Edward Snowden is a Hero

In the digital age, things happen so friggin' fast Read more

A Dangerous Game: FREE Screening at Cinema Detroit

I'm feeling the Bern. As the grassroots surge continues Read more

Why Greece's 'No' Will Echo Across the United States

“Greek people are proving they want to remain in Read more

Edward Snowden is a Hero

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snowden-profile-pic-675x1024In the digital age, things happen so friggin’ fast that sometimes it’s worth slowing down amoment to reflect on how far we’ve come. Nowhere in our culture is that as clear to me as in our understanding of mass surveillance. A little more than two years ago, in May of 2013, almost nobody was talking about the NSA spying on our emails, our phone calls and our metadata. Heck, that word was so geeky it glazed eyes on arrival!

May of 2013 was the same month a little-known security contractor named Ed left an NSA facility in Hawaii with a few thumb drives packed with the secrets that would bust open the seal on one of America’s best-kept secrets. He fled for Hong Kong, ultimately Russia, and the stuff he shared unleashed a furious debate about government overreach and privacy around the world. John Oliver called for an end to the government’s ‘Dick Pic‘ program, a feature film and graphic biography were made about him, and scientists in Germany named a new crayfish species after Snowden.

Everybody seems to be talking about Snowden, except our government. 

I think that, too, will change. Recently, Democratic presidential hopeful Larry Lessig called Snowden “a hero”. The White House finally responded to a petition signed by over 120,000 people to pardon Snowden — albeit with the wrong answer. This is becoming the elephant in the national room that nobody can ignore.

My simple view is that Snowden shouldn’t be extradited back to the U.S. to face trial, he should be paraded through the streets of D.C. and New York as an American hero. Yes, a hero. Like Thomas Paine, who ignited the first American Revolution and then found himself imprisoned in France for helping ignite a popular revolution there, too. And just like Snowden, Paine found no sympathy from President George Washington, who ignored his appeals for safe transport back to the country he had served because he had alluded to secret negotiation underway with France in his pamphlets.

And so, like New Yorkers did for Paine, we the people must organize to bring Snowden back safely. 

When Paine was ultimately brought back to New York, he was greeted by the masses with celebration. The political pressure they applied ultimately earned Paine $3,000 from the nascent U.S. Congress in recognition for his services, plus an estate in New Rochelle, New York – all probably negotiated by Paine’s friend on the inside Benjamin Franklin.

Let’s get more of the 2016 presidential candidates to speak out in support of Snowden, and make this an issue on which we judge all of them, Democrats and Republicans and independents.

A Dangerous Game: FREE Screening at Cinema Detroit

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I’m feeling the Bern. As the grassroots surge continues around Bernie Sanders for President, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be hosting filmmaker Anthony Baxter in Detroit next month for a free screening of his latest film as a benefit for Bernie Sanders for President*. The film, A Dangerous Game, tells the epic story of Donald Trump’s battle to build luxury golf courses on pristine land, and local residents’ fightback. It’s a perfect tale of misuse of public money, precious resources (especially water!) and the corruption of democracy that is required to put elite private interests before the common good. I hope you’ll join me:

Detroit Workers & Builders Presents…

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A DANGEROUS GAME

FREE SCREENING

CINEMA DETROIT
3420 Cass Ave, Detroit
August 4th, 7:00pm

Panel discussion with Filmmaker Anthony Baxter and local activists to follow

*This event is not approved by any campaign, committee, or the candidate himself. [For FEC purposes]

Why Greece’s ‘No’ Will Echo Across the United States

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Photo: Greeks Rally to Say No ("Oxi", pronounced Oh-key) to the European Central Bank's Debt Deal - Telegraph.co.uk

Photo: Greeks Rally to Say No (“Oxi”, pronounced Oh-key) to the European Central Bank’s Debt Deal – Telegraph.co.uk

“Greek people are proving they want to remain in Europe as equal members and not as a debt colony”
-Greece’s leftist Syriza party Eurodeputy Dimitris Papadimoulis

The results of Sunday’s referendum in Greece are in: by a decisive margin, the Greek people have rejected the European Central Bank (ECB) and IMF’s bailout offer. They have collectively done the hard math that pro-austerity political elites and their technocratic minions said was too complicated to leave to the straightforward machinery of real democracy: the vote. With the will of the people (at least those who voted) now registered, Greece’s leaders will have the leverage they need to really stand up to the ECB and the IMF and get some real concessions.

The math that the people of Greece were asked to do isn’t really that hard at all, despite a million attempts by corporate mainstream media to obfuscate and confuse it in order to convince the world that no single Greek actually knows what they’re voting about.  The math is actually quite simple: more loans up front leads to more cutbacks later (aka “austerity”). It’s what people in my ‘hood of Detroit call the overlay for the underplay.

This is Greece’s pivotal moment, the inflection point in the curve of popular opinion against austerity politics. Just as Ireland did during last year’s uprising against water privatization, the Greeks have reached the logical conclusion of the ECB/IMF agenda, and it’s totally illogical: you cannot grow an economy by shrinking its social safety net and depriving 99% of its people of basic human necessities in the name of fiscal responsibility. That it took a country-wide referendum in order to draw this line in the sand may be the saving grace of popular democracy against global financial capitalism. That will depend upon how Greece’s leftist government translate the will of the people into the negotiations ahead.

This may all seem like a million miles away from home for the U.S., but it couldn’t be closer. Last week, Puerto Rico’s governor admitted that the island cannot pay its debt obligations. And last year, Detroit underwent the largest municipal bankruptcy in the country’s history. Hundreds of cities and townships across the country face serious financial hardships, and are just one step away from their own Greece moment. (This is not because of, as the conservative NY Post claims, big government spending and pensions – austerity politics is squarely to blame.) Greece’s stand is the logical next step in a global anti-austerity movement that traces back to the 2008 financial collapse, the Arab Spring, Indignados and Occupy movements spurred by it, and the surging global populist and pro-democracy electoral victories that have emerged from these movements: Spain’s Podemos party, Greece’s Syriza and right here at home an insurgent independent socialist Bernie Sanders gaining ground on the establishment Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton. This is grassroots politics, in action.

The consequences of the Greek referendum will be global: they will certainly draw concessions from global banks and pro-austerity governments, and even propel forward initiatives like Jubilee USA’s work at the United Nations to establish a global bankruptcy framework for countries and colonial commonwealths like Greece, Cyprus, Puerto Rico and many others to seek and obtain serious debt relief where paying back illegitimate or over-burdensome debts would end in violations of basic human rights, like the right to water in Detroit.

Will there be turbulence in the markets: almost certainly. Businesses, especially in today’s fast-paced global economy, crave political stability and predictability – the opposite of what real democracy can provide in times like these. Yet, the business world should look to the example of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the years after the great Depression of 1929: the only way to grow economies during economic downtimes is through direct government spending to spur job growth and productivity. In the 20th century, this was aided by a booming war-time economy that created effectively full employment by the early 1940’s. In the 21st century, we can create full employment by more peaceful means: fixing decaying infrastructure, investing in new green technology that will facilitate high-speed public transit, universal healthcare and free higher education.

Let’s let Greece’s example guide the way: in order to build the positive agenda we need for sustainable economic growth, we must first say clearly OXI! to austerity.

 

 

 

Let me welcome you back to Detroit, Ford.

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Detroit's abandoned Packard Plant, 2015

Don’t find fault, find a remedy.
-Henry Ford

Last week, the Ford Foundation – the charitable fund created by Edsel and Henry Ford and now run independently of the motor company – returned to its birthplace, the Motor City. There were no parades, no tears of joy from family reunited after many long years. A raised eyebrow, at best, greeted the Trustees as they returned to renew their commitment to our embattled city.

The reality is that the things that Ford Motor Company represented to many – bustling industry, solid wages, the American Dream – have long since departed Detroit. The Foundation itself left Detroit to New York City in 1953 as it sought to expand its reach nationally and globally, and the relationship of the Foundation to its creators the Ford Family began to deteriorate. In his 1976 resignation letter to the Board, Foundation President Henry Ford II wrote sourly:

“The foundation exists and thrives on the fruits of our economic system. A significant portion of all abundance created by US business enables the foundation and like institutions to carry on their work. In effect, the foundation is a creature of capitalism—a statement I’m sure would be shocking to many professional staff in the field of philanthropy. Perhaps it is time for trustees and staff to examine the question of our obligations to our economic systems and to consider how the foundation, as one of the system’s most prominent offspring, might act most wisely to strengthen and improve its progenitor.”

 

And by then, industrial capitalism had effectively left Detroit. And left it in shambles. This departure was exacerbated by globalization and federal policies like free trade agreements (think NAFTA and the soon-to-be-approved Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)… do we ever learn?) as well as domestic issues at home like intense racism, housing segregation and employment discrimination that famously exploded into public view with the Riots/Rebellion of 1967. It must have seemed to many like Ford had turned its back on its hometown just as things started going downhill.

The sad irony of Henry Ford II’s words as seen today is that things are worse for capitalism today than they were when he wrote them, and the system is most in need of saving (or ditching?). In 1976, the top .1% of families owned slightly less than 10% of the country’s total wealth. Today, that number is nearly 25%. A single family, the Waltons of Walmart fame, own more than the bottom 40% of American families. (That dwarfs the wealth of the Ford family by over 100-fold, and Ford was famously called a socialist by the New York Times in 1914 for paying $5/day, or $114 in today’s dollars. In contrast, the Waltons don’t even pay enough to keep their employees off food stamps: in fact, their company lobbies for expansion of federal SNAP benefits as the largest corporate beneficiary of them.) Whether you’re for capitalism or against it, there’s something true ringing in those parting words of Henry Ford II.

So perhaps it is best to understand the Ford Foundation’s not-so-triumphant return to Detroit in just this context: if capitalism is to be saved, Detroit is definitely the place to do it. Inequality has reached such soaring heights here that basic human rights like access to water and local democratic control are being stripped away from people. The Foundation actually seems to understand, its current President Darren Walker writing this in a sweeping Free Press op-ed heralding their return:

Today, our focus is on inequality, which is the defining issue of our era. Inequality is more than an economic divide between the super wealthy and the vast majority of people who struggle to make ends meet. It’s also about imbalances in political, social and cultural power that favor the few over the many.

It is why, for instance, when Detroit entered Chapter 9 bankruptcy, it was not the powerful or wealthy who were asked to sacrifice, but those already most vulnerable. Retirees saw their pensions up for grabs; residents’ voices were eclipsed by unelected officials; low-income people had to fight for access to water; and irreplaceable public treasures owned by all were considered disposable.

As my mother used to say, “We all know the sickness, God, but please send down the cure!” The Ford Foundation’s $125 million pledge to the so-called grand bargain to resolve Detroit’s bankruptcy was the largest grant they ever made, and yet that money will only help pay old debts and pension obligations. Who will create tomorrow’s living wage jobs in Detroit, like Henry Ford did 100 years ago? As Detroit Chief Operations Officer Gary Brown recently told me in a meeting on water affordability and payment assistance, “You can’t fix this by just throwing money at the problem.” (Former hedge fund manager Andy Kessler makes the same point in a different way in a recent critique, positing that the Ford Foundation should follow Henry Ford’s example to combat inequality: investing and creating jobs. I agree with some elements of his analysis, but others ring hollow in a city that hasn’t been helped by investors in a long time…)

The truth is that Detroit needs a new industry that is both financially and ecologically sustainable. We don’t need more pity charity and “trade adjustment assistance“, which is hush money for politicians to get rich while helping their crony capitalist friends outsource American jobs. The city that built the automobile could build the next generation of public transit for the world: high-speed rail, renewable batteries for electric cars/buses, solar and wind power, a green New Deal for this country and the globe. Could the Ford Foundation get behind this?

So let me welcome the Ford Foundation back to Detroit, where we have 100,000 unemployed skilled workers ready for jobs and no capitalists to employ them. Ready for the challenge? We are.

PS – Visit DetroitWorkers.com to learn how we’re tooling and retraining Detroiters to fix Detroit, so Detroit can move the world again.

1 week, 2 victories

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The grave of Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Union College, with a red solidarity square placed upon it. Photo: Justin Wedes

The grave of Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Union College, with a red solidarity square placed upon it. Photo: Justin Wedes

When it rains, it pours!

This week began with the surprising news that U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan is initiating a process to help defrauded college students seek forgiveness on their federal student loans. There is no doubt that this major announcement, which could lead to billions of dollars in savings for cheated student loan debtors, was instigated by the powerful actions of Corinthian College students who refused to pay back loans. Their school administration was caught bribing employers to temporarily hire (and then fire) graduates in order to beef up their success numbers.

The group behind this strike: an Occupy Wall Street offshoot called Debt Collective, who released a statement claiming the USDOE hadn’t gone far enough. And they’re right: millions more students are living with inflated degrees, souring job prospects and boatloads of student loan debt that threaten to derail the economy again. Still, this is a huge step in the right direction and should open the floodgates to student loan forgiveness.

Then Wednesday brought more good news for students: NY’s Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha resigned in shame after instituting the college’s first-ever tuition in 2013. His tenure was mired in controversy, including a famous student occupation of his office by Free Cooper Union, another OWS offshoot. His resignation was one of their three demands. The other two define a pathway back to free education, which should be the goal not just for Cooper Union but for every (public) higher education institution in this country. (Here’s a study showing that the U.S. could provide free education to all for only $15 billion more in spending per year, or 1/26th the cost of the fighter jet program)

What do these victories have in common? They affirm that direct action against the injustice of unaffordable, debt-driven higher education works. They show that millennials aren’t just sitting back and accepting the realities of an educational system that is becoming less and less accessible to them. They are standing up and fighting back, skillfully and with sustained action. And that’s seriously good news.

At a Free Cooper Union rally with my red square for #FreeEdu
December 8, 2012, Washington Square Park
Photo: Stacy Lanyon

Detroit Workers and Builders: Rebuilding Hope

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Click here to learn more & pitch in to the campaign!

Justin Wedes is a community organizer, activist and the Founder & President of the Detroit Workers and Builders. Headquartered in the House of Help Community Center in Northwest Detroit, DWB has a mission to provide job training and employment opportunities to formerly homeless and unemployed Detroiters committed to rebuilding our city stronger and more sustainably.

Learn more at DetroitWorkers.com

Rebuilding Hope in the Motor City

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Staff of the House of Help Community Center and Detroit Workers & Builders launching their joint $100,000 IndieGoGo Campaign

I woke up this morning with a wide grin on my face, and instead of the typical morning yawn and stretch routine I let out a laugh. My mind was still immersed in the beautiful moments of last night, when over 100 of us gathered for a singular purpose in joyful celebration: music, dance and delicious soul food only fitting for soulful northwest Detroit.

Our purpose was simple: reclaim an abandoned Detroit school for the community. Rebuild hope in the midst of chaos and disillusionment. For a moment, I felt like I was back in the Motor City of the motown music era: one part struggle and two parts funk. Hopeful. Limitless. Powerful.

Today, Detroit struggles to reinvent itself. Boundless optimism lives awkwardly in the corporate boardroom, while in the neighborhoods young brothers and sisters stand on street corners hungry for opportunities, for justice, for dignity, and for jobs that don’t come. Schools close down. Bills come due with no means to pay.

Last night was about celebration, though, and not without cause. We had officially launched the campaign, and already donations were streaming in to purchase the old school building and transform it into a community center. We collected another $1200 or so at the door, which will propel us towards the $100,000 we need to raise in 30 days to make our dream a reality.

Will you be a part of rebuilding hope in the Motor City?

I know there are so many crowdfunding campaigns out there these days, but I promise this one is worth 5 minutes of your time today (and a few coins from your pocket if you’ve got ‘em…) That’s because we are on the front lines of fighting poverty in Detroit, and my team and I won’t let up the fight until we’ve won. We’re invested in this 100% – and we need your support!

Let me know what you think of the campaign and come out and visit our future home at 23700 Clarita Street in northwest Detroit. We’ll give you a tour of our new office, listen to some motown music and talk about the future. Let’s do this.

Here’s some photos from our launch party last night:

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Justin and Mayor CJ getting down to the funky motown music!

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DWB Graphic Designer Monica Dubray and volunteer Marguerite Woodward posing out front!

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Delicious food catered by Jamaican Pot: https://www.facebook.com/TheJamaicanPot

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The Guests of Honor: DeAndre Levy, Pastor Ray & Toni Anderson, Darryl Anderson, Mike ‘Pockett’ Turner, Rodney ‘Radio Rahim’ Deas, Stephen ‘Mayor CJ’ Jones, Jai Coleman

 

 

Dispatch from Detroit: What’s In a Desk?

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Last week I inherited a desk. It’s a beautiful Mahogany wood masterpiece with a stamp on the inner drawer that reads STOW-DAVIS: GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN. That seal dates it to around 1914, StowDavisMarksand set my curiosity ablaze: who sat in this desk, and across from it, in its long history before arriving to my new office near 7 mile & Telegraph Road in Detroit? Off I went…

Before I dived into the photo archives, I put my feet up on the desk for a moment to ponder where I sat. It felt strange to be sitting in a desk at all, after years marching on the streets of New York. Had I arrived at a crossroads in my professional life, where I gave up the militant for the conventional? Or was this just the logical progression of my career, driven by my deep yearning for social justice? Suffice it to say I didn’t yet feel comfortable in this desk, but perhaps my research would help me place myself better in its chair.

I remember being told by a friend at Temple Beth El – the oldest Jewish congregation in metro Detroit, which had graciously donated the desk to me – that it had formerly belonged to Rabbi Richard C. Hertz, who presided from 1952 to 1982 (four years before my birth). That would have placed the desk in the Temple’s Woodward and Gladstone building, designed by the famous Albert Kahn. (Kahn crafted most of Detroit’s most famous buildings: the Packard Plant, Fisher Theater, Belle Isle Conservancy, even Angell Hall in Ann Arbor – go blue!) From this desk, Hertz gained a following as one of the most preeminent Detroit Jewish leaders. He traveled with a secret delegation under President Dwight D. Eisenhower to visit the Soviet Union. He was the first rabbi in history to hold a private meeting with a Pope. He was a fervent advocate for social justice, a view which often engendered controversy towards him. From the American Jewish Archives:

He was always concerned with the conditions facing the poor, the underprivileged and  minority groups. Hertz was often criticized for speaking out on issues close to his heart, though these criticisms did not sway his determination to use his prominent position to help those he saw as disenfranchised.

I began to feel a little more comfortable in my chair, but I had to dig deeper. I learned from another congregant that the desk had not belonged to Rabbi Hertz originally, but to his predecessor Rabbi Leo M. Franklin. It made sense, as the stamp on its inner drawer dated it to around 1914, so where did it sit from 1914 to 1952? If Rabbi Hertz was a powerhouse, Rabbi Franklin was no less a giant. He led Beth El from 1898 until 1941, an era of tremendous change and growth in Detroit. Franklin lived on the same block of Edison Avenue as Henry Ford, and they would walk and chat together sometimes on their way to work: Ford to the Piquette Plant, where the Model T was first built, and Franklin to the Temple, then at 3424 Woodward Avenue (now the Bonstelle Theatre). The two became friends, until a falling out after Ford suddenly began issuing anti-Semitic comments in his paper, The Dearborn Independent. Could Ford have sat at this desk?

Almost instinctively, out of deference for the grand history of the desk, I took my feet off its elegant glass-covered top. Back in 2015, I suddenly felt small with the shadow of history towering over me. Here I was, trying to start a brand new company in the heart of a once-great city that had fallen on its darkest hours. Propelled forward by a combination of restlessness and a fierce hunger for opportunity and healing justice for a torn-apart city. Searching for something to ground me in the chaos that is 21st century life. Maybe this desk would be a good start.

I closed my eyes, steadied my mind and lifted my feet back onto the desktop, this time without shame but with a growing sense of urgency: I have some big shoes to fill!

You can visit me and see my new desk at 23700 Clarita St, Detroit, MI – the new headquarters of the Detroit Workers & Builders. We launch this Monday night with a Launch Party & Fundraiser to purchase and renovate an abandoned Detroit elementary school for a local community group. 6pm. Tickets here.

Rabbi Leo M. Franklin in his office (Source: Leo M. Franklin Archives, Temple Beth El)

Rabbi Leo M. Franklin in his office (Source: Leo M. Franklin Archives, Temple Beth El)

Me at my new desk, 2015

Me at my new desk, 2015

Why I’m Starting a Union in Detroit

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A formerly homeless Detroiter painting the new office of the Detroit Workers and Builders in northwest Detroit. May, 2015

A formerly homeless Detroiter painting the new office of the Detroit Workers and Builders in northwest Detroit. May, 2015

There is no power in the world that can stop the forward march of free men and women when they are joined in the solidarity of human brotherhood. —Walter Reuther

As a kid, I used to drive up and down I-696, the Walter P. Reuther freeway, in suburban Detroit all the time. I didn’t think much of the namesake of Detroit’s autobahn, as it’s been called. Who was Walter Reuther? The American labor leader, union organizer, fiery orator and socialist, marched with MLK Jr. in Washington in 1963 and made TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of the 20th century. I was young and took for granted the great legacy of the men and women who built Detroit and claimed for working people its abundant riches.

Today, Detroit is a very different place. Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera’s Detroit of 1932 is a world away from Mike Duggan’s Detroit of 2015. While Diego painted Detroit Industry onto the walls of the DIA, labor strikes and skirmishes erupted on the streets of a thriving industrial metropolis. The Battle of the Overpass in 1937 left union organizers beaten and bruised and tore open the brewing conflict that would win the young United Auto Workers (UAW) union a contract with Ford three years later. Walter Reuther was there.

Today, Detroit is experiencing a “comeback” that begs a simple question: whose comeback will it be? Without a few brave Walter Reuthers and a whole lot of organizing, I fear it will be Dan Gilbert and Mike Ilitch’s comeback alone. We have an opportunity to change that, for the 100,000+ unemployed and underemployed Detroiters who stuck it out through the city’s darkest days. For the 16,000+ homeless Detroiters, over 5,000 of which are youth. In a city with thousands of abandoned homes begging for renovation and renewal. In a city that says it’s too broke to fix the roads and the water mains and the blight.

Today, Detroit is getting a new union: the Detroit Workers and Builders. Inspired by the success of the Detroit Water Brigade, which I co-founded last year, I am committing myself to organizing Detroit’s homeless and unemployed to demand (and command) good-paying jobs. Instead of cutting off the water, let’s put Detroit to work fixing the crumbling water system. Instead of evicting families from their homes, let’s put Detroit to work demolishing and renovating blighted property. Instead of mass incarceration, let’s demand full employment at dignified wages.

Some of you might say this is impossible, a utopian pipe dream. Yet, who would have imagined one year ago that the Detroit Water Brigade would have put over 500 volunteer canvassers in the streets delivering aid and connecting families to assistance? Who would have imagined that the city would have halted their water shutoffs, implemented wide-ranging assistance programs, and is now studying affordability measures? Even the Mayor himself pledged last September:

We are going to go through this city and rebuild our water system the way it should have been built years ago… [create] thousands of jobs

Let’s hold the Mayor to this pledge. Let’s put Detroit to work.

The Detroit Workers and Builders union will launch on June 1st with a party and fundraiser at its new headquarters in the House of Help Community Center, 23700 Clarita St, Detroit. 6pm. Get tickets here!

Dispatch from Detroit: Turn Back on the Power

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Last week, my good friend Pastor Ray Anderson of the House of Help Community Center in hard-hit northwest Detroit called me with some bad news: the lights were out in his building. The monopoly private utility company, DTE Energy, had come to collect on $16,000 in overdue payments and he didn’t have the money. It was Thursday, the same day that over 100 hungry families come each week to pick up food baskets at House of Help. What do we do?

He had been through this before. The building he inherited from the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) had a broken boiler system, so he had energy-intensive space heaters installed temporarily in the classrooms to keep the children in his free after-school program warm. These cost him $6,000 a month in heating bills during the cold winters. He would replace the entire boiler system eventually, he said, when he secured the building from Detroit and began renovating it. But that was only a dream at $50,000 away… What do we do?

Then, the water pipes leaked and burst. He invested $15,000 in new water infrastructure when DPS said they couldn’t help with the abandoned school building and it was on him (the tenant) to fix it. The bills started stacking up faster than the meager income from donations and sponsors. He fell behind on his water bill, but the kids still needed food and tutoring, the families still needed clothes from his free store and food baskets from his pantry. Jobs in the community were nearly non-existent. But life must go on. What do we do?

He called me one day when a water shutoff notice came. Even before the date had come for the crews to come out and cut the water, it was cut off. The taps went dry. We mounted an offensive campaign against the water department and got them to agree to cut it back on – temporarily. The bills keep racking up, and residents with no water in the neighborhood come to him for food and drink. What do we do?

Now the lights are off. We hold a candle-lit vigil with little tea votives lining the stage of this old school-auditorium-turned-sanctuary. And pray. And G-d said, let there be light…

And yesterday morning the lights were restored, after tense negotiations with DTE and donations large and small from hundreds of supporters. The halls of the House of Help are once again illuminated, shining above the classrooms where kids sit with their tutors unfazed by the business squabbles of adults. There will be more light, as we plan our upcoming crowd-funding campaign: $50,000, no $75,000… no! $100,000 to keep the lights on, pay all the bills, buy the building! Let’s do this.

Will it work? Only G-d knows. We launch in a few weeks, with an honest video plea to help the House of Help revitalize a moribund community where a 28-year old man was shot dead on the corner last week. Where chaos reins over compassion – for now. Let’s do this.

On June 1st, Detroit Workers and Builders (DWB 2.0) will launch with a crowd-funding campaign to restore power to Northwest Detroit – starting with our new headquarters at the House of Help Community Center.

To learn more and sign up to attend physically or virtually online, visit DetroitWorkers.com

The hallways of the House of Help without electricity.

The hallways of the House of Help without electricity.

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