Reimagine Detroit

May 9, 2011

Charity Hicks, The People’s Water Board Coalition
• Sun, May 08, 2011
By Marcus WrightSpecial to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Several hundred people gathered at Sacred Heart Church April 28 to share information and develop strategies on how to make Detroit a better place to live.

They were not politicians nor were they award-winning urban planners. They were ordinary people concerned about the city of Detroit and its residents.

The event was facilitated by the People’s Movement Assembly (PMA) and rganized during the U.S. Social Forums in June of last year. PMA’s are gatherings of people to discuss and analyze conditions, come up with strategies, commitments and visions for how to better their communities.

The overwhelming consensus at the meeting was Detroiters need to develop and execute their own plan or redesign and improve Detroit.

Charity Hicks of The People’s Water Board Coalition Detroit, explained how certain entities are attempting to take over Detroit. She told the audience a group of deep-pocket foundations got together and created a pot of money to entice Mayor Dave Bing to create the kind of Detroit they wanted.

“Bing called it ‘right sizing’ and said there would be winners and losers,” Hicks said. “The people rebelled. What you mean you gon’ shut off services to some parts of the city? We pay taxes.”

Hicks says Bing and his staff rethought their presentation.

“They hired an award-winning urban planner named Toni Griffith and a team of consultants from all over the world to tell Detroit how to become lean, mean, green and thriving but they never asked a block club president, never asked anybody who goes to a BP gas station to shop for groceries to feed their family; never asked a neighborhood association; didn’t go to any churches,” Hicks said. “They just said ‘We’re going to right size Detroit. We’re going to strategically reframe Detroit. We’re going to make Detroit work.’”

Hicks says Bing has proclaimed Detroit can’t remain as it is and he’s not telling Detroiters anything they don’t already know.

“The question is, ‘Have you asked the people what they want? Where they want to go and how they want to get there?’” Hicks said. “Our mission is to bring the people’s voice into this process that doesn’t have any transparency, democracy or accountability because those who are paying the cost are entities the people never voted to redesign and reframe the city.”

According to Hicks, Bing will present a plan sometime in June.

She says members of the Peoples Water Board Coalition are also working on a plan. “The mayor’s plan is separate from our plan. But we reserve the right to critique the mayor’s plan. It also means we have to engage our family and friends around consensus building for our plan,” Hicks said. “As people who live on those blocks and in those houses, we have a responsibility to each other.”

Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, spoke to the need to develop a common strategy. A common strategy requires a common analysis, Taylor said.

“If some of us think Santa Claus is the cause of our problem then they will go off and organize to fight Santa Claus. If some think it’s Russia that is the cause of our problem, then they will organize to fight the Russians,” Taylor said. “So, we have to see if we can arrive at a common analysis.”

Taylor explained that money was taken from working people and was supposed to be loaned back. But the money wasn’t loaned back. “Are you clear they took your money and won’t loan it back to you. Nine hundred billion dollars is a little less than a trillion. Seems like a lot of money to me,” Taylor said. “It is very important everyone in this room understand this is not a cyclical crisis.”

Taylor explained things are not going to get better. She says Detroiters are experiencing a structural realignment of capital.

Referring to local history, she says 40 years ago names like Dodge Main, Huber Road, Lynch Road, Mack Stamping, Warren Stamping, Chevrolet Gear and Axle and Ford Rouge were familiar to everyone. “Some of you here worked in those places. Some of you here have parents who worked in those places. But those places are gone,” Taylor said. “But the number of cars they make has not decreased. However, the number of workers needed to produce those cars has decreased.”

Fifty percent of all the jobs that left this country came out of this state, according to Taylor.

Taylor rhetorically asked, “What happened? Where did Snyder come from? Talking about teachers make too much money? Production workers make too much money?”

She said American Axle workers used to make $35 an hour. Now they start at $8 an hour and the highest they can go is $14 an hour.

“Why is it when working people need money none is there but we can find money for a third war. Three wars going on at the same time. Things have changed and we don’t have a book to open to see what we do now,” Taylor said. “That’s why PMAs are important. We can’t look to Bing for a plan. Dave Bing is a point guard. We can’t get the plan from a point guard, especially a point guard playing for the other side. The solution lies within the affected community. We are the affected community. Our plan has to be developed by us.”

According to Taylor, Detroiters can’t look to elected officials for help. All of them got Blue Cross Blue Shield. They can pay for gas at the gas station. The soldiers of this movement are in this room. They understand what has changed.

“The corporations have decided to take what they want and rule over us. They have decided that with enough money they can pay their politicians to create laws that make it so,” Taylor said. “What we have to do and will do is flip the script. Tell folks we will not surrender our humanity; we will not surrender our future; we will not surrender our children, we will not surrender mother earth and we will not surrender our vision. Even as they close libraries and schools we will not surrender. We will build what we need.”

After the speakers, participants formed focus groups to hammer out resolutions regarding education, food security, the environment, neighborhood stability, health and healing justice, media justice and disinvestment from Detroit Works.

Resolutions included formulating strategic planning groups for community empowerment to be held May 6, at 1264 Meldrum, 6 p.m.; May 3 4-7 p.m. meeting at Frederick Douglas school in support of Catherine Ferguson Academy; launch an education campaign around healthy food; boycott fast food and establish a moratorium on new fast food restaurants; attend the May 18-19 food summit at Eastern Market; organize an annual gathering to better communicate environmental concerns in our community; canvass community to determine needs and create citizen governance; create a database of health and healing messages with information and education; create a reality where communication is a human right; build a free, hot-mesh wireless; develop media education for youth and others, teaching to consume critically, support strategically and create with vision; identify someone who can do an audit; use alternative media strategies to uplift existing community work.

Call 313.964.0618 or 248.258.5188 or visit peoplepowerdetroit/home for more information.