Archive for the 'breakin bread' Category

Detroit Summer Collective celebrates two years of Breakin’ Bread

By Jenny Lee
Originally published in The Michigan Citizen

Kase n Point @ Nov. Potluck

More Pictures

The walls inside the Cass Corridor’s Neighborhood Development Center are undergoing transformation. On the east wall a new mural commemorates the two year anniversary of the Breakin’ Bread Community Potluck Series. In a landscape of deep purples and blues kids are walking out of schools, towards urban gardens, and into block parties where turntablists and breakdancers have taken over the streets.

The Breakin’ Bread gatherings bring people together every month to share whatever they have to offer. On the food table: Mom’s chicken, homegrown salads and Faygo 2-liters.

On the mic someone tells a story of police brutality, a young mother reads a poem about her hopes for her new baby, someone answers the question “What would it take to end youth-on-youth violence?” which leads to more questions. There’s always someone hauling turntables, crates of records and a cider press. At the end of the night a breaking cipher and upsidedown buckets, turned into drums by Corridor percussion legend, Larry Hull, accompanies clean-up.

On Nov. 8, Detroit Summer celebrated this powerful model of decentralized community organizing with the theme “Rep Your Hood: Graffiti and Community in Detroit.” The new mural in the community center was put up by renowned local artist, Sintex, as a way of telling the story of the past two years of potlucks.

As always, the event featured youth DJs Kase N Point and Dr. Seuss, and the legendary breaking crew, Hardcore Detroit. It was hosted by two of the youngest members of the Detroit Summer Collective: Starlet Lee and Josh Tuck.

After food and an open mic, Lottie Spady and Alia Harvey-Quinn of the Urban Artists Collective led a discussion around the question, “What does it mean to rep your hood? “They told the story of how gangs were originally created as a form of protection for a community but how, with the advent of drug economies, especially the crack economy in Detroit, they came to be a destructive force.

Quinn and Spady asked, “How can we rep our hoods in ways other than fighting for them? Do our hoods rep us?”

The people in the room, mostly youth, responded with ideas like mowing the lawns of senior citizens on the block, by hanging out with the younger kids and helping the younger ones clean up the trash or planting a garden.

“If your community was a potluck, what would you bring to it?” asked event organizers who broke everyone into groups. With markers, magazine scraps and found objects, each group built the collage of their ideal communities, while DJs Kase n Point and Doctor Seuss fed the creative energy in the room.

Afterward attendees explored each other’s collage neighborhoods. At the center of one there was a bird’s nest filled with things like Black history, dignity and a picture of Malcolm X. In another, Tupac Shakur stands at a podium in a suit imploring his neighbors to grow their own vegetables. Biggie’s head pops out from behind a fence, declaring, “I grow my own vegetables!”

These collages are only the beginning. A larger graffiti mural is yet to come. The mural is a collaboration between Sintex, youth from the Cass Corridor neighborhood and youth from Expressionz, a youth organization from Southwest Detroit.

The November potluck represents the best of what the Detroit Summer potlucks have been—a point of contact for hundreds of different people who otherwise might never have met, of all ages, doing all kinds of amazing work in every corner of the city and beyond.

The potlucks produce tangible things like murals, collages, new connections and and plates of leftovers. But we also walk away with subtler things, like confidence, affirmation and the belief that our communities are powerful.

Detroit Summer is a multi-racial, intergenerational collective in Detroit, working to transform communities. Detroit Summer organizes potlucks, speak-outs and parties throughout the year. For more information contact 313-333-6779

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End the Wars at Home and Abroad

“End the War at Home and Abroad”
By Jeanette Lee
Originally published in The Michigan Citizen, January 4, 2007

“I hope people can live their dreams without getting killed. I hope nobody dies over stupid things.”

This statement, together with hundreds of others, is posted on the wall of the Community Center in the Cass Corridor where the Detroit Summer Collective hosts our community potlucks on the second Thursday of every month.

Some of the statements are written in clean, careful middle school print, others in hurried cursive. Many “i”s are dotted by hearts. Each is an answer to the question, “What are your hopes and aspirations for the young people of our city?”

Last fall , with the help of Cerveny Middle School students, we distributed cards asking this question at schools, libraries and local businesses around the city.

Reading the responses posted on the wall, most people remark on their unanimity. “My dream is to stop all the violence in Detroit,” “I want no more drive-bys,” “Stop the fighting in the streets,” “No More War.”

The cards also depict scenes of block parties, swing sets and colorful houses with people planting flowers next to them, contrasted with pictures of gunfire and stick figures with x-ed out eyes.

The urgency of these responses convinced us that when we celebrate Martin Luther King birthday on January 15 and his anti-Vietnam war speech throughout 2007 our attention must be focused on ending the war, both at home and abroad.

In 1967, in the midst of the Vietnam War, and after traveling through “the ghettoes of the North,” MLK wrote:

“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

We know that we have to end the war in Iraq. But we also know that protesting the war is not enough. As long as we lack real solutions and alternatives to poverty and hopelessness among young people in cities like Detroit, the U.S. military will continue to prey upon our communities, recruiting young men and women to fight senseless, unjust wars.

But what are those alternatives? We don’t claim to have easy answers.

But we believe that as a community, through our creativity and compassion, we can devise alternatives to military enlistment, and that these alternatives will also work towards ending violence in the streets.

During 2007 our monthly potlucks will provide opportunities for Detroiters to explore these and other hard questions as an inter-generational community, putting the voices and visions of young people at the center.

The theme of our first 2007 and our 13th community potluck on January 11th will be “Not Your Soldier.”

Co-hosted with Finding Alternatives to Military Enlistment (FAME), our aim at this potluck is to break the silence around the wars being waged on the people of Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan AND the youth of our city.

We will also be celebrating FAME’s recent success in obtaining the unaninmous decision of the Detroit Public School Board to allow FAME entry into all schools where military recruiters are stationed.

Please join us. Jan. 11, 2007, 6 p.m. 3535 Cass (Cass Corridor Community Development Corporation) Free * All Ages
Please bring a dish to pass!