May 24, 2013
Another World Is Possible, Another Detroit Is Happening
Posted on Jun 22, 2010
By Amy Goodman
DETROIT—“I have a dream.” Ask anyone where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. first proclaimed those words, and the response will most likely be at the March on Washington in August 1963. In fact, he delivered them two months earlier, on June 23, in Detroit, leading a march down Woodward Avenue.
“I have a dream that one day, right down in Georgia and Mississippi and Alabama, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to live together as brothers. ...
“I have a dream this afternoon that my four little children ... will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
“I have a dream this afternoon that one day right here in Detroit, Negroes will be able to buy a house or rent a house anywhere that their money will carry them and they will be able to get a job.”
Environmental writer Rebecca Solnit says of the decay of Detroit, “the continent has not seen a transformation like Detroit’s since the last days of the Maya.” The core of modern Detroit, the automobile industry, helped facilitate the creation of suburbs that ultimately spelled doom for vibrant inner cities. Detroit, which had 2 million residents in the mid-1950s, now has dwindled to around 800,000. Poverty, joblessness, depopulation and decay have created an almost post-apocalyptic scene here.
Carried within this dystopic, urban disaster, though, are the seeds of Detroit’s potential rebirth. Legendary Detroit organizer/philosopher Grace Lee Boggs helped organize the 1963 King march in Detroit. She turns 95 this week, and will be celebrated here at the U.S. Social Forum. We visited her at her home, which might well become a Detroit historic site because of the many organizations that were born there. She has lived in that same house for more than half a century, much of that time with her husband, the late political activist and autoworker Jimmy Boggs. Smiling, she says, “It’s really wonderful that the Social Forum decided to come to Detroit, because Detroit, which was once the symbol of miracles of industrialization and then became the symbol of the devastation of deindustrialization, is now the symbol of a new kind of society, of people who grow their own food, of people who try and help each other, to how we begin to think, not so much of getting jobs and advancing our own fortunes, but how we depend on each other. I mean, it’s another world that we’re creating here in Detroit.”
She reflects on the two delegations of young people attending the USSF with whom she has already met: “I hope they understand from Detroit that all of us, each of us, can become a cultural creative. ... We are creating a new culture. And we’re not doing it because we are such wonderful people. We’re doing it because we had to, not only to survive materially, but to survive as human beings.”
From urban gardens to collective businesses to electric cars, Detroit is beginning to chart an alternative path. As the great Indian writer Arundhati Roy has said, “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way, and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully, you can hear her breathe.”
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate
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