urban ag panel at u of m dearborn

of course i mostly wanted to see john hantz – just cause he himself had been mostly silent and allowed others to speak for him – namely hantz farm president mike score who for full disclosure i happen to know reads this blog from time to time.   i’m not sure i’ve ever heard mr. hantz speak before, though i do have a sneaking suspicion that i talked with him on the phone a few years ago when he was just starting to come up with his ideas.  i’m not sure i gave him the warmest reception.

regardless i have to say i think mr. hantz is a pretty good speaker, though he does speak with a bit of a cocky bravado that i’m sure has helped him be a successful business man – that doesn’t mean i like what he has to say, but i do think for a lot of folks his position could be pretty engaging.

i think one of the points i find most interesting about what mr. hantz has to say it that he thinks that there should be a new homestead act for detroit- just like before to address all the vacant land that was available in the west.  of course talking about the homestead act is a pretty loaded topic if you are not looking at united states history from a western, expansionist, manifest destiny sort of way.  it fails to address that fact that many of the lands taken in the homestead act were not unoccupied – natives still lived there.  and the ones that were unoccupied were by false treaty, war, and starvation. it’s not a comparison i would want to make.  though it  actually may be pretty apt.

much like those going into the west could only see the possibility of open land but not see the tragedy of the means by which it became open – many folks especially young white people – myself included fail to understand the tragedy that created this vacant land.  but we have to look at the racist economic system that kept blacks from getting good jobs, the racist housing policies which preyed on blacks, the racist banks which made it difficult to get good loans for starting businesses and making housing improvements, and of course the insurance policies of redlining which refused coverage in certain neighborhoods and refused to rebuild after the rebellion.

this whole idea of homesteading pretty much speaks  of white folks again taking land over.  we don’t need another homestead act for detroit, especially if it means white folks once again getting land when i think plenty of black folks in the city desire and could make great use of the land.  but the people with the resources and knowledge to work the system and of course the whiteness to get a leg up will largely be white folks – and likely young cause that’s who’s moving into the city.

am i saying that white folks shouldn’t get a piece of the action?  no i’m all for it, ma and i would like a chunk of land to put down our roots, but i’m worried that a homestead act would end up looking like every other situation in the city in which whites have control, but the majority populace is black.

the other night talking with a friend – who a little glibly said – well if 40,000 black folks can get together and demand their acre of the city as reparations then you might have an alternative to hantz’s proposition. and while he was talking in jest – i think he has a point – maybe hantz’s idea of a homestead act would be good – if we called it a reparations act.

but that’s not gonna happen – and frankly i just don’t agree with mr. hantz.  and i don’t think we need him to save detroit.  or his 30 million dollars.

ok maybe we do.  maybe if he took his 30 million and instead of trying to do it himself he set up a low interest rate loan business that would give loans to new black farmers from the city then i could be into it.  i’ve been doing my best to keep an open mind.  but i just don’t think we need ownership of large areas of the city by one individual. and while hantz talks about trying to get folks access to land, i don’t hear anything about how he is gonna help folks to do that.

having said all this you have to admire the man’s willingness to put a lot of money behind a crazy idea and something he believes in.  having watched this video i really don’t think that mr. hantz is a bad guy, we just come from completely different worlds and will likely never understand each others view-point..

and one other idea i’ve been toying with – why does someone even have to own this land?  why not just make large swaths of the city into commons to be used by all residents.

but you don’t have to take my word for it you can find out here

look forward to your thoughts.

see ya next time.

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2 responses to “urban ag panel at u of m dearborn

  1. Fantastic post! I just wrote a post called “homestead act 2.0” re: the problematic use of the term. I have been hearing about this idea in Detroit and curious about it–intrigued, but fearful it would be re-enacted racism. White person coming in and gentrifiying an area that was solidly areas where people of color lived and having it become ‘white urbanfarm-landia.’

  2. Pingback: potatoes « little house on the urban prairie

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