Friday, June 25, 2010

US Social Forum Update

It is hard to know where to begin sharing about the last couple of days. There is so much that has happened. But there is one thing that I've been contemplating for the last twelve hours that was brought to some degree of clarity during a walk that I took around downtown Detroit this afternoon. The photos that you see here help narrate that journey and the thoughts lately chattering in my mind. Last night we took a walk through the downtown area looking for a restaurant. During our walk we ended up taking a stroll through the MGM Grand casino that sits like a gleaming jewel just on the outskirts of the downtown core. I was absolutely astonished at the size of the crowd that was packed inside the casino on a Thursday night in an otherwise mostly dead downtown. A downtown that looks pretty dead even though the forum has brought thousands of people into the city. I didn't see any USSF wristbands in the casino, though I was observing closely. Anyhow, the scene was quite disturbing and it wasn't till my walk today that I was able to pin down with clarity the contours of the internal nagging.

We got a chance yesterday to listen to an amazing conversation between Grace Lee Boggs and Immanuel Wallerstein about the current state of world economic/social affairs. Wallerstein is one, among many, who has written about "dependency theory" in economics and its correlate the "Center-Periphery" model. In short, these interrelated concepts suggest that in a free-market capitalist system wealth and material resources are extracted from outlying peripheral areas (or countries) and concentrated in urban centers (or in a relatively small number of controlling countries). This is what really struck me as I took my walk today and spent some time outside the casino pondering. I will let you ponder and draw your own conclusions.

The other picture is of the DTE energy building directly across from the MGM. DTE was the target of a USSF participant organized protest earlier in the week. The protest derived from the controversy surrounding a purported 17 deaths that resulted from DTE terminating eletricity services to vulnerable residents who then succumbed to the elements. People should pay their bills, right? Who can argue with that? Again, I will let you draw your own conclusions. All I will say is that the takeaway for me, from my sojourn at the intersection of those two buildings, is the crucial reminder that one day I will be sitting down with Christ to talk about my life, my wife and family, my friends, my neighbors and what I did with what I had.

The final picture is of some chicory and other wildflowers growing in a vacant lot across from the aformentioned structures.....a little silent protest....a quiet reminder and source of hope.

So, in the backdrop of the aforegoing, there are many amazing things happening in Detroit. The large urban gardening movement is being carried on alongside other wonderful efforts we've learned about like Detroit Summer, the Allied Media Conference/Project and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and garden. One of the themes here at the USSF has been that "Another Detroit is Happening." We can see that that is true in a great number of inspiring ways. And we can be even more proud and grateful for all the work that our friends and neighbors are doing in our own city. All of that has been very deeply confirmed and affirmed on this trip.

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