Thursday, 18 December 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Critical Moment: What is the State of Black Detroit, 2013?

Sunday, 07 April 2013 18:34 By Margaret Guttshall and Fred Vitale, Critical Moment | Interview

Fred Vitale and Margaret Guttshall interviewed Charles Simmons and Sandra Flinoil on the state of black Detroit.

Charles Simmons: We think we are in a state of war.

We have the elements of warfare: the violence, the continuous attack from all sides. We have some elements of ethnic cleansing; we have some elements of genocide. And many of the people are not aware of the depth of this attack. The situation has the same type of things that you see in the wars abroad -- you suspend the democratic system, any constitution, and you turn all the rights and authority over to the military or the police.

That is what we feel like we are operating under because, what we thought we had as some type of democracy, as weak as it was, all that is gone. This emergency manager, for example, totally undemocratic process. Where the people who have vote for various elected officials , tsee elected officials no longer have any authority. The governor imposes basically whatever he feels like, for example, some dictator in Egypt or Syria, or in Europe, what's happening in Greece. So the people are protesting and demanding change and they basically just ignore you or arrest you. And so we have voted in the city to eliminate this emergency manager and still the governor overrode it with some identical legislation to do the same thing. So that's what he's doing now. They've withheld millions of dollars from the state owes the city and won't pay. They just basically say they can do just what they want to do.

So you have all the dislocation, the collapse of the capitalist system, the impact it has on workers and the middle class, and, at the same time they are busting unions, breaking contracts, taking back pensions, throwing people out of work

Sandra: Taking over school systems. Here in the city of Detroit, if you can believe it, in the schools where there were formerly students and teachers who looked like each other, literally, like George Crockett Academy, where all the, just about the entire personnel were displaced and discharged.

They turned it into an EAA school. All of the EAA schools are the same. They bring in these young white teachers from everywhere. Literally, all of the Black teachers are gone. You may have a Black secretary, or an administrator left. Even the janitors, everyone, has been completely displaced and at every school I hear the same thing.

There were promises that were made on how these schools are going to behave and that kind of thing. And I've gone to a few of them. Different students have requested me to come in for special day or something. But it gave me an opportunity to really just see firsthand what's happening. It's really frightening to see the same language that you're hearing in the media -- the terrorist assault is at every level, including at the level where it is training our children to fear, certain kinds of supremacist authority.

So that they will be trained, the further they matriculate up the system, or wherever they are being allowed to matriculate. Because it seems as though they are matriculated into seeing themselves participate in society in ways that's going to support this new infrastructure of terror.

Critical Moment: What are the relationships between Detroit and surrounding communities? Many of us who came here in the late 60s and 70s came because of the enormous struggle of the working class in Detroit not only in defense of itself but in providing political leadership for working-class people in Michigan and in the United States.

Detroit is much smaller and is surrounded by a larger community are also undergoing similar changes. What are the relationships that exist today with this larger community and what should they be?

Charles: On Martin Luther King Day this year we were commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March in Detroit. I was in that March.

Margaret: I read your speech from the event. It was really good.

Charles: The strength of that struggle in general was that we did have some major level of desegregation of public institutions, in the educational system, and transportation. We had a massive increase of the middle class, as a result of young people getting into the system, at least up to mid-level management and getting into jobs that we hadn't had before. And into the military, which was probably the fastest desegregation of an institution.

But on the negative side, there was a much greater expansion of the poverty that has resulted among the working-class, the former working-class and some sectors of the middle class.

Because we didn't have an understanding, we didn't address the issues of political economy, we didn't critique capitalism as a group. At that time the capitalist system was flexible enough to expand to accommodate new entries. And now it's in a global crisis and it cannot employ the numbers of people that it used to, mainly, one reason is because of the new technology. They don't need people as they used to.

I was at one of the Ford plants . . . Earlier this year I went to visit the Ford plant I used to work in. The Ford Rouge Plant, the Stamping plant, one of those big plants -- where they used to have 11,000 employees in that one plant and today they have 1100. They can produce more now with 1100 people then we could do with 11,000. So when you look at that all around the country and all around the whole capitalist empire, there just isn't any need for the type and numbers of bodies that we had.

Anything you can do on the Internet, can be done anywhere.

However, the people, the workers, and Black people in particular, have not been taught about this change, the depth and breadth of this change, and the impact it would have.

I thought the national leadership, the union leadership, even if they didn't know everything, they knew some of it. They knew that the system that they had in the 60s or the 50s was not going to return.

I was just reading some papers of some students at Wayne County Community College a few minutes ago. A number of them said that they were looking for Detroit to return to its glory days of big industry. People are still waiting for that system to return.

It can't return for all the reasons – the whole neoliberalism where the mission globally is to downsize, outsource, and privatize everything.

In order to make more profits the only engine that they have now is the military. Force its way into markets like they are doing in the Sahara and Mali, and in Syria. Force their way at gunpoint, and destroy everything -- a scorched earth -- bomb the hell out of everybody, drone missiles and everything, just terrorize everybody.

Sandra: Which brings me to the place, how is Detroit relating to folks in Southeast Michigan. For instance, I think it is managed chaos that's happening. They are under siege like we are -- some of these other communities like Benton Harbor, down river [River Rouge, Ecorse – editor], Pontiac, Flint, and Highland Park. The same thing that's happening in Detroit.

They are using the same language: all of the terrorists are using the same kinds of methods to tear them apart, to take control of them, and enforce martial law in the same way so it is difficult for people to connect. When you're in the center of chaos, you're working to survive; you're trying to live, not die; you're trying to feed your family; you're trying to figure it out. And, so to reach outside of yourself becomes very difficult.

Detroiters have been in the unique position of that revolutionary history that you spoke about. We have had some experiences in ways that these smaller, other communities haven't had in the same way. I'm happy to report that yes, there are some connections being made and people realize that we are stronger together. The only we are going to defeat these monsters is to work together.

But at the same time we also see the same kind of attack, the same type of an assault is happening in those communities. Part of that plan certainly is to keep us apart. Charles used this notion of bombs -- whether they are physical bombs that destroy land or those kinds of bombs that destroy our school system, that destroy our infrastructure, that destroy our connections. And this new language they are using they keep referring to Detroit's "culture of violence"...

Margaret: My goodness!

Sandra: And our culture says, we don't like education. Interestingly enough, we know we know the study of the State of the Black Child [released a few days before the interview by the Skilman Foundation – editor] we did a little digging into that study. The DD3 [Data-Driven Detroit -- editor] people they are the same folks, the director of that program, of that think tank, he's the one actually who coined the phrase about having a culture that "hates education."

Charles: And this was a Bing Corporation originally.

Sandra: The name of Data-Driven Detroit used to be ACIS. The language they use. It has always been these language wars. In they are speaking as if they are nonpartisan, actually they are funded; they have "stakeholders." Yeah, we are under siege everywhere we go.

Yes. Kurt Metzger, he is the director of the Detroit Area Community Information System (ACIS) which was the previous name of this D3. And they worked with organizations that Bing brought back in 2009.

Margaret: Charles used the expression "we are at war." If there is a war, there are always armies. I know about the army of the ruling class, but what is the army on our side, what are the armies that we can support?

Charles: We are naked, fundamentally. We have a very small group of social justice activists who are very dedicated and they are getting involved in doing some new things instead of simply being on the defense. We've got young people who were involved in the environmental justice movement, which wasn't around 10 years ago. We've got people in the food security movement, who are raising food in a sustainable way and healthy ways, and we've got people involved in just visioning what type of new economic system we can have that be an engine to changing and replacing what we have.

So there are people also like Ron Scott's organization, Coalition Against Police Brutality which is involved in defending people from police brutality. But it's not simply enough to be defensive. We've got to also think about what we're going to change to, what are we going to become.

But I say, fundamentally, we are naked, because we do not have a large enough force for what's coming at us.

Sandra: I understand the notion of war. But I am with you Margaret. I think there has to be, unless what we say we are doing is guerrilla warfare, the actions we're talking about. I think we need to work more closely in concert for an effective guerrilla warfare. I see us as more under siege, and, being under siege, I think that the response being under siege is in development.

And that is bringing us closer together, those activists outside of Detroit and those inside. Like the work Charles Williams is doing at King Solomon with the National Action Network. That is going to bring in activists from other communities into Detroit and connect them.

But at the same time, Fred, we're full of traitors, liars, pimps, you know, treachery around every corner, so on the one hand, a person appears on the surface to be for the community and the next thing you know they are signing for Belle Isle to be signed over to the state!

Then they're disrespecting the people when they come to voice their opinion at Council meetings. People came in the hundreds to protest this Emergency Manager thing and sell hundreds of lots to this rich guy Hantz "to farm", "to farm." We know it's a lie, the language in the news and in the media try to turn that lie into a truth.

The same way we are getting that language at that state level -- the same way that during the election we heard it on the national level and are still hearing.

Charles: when I say that war is being made on us, I think in terms of what happened in the colonial period where the armies of the rich countries just moved into the areas in the Global South stole the land, took the people, stole the resources, just open war.

It's a lot more sophisticated than that. It's an economic onslaught, but it's backed up by the elimination of the democratic process. So you don't have any recourse in any traditional sense. So people went to court to put the emergency manager law on the ballot, filed lawsuits and the activists were told that it wasn't written on the right kind of paper, the font size was wrong, and this is what was done. So it just makes a mockery of bourgeois democracy.

It's important. I don't underestimate the need for defense, to satisfy the needs of poor people. Poverty is growing by leaps and bounds. It is going to get worse because of the basis of capitalism the poverty is going to get worst so we have a dire need to keep people from starving, from being homeless. The whole foreclosure activity is taking over the homes of middle class people and seniors.

Poverty, as I was reading in a report, extends beyond the people who are the workers and sort of working aged middle-class people. People who have paid for their homes, because of expenses now are 20% higher, according to this report, than it was a decade ago, a lot of these people are on fixed income, so they can't afford to pay the additional expenses, so some people are losing their homes for those reasons, that wasn't even connect with this recent economic crisis.

And the burden is being felt by practically everybody in town and in the metropolitan area, it's not simply Detroit. And the number of police employed has decreased drastically. We only have basically a handful of police in the city now, and a handful of firemen. And they go somewhere else to get paid because there have been budget cuts every year.

We know people who are on the police force and they are really suffering; they've got families they are losing their houses and everything.

Benefits, for people who had them, even older people, are losing them. They're losing their pensions. Some of my family lost pensions after working 20 or 30 years.

What's happening in Greece – what we're seeing on television with the struggles in Greece – I think this so-called austerity that the government imposed on the population there -- is the type of thing we are feeling here.

Now the people in Greece had a history of struggle in a more overt way, of being out in the street, challenging the system, because you know, they had a Communist Party going back to the 30s and 40s. But our population doesn't have that type of political education which they have because of the trade union movement, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party and all of that.

Because the United States is a rich country because you can see on television everybody here lives happy and smiling and on the news they talk about the conditions of the day and everybody is smiling and happy, so we think it must be a personal situation that is so bad, we, or just the people in my immediate circles, and so it must be something wrong with me or something wrong with us.

Sandra: that's right.

Charles: So that destroys a person's psyche, it amplifies this alienation that exists throughout the society. We are just bombarded 24-7 with all the signs of wealth and everybody is happy as consumers. We all got big cars; we got the auto show, all that.

So there's something wrong with me if I'm not in that happy environment, you see. So I think that that contributes to the crime that young people are involved in because they are feeling helpless and hopeless. All they know, many of them working-class youth, all they know is the underground economy.

In our neighborhood if you ask, "what do we see from our front porch?" the only economy in our community is the underground economy. You can count the people on one hand who are engaged in traditional type of employment.

Margaret: What do you mean by the underground economy?

Charles: Well doing things that usually that are illegal, selling drugs, gambling, different types of things, things that you can make money off of very quickly. It doesn't necessarily have to be illegal but it's generally things that bring some instant gratification.

Sandra, how would you describe that?

Sandra: Well I think you're right. What we're seeing is, wee see that our young people have to fight harder to remember that they're human beings, harder to not utterly destroy each other because the call is so great for the destruction of our youth, of anything that would provide a sense of power, a sense of hope.

We see all these signposts of hope, being denigrated to the place where there is nothing to look at in terms of thinking that "I can get a job" because there are no jobs.

You see people with more education, people who don't have a record, for instance, who don't have jobs. So how much more difficult is it for you to get a job then? When your mother and father are working, trying very diligently to get a job? We know families

When you look at the numbers of folks who have been touched by the criminal injustice system, this idea of marking people to the place to identify them, to mark them out of, as Mr. Bing has said to "right size Detroit," would be to remove them from any opportunity that would be made available.

So we're seeing that in a very strong way from our front porch. But at the same time I do see this. There is so much rage in their sense of depression we are seeing things we have never seen before.

And I'm surprised that we haven't seen some of the kinds of things we've seen in other places like in Connecticut where young people are walking in and making mass murder that kind of thing, thank God.

There is something still here that soul of Detroit that is holding us together. There's a sense of, that all love has not been lost. There is still a sense where people recognize folks not just because of what they may do in terms of an occupation, or how they bring in money to their household, but also still responding to them as people, and as human beings, and as family.

And that in my mind is one of the things that the terrorists can't seem to get a hold of. They want the soul of Detroit; but they want Black without Blackness. So they try to recreate it. We're watching this construction of this anti-soul that is supposed to mean Detroit, and it can't possibly ever be that.

It is sort of disappointing to folks when they don't get the same gratification because they're making themselves over to be Detroiters. But walking into a place ... I've told so many folks "How can you come to a place and you don't take any time to learn anything about the people or the culture of a place?" Every ground has a history. Every geography has a history. And if you're going to be a part of that, then you are going to honor that. We travel, we traveled to places and we take the time to learn something about that geography. And you just don't jump in and proceed to believe that we need you, or that place needs you to make it better. Instead, you open yourself to all the possibilities of the place.

So this just speaks to me. You have two sort of groups of folks. You have the dreamers were coming in but they're coming in with this baggage of supremacy that is unacknowledged. Then you have the terrorists who don't care,who don't care, who change laws arbitrarily, who enact martial law, who say we know better. You know it's almost like, you know if you listen to the language that is being used to construct this demise of Detroit over and over again, it is the same language that was used during slavery time.

Like this fellow who did the study, the director of this organization who said "there is a culture that doesn't want education in Detroit." Now how ridiculous is that -- but if they say it enough and repeated at every level . . . It is strategic. This chaos is so strategically orchestrated.

That's the thing they can't seem to get a handle on. If it weren't for the fact that there is a deep history of spiritual love in Detroit; and I know it is messed up because we've got some messed up things happening in a lot of our churches. A lot of church pimps. But there is this real sense of love.

There was a time when a young man was killed on our street. We put out a little flyer and let people know that we were going to get the blood up out of the street and we were not going to let our children track through it. And that we were going to take a moment to acknowledge what was lost, people came from all walks of life. There were pimps and pushers and sisters who worked on the street and storekeepers and people stopped down. We probably had 75 people. And this all took place on the same day. People came. We made a circle and we read poetry, we read Gwendolyn Brooks poem, "The Boy Died In My Alley," and then took turns blessing the children. And saying: What is one thing you would want to bless the children with? And went around the circle. You see that, and you can't understand that unless you are a part of that culture, unless you understand Detroit, unless you grew up here or you have family here to really understand it.

You may do these things; you may believe that this chaos will destroy us but this chaos is what's going to make a stronger. This is what is bringing us closer together.

Charles: And I think we have greater potential for the positive things that the activists are doing that can grow much stronger and bigger, in the environmental movement, in the people doing education reform, in the food justice movement.

One of the big issues that we talk about is the whole faith community. The lack of a strong relationship between the social justice activists and the faith community. And that suggests that that the faith community does not have a social justice component, but it does. Students have to link up across different types of religions and faiths.

Fred: And it is certainly true that among the faith community that the problems have been so powerful, for those who have stood up, it has not been easy to keep the money come in and everything like that. Minister s can put themselves out there but they can lose things when they do that. I've seen that reluctance.

I don't know if you remember all our marches at DTE, but every week Rev. Rowe would get up there and say, "where are ministers?" where is the faith community? We have women and children dying and we got three ministers here. What's going on?" He would say that everytime. He was there, Rev. Bullock. Rev. Williams came down. Not many came down.

Sandra: I see the opposite being really true. Because if you stand up, people will come. The thing is some of these folks have some deals going on. That's why you haven't heard from them. Some of these folks – you go to a meeting and they got their legs crossed, sitting back, real comfortable, because they've already made their deal. And that's why you haven't heard from them. And then they come up with some stuff , some backward talk and stuff that you've never heard of. They don't want to connect with other ministers and they don't want their congregations to connect.

This is something that I'm very interested in doing. I'm calling out to the sisters, because most congregations, no matter what the denomination, are mostly women. I'm calling out to the sisters to start examining what's going on in your house. If in your church house you can't get a diaper or a pamper without there being a committee meeting, if you're being put out of your house, and your pastor is driving home to his house in his comfortable car and his lights are on and yours are off, there's something wrong with that.

There is something wrong if he's not standing with you. If you're out there on the DTE line and you're protesting, your pastor should be there with you. And if he's not, call him out on it. And if not it's time to put your tithe someplace else. Maybe put your tithes in Welfare Rights. Put your tithes behind some of these young pastors who are standing up for our interests. What happens is they'll go to church on Sunday and not have any lights and then on Monday they will go down to Welfare Rights. But you don't have any money because you put your tithe in that other thing.

We have a church. Each of us. It is not a building and it is time for each of us to reevaluate what we're doing and what we're calling church. And understand that when we congregate, like a sitting together, we are having church right now because we are telling the truth and we are pleasing God. We are talking about serving the people. Whatever capacity we want to call it, we can call it activism, we can call it being a missionary, we can call whatever we want to, but it is pleasing to our Creator because we are serving the least of these and we are raising up humanity. At the end of the day that's what it's about.

Like these people who would go on television and lie to the people, and they wonder why we are seeing these awful crimes, these mass murders with these young people -- it makes you wonder, what's going on? The kind of things you're hearing in your homes and in your neighborhoods that cause you so much pain -- I don't believe everybody's crazy. They say this person was crazy that person was crazy.

I believe it's a spiritual thing; it's much deeper than that. We ignore that we are dealing with, as Charles said, there is a warfare, that is happening, and I believe, at a deeper level, it is spiritual warfare that's happening.

Every system has a spirit. The government has a spirit and when the spirit of the government turns against the people that an evil entity. We don't want to talk about that. We haven't talked about that very much lately. These entities, government after government is turning on its people. And we are saying, "What's happening with that?"

For instance, Charles and I were talking about how the U.S. practices around the world of terror and so on, now we are feeling the impact of that here, right here in our own country, and it's freaking us out.

This is the same evil. The same spirit that is now being turned inward. But it is time to teach our people again what we are looking at. If you could recognize the enemy, then it is easier to defeat.

Margaret: Speaking of recognizing the enemy, who are the terrorists we're facing in Detroit?

Charles: I think it's the Wall Street forces. They have their tentacles in every state and in every city. But the people who did the study, they people they are representing, they're Wall Street people, and their objective is to do all those neoliberal things, you know to take over the public school systems and sell them off, buying and selling everything, every agency, every person, every piece of land, everything is for sale.

And that is the force, the earthly force, that we are dealing with. And they run these city governments basically and state governments...

Sandra: little puppets...

Charles: and somehow we have to do some really qualitatively better education of the masses to teach them about the real system and the real enemy, the political economy of the United States.

And among all the rich countries I think the United States is the only one among the rich countries where people don't get any of that education.

Fred: Do you think that there is a place in the upcoming mayoral and city council elections for the struggle we are talking about?

Charles: I think that there is a need for political candidacy as an arm of a larger movement. I don't know who of anyone and I haven't heard of anyone in the community of the people I'm familiar with who is talking about running. I'm sure there will be some.

But I think that but I think that it is good to do as the Green Party does to run people as educational campaign to spread the word and to recruit people for real leadership. But I think it would be good to have a person in office, such as JoAnn Watson at the City Council -- somebody who is honest and will tell the truth, who will vote correctly for the people if they get an opportunity.

I think the current movement by the establishment is to really limit, places strict limitation on, what your options are within that political framework. There is not much for you to vote on. If they have the emergency manager, then they will be just sort of a shadow government. Maybe they will have hearings, or something like that, but I don't think they will have the power that they used to have.

But, they will have the bully pulpit. The politicians can go around and speak and educate people. And I think that's important.

They can tell the truth. We don't have many politicians that do that but I think it is something that can be done instead of thinking, "that's going to be my career." You go in and you tell the truth and they could put you out, so what? But I think it's a major opportunity for education, and I would like to see the Green Party engaged in some of this political education in the city and the county. I don't know what's being planned.

But politics as usual is useless for what we need now here. I think it is really obsolete.

Sandra: What I would like to see happen, because we keep, because we cannot allow the same liars, pimps, and traitors, this whole ? to get back in office.

So one of the things that I would like to suggest is . . .

Do you know how they make memorials for the slain? We have that habit of making these memorials. We get the heads of all the traitors, put their heads literally on a stake, and stick them in our yards. All over. So we can identify who they are. Create graveyards for them.

Some of this vacant land set up graveyards. Put their heads on the stake and put them, tack their crimes on the stake. So that everywhere you go around the city -- I hope this catches on all across the country. So wherever you go in the city, you will know who not to vote for. And you will know why not to vote for them. We have to make them know. We have to hurt them and let them know, "you will never be elected for anything again. You have turned against us. Where you are going work, we don't know, but you won't be working here!" We have to let these people know that we still do have the power. And that is one way to do it. We have to scare them. We have to, like Charles said, step outside the box. It can't be business as usual.

You see, they like to call us "ridiculous", when we, for instance, at City Council, when the community lines up in droves, and has its voice and the puppets in the Council tell them "oh, you have 3 minutes." and [act] all disrespectful to the people and all that, but they're going to know something.

This is something people can do. It won't cost a lot of money. We can get some folks to help us sponsor these heads, but it is time to call them out. Not just called them out, we have to put them on, as the kids say, "put them on show." And let the people see who they are. It's just time for that.

Charles: You know Duggan is going to run for mayor. And he's getting the endorsements of the state Democratic Party.

Sandra: We have to let people know who he is. Pookie and them in the neighborhood, then not listening to channel 7 and all these political discussions. But they will see that head on the lawn with a sign saying who they are; what their crimes against him are.

This is the disconnect: why don't I want to vote for him, or why do I want to vote for that person? How is that going to help me? If you have a face of a person and their crimes are listed well, then I know that you are against me; you're not for me in a very personal way.

Fred: What are some of the projects in that you are working on that you would like to tell our readers about?

Sandra: We are working on a television show. As a matter of fact, Maureen Taylor [chairperson of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization – editor] asked us to join with her programming at WHPR. We are planning on being on a couple of times a month.

We are also starting a column in which we are contributing regularly to the Michigan Citizen which we hope to get syndicated.

At the Hush House: Charles has a Facebook blog under Baba Charles, and we ask people to tune him in.

We are planning on this summer what we are calling a street freedom school. We want to dducate people by telling the truth. Bring folks out. Bring a chair, we're showing films, having conversation, some educational things, whether it's about health, development. Bring people to talk about some of the crucial issues that folks don't understand the connection between what's happening in state and national government and what it means on a local level. We want to do that in all those kinds of venues — through the television show, the newspaper piece, the freedom school.

I've been working with a project called "communities of compassion." This is what I was mentioning about calling the sisters together and saying to them it's time for us to do something different. Yes, we may not have the kind of money we need, but we do have skills. So learning how to exchange skills, learning how to join churches together so churches are set up as regions of refuge.

Say on the east side of Detroit five or seven churches working together and everything you need for babies can be found on that side of town. On another side of town maybe things that have to do with medical supplies and so on. Working together as communities, because we are going to have to circumvent this system that is working for our demise, that is calling for our demise.

So this will strengthen us, bring us together in many ways and allow us, in these territories of refuge to engage in the conversations we are missing. Strengthen us in ways like our voting blocs, in terms of our ways of economy, it'll help us in ways of humanizing and remembering how to love.

By insisting that compassion is at the base of where we stand and we can't forget that. I remember coming up in Detroit one of the things I will always remember – was some of my grandmothers "across the fence" stuff. Back then, and those days, I grew up on Helen Street on the east side. So our community was a lot of Polish and German immigrants and Black folks. We were all in that same community going in and out of houses. Black children going around speaking Polish. Some of the first words I learned were Polish. Went to Edsel junior high school. In and out of all those pots you know, tasting all these different kinds of foods, and then made us tight. Because there was compassion.

Like my grandmother taught us, if you know somebody that doesn't have any food, and we got a half a loaf of bread, then you still have bread to share. We have to get back to that. So "communities of compassion" is one initiative to do that.

One final thing — we are putting a shout-out for our international programming. We have programming in Ghana and Senegal and Liberia. So we are still needing laptops, we're still needing monies to help support those educational projects, programs and the students who so desperately need help.

Here we go again — Africa is being invaded and is going to be partitioned once again. So we need help as much as we can on that front.

Charles: An expansion of that "communities of compassion" concept. I think we've also got to build bridges in a new way throughout the state. Because most of the political power that people are being impacted by now throughout the state and throughout the country, is not from the federal government, but from state governments. Republicans have control over the majority of state governments. It is important for us to figure out — we've got to have some conversations about this, all over the state. We are up against feelings of hostility between the rural and urban populations, between different racial groups -- there is a lot of racial antagonism. There are class antagonisms — people are anti-labor unions and some people don't like the farmers, and so on.

We've got to figure out how do we transcend these barriers and work together, even though we've got all these biases. The biases are not going to disappear just because we embark on this road. We've got to work with white people who are racist, in spite of the racism. And urban and rural people are going to have to figure out how to work together because we all have the same type of economic challenges, and social challenges throughout the state, throughout the country.

We got to do some things different at the grass roots level. We can't depend on these governments to be involved in this. They might get involved but for different reasons — to get reelected and that sort of thing. They don't want to make any fundamental changes.

I think that is something that the Green Party ought to really be involved in. Rethinking the types of strategies and tactics can we use for building new types of bridges around the state. We've got to do that.

People in Detroit only think about what is happening in Detroit. We've got in and to think about what is happening all over the state of Michigan and the Great Lakes.

Margaret: We need to build an alliance.

Fred: We've [the Green Party and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization – editor] talked about doing a tour throughout the state. A green roots tour. Traveling around the state to Saginaw, Flint, Bay City, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Benton Harbor. Greens also have contacts in Traverse and up in Marquette as well. The purpose of the tour it is to connect and reconnect with Green Party supporters and members and Welfare Rights supporters and members to meet this new situation.

Charles: The students are paying these exorbitant fees, for tuition for the universities. These humongous loans. They're like peasants when they graduate, if they can make it. And they are so deeply in debt.

We need to fight for free education for everybody.

Sandra: It [the tour] has to include the faith community.

Charles: The faith community has to be a part of it.

Sandra: We keep forgetting that so much of the roots of our activism is rooted in the church. [Difficult to understand this section.] A manifesto agreement for Detroit by Detroiters, but we can change the names, anybody can use it, because the ideas are universal.

The idea is to begin from with something very simple. Let's agree to love our children. Period. In loving your children, that encompasses so many other things that we would have to agree on to make that reality — on education, and on and on down the line. How we care for them in terms of jobs, healthy place to live, ensuring they have food and social justice, all of these issues, all of them are wrapped in that reality.

But somehow or another we used to know that. We used to know that loving our children made us better human beings, better neighbors, better parents, better lovers, better preachers, better teachers. It just made us better.

But we have to get back to that place. Loving our children made us recognize the enemy early on. When you love your children you are watching for the enemy. You are teaching them – "That's right there. That's wrong."

We had ways to deal with them. But we've sort of gotten away from that.

Charles: We've allowed the right wing to claim ownership of faith communities. Of love, of families, all of that, we've allowed them to take.

Sandra: Right.

Charles: So we've got to take it back. Our background really, is Southern Baptist. The right wing claims that is a right wing commodity that they own. But, that was also the basis of Martin Luther King's movement, the SCLC. That was southern Baptist. And it was peace and justice.

Sandra: Like we heard Dr. King say recently in a speech, all the stuff that people laid on him, what his responsibilities were, what kind of work he was involved in, scratch that in terms of the social justice movement, he said at the heart of it, "I am a preacher."

So when he would expound on love, people think it's ridiculous to talk about love, but they don't want us to because it is so powerful.

Margaret: I think that love is the most powerful force on earth.

Sandra: it is. It is. And if we begin to exemplify that and start talking to people about that, about love and loving, because we have forgotten how to do it. Love brings change.

One of the most revolutionary things we can do is to love. Like Charles was saying, to get past somebody's rhetoric, to get past somebody's language, and say let's agree right here in this place. We can agree on this. We can find this space where we can agree. And any time people can find a space to agree on, that is a space where love can happen.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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Critical Moment: What is the State of Black Detroit, 2013?

Sunday, 07 April 2013 18:34 By Margaret Guttshall and Fred Vitale, Critical Moment | Interview

Fred Vitale and Margaret Guttshall interviewed Charles Simmons and Sandra Flinoil on the state of black Detroit.

Charles Simmons: We think we are in a state of war.

We have the elements of warfare: the violence, the continuous attack from all sides. We have some elements of ethnic cleansing; we have some elements of genocide. And many of the people are not aware of the depth of this attack. The situation has the same type of things that you see in the wars abroad -- you suspend the democratic system, any constitution, and you turn all the rights and authority over to the military or the police.

That is what we feel like we are operating under because, what we thought we had as some type of democracy, as weak as it was, all that is gone. This emergency manager, for example, totally undemocratic process. Where the people who have vote for various elected officials , tsee elected officials no longer have any authority. The governor imposes basically whatever he feels like, for example, some dictator in Egypt or Syria, or in Europe, what's happening in Greece. So the people are protesting and demanding change and they basically just ignore you or arrest you. And so we have voted in the city to eliminate this emergency manager and still the governor overrode it with some identical legislation to do the same thing. So that's what he's doing now. They've withheld millions of dollars from the state owes the city and won't pay. They just basically say they can do just what they want to do.

So you have all the dislocation, the collapse of the capitalist system, the impact it has on workers and the middle class, and, at the same time they are busting unions, breaking contracts, taking back pensions, throwing people out of work

Sandra: Taking over school systems. Here in the city of Detroit, if you can believe it, in the schools where there were formerly students and teachers who looked like each other, literally, like George Crockett Academy, where all the, just about the entire personnel were displaced and discharged.

They turned it into an EAA school. All of the EAA schools are the same. They bring in these young white teachers from everywhere. Literally, all of the Black teachers are gone. You may have a Black secretary, or an administrator left. Even the janitors, everyone, has been completely displaced and at every school I hear the same thing.

There were promises that were made on how these schools are going to behave and that kind of thing. And I've gone to a few of them. Different students have requested me to come in for special day or something. But it gave me an opportunity to really just see firsthand what's happening. It's really frightening to see the same language that you're hearing in the media -- the terrorist assault is at every level, including at the level where it is training our children to fear, certain kinds of supremacist authority.

So that they will be trained, the further they matriculate up the system, or wherever they are being allowed to matriculate. Because it seems as though they are matriculated into seeing themselves participate in society in ways that's going to support this new infrastructure of terror.

Critical Moment: What are the relationships between Detroit and surrounding communities? Many of us who came here in the late 60s and 70s came because of the enormous struggle of the working class in Detroit not only in defense of itself but in providing political leadership for working-class people in Michigan and in the United States.

Detroit is much smaller and is surrounded by a larger community are also undergoing similar changes. What are the relationships that exist today with this larger community and what should they be?

Charles: On Martin Luther King Day this year we were commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March in Detroit. I was in that March.

Margaret: I read your speech from the event. It was really good.

Charles: The strength of that struggle in general was that we did have some major level of desegregation of public institutions, in the educational system, and transportation. We had a massive increase of the middle class, as a result of young people getting into the system, at least up to mid-level management and getting into jobs that we hadn't had before. And into the military, which was probably the fastest desegregation of an institution.

But on the negative side, there was a much greater expansion of the poverty that has resulted among the working-class, the former working-class and some sectors of the middle class.

Because we didn't have an understanding, we didn't address the issues of political economy, we didn't critique capitalism as a group. At that time the capitalist system was flexible enough to expand to accommodate new entries. And now it's in a global crisis and it cannot employ the numbers of people that it used to, mainly, one reason is because of the new technology. They don't need people as they used to.

I was at one of the Ford plants . . . Earlier this year I went to visit the Ford plant I used to work in. The Ford Rouge Plant, the Stamping plant, one of those big plants -- where they used to have 11,000 employees in that one plant and today they have 1100. They can produce more now with 1100 people then we could do with 11,000. So when you look at that all around the country and all around the whole capitalist empire, there just isn't any need for the type and numbers of bodies that we had.

Anything you can do on the Internet, can be done anywhere.

However, the people, the workers, and Black people in particular, have not been taught about this change, the depth and breadth of this change, and the impact it would have.

I thought the national leadership, the union leadership, even if they didn't know everything, they knew some of it. They knew that the system that they had in the 60s or the 50s was not going to return.

I was just reading some papers of some students at Wayne County Community College a few minutes ago. A number of them said that they were looking for Detroit to return to its glory days of big industry. People are still waiting for that system to return.

It can't return for all the reasons – the whole neoliberalism where the mission globally is to downsize, outsource, and privatize everything.

In order to make more profits the only engine that they have now is the military. Force its way into markets like they are doing in the Sahara and Mali, and in Syria. Force their way at gunpoint, and destroy everything -- a scorched earth -- bomb the hell out of everybody, drone missiles and everything, just terrorize everybody.

Sandra: Which brings me to the place, how is Detroit relating to folks in Southeast Michigan. For instance, I think it is managed chaos that's happening. They are under siege like we are -- some of these other communities like Benton Harbor, down river [River Rouge, Ecorse – editor], Pontiac, Flint, and Highland Park. The same thing that's happening in Detroit.

They are using the same language: all of the terrorists are using the same kinds of methods to tear them apart, to take control of them, and enforce martial law in the same way so it is difficult for people to connect. When you're in the center of chaos, you're working to survive; you're trying to live, not die; you're trying to feed your family; you're trying to figure it out. And, so to reach outside of yourself becomes very difficult.

Detroiters have been in the unique position of that revolutionary history that you spoke about. We have had some experiences in ways that these smaller, other communities haven't had in the same way. I'm happy to report that yes, there are some connections being made and people realize that we are stronger together. The only we are going to defeat these monsters is to work together.

But at the same time we also see the same kind of attack, the same type of an assault is happening in those communities. Part of that plan certainly is to keep us apart. Charles used this notion of bombs -- whether they are physical bombs that destroy land or those kinds of bombs that destroy our school system, that destroy our infrastructure, that destroy our connections. And this new language they are using they keep referring to Detroit's "culture of violence"...

Margaret: My goodness!

Sandra: And our culture says, we don't like education. Interestingly enough, we know we know the study of the State of the Black Child [released a few days before the interview by the Skilman Foundation – editor] we did a little digging into that study. The DD3 [Data-Driven Detroit -- editor] people they are the same folks, the director of that program, of that think tank, he's the one actually who coined the phrase about having a culture that "hates education."

Charles: And this was a Bing Corporation originally.

Sandra: The name of Data-Driven Detroit used to be ACIS. The language they use. It has always been these language wars. In they are speaking as if they are nonpartisan, actually they are funded; they have "stakeholders." Yeah, we are under siege everywhere we go.

Yes. Kurt Metzger, he is the director of the Detroit Area Community Information System (ACIS) which was the previous name of this D3. And they worked with organizations that Bing brought back in 2009.

Margaret: Charles used the expression "we are at war." If there is a war, there are always armies. I know about the army of the ruling class, but what is the army on our side, what are the armies that we can support?

Charles: We are naked, fundamentally. We have a very small group of social justice activists who are very dedicated and they are getting involved in doing some new things instead of simply being on the defense. We've got young people who were involved in the environmental justice movement, which wasn't around 10 years ago. We've got people in the food security movement, who are raising food in a sustainable way and healthy ways, and we've got people involved in just visioning what type of new economic system we can have that be an engine to changing and replacing what we have.

So there are people also like Ron Scott's organization, Coalition Against Police Brutality which is involved in defending people from police brutality. But it's not simply enough to be defensive. We've got to also think about what we're going to change to, what are we going to become.

But I say, fundamentally, we are naked, because we do not have a large enough force for what's coming at us.

Sandra: I understand the notion of war. But I am with you Margaret. I think there has to be, unless what we say we are doing is guerrilla warfare, the actions we're talking about. I think we need to work more closely in concert for an effective guerrilla warfare. I see us as more under siege, and, being under siege, I think that the response being under siege is in development.

And that is bringing us closer together, those activists outside of Detroit and those inside. Like the work Charles Williams is doing at King Solomon with the National Action Network. That is going to bring in activists from other communities into Detroit and connect them.

But at the same time, Fred, we're full of traitors, liars, pimps, you know, treachery around every corner, so on the one hand, a person appears on the surface to be for the community and the next thing you know they are signing for Belle Isle to be signed over to the state!

Then they're disrespecting the people when they come to voice their opinion at Council meetings. People came in the hundreds to protest this Emergency Manager thing and sell hundreds of lots to this rich guy Hantz "to farm", "to farm." We know it's a lie, the language in the news and in the media try to turn that lie into a truth.

The same way we are getting that language at that state level -- the same way that during the election we heard it on the national level and are still hearing.

Charles: when I say that war is being made on us, I think in terms of what happened in the colonial period where the armies of the rich countries just moved into the areas in the Global South stole the land, took the people, stole the resources, just open war.

It's a lot more sophisticated than that. It's an economic onslaught, but it's backed up by the elimination of the democratic process. So you don't have any recourse in any traditional sense. So people went to court to put the emergency manager law on the ballot, filed lawsuits and the activists were told that it wasn't written on the right kind of paper, the font size was wrong, and this is what was done. So it just makes a mockery of bourgeois democracy.

It's important. I don't underestimate the need for defense, to satisfy the needs of poor people. Poverty is growing by leaps and bounds. It is going to get worse because of the basis of capitalism the poverty is going to get worst so we have a dire need to keep people from starving, from being homeless. The whole foreclosure activity is taking over the homes of middle class people and seniors.

Poverty, as I was reading in a report, extends beyond the people who are the workers and sort of working aged middle-class people. People who have paid for their homes, because of expenses now are 20% higher, according to this report, than it was a decade ago, a lot of these people are on fixed income, so they can't afford to pay the additional expenses, so some people are losing their homes for those reasons, that wasn't even connect with this recent economic crisis.

And the burden is being felt by practically everybody in town and in the metropolitan area, it's not simply Detroit. And the number of police employed has decreased drastically. We only have basically a handful of police in the city now, and a handful of firemen. And they go somewhere else to get paid because there have been budget cuts every year.

We know people who are on the police force and they are really suffering; they've got families they are losing their houses and everything.

Benefits, for people who had them, even older people, are losing them. They're losing their pensions. Some of my family lost pensions after working 20 or 30 years.

What's happening in Greece – what we're seeing on television with the struggles in Greece – I think this so-called austerity that the government imposed on the population there -- is the type of thing we are feeling here.

Now the people in Greece had a history of struggle in a more overt way, of being out in the street, challenging the system, because you know, they had a Communist Party going back to the 30s and 40s. But our population doesn't have that type of political education which they have because of the trade union movement, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party and all of that.

Because the United States is a rich country because you can see on television everybody here lives happy and smiling and on the news they talk about the conditions of the day and everybody is smiling and happy, so we think it must be a personal situation that is so bad, we, or just the people in my immediate circles, and so it must be something wrong with me or something wrong with us.

Sandra: that's right.

Charles: So that destroys a person's psyche, it amplifies this alienation that exists throughout the society. We are just bombarded 24-7 with all the signs of wealth and everybody is happy as consumers. We all got big cars; we got the auto show, all that.

So there's something wrong with me if I'm not in that happy environment, you see. So I think that that contributes to the crime that young people are involved in because they are feeling helpless and hopeless. All they know, many of them working-class youth, all they know is the underground economy.

In our neighborhood if you ask, "what do we see from our front porch?" the only economy in our community is the underground economy. You can count the people on one hand who are engaged in traditional type of employment.

Margaret: What do you mean by the underground economy?

Charles: Well doing things that usually that are illegal, selling drugs, gambling, different types of things, things that you can make money off of very quickly. It doesn't necessarily have to be illegal but it's generally things that bring some instant gratification.

Sandra, how would you describe that?

Sandra: Well I think you're right. What we're seeing is, wee see that our young people have to fight harder to remember that they're human beings, harder to not utterly destroy each other because the call is so great for the destruction of our youth, of anything that would provide a sense of power, a sense of hope.

We see all these signposts of hope, being denigrated to the place where there is nothing to look at in terms of thinking that "I can get a job" because there are no jobs.

You see people with more education, people who don't have a record, for instance, who don't have jobs. So how much more difficult is it for you to get a job then? When your mother and father are working, trying very diligently to get a job? We know families

When you look at the numbers of folks who have been touched by the criminal injustice system, this idea of marking people to the place to identify them, to mark them out of, as Mr. Bing has said to "right size Detroit," would be to remove them from any opportunity that would be made available.

So we're seeing that in a very strong way from our front porch. But at the same time I do see this. There is so much rage in their sense of depression we are seeing things we have never seen before.

And I'm surprised that we haven't seen some of the kinds of things we've seen in other places like in Connecticut where young people are walking in and making mass murder that kind of thing, thank God.

There is something still here that soul of Detroit that is holding us together. There's a sense of, that all love has not been lost. There is still a sense where people recognize folks not just because of what they may do in terms of an occupation, or how they bring in money to their household, but also still responding to them as people, and as human beings, and as family.

And that in my mind is one of the things that the terrorists can't seem to get a hold of. They want the soul of Detroit; but they want Black without Blackness. So they try to recreate it. We're watching this construction of this anti-soul that is supposed to mean Detroit, and it can't possibly ever be that.

It is sort of disappointing to folks when they don't get the same gratification because they're making themselves over to be Detroiters. But walking into a place ... I've told so many folks "How can you come to a place and you don't take any time to learn anything about the people or the culture of a place?" Every ground has a history. Every geography has a history. And if you're going to be a part of that, then you are going to honor that. We travel, we traveled to places and we take the time to learn something about that geography. And you just don't jump in and proceed to believe that we need you, or that place needs you to make it better. Instead, you open yourself to all the possibilities of the place.

So this just speaks to me. You have two sort of groups of folks. You have the dreamers were coming in but they're coming in with this baggage of supremacy that is unacknowledged. Then you have the terrorists who don't care,who don't care, who change laws arbitrarily, who enact martial law, who say we know better. You know it's almost like, you know if you listen to the language that is being used to construct this demise of Detroit over and over again, it is the same language that was used during slavery time.

Like this fellow who did the study, the director of this organization who said "there is a culture that doesn't want education in Detroit." Now how ridiculous is that -- but if they say it enough and repeated at every level . . . It is strategic. This chaos is so strategically orchestrated.

That's the thing they can't seem to get a handle on. If it weren't for the fact that there is a deep history of spiritual love in Detroit; and I know it is messed up because we've got some messed up things happening in a lot of our churches. A lot of church pimps. But there is this real sense of love.

There was a time when a young man was killed on our street. We put out a little flyer and let people know that we were going to get the blood up out of the street and we were not going to let our children track through it. And that we were going to take a moment to acknowledge what was lost, people came from all walks of life. There were pimps and pushers and sisters who worked on the street and storekeepers and people stopped down. We probably had 75 people. And this all took place on the same day. People came. We made a circle and we read poetry, we read Gwendolyn Brooks poem, "The Boy Died In My Alley," and then took turns blessing the children. And saying: What is one thing you would want to bless the children with? And went around the circle. You see that, and you can't understand that unless you are a part of that culture, unless you understand Detroit, unless you grew up here or you have family here to really understand it.

You may do these things; you may believe that this chaos will destroy us but this chaos is what's going to make a stronger. This is what is bringing us closer together.

Charles: And I think we have greater potential for the positive things that the activists are doing that can grow much stronger and bigger, in the environmental movement, in the people doing education reform, in the food justice movement.

One of the big issues that we talk about is the whole faith community. The lack of a strong relationship between the social justice activists and the faith community. And that suggests that that the faith community does not have a social justice component, but it does. Students have to link up across different types of religions and faiths.

Fred: And it is certainly true that among the faith community that the problems have been so powerful, for those who have stood up, it has not been easy to keep the money come in and everything like that. Minister s can put themselves out there but they can lose things when they do that. I've seen that reluctance.

I don't know if you remember all our marches at DTE, but every week Rev. Rowe would get up there and say, "where are ministers?" where is the faith community? We have women and children dying and we got three ministers here. What's going on?" He would say that everytime. He was there, Rev. Bullock. Rev. Williams came down. Not many came down.

Sandra: I see the opposite being really true. Because if you stand up, people will come. The thing is some of these folks have some deals going on. That's why you haven't heard from them. Some of these folks – you go to a meeting and they got their legs crossed, sitting back, real comfortable, because they've already made their deal. And that's why you haven't heard from them. And then they come up with some stuff , some backward talk and stuff that you've never heard of. They don't want to connect with other ministers and they don't want their congregations to connect.

This is something that I'm very interested in doing. I'm calling out to the sisters, because most congregations, no matter what the denomination, are mostly women. I'm calling out to the sisters to start examining what's going on in your house. If in your church house you can't get a diaper or a pamper without there being a committee meeting, if you're being put out of your house, and your pastor is driving home to his house in his comfortable car and his lights are on and yours are off, there's something wrong with that.

There is something wrong if he's not standing with you. If you're out there on the DTE line and you're protesting, your pastor should be there with you. And if he's not, call him out on it. And if not it's time to put your tithe someplace else. Maybe put your tithes in Welfare Rights. Put your tithes behind some of these young pastors who are standing up for our interests. What happens is they'll go to church on Sunday and not have any lights and then on Monday they will go down to Welfare Rights. But you don't have any money because you put your tithe in that other thing.

We have a church. Each of us. It is not a building and it is time for each of us to reevaluate what we're doing and what we're calling church. And understand that when we congregate, like a sitting together, we are having church right now because we are telling the truth and we are pleasing God. We are talking about serving the people. Whatever capacity we want to call it, we can call it activism, we can call it being a missionary, we can call whatever we want to, but it is pleasing to our Creator because we are serving the least of these and we are raising up humanity. At the end of the day that's what it's about.

Like these people who would go on television and lie to the people, and they wonder why we are seeing these awful crimes, these mass murders with these young people -- it makes you wonder, what's going on? The kind of things you're hearing in your homes and in your neighborhoods that cause you so much pain -- I don't believe everybody's crazy. They say this person was crazy that person was crazy.

I believe it's a spiritual thing; it's much deeper than that. We ignore that we are dealing with, as Charles said, there is a warfare, that is happening, and I believe, at a deeper level, it is spiritual warfare that's happening.

Every system has a spirit. The government has a spirit and when the spirit of the government turns against the people that an evil entity. We don't want to talk about that. We haven't talked about that very much lately. These entities, government after government is turning on its people. And we are saying, "What's happening with that?"

For instance, Charles and I were talking about how the U.S. practices around the world of terror and so on, now we are feeling the impact of that here, right here in our own country, and it's freaking us out.

This is the same evil. The same spirit that is now being turned inward. But it is time to teach our people again what we are looking at. If you could recognize the enemy, then it is easier to defeat.

Margaret: Speaking of recognizing the enemy, who are the terrorists we're facing in Detroit?

Charles: I think it's the Wall Street forces. They have their tentacles in every state and in every city. But the people who did the study, they people they are representing, they're Wall Street people, and their objective is to do all those neoliberal things, you know to take over the public school systems and sell them off, buying and selling everything, every agency, every person, every piece of land, everything is for sale.

And that is the force, the earthly force, that we are dealing with. And they run these city governments basically and state governments...

Sandra: little puppets...

Charles: and somehow we have to do some really qualitatively better education of the masses to teach them about the real system and the real enemy, the political economy of the United States.

And among all the rich countries I think the United States is the only one among the rich countries where people don't get any of that education.

Fred: Do you think that there is a place in the upcoming mayoral and city council elections for the struggle we are talking about?

Charles: I think that there is a need for political candidacy as an arm of a larger movement. I don't know who of anyone and I haven't heard of anyone in the community of the people I'm familiar with who is talking about running. I'm sure there will be some.

But I think that but I think that it is good to do as the Green Party does to run people as educational campaign to spread the word and to recruit people for real leadership. But I think it would be good to have a person in office, such as JoAnn Watson at the City Council -- somebody who is honest and will tell the truth, who will vote correctly for the people if they get an opportunity.

I think the current movement by the establishment is to really limit, places strict limitation on, what your options are within that political framework. There is not much for you to vote on. If they have the emergency manager, then they will be just sort of a shadow government. Maybe they will have hearings, or something like that, but I don't think they will have the power that they used to have.

But, they will have the bully pulpit. The politicians can go around and speak and educate people. And I think that's important.

They can tell the truth. We don't have many politicians that do that but I think it is something that can be done instead of thinking, "that's going to be my career." You go in and you tell the truth and they could put you out, so what? But I think it's a major opportunity for education, and I would like to see the Green Party engaged in some of this political education in the city and the county. I don't know what's being planned.

But politics as usual is useless for what we need now here. I think it is really obsolete.

Sandra: What I would like to see happen, because we keep, because we cannot allow the same liars, pimps, and traitors, this whole ? to get back in office.

So one of the things that I would like to suggest is . . .

Do you know how they make memorials for the slain? We have that habit of making these memorials. We get the heads of all the traitors, put their heads literally on a stake, and stick them in our yards. All over. So we can identify who they are. Create graveyards for them.

Some of this vacant land set up graveyards. Put their heads on the stake and put them, tack their crimes on the stake. So that everywhere you go around the city -- I hope this catches on all across the country. So wherever you go in the city, you will know who not to vote for. And you will know why not to vote for them. We have to make them know. We have to hurt them and let them know, "you will never be elected for anything again. You have turned against us. Where you are going work, we don't know, but you won't be working here!" We have to let these people know that we still do have the power. And that is one way to do it. We have to scare them. We have to, like Charles said, step outside the box. It can't be business as usual.

You see, they like to call us "ridiculous", when we, for instance, at City Council, when the community lines up in droves, and has its voice and the puppets in the Council tell them "oh, you have 3 minutes." and [act] all disrespectful to the people and all that, but they're going to know something.

This is something people can do. It won't cost a lot of money. We can get some folks to help us sponsor these heads, but it is time to call them out. Not just called them out, we have to put them on, as the kids say, "put them on show." And let the people see who they are. It's just time for that.

Charles: You know Duggan is going to run for mayor. And he's getting the endorsements of the state Democratic Party.

Sandra: We have to let people know who he is. Pookie and them in the neighborhood, then not listening to channel 7 and all these political discussions. But they will see that head on the lawn with a sign saying who they are; what their crimes against him are.

This is the disconnect: why don't I want to vote for him, or why do I want to vote for that person? How is that going to help me? If you have a face of a person and their crimes are listed well, then I know that you are against me; you're not for me in a very personal way.

Fred: What are some of the projects in that you are working on that you would like to tell our readers about?

Sandra: We are working on a television show. As a matter of fact, Maureen Taylor [chairperson of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization – editor] asked us to join with her programming at WHPR. We are planning on being on a couple of times a month.

We are also starting a column in which we are contributing regularly to the Michigan Citizen which we hope to get syndicated.

At the Hush House: Charles has a Facebook blog under Baba Charles, and we ask people to tune him in.

We are planning on this summer what we are calling a street freedom school. We want to dducate people by telling the truth. Bring folks out. Bring a chair, we're showing films, having conversation, some educational things, whether it's about health, development. Bring people to talk about some of the crucial issues that folks don't understand the connection between what's happening in state and national government and what it means on a local level. We want to do that in all those kinds of venues — through the television show, the newspaper piece, the freedom school.

I've been working with a project called "communities of compassion." This is what I was mentioning about calling the sisters together and saying to them it's time for us to do something different. Yes, we may not have the kind of money we need, but we do have skills. So learning how to exchange skills, learning how to join churches together so churches are set up as regions of refuge.

Say on the east side of Detroit five or seven churches working together and everything you need for babies can be found on that side of town. On another side of town maybe things that have to do with medical supplies and so on. Working together as communities, because we are going to have to circumvent this system that is working for our demise, that is calling for our demise.

So this will strengthen us, bring us together in many ways and allow us, in these territories of refuge to engage in the conversations we are missing. Strengthen us in ways like our voting blocs, in terms of our ways of economy, it'll help us in ways of humanizing and remembering how to love.

By insisting that compassion is at the base of where we stand and we can't forget that. I remember coming up in Detroit one of the things I will always remember – was some of my grandmothers "across the fence" stuff. Back then, and those days, I grew up on Helen Street on the east side. So our community was a lot of Polish and German immigrants and Black folks. We were all in that same community going in and out of houses. Black children going around speaking Polish. Some of the first words I learned were Polish. Went to Edsel junior high school. In and out of all those pots you know, tasting all these different kinds of foods, and then made us tight. Because there was compassion.

Like my grandmother taught us, if you know somebody that doesn't have any food, and we got a half a loaf of bread, then you still have bread to share. We have to get back to that. So "communities of compassion" is one initiative to do that.

One final thing — we are putting a shout-out for our international programming. We have programming in Ghana and Senegal and Liberia. So we are still needing laptops, we're still needing monies to help support those educational projects, programs and the students who so desperately need help.

Here we go again — Africa is being invaded and is going to be partitioned once again. So we need help as much as we can on that front.

Charles: An expansion of that "communities of compassion" concept. I think we've also got to build bridges in a new way throughout the state. Because most of the political power that people are being impacted by now throughout the state and throughout the country, is not from the federal government, but from state governments. Republicans have control over the majority of state governments. It is important for us to figure out — we've got to have some conversations about this, all over the state. We are up against feelings of hostility between the rural and urban populations, between different racial groups -- there is a lot of racial antagonism. There are class antagonisms — people are anti-labor unions and some people don't like the farmers, and so on.

We've got to figure out how do we transcend these barriers and work together, even though we've got all these biases. The biases are not going to disappear just because we embark on this road. We've got to work with white people who are racist, in spite of the racism. And urban and rural people are going to have to figure out how to work together because we all have the same type of economic challenges, and social challenges throughout the state, throughout the country.

We got to do some things different at the grass roots level. We can't depend on these governments to be involved in this. They might get involved but for different reasons — to get reelected and that sort of thing. They don't want to make any fundamental changes.

I think that is something that the Green Party ought to really be involved in. Rethinking the types of strategies and tactics can we use for building new types of bridges around the state. We've got to do that.

People in Detroit only think about what is happening in Detroit. We've got in and to think about what is happening all over the state of Michigan and the Great Lakes.

Margaret: We need to build an alliance.

Fred: We've [the Green Party and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization – editor] talked about doing a tour throughout the state. A green roots tour. Traveling around the state to Saginaw, Flint, Bay City, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Benton Harbor. Greens also have contacts in Traverse and up in Marquette as well. The purpose of the tour it is to connect and reconnect with Green Party supporters and members and Welfare Rights supporters and members to meet this new situation.

Charles: The students are paying these exorbitant fees, for tuition for the universities. These humongous loans. They're like peasants when they graduate, if they can make it. And they are so deeply in debt.

We need to fight for free education for everybody.

Sandra: It [the tour] has to include the faith community.

Charles: The faith community has to be a part of it.

Sandra: We keep forgetting that so much of the roots of our activism is rooted in the church. [Difficult to understand this section.] A manifesto agreement for Detroit by Detroiters, but we can change the names, anybody can use it, because the ideas are universal.

The idea is to begin from with something very simple. Let's agree to love our children. Period. In loving your children, that encompasses so many other things that we would have to agree on to make that reality — on education, and on and on down the line. How we care for them in terms of jobs, healthy place to live, ensuring they have food and social justice, all of these issues, all of them are wrapped in that reality.

But somehow or another we used to know that. We used to know that loving our children made us better human beings, better neighbors, better parents, better lovers, better preachers, better teachers. It just made us better.

But we have to get back to that place. Loving our children made us recognize the enemy early on. When you love your children you are watching for the enemy. You are teaching them – "That's right there. That's wrong."

We had ways to deal with them. But we've sort of gotten away from that.

Charles: We've allowed the right wing to claim ownership of faith communities. Of love, of families, all of that, we've allowed them to take.

Sandra: Right.

Charles: So we've got to take it back. Our background really, is Southern Baptist. The right wing claims that is a right wing commodity that they own. But, that was also the basis of Martin Luther King's movement, the SCLC. That was southern Baptist. And it was peace and justice.

Sandra: Like we heard Dr. King say recently in a speech, all the stuff that people laid on him, what his responsibilities were, what kind of work he was involved in, scratch that in terms of the social justice movement, he said at the heart of it, "I am a preacher."

So when he would expound on love, people think it's ridiculous to talk about love, but they don't want us to because it is so powerful.

Margaret: I think that love is the most powerful force on earth.

Sandra: it is. It is. And if we begin to exemplify that and start talking to people about that, about love and loving, because we have forgotten how to do it. Love brings change.

One of the most revolutionary things we can do is to love. Like Charles was saying, to get past somebody's rhetoric, to get past somebody's language, and say let's agree right here in this place. We can agree on this. We can find this space where we can agree. And any time people can find a space to agree on, that is a space where love can happen.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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