More Reports from Detroit & US Social Forum

Please read more reports from US Social Forum by CAGJ and others below!

1. Report on “Detroit Highlighted: Detroit Black Community Food Security Network / Earthworks Urban Farm”, by Heather Day (below)

2. 2nd report on the US Social Forum by Mark Engler, “Social Forum Moments to Combat Cynicism” (below)

3. Democracy Now interviewed legendary Detroit activist, Grace Lee Boggs – find the interview here.

4. Learn about Reclaim the Media and NW Media Action Grassroots Networkhere (NW MAG-Net), who gave a generous matching grant to CAGJ to enable more CAGJ members to travel to Detroit!  Many MAG-Net members participated in the Allied Media Conference before the US Social Forum.  Our friends at KBCS and the Prometheus Radio Project led a team of community radio producers to create an hour-long program of interviews and features from the Allied Media Conference. In the program, you’ll hear heartfelt stories from popular educators, community organizers, media makers and more, reflecting on the idea of media and the role it can play in our lives from communicating solidarity to creating justice. Check it out .  Also, Prometheus and Reclaim the Media collaborated on an op-ed, published yesterday, supporting the Local Community Radio Act. Read it here.

Heather Day’s Notes from Workshop, “Detroit Highlighted: Detroit Black Community Food Security Network / Earthworks Urban Farm

1st speaker: Lila Campbell, Detroit Black Food Security Network:
What does it mean to be accountable to leadership of communities of color?
You can say you are anti-racist, but your behavior won’t change unless you do alot of work. Observing in Social Forum that there is not a strong connection to understanding power analysis.   Can’t talk about capitalism without talking about racism. People’s Institute does outstanding job of connecting economics and racism. Doing this work moves you to a different level of quality. Are you doing for or are you doing with?  Are you perpetuating racism or being anti-racist organizing?

Asked group to identify following…
Examples of Active Racism
-Seeing racism happen but not speaking out
-Denying service
-See a guy mowing lawn and thinking they are not the owner, being suspicious
-Being a white person and not examining white privilege and thinking your successes are the result of your own work
-Being a white organization and moving into a community of color and taking resources

Active Anti-Racism
-Interrupting racist jokes
-interracial romance [controversial!]
-not getting admitted to university and not feeling that this is not okay
-changing language from ‘black’/negative and ‘white’/good (?)
-white organization in community, seeking out group of color and ask them to partner

Passive Ant-Racism
-can’t be passively anti-racist
-anti-racism requires action

Passive Racism
-Not carrying your principles into your family, school or job
-most things folks think of as passive anti-racism is actually passive racism

2nd speaker: Patrick Crouch, Earthworks Urban Farm staff
Earthworks is a predominantly white organization who did anti-racism work, starting to strengthen organizing.The importance of building relationships as starting point for this work. Too often we focus on our work of day-to-day organizing, without getting to know one another. To begin this work, important to tell our stories and know where we are coming from. Need to understand what motivations are for coming to this work. Need to develop commonalities instead of focussing so much on difference.  Black Food Security Network so important for me being in this space right now. Four years ago Detroit was dominated by well-intentioned white activists such as myself, who knew white elephant was in garden, but whites would rather build a compost pile next to the elephant. Powerful that Food Security Network was formed defined as “Black” – Whites were uncomfortable with this, but here in Detroit, this meant they were dedicated to improving food security to 90% of population!

We learned to talking with groups about what they are already doing, figure out what needs they are defining, We have a tendency to want to work with people of color communities, but really we need to work with white people. We need to start talking about this with our white volunteers, many of whom come in from suburban areas to work with poor people in Detroit, with missionary mentality.

Power analysis important: people really excited to talk about food system, but then tried to map power in our organization, and people got scared.  We created a power map, and left it up in our organizing space.  Folks were taken aback by identifying racism at Earthworks, many did not want to talk about it, but also inspired conversations. Caucuses allowed for work to continue. Look at hiring practices – we considered the exclusion of people without college degree, decided we wanted to value skills not usually valued, like for community organizing important that people are based in the community.  Started our Apprenticeship program: you can say ‘we really want to hire people but no one has those skills’, or we can train people!  What we decided to do through Apprenticeship program.  This approach is a lot of work, takes time, alot of people don’t want to do that.

We must actively work against mission mentality, of working with, not for.

3rd speaker: Dr. Monica White, a sociologist involved in Detroit Black Food Security Network
We want to change story of Detroit – not just abandoned buildings, police brutality problems….The story of Detroit needs to be about great people doing important work that can be model when people are heard from a genuine, sincere organic sense.  Can’t say it’s too hard, just need to do work.

Detroit Black Food Security Network getting more land. Have 2.5 acres, are going to have 7 acres in urban neighborhood.  Setting up as agro-tourist location.  Garden includes many elements. Why are bees important?  Children’s garden – kids love worms.  There are 60 school gardens attached to Detroit schools. Want kids to understand not just why it is important to grow your own food and know where it comes from, but from perspective of food justice and food sovereignty, that they have right to know where their food comes from.

Detroit Black Food Security Network  is completely volunteer organization.  Want more elders involved, working to include more people.  Need to document what is happening in Detroit. Collecting data:
-African American farmers: why do they do what they do?  Hard work of gardening and farming, why do they do it?
-Comparing why are blacks involved, why are whites involved?
-Gardening angels: seniors who have established 150 gardens and they are involved in patrolling neighborhoods: “We don’t give it from the lips we do it from the hips.”
-Looking at Policy: we have 400 acres of vacant land, want to make clean healthy food accessible. We want an urban agricultural policy: people who normally would not be engaged in politics inspiring people to engage.  We are not asking for politiians to please get us a grocery store. This is communty based, we are not too far removed from agrarian traditions, go back to what we know and find community-based solutions.
-Also need to document stories of people gardening and farming: stories of people who want to do somethig for communities, for example one man who has a garden where he is reading to children, hosting movie nights, will not sell his produce, no intention of selling.
-This is communtiy renovation, community development
-Detroit Food Policy Council – Council has been appointed, just started in September. Wrote a food policy that is online.  Got grant to get word out about policy…

-African-American participant from Detroit raised issue of vacant land being used for gardens being an additional push of poor people out of city – housing is important for survival, also need to have access to housing.

Response: We don’t need to knock down houses in order to grow food.  There are many issues we are grappling with such as ‘Right-sizing’ – there is a drop in population and there are strategies people are designing to move more people out of city. Land-grabbing called “right-sizing” from corporate point of view. They are putting together land-packages that would facilitate industrial-urban food, and they market it as ‘access’, and it is not necessarily organic.  The power anlaysis is key: what does it mean to have urban agriculture from standpoint of community vs. standpoint of corporations? Urban renewal is negro removal.  There is an industrial farmer trying to grab land to grow for-profit farms.  Asked the elder to participate – “We need your voice”.

There is a major connection between poverty and food security – need to create living wage jobs to make this a sustainable movement. How can movement create jobs, so that people can afford to stay in their homes, and not be pushed off their land?

-Another woman responded: Same issues in Boston – alot of houses were burned down – struggle is right to decide what is on the land – I am hoping for garden in my neighborhood bc I want lettuce.  We need to create legal structures for cooperative land, need land-trusts.  Need to work very hard to protect lands that are commons now. Important to think about getting away from individual ownership

Response: Yes, we Have to have strong connection to policy, need to know history, which brings power, and community voice in terms of decision making.  Important to teach soil-testing and water-quality testing. Started People’s Water Board in Detroit, a coalition that is dealing with water issues.

-What about Farmworkers?  Important to support Ag-Jobs which would legalize 75% of jobs!

-Land is not our land, it is Native American land. Are there attempts to collaborate, return land to Native peoples?
Response:  Indigenous people are typically invisible, can’t say that in Detroit we’ve done the outreach.

-Speaker from Detroit Agriculture Network: History of what is happening today comes out of a strong tradition when first Black Mayor initiated program called Farm Lot – you could apply to city for permit and garden on plot. Program died from neglect. In 90s farming and gardening took on new life – Gardening Angels came out of Farm Lot, strong tradition of black farming. What is new this decade is community gardening, bring together isolated gardeners and farmers.

Social Forum Moments to Combat Cynicism
Mark Engler – June 25, 2010 10:15 am

Early on at the U.S. Social Forum, I was struck by the disjuncture between the huge ambition of the assembly and the limitations of the conference’s agenda and slate of decentralized workshops. In their planning statement for the social forum, organizers declared an intention to respond to “a state of national and global emergency” by defining “a direction for what will be the great project of our generation.” Needless to say, that’s a big task for any convention.

Whenever the social forum speaks of itself as the future of the U.S. Left, vexing issues arise: Can any coherent political program emerge from an amorphous, multi-issue assembly? Can we formulate a vision of the Left without more serious participation from key progressive constituencies such as organized labor? Can the collection of radicals and community-based organizations that are present here become a political force with mainstream reach, or are they too self-marginalizing? The answers are not easy to come by, and non-starry-eyed attendees can easily grow wary in contemplating such imposing matters.

Where the social forum thrives, in contrast, is in smaller moments, free of grand pretense. Walking the halls and seeing a seemingly endless stream of organizers, urban gardeners, fil

Posted in Agra Watch Blog Posts, Food Justice Blog Posts, Trade Justice Blog Posts, Uncategorized.