DFY Reimagines Leadership at Detroit Future in December

January 25, 2012

Examples of Emergence
DETROIT -- Organizations and community members from across Detroit came together on Saturday December 10th for a day of discussion and community building.  Featuring two events put on by Detroit Future Youth (DFY), the day focused on examining what kind of leadership is necessary to change and rebuild Detroit. DFY is facilitating a network creation process that aims to strengthen and deepen youth social justice organizing in Detroit by partnering with and supporting youth programs that focus on justice based education and multimedia creation.

The day began at The Cass Corridor Commons with the Reimagining Organizing, Movements, Leadership event. Centering the voices of community members, the event asked participants to imagine what cooperative, shared leadership, vision based (not just focusing on a specific “enemy” to stand against), small scale type of organizing might look like. Organizers took their inspiration from the scientific theory of “emergence,” where the patterns and systems that arise out of groups of individuals working together with no one directing and no one able to predict what pattern or system will emerge from the groups working together.  Birds flocking together or schools of fish swimming together are examples of emergence in nature.

Contrary to the standard opinion that without a central leader making decisions for everybody else, chaos would ensue, the theory of emergence points out that complex and significant work is accomplished repeatedly throughout the natural world without having a central leader. But it’s not that there is no leader--it’s that every player in the “emergence” acts as a leader. Or, as co-organizer Adrienne Maree Brown succinctly stated, “We need a leaderful movement instead of a leaderless movement.”

The second event of the day shifted over to the Allied Media Project’s office at the Furniture Factory. Focusing on youth leadership, participants shared a meal together, then broke into groups to work through various questions like, “What makes a great leader?” and “When have you been a leader?” Youth in the room were overflowing with answers, pointing out that, “Great leaders believe in the people they’re working with,” “They step in and help others work out their mistakes,” and “They are trustworthy and trusting of others.” Youth also noted that great leaders don’t always try to lead; that they also give up control and let others lead as well.

The day finished with music and poetry performances from community members. Invincible performed songs off her new project, “Complex Movements”. Youth string players from Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Rosa Parks program helped her to perform her song “Apple Orchards”, and Rosa Parks youth dancers demonstrated their moves for the song “Detroit Summer”.

Other performers included: King Cold, Jade, DJ El Nina, Tanisha, DJ Sicari, and Bryce from 5E/Heru. Phresh Pharoah, Tederial Hall (youth co-host), Domonique Baul and Dontai Mitchell represented from Vanguard. Patrick Geans and Kadiri Sennifer represented from EMEAC, and Isaac Miller from Detroit Future Schools also performed.

The intergenerational performances helped to illustrate what entire communities can do when they move together.