TACKLING CONTROVERSY IN HARMONY
May 21, 2013
By: Noelle Frye (YEA)
Sometimes it’s hard to discuss a controversial topic without getting too risky from controversy, but the Young Educators Alliance (YEA) of East Michigan Environmental Action Council is up for such a challenge. On Saturday, February 16th 2013, YEA held the second annual Feed 1 Teach 1 event at the Cass Corridor Commons. The Feed 1 Teach 1 is a big event where EMEAC’s Young Educators Alliance picks an issue that Detroit is facing and collectively come up with solutions along with community members. Last year’s Feed 1 Teach 1 theme dealt with Michigan’s government cash assistance cut offs. This year, YEA wanted to challenge themselves and community members to engage in a dialog about the controversial topic, “Gentrification.”
Gentrification, known historically by some as “Urban Renewal”, is the displacement of native lower and working class communities that takes place when new development in an area results in an increase in daily living expenses, which in turn makes the area unaffordable for the original residents and business owners. Detroit has been undergoing some major “Urban Renewal” changes, especially in Midtown, which was once known as the Cass Corridor.
“While we are not against new development within the city we are strictly against displacement,” explained the YEA team to an audience of community members. This is totally understandable; why should anyone be forced out of the community in which they have lived and worked for most of their life? YEA’s Feed 1 Teach 1 goal was to explore solutions that reverse gentrification and advocate for equality. YEA spent about two months planning and promoting the Feed 1 Teach 1 collectively. YEA team members conducted a series of interviews in various neighborhoods with everyday people who shared how they felt about their communities and the changes taking place. These oral histories were crafted into a documentary piece for the Feed 1 Teach 1 event. Feed 1 Teach 1 participants also shared a healthy dinner prepared with the help of People’s Kitchen Detroit, while enjoying conscious music and great poetry performances.
After dinner, YEA team members facilitated two awesome workshops that focused on land and education. Questions were considered such as, “What are we up against?” “What are our resources?” and “What can we build?” as it relates to making the city a better place and fighting to resolve the issue of displacement. Participants agreed that Detroit citizens are up against land grabs, purposeful disinformation, capitalism and more, but despite all the negativity, Detroit has some major resources. Detroit’s powerful resources include youth activism, various environmental organizations, major media outlets and partnerships with education leaders; all resources, which help build great community relationships of people all working together for the betterment of the city. Participants wanted to build more co-ops, enact rent control laws (ownership), have more youth teaching adults and so many other great ideas. After these workshops, everyone separated into groups and physically made their own ideal cities based off of what they had agreed on in the workshops; it was surprising how crafty people were. The atmosphere was filled with knowledgeable individuals who respected each other opinions; everybody was passionate about making a positive change in the city.
Regarding the Feed 1 Teach 1 event itself, attendees responded, “It was nice. It gave people more concrete actions we can take to organize ourselves to make change!” and “It was awesome. It was a perfect reflection of what real community learning should look like” YEA’s will take next steps by sharing information they have learned about Gentrification with others and put the ideas they learned at the feed 1 Teach 1 into action.