live blog of the detroit people’s movement assembly

today i am at the central methodist church, home of the michigan welfare rights organization and the us social forum office.

we are here for the people’s movement assembly, a gathering to uplift the commitments and resolutions for action in detroit. it’s 3/13 – 313, the area code here in detroit.

we’ve started strong with maureen taylor telling us what this moment is – some key quotes:

“we better organize pockets of safety and survival – nobody’s coming for us. we have to tell elected officials – we’re not going to elect you, even if you come out and give speeches, not while these babies are dying. this is madness we are living through and nobody’s coming to save us. so the us social forum is to raise conscious actions. and after the forum, when everyone leaves, we will still be here upholding that action and that work – we are gonna take back this city, take back this county, this state.”

then fred vitale got up and gave us some key moments of gatherings and convergence that have historically happened in Detroit, including Frederick Douglass and John Browne talking about the end of slavery, Malcolm X giving his historic Message to the Grassroots speech in 1963, and then in 1969 the League of Revolutionary Black Workers meeting here, leading to the foundation of the Black Workers Congress a year later.

i just got up and shared an overview of the 5 days of the forum. i blogged this earlier in a post called ‘the forum, in a nutshell‘. one of the major points is that detroit has plenty of actions that participants at the u.s. forum can get involved in, and we ask folks to stand in solidarity with us, and instead of actions IN detroit, folks plan to actions WITH detroit!

now we are getting the overview of actions folks are planning so far for the forum – after this we will break into small groups.

first, ROC Michigan – restaurant opportunities center! after having us shout and march them up to the microphone, they led us in the ROC chant (in 3 languages!):

we are power
we are strong
who are we?
ROC michigan!

Jamie taught us that MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech on June 23, 1963 here in Detroit as a precursor to giving it in DC…”thus, we will have an anniversary march for the dreams of restaurant workers.”

We were asked what are our dreams?
– a nightmare for the capitalists – that we eliminate poverty
– that we have a popular democracy take over before Bing and Bobb destroy the city
– that we have healthcare for all and healing practices in that. and that we amend the constitution that corporations are not people
– the everybody knows community, that parents don’t have to do it all by themselves, they have a chance to be a part of a community that will support them to make it through.
– that children can play free of asthma, in a non-toxic and beautiful environment and that we can shut all incinerators down.
– that workers make the decisions about what to produce, and are the controllers of the corporations
– for real peace

They explained the inequalities happening behind kitchen doors, and shared stories of racism and inequality while working restaurants themselves, including being ridiculed, sexually harrassed, fired. “They’re not appreciating the work we are doing, because they’re the rich, and we’re the poor.”

We are strong
We are power
Who are we?
US Social Forum!!

Next, we’re hearing from Zero Waste Detroit about shutting down the incinerator. Children in Detroit are 3 times more likely to have asthma than those nationwide. We don’t meet air quality standards here in Wayne County. One participant in our coalition told us that he went to school across from the incinerator, and one day all the children fell out from asthma attacks on the playground.

The target is Mayor Bing – our city council is open to shutting it down, but Bing is against it. Mayor Bing ran his campaign saying he would shut it down, so did Cockerel. But once folks become mayor…something happens. We don’t own the incinerator, and this summer we want it shut down. There are twice as many jobs available through recycling, which could happen all across the city. It’s not just a negative, we have solutions. The decision is coming down in mid-June, so at the forum we’ll either be in celebration or retaliation. We’ll be doing big actions leading up to the forum. Ruckus and GAIA are supporting this from the national level.

Next up, the Reverend Bill Wylie-Kellerman sharing on the Farm Labor Organizing Committee action on Chase Bank. FLOC is working with tobacco workers in the south – one black pastor who visited them said – “these are the same fields our ancestors worked – and the same conditions.” Detroit had the highest homeowner rate at one point – now we have the highest foreclosure rate. Banks have the money to remortgage these homes, but they make more on the foreclosures. We want to make the connection between FLOC’s work and the foreclosure crisis. I’m not gonna blog the ideas but they are fantastic.

We just got to welcome amazing organizers who are visiting us from Atlanta and Chicago in solidarity with this planning!

Next, we’re hearing about the action on DTE – Detroit Thomas Edison. 14 people have died this season after their heat has been turned off. 3 children just a few weeks ago whose funerals were this morning – “there was one blue casket and two pink caskets. i didn’t know they made caskets that small. it broke all of our hearts”. Michigan Welfare Rights Organization been having weekly demonstrations at the DTE building at 1 Edison Plaza [Bagley and 3rd]. “How can we strike on them? Why do we have to give them our money to kill us? 14 people since January, and half of them were children. We must get rid of Anthony Earley and all those folk on the board who don’t give a damn about us. We need to stop these politicians – I’m game, are y’all?” Uproarious applause.

Now we are hearing additional updates from Toshi from Call Em Out – talking about local politicians who “have been given with our vote the power to help us. And they won’t help us. They tried to announce bus cut services on Saturdays as their first move after that election. Bing and Bingham have to go! 23% of the voting electorate came out to vote. There’s something wrong with that count. Some say the ballot boxes were tampered with…we gonna take a two-pronged approach. First, propoganda for the economically challenged working class. And second, we’re gonna take direct action.” Brilliant ideas followed this update as well.

Ok we just had small groups to plan our actions – all of these will be posted on the organizing website for the Forum so folks from around the country can get involved!

Our resolutions are to shut down the incinerator and have recycling through Detroit, in terms of DTE we are marching 14 coffins down with the opening march. With ROC Michigan we want to change the culture of restaurants to respect their workers – we demand a sit-down with Joe Vicari for the workers, emphasizing the civil rights and racial injustice of this situation! We’re gonna do a series of actions that will escalate throughout the forum!! And finally, because Chase is a slave labor corporation with workers in the tobacco fields of North Carolina and is displacing and killing Detroiters, we call for actions against J.P. Morgan/Chase until they stop the foreclosures in Detroit and the plantations in NC!

We are strong!
We are power!
Who are WE?

The US Social Forum!!!