The People’s Movement: Community Response to Detroit Works Project

April 20, 2011

• Sun, Apr 17, 2011
By Patrick GeansSpecial to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — A grassroots-based Detroit People’s Movement Assembly (PMA), which aims to solicit community input around the Detroit Works Project and other initiatives aimed at shaping visions of the city’s future, will be held April 28 from 4-8 p.m. at Sacred Heart Church on the city’s east side.

A coalition of local activists affiliated with some of Detroit’s leading community groups and individual citizens concerned with the lack of democratic processes being employed to determine the city’s future are the convenors.

“The goals of the PMA are to bring people together to discuss social problems, come up with creative solutions and make commitments for working together,” said William Copeland, Stand Up Speak Out Program Coordinator with the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC).

“The Detroit PMA is a space to discuss rightsizing and other challenges Detroiters face on democratic and community governance and to come up with grassroots visions and solutions.  We are using the PMA process to bridge differences of individual organizations and to stay connected with national and international allies.”

The PMA’s philosophy is guided by the shared principles of environmental justice, the United Nation’s Earth Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Organizers seek to mobilize those segments of the Detroit community that feel left out of initiatives like the Detroit Works Project.

Organizers also hope to galvanize community concern surrounding other controversial government initiatives, like the new emergency manager law and the potential privatization of the Detroit Water and Sewerage System.

The PMA was formed in November following the 2010 U.S. Social Forum held last June in Detroit.

“Detroit Works tries to give the illusion that they are working with the people but what they are really doing is dictating to people and giving them questions that are already designed for their own particular outcomes,” said Vincent Martin, a Detroit resident. “Our solution is to stay in a collaborative effort, where community-minded people can come together to find solutions by sharing thoughts.

“Back in November, we tried to come up with the People’s Works Plan, but after several attempts of trying to approach the city and trying to engage them to get the community involved, it seemed like what we got was resistance from the city. We were actually trying to give constructive criticism and letting them know that they need to engage the community,” Martin said.

As a result, the PMA has coalesced into an ongoing coalition of community members and organizations dedicated to bringing the Detroit community together to take action around the most significant challenges facing the city.

Organizers also stressed the focus of the PMA goes beyond any specific legislation or pending political agenda. Instead, they ultimately see the PMA as a means of jumpstarting a grassroots political movement in the city at a time when it is most needed.

“Detroit is a wonderful city,” said local activist Charity Hicks of the People’s Water Board. “It’s 140 square miles and although it has an industrial past, it’s future can be green, sustainable, healthy and more vibrant. It can be more economically diverse and localized. We have an opportunity in Detroit to build with the people of Detroit. It can be a community that’s safe, healthy and educated, where vibrancy is shared by everybody.”

The PMA is a tool used to convene community and to build consensus toward actions and programs, Hicks says.

“We have also a need to promote community citizen engagement through policy. That all starts with our vision and what do we want for ourselves. What do we want for our families? What do we want for our neighborhoods? On all those points of connection, we can begin to develop strategy and practice actions that get us in that direction,” she said.

Hicks added that the PMA is not about people looking to government for solutions but people looking to themselves.

“Barack isn’t going to save us. Governor Snyder isn’t going to save us,” she said. “The mayor isn’t going to save us. The PMA is about us saving ourselves. We’ve got to come up with our own solutions.”

Sacred Heart Church is located at 1000 Eliot Street, Detroit, 48207.
For more information on the upcoming PMA call 248.258.5188 or 313.965.0055.