was eight.”
“no, she was s e v e n“
when the police shattered
She was seven,
sleeping next to her grandmother.”
I surrender my eyes, my ears
I want to cry –
I want to cry a million tears…
“My children are singing
we are harvesting peace
from our pain”
I look, I listen.
My heart cracks wide open.”