progress at the birdtown site?

folks may remember this post about the end of the birdtown garden.  i was riding home the other day and randomly rode by and was greeted to this sight.

the birdtown site fully cleared and with the bulldozer sitting there idle.  too perfect not to take a photo, too depressing not to make my heart sink.  it seemed somehow indicative of the loss of innocence i’ve felt lately.

things are changing in detroit.  it feels intense.  state takeover of schools and city government, closure of schools, loss of city services.  the marginalization of people’s power, increased control by non-profits, foundation and corporations to shape the city.  a media narrative that focuses on the young white people moving into detroit and making it better.  worst of all, i’m right in the middle of that mix; part of the problem, and yet trying to do good things.  a young white person, often featured in media, working for a non-profit, taking foundation and corporation money, and working to open a charter school as detroit public schools are shuttered.  it’s a heavy uncomfortable place to sit, not one that i really like, but i suppose better to acknowledge my contradiction than to blindly go forth think myself a simple do gooder.



2 responses to “progress at the birdtown site?

  1. Ugh, what a shame.

  2. I have a similar perspective but don’t usually feel bad about it. The change happening in Detroit is mostly driven by pent up demand for better urban spaces. Local and global developers are figuring out Detroit is a decent investment (better than Canton at least) and are using a media machine to try to draw the multitudes of, young, uncritical, upwardly mobile consumers into their grasp. The demand, the investors, the media machine will all intensify without you, without me, without all the “pioneering” young white people that are drawn to the city because they see a more just, equitable and sustainable future.

    The problem is not that young, white, privileged people play an increasing role in an old, black, impoverished city. The (biggest) problem is that the very wealthy are showing up and their only interest is making money. They will use every tool at their disposal–media, government, thuggery, the proclivities of old black women and of course, the talent and spending power of young, white, privileged people.

    I can probably speak beyond anecdotes about the Jewish community in metro Detroit. A few years ago, a group of radical Jews took over the nearly shuttered Downtown Synagogue and began the work of creating a platform for plugging newly arrived Jewish immigrants into the various political action and social service organizations that we were connected with.

    Not long after, the organized Jewish community, funded primarily by very wealthy people primarily interested in making money, started pumping money into rent subsidies to attract “Next Generation” Jews to the city center. Their motto is “All Together NOW”. [Because if we don’t all move at the same time, who will we consort with? Detroit is a blank slate right?]

    I think that our work at the Downtown Synagogue has helped. I know we can do better and I think we will.

    I suppose that was a very long-winded way of saying this: if you care about the class struggle in the world, your skin color and your background don’t matter nearly as much as which side you’re fighting for and how well you’re fighting.

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