Re-Imagining Work By Gloria Lowe


Re-Imagining Work

By Gloria Lowe

Gloria Lowe is a lifelong   Detroit community activist  .

 Just weeks ago we celebrated the success of the East Side Peoples’ Festival.  Its purpose was to restore the love and hope for recreating the “Beloved Community” which Dr. King envisioned and Detroit’s community activists are working to create

 One important aspect of establishing the Beloved Community is Re-imaginiing   Work so that we do not confuse having a Job with Working.

 As Jimmy Boggs put it years ago.  “A Job ain’t  the answer.”  

 Today, in Detroit and other post-industrial cities , we are trying to repair the damage done to our humanity by the Jobs that capitalism  paid us to do and that we were willing to do for pay, even though they were robbing us of our skills and our creativity or we were  producing guns or other  means of destruction .

 However, now that so few Jobs are available, we have a priceless opportunity to think about the fundamental difference between Jobs and Work and to ask  ourselves whether Jobs are what we really need .

  To make clear the difference, let me tell you the story of Travis Rushon, a young man  I met recently.

Travis has been a stay- at- home father. His significant other attends school and works. They have only one car between them. I n his extra time he work s on cars, a skill he learned from his uncle, a licensed mechanic. This same uncle taught him another skill that he truly loves, working with his hands as a craftsman in carpentry and drywalling.

 As founder of We Want Green, Too!  I have a training contract to retrofit  a house on the west Side of Detroit.  The initial team didn’t work out and I needed an extra person.  I called Carmen Rembert, my partner from The Eastside Peoples’ Festival, to ask if she knew of someone. She recommended Travis, her godson.

 When the young men came to work, he immediately took charge o f himself and the work site. We discussed all the expectations of the program, work ethics, quality of work, attitude, etc.  He jumped right in, arrives every morning on time, makes sure the team has their instructions and materials, guides them through  difficult  areas,

 I n home construction there are always challenges and this is where Travis reallybegan to shine.

We had an issue with damage to a supporting wall that would involve carpentry skills and creativity. He telephoned his uncle, a master carpenter,  explained the situation and soon began to diagram the solution on the wall.  I haven’t seen anyone do this in years. He and his uncle  continued  to talk  to ensure that Travis understood what  needed to be done, Travis got busy and the support wall was reconstructed.  The look of satisfaction on his face spoke more than a thousand words. I was speechless .

I had not only found the leader I was looking for but had been given much food for thought. Travis is a 25 years old, African-American male who became a father at 15, got in trouble with the law at 19 but has turned his life around by seizing the opportunity to express his humanity through craft.

 How does that translate into moving forward to the Beloved Community?  Every evening Travis returns home to his young boys, He is their Dad, the man they see is happy at the end of the day because of the Work he has done, the fruits  of which he can  share with his family. This is the message he gives his sons. This is the picture of manhood they see, and will recreate in their lives.

 This is the re-structuring of the Black family from the bottom up that will result  from our Re-imagining Work in the Beloved Community.

 Our Re-imagining Work gathering will be October 28-30, 2011 at Focus Hope in Detroit.  Save the Date.