Archive for the 'uncategorized' Category



WDET 101.9 fm right now!

Well better last minute than never I guess. Tune into WDET 101.9 fm to hear Grace + LAMP on the radio.

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Watch out! These Detroit/Milwaukee kids are fierce

I tried to blog once while we were on tour with the LAMP CD and my hurried attempt turned into a big mess with a whole bunch of text linking to a wrong picture and lots of other nonsense. Josh told me that the LAMP tour won the ‘sweetest youth media project for which you can find the littlest information about online’ award. But then he pointed out that the tour stops were in fact mentioned on Ilana’s myspace page. Hopefully there will be something thorough posted here with pictures and captions and well-formed metaphors some day soon. But in the meantime, check out this sweet little clip from the NPR station in Milwaukee! And also this picture, which was taken early on in the tour. Look at all our smiles and exposed forearms! The next day it turned back to winter.

How we get from here to there

For the Radical Michigan Blogging Carnival
Hosted by the honorable Brownfemipower
at the Women of Color Blog

I live in a city that contends for the title of way too many “highest” lists: from unemployment rate, to drop-out rate, “Murder Capital” and even the “Fattest City” award.

None of this should obscure the fact that Detroit also tops numerous other lists in my head: “sweetest city motto ever,” “most thriving urban agriculture movement,” “greatest dignity amidst crisis” and “most unexpected friendliness from strangers.”

Detroit also has a formidable legacy of movements for social justice. We were home to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers during the 60s and 70s. In the 80s Detroit’s political leaders supported divestment from aparthied South Africa and nuclear disarmament way before it was cool. Meanwhile, in that same time period, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization was seizing public housing from the city in order to provide homes for the homeless in Detroit. That only scratches the surface of Detroit’s radical, visionary organizing history.

Yet, the reality is that something’s not working. A lot of things aren’t working. And maybe the momentum of so many centuries of injustice is still so powerful that it will take another three centuries to detoxify from racism, abuse and neglect.

Or maybe it’s just because of public transportation.

I started thinking about this a few years ago, after the life-changing experience of getting to travel to Brazil with a delegation of young people of color doing youth organizing in the US. We went with the purpose of learning from youth organizations in Sao Paulo and then attending the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. We saw community radio stations in the favellas (“shantytowns”), which were illegal and all-volunteer-run, yet thriving. We saw housing and farming cooperatives built by the most marginalized residents of cities that employed organic agricultural methods I couldn’t even have dreamed of. We met young people who told us that they had absorbed the politics and spirit of early US hip hop, and fused it with their own experiences and musical forms, to create a new version of hip hop, inseparable from their work for community transformation.

Looking at Detroit, one might ask why people here don’t respond to the crises that surround us with a similar impulse towards collectivity and mutual support. It’s sort of a trick question, because no one who has any deep commitment to change in the city could say that we are devoid of collectivity or systems of mutual support. But it is true that we often face an uphill battle in simply getting people to stay here, much less build cooperative housing projects. It’s complicated and no single explanation would be complete.

But a while ago I started thinking about the lack of public transportation in our city as one explanation. Clearly New York City and The Bay Area, even Chicago, are looked upon as more “active” cities. They’re places where people have been fighting for justice and creating alternatives for a long time. Young people impassioned about social change flock to those cities and find interesting jobs, attractive peers and cultural institutions that make life in those places enjoyable.

And there must also be something about the public transportation system in those cities that helps people feel connected and have a shared stake in the future of the place, if only on a subconscious level. It might have to do with the way you are forced to sit next to and look at strangers regularly when riding public transportation, and in the space that boredom opens up during travel, you can imagine what their lives are like, how they might be similar or different from yours or even engage them in spontaneous conversations.

Maybe those experiences program you subconsciously to do things like join organizations or talk to your neighbor about how fucked up the war is, or subscribe to an independent newspaper. Whether or not any of that can be proven, public transportation is a good metaphor for the kind of “togetherness” a city or a community needs to move from one place to another (hopefully better) place.

It could also be the simple fact that public transportation provides access to so many more corners of a city and with that, more opportunities to learn from and work with different people. I remember talking to my friend in Philly on the day of the transit workers strike there a couple years ago, hearing how much chaos it leveled upon the city. She was then the director of a really powerful student organization and explained how the lack of public transportation for those couple days made their work nearly impossible. I told her that that was basically the situation we faced everyday in Detroit. Simply getting young people to our space is one of our biggest challenges at Detroit Summer.

But in thinking about it more in the context of Detroit, the metaphor of public transportation is useful beyond telling us what we lack. In Detroit, we do have a public transportation system. Bus routes crisscross entire surface of this vast city. But we are a city that has spent the last 6 decades shrinking in numbers while remaining one of the largest cities geographically. So a bus stop might be a full mile from where a traveler actually needs to be. When waiting for a bus, a half-hour interval may become an hour and a half, yet you have to believe that it will eventually come, and it does. While I don’t think there is much of a silver lining to the disfunctionality of the bus system, it offers a compelling metaphor. As someone who rarely rides the bus I can afford to draw out that metaphor, though many a regular bus rider might say that I’m full of shit.

In my experience as an organizer in the city, I’ve found that you also have to wait a long time and walk a far distance to get to where you need to be. But you develop things like patience and resilience in the process. The best examples of collectivity and resistance, the subtle spaces where people inspire each other and grow new models out of the wreckage of old ones, are found in places where the infrastructure, or the spotlight fails to reach.

For people who love Detroit and have faith in the future, we have to walk a fine line between relentless optimism and the always-present danger of romanticizing the crisis. The word vision is instructive. I think a lot of times its taken to mean an ability to see the future, a fantasy of “another world” that’s possible. But it should also mean an ability to see clearly the horror of our current reality, to grapple with that hard messy reality in the process of creating new models. But vision should also mean an attentiveness to small wonders. An ability to be caught off guard, to see how something positive and exciting can happen, when there are no signs indicating that it should.

One small, important example comes to mind:

In Detroit Summer, as was mentioned earlier, providing transportation for youth attending the program has always been a huge challenge. We’ve taken different approaches to the challenge during different eras of the organization’s life. At one point the solution was to take donated bikes, teach kids how to fix them and then give them the bikes to ride to and from the program every day. That idea has since grown into the flourishing, amazing Back Alley Bikes.

Now is another era, and we have programing during the winter and a lot of kids travel from the outer limits of the city. For any meeting or event there is an elaborate system of picking up and dropping off that has to happen. As a result, those of us who drive frequently decry lack of viable public transportation. But just as often, we’ll find ourselves talking about the incredible conversation we had with so-and-so on the ride home. There’s something intimidating and comforting about being trapped in a glass metal box with another person. Sometimes you can connect more intimately and informally in the space of 20 minutes, listening to music and talking about the city as you drive past, than any icebreaker or group activity could facilitate.

It’s a rosy glass half-full way of seeing our pathologically car-dependent culture. But we need that perspective as much as we need new infrastructure, maybe even more. We have to see the potential for human connection and seize it where it exists here, or else we’re doomed.

YouthVille Radio What!

I am a proud web radio teacher today. We officially went live with our internet youth radio station that has been in the making for the past 6 months. Check it out.

Unfortunately the way the service is set up, you can only listen to what is currently being streamed, you can’t skip around inside of or between the shows. So if you tune in during an R Kelly song or something, and you’re really not feeling it, just stick it out for a minute and eventually you’ll find insightful social commentary, solid relationship advice, archery tips and much more! As more kids finish their shows, they’ll get added to the loop, so check back regularly.

Having said how awesome it is that we have our shows online finally, the service, live365 is really annoying. It’s clunky, unattractive, and expensive. It has lots of advertisements and you can’t download the MP3s. Yet apparently it’s the best option for the kind of radio we’re doing– playing lots of commercial music– because live365 takes care of everything on the legal end and pays the companies their royalties and whatnot. Ideally my students would be into playing underground / non-commercial music and we would have those artists donate clean versions of their songs to our library. But in reality my students want to play radio rap. All of the music in our library was donated by HOT102.7 FM. Are there sweeter alternatives to live365 or is it pretty much the internet radio standard? Let me know.

No Excuse

A friend sent me a message today saying “it’s time for a new blog post.” It really is. The past few months have been the busiest months of my life.  And looking towards the summer I can only see the pace accelerating.  But it’s no excuse for abandoning this blogging endevor that I was (and still am) really excited about.  My friend Jesse once said that being tired is no excuse for not partying.  “You’re going to be working your whole life,” he said. “You better learn now how to work a hard day and still go out partying afterwards.” I don’t equate blogging with partying.  But still, it’s useful advice.  Furthermore, it’s a shame to waste such a good name for a blog, especially since I know there are others out there just vying for it (Critical Moment Radical Blog Aggregator…ahem).

Memorial for Chonburi Xiong is tomorrow

Detroit Asian Youth (DAY) Project, sister org to Detroit Summer, is hosting a memorial / community assembly tomorrow for the 18 year-old Hmong youth who was shot 27 times by Warren police.

Wsoft.heart has posted this statement by Chonburi’s father, expressing his sorrow and outrage at the murder of his son, but also breaking down some of the complex history of the Hmong immigrant population in the U.S.

Memorial and Community Assembly
for Chonburi Xiong and questions of police brutality and racial discrimination…

• Remembering Chonburi Xiong
• Youth poetry and music performances
• Know your rights! Information about what to do if the police come to your door, etc.

For more information: warrenincident (at) yahoo (dot) com or (313) 923-0797.

FEBRUARY 3, 2007
12:00-2:00pm
@ Our Lady of Good Counsel
17142 Rowe Ave, Detroit
Donations are welcome.

On September 17, 2006, teenager Chonburi Xiong was fatally shot twenty-seven times in his own home by Warren police officers. Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith and an internal police investigation determined that the shooting was justified.

We are an ad hoc coalition of Hmong and other Asian Pacific Americans; people of color, community activists, high school students, teachers, lawyers and allies that believe in justice for the Xiong family. We support the Xiong family in their lawsuit against the City of Warren and four police officers that were involved in the shooting. The lawsuit alleges gross negligence, intentional misconduct and violation of Xiong’s civil rights.

On February 3rd, we gather to take a stand, not only to remember Chonburi Xiong, but also to raise some important questions:

Was this an act of police brutality? Police have said that Xiong appeared to move in a
threatening manner; however, the gun that was near him was not discharged, and Xiong was shot twenty-seven times. Warren police have failed to explain why they resorted to such extreme force. If Chonburi Xiong had been Caucasian, would he have been shot twenty-seven times?

Is there a pattern of racial discrimination in Warren? The racial demographic of Warren is
changing, and citizens of all backgrounds should be able to trust their local police and know that they are working toward justice, not injustice.

We demand justice!

Independent Media as an Organizing Tool

That was the name of the panel that me, Shivaani and Kat spoke on at the NCMR (with moderation by the illustrious Adrienne Maree Brown) Listen to the MP3

This is a picture of the karaoke that came after:

karaoke.jpg

Thanks JB, for both the audio and the picture and the thorough notes from the conference