Dispatch from Detroit: Life After Facebook

Two months ago, I walked out of the Facebook Read more

Come to the NYC Debut of A Dangerous Game!

A Dangerous Game Director Anthony Baxter finds himself on a journey Read more

Ode to the Social Gadfly

This one is dedicated to all those annoying gadflies Read more

Dispatch from Detroit: Life After Facebook

Posted on by admin in Blog post | Leave a comment

Two months ago, I walked out of the Facebook factory. I was tired of spending countless hours every day checking notifications. I had become addicted to that nice feeling of a picture being “LIKED” 5 times, 10 times, 100 times…

What do all these likes and comments and “friends” add up to in the end?

Big money. For Facebook. Billions.

And for us, we grow farther from our friends when we bury our faces in our phones. Our deeply personal relationships become commodified and monetized, packaged into nice 1’s and 0’s and wrapped up with advertisements. Our private lives on sale for someone else’s profit.

So I packed up and said goodbye, returning only for the occasional check-in and to encourage my former factory workers to join me in my revolt. And I joined Tsu, a new social network that pays me for my content and whose users support low-income families in Detroit by donating some of their earned revenues to help people pay their bills and put food on their table.

In short, I left Facebook for good – to do something meaningful with my online time. And many of my friends have joined me: even my 1 year-old goddaughter Ella Mia is on Tsu now and is earning revenue for her college fund (I donate $2/week…)

Will you take the dive and join me? Sign up here and begin to reclaim your digital life.*

In peace and much prosperity,

Justin


*Full disclosure: when you join Tsu, my organization the Detroit Water Brigade (DWB) earns a third of half of the revenues you receive. You earn half of 90% of all ad revenues of the site: the other 10% goes to the platform to keep it running. DWB uses these earnings to deliver water and financial assistance to low-income families in Detroit.

Come to the NYC Debut of A Dangerous Game!

Posted on by admin in Blog post | Leave a comment

A Dangerous Game

A-Dangerous-Game-570x317

Director Anthony Baxter finds himself on a journey to global hot spots where Donald Trump and other rapacious developers – often in cahoots with local officials – are using golf as a smokescreen for massive luxury resorts that end up costing the earth. With appearances by Hollywood star Alec Baldwin, environmental icon Robert Kennedy Jr, the world’s most famous businessman, and a cast of memorable local heroes who aren’t taking it any more.

I’ll be featured on a panel discussion with Director Anthony Baxter and other cast members at the IFC Center on March 12th, 8pm!

Get tickets here

And check out the trailer below…

 

Ode to the Social Gadfly

Posted on by admin in Blog post | Leave a comment

Gadfly

This one is dedicated to all those annoying gadflies out there. You know who you are. You’re speaking inconvenient or uncomfortable or economically-unprofitable truths on the daily. Your old friends probably don’t call you. You don’t get invited to their parties, but sometimes you crash them anyway…

 

Feeling somewhat embattled myself lately, I thought I’d open the history books and console myself with some of the more controversial figures of the last century. Detroit has produced more than its fair share of gadflies over the years: Michael Moore, Madonna, Eminem, Walter Reuther, the list goes on… Detroit’s got grit, and its diaspora generation has challenged convention in every industry and in many countries around the world.

 

Back when labor unions had cojones - that is, when they struck not just voted – some rebel gadflies from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) joined forces with United Auto Works on a retreat outside Detroit to craft the now-legendary Port Huron Statement:

 

We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.

 

What is the consciousness of our generation, the Occupy generation? Saddled with debt, job prospects waning, but with high hopes and expensive degrees. We “millennials” want work that is meaningful, not just good-paying. We watched our parents acquiesce to the false luxury of the 80’s and 90’s, we survived the dot-com bubble and its bust, and we bathed ourselves in the self-referential shallowness of the Backstreet Boys era. We packed our hopes into the empty signifier box of Obama’s Hope and Change©, and then when we didn’t get all the change we had hoped for we took to the streets of Manhattan and Detroit and Chicago and Oakland and…

 

The other week, the former bankruptcy boss of Detroit Kevyn Orr condescendingly called out my crew of social gadflies during a speech at the Economic Club:

 

“Some of [the water crisis] was orchestrated. We know that the Occupy Wall Street folks are the folks behind Detroit Water Brigade.”

 

You’re damn right, Orr. And we gadflies are happily stinging the nasty Wall Street horse you rode in on. And we’ll continue to be that voice after you’re long gone and you’ve picked up your last consultation check from some corrupt bureaucrat or veiled veneer of a corporate foundation. Because the Detroit we want doesn’t need emergency managers and bankruptcy lawyers. Because the Detroit we are building doesn’t have water shutoff trucks or back-due property tax payment plans with 18% interest rates.

 

Or maybe just because we can’t help being that pesky social gadfly you keep swiping at.

 

So maybe the 60’s aren’t quite back again (yet), but at least we’re making some damn noise! So let’s praise those among us who possess that annoying gadfly-i-ness that is so preciously-needed in times of social upheaval, when systems crumble around us. Praise them even as they sting us with their itchy, seductive poison.

Dispatch from Detroit: Runaway Water Rates And the Case for Nonpayment

Posted on by admin in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

10996173_1558513351102418_2548793102925595327_n

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.

-Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895

Water and sewerage rates in Detroit are literally out of control. Rates have risen 119% in the last decade. This month the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is proposing another 12% rate increase, even as they cut the water to thousands of low-income residents. Many families spend upwards of 20% of their monthly income on water and sewerage, when the federal government considers 2.5% to be the affordability threshold. 80% of the city can’t afford the water, and nearly half are behind on their bills.

It is well-established in legal case law that a user fee – like your water bill – must be proportional to the necessary cost of the service, or else it is a tax. In Detroit today, the cost of the service and the price have become completely uncoupled: a full half of the price of water is to pay off old bad debt. Think about that for a second: half of the money you spend on your water bill basically goes to pay the interest on a credit card that you didn’t ask for. The guy who did? He’s behind bars for federal corruption (and so is his boss.)

The price is also uncoupled from the cost in another way: people are charged by their usage while 90% of the costs of running the system are fixed, i.e. they don’t depend on how much water we use or discard. This is why we are in the ridiculous position of being told that the rates are going up even while we use less water due to rain and better conservation! A pricing structure that punishes people for using less of a supposedly-scarce resource doesn’t even make sense. The reality is that we aren’t paying for water: we’re paying to line the pockets of Wall Street bondholders with inflated interest payments.

The problem is the banks, in particular the water bondholders. Last year the water department realized that cutting off the water to thousands of poor people wasn’t actually a good way to collect money. (Hint: you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip!) So they did something smart: they went to the bondholders and asked them to voluntarily turn in their bonds for a refinancing at a lower interest rate. The result was $250 million saved from future Detroiters’ water bills. That’s 10 times more money saved than from shutting off our water – and no one lost their home, kids, or life.

And so we are left with a recurring situation in 21st-century America: The rich are benefitting more from, and paying proportionately less for, essential public services. The reality is that water bills are a tax in Detroit – not a user fee – but a very regressive one for poor people. We should acknowledge this fact and fix the rate structure to be truly progressive. Yes, wealthier people should pay more for water so that poor people can pay less. The alternative is that only some people get water. The alternative is death.

How do we make this shift to water as a human right paid for by progressive general taxation? My proposal is a tried-and-true method from the civil rights movement: boycott payment. The only leverage we the people have against a water department that increasingly doesn’t have to listen to us is our pocketbooks. Let’s refuse to pay, or at least refuse to pay more. Do what some of my friends do in Highland Park, where the city has had such trouble collecting water bills they don’t even send them anymore: pay a fixed, fair amount each month. When the bills are reasonable and proportional to the quality of service and our ability to pay, we’ll pay in full again.

Until then, it’s time to say: Can’t pay! Won’t pay!

Please sign our petition calling on the city of Detroit to cancel the bad water debt, and help us deliver it at the DWSD’s February 25th water rate hike meeting: 2pm, 735 Randolph Street downtown

Dispatch from Detroit: I’m Quitting Facebook

Posted on by admin in Blog post, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Peace Out, Facebook.

Peace Out, Facebook.

tl;dr version: I’m shutting down my Facebook profile. If you don’t care why and just want to know where I’m going instead, jump down to the big bold link below…

 

I’m busting out of the Facebook factory, friends. I’ve just had enough! I’ve had enough of the endless comments, click-bait memes, and other mental noise pollution. The whole thing feels demeaning now: I am more than an aggregation of my “friends”, a collection of photos, a series of Facebook event pages, a few “likes”. I’ve spent way too many hours pushing pixels around…

 

I am a man. And I deserve to own and be paid for my creative work, not to be turned into an attractive canvas for someone else’s advertising.

 

What do I mean? I’ll give you an example: when I was in college, I managed and played in a few bands that performed on the weekends. Every student organization and small business in town begged us to play their events without pay, for “exposure”. I politely told them that my band was professional and here’s our rate. And I paid my musicians on the spot, even if I had to front the money myself from a heel-dragging venue or club. I respected their work, and in doing so I earned their loyalty. Cats showed up on time and ready for my gigs.

 

Facebook is the epitome of the “exposure” hoax: it plays on our vanity and desire to be liked by many people, at almost any cost. Having administered several large Facebook pages myself, I can tell you that if you don’t pay for “reach” now on Facebook not even a fraction of your fans will see your posts. On top of that, the cost to every user in time and energy is profit to Facebook: they made $2.6 billion last quarter alone. They’re buying up land around Silicon Valley to build their own villages. They’re running experiments on our emotions by altering what we see in our news feeds. If they were a medieval kingdom, the serfs would have revolted by now. Enough, I’m out.

 

I tried to work with Facebook, even running a campaign last year called Pay Me Facebook calling on the social media company to start compensating users for posting original content. At that time, no viable alternative really existed. Now, the thousands of people who joined our campaign have somewhere new to go.

 

So where am I going? Well, the good news is there’s a growing alternative called Tsū that is just like Facebook with one major difference: you get to own and keep all your content and get paid for it by sharing 90% of the ad royalties the company earns. My organization, the Detroit Water Brigade, joined Tsū recently, and we’ve already earned nearly $800 in royalties – and donations from other Tsū users that gift their royalties to us. That’s $800 that would have gone into the pocket of Mark Zuckerberg & Co. that is now bailing out low-income families in Detroit.

 

I invite you to join me on Tsū, by clicking this link and joining under the Water Brigade.

 

Tsū is invite-only but free to all, so you must join under an existing user. By joining under the Brigade, you are already helping Detroiters: 1/3rd of the revenue you generate will go automatically to our organization. Just by posting original content and interacting with other users, you are helping families in Detroit by redistributing ad revenue from corporations to people in need.

 

So adiós, Facebook. It was nice while it lasted, but I’m spent. You can find me in Detroit.

 

PS – If you decide to make the jump with me, let me know and I’ll send you a nice welcome message on Tsu!

Dispatch from Detroit: Debt-roit

Posted on by admin in Blog post | Leave a comment
Original Photo: NY Times

Original Photo: NY Times

Croatia, a small Mediterranean country of 4.4 million, just did an amazing thing: it wiped clean the debts of its 60,000 poorest citizens. Their Deputy Prime Minister, Milanka Opacic, said

 

They will be given a chance for a new start without a burden of debt.

 

The move will unfreeze bank accounts to nearly 20% of Croatians whose accounts were frozen last year for non-payment. Among the debts include in the mini-jubilee, or debt cancellation: “banks, telecommunication companies, major utilities, several major cities and municipalities as well as the government’s own tax agency. None will be refunded for their losses,” according to RT.com.

 

Detroit is also a metropolitan area of approximately 4.4 million people, so an obvious question is: Is Detroit in need of the same kind of debt cancellation program? The simple answer is: yes, and then some. A 2011 World Bank study found that only 7% of households in Croatia have mortgage debt. In metro Detroit, which includes the more affluent suburbs, nearly half of Generation X’ers are underwater on their mortgages. A more vulnerable majority of the urban population doesn’t even have mortgage debt because they can’t afford to buy a home: they’re a permanent renter class. That same World Bank study estimated that “1 of every 10 households faces financial distress” in Croatia. In Detroit, half of the city lives at or below the poverty level.

How many Detroiters would qualify for debt cancellation if they lived in Croatia?

Let’s look at the program qualifications:

Their debt must be lower than 35,000 kuna ($5,100):

Average Detroiter holds $23,604 in household debt, thousands more in questionable “public debts” like water department’s $5 billion debt ($1,100+ per family). None of these debts resolved in city’s bankruptcy.

 

Their monthly income should not be higher than 1,250 kuna ($138):

Below the poverty level in Croatia is considered 22,145 kunas ($4,343) per year or less, so to qualify in Croatia Detroiters would have to be under 65% of poverty income, or earning $1656 /year or less. A 2014 United Way study found that 67% of Detroiters are under the poverty line. The ultra-poor in Detroit: 18,000 un-housed people, 14% (officially, at least) unemployed.

 

Those applying for the scheme are not allowed to own any property or have any savings:

50% of Detroiters have no bank account, 40.5% are renters not owners.

 

There’s another thing that Croatians and Detroiters have in common: high levels of child poverty. It’s risen higher in Croatia than any other European Union country, at a rate that UNICEF calls “alarming”. In Detroit it’s risen faster than in any other major city in the U.S. Most alarmingly, Croatia’s infant mortality rate (# deaths/1,000 live births) may be slightly higher than the U.S.’s at 5.6 to America’s 5.2, but it dwarfs Detroit’s by a factor of three: a full 15 infants in Detroit die out of every 1,000 born alive. The national nurses union recently declared a public health emergency in the city of Detroit, and is calling on a financial transaction tax – aka “Robin Hood Tax” – to pay for direly-needed health infrastructure improvements for the poor.

 

Upon comparing these startling statistics, the question becomes less one of “Could this happen here?” and more of “Why the f%@k has it not happened yet?” The country’s largest municipal bankruptcy did just about nothing to relieve the overwhelming debts of Detroiters, though it did allow a few large banks and corporations to grab at soon-to-be-valuable waterfront property and public parking lots.

A solution

You might say the kind of debt relief seen in Croatia would be unfeasible here in Detroit with the levels of indebtedness and the current political climate. OK, then let’s start small: first, let’s cancel the water debt and free up poor families from thousands of dollars in back-payments to a utility company whose former director is behind bars. The Detroit Water Brigade has a petition you can sign today calling on the city to do just that. It’s a start, right?

How a Detroit Homestead Act Could Fix the Motor City’s Housing and Revenue Crises

Posted on by admin in Blog post | Leave a comment
A green city block was once the site of John A. Owen Elementary School, recently torn down as part of a Detroit Public Schools initiative to demolish vacant schools, seen as safety hazards. Photo: Alex S. MacLean, New York Times

A green city block was once the site of John A. Owen Elementary School, recently torn down as part of a Detroit Public Schools initiative to demolish vacant schools, seen as safety hazards. Photo: Alex S. MacLean, New York Times

” … each family shall have a plot of not more than (40) acres of tillable ground… in the possession of which land the military authorities will afford them protection, until such time as they can protect themselves.”

-Union General William T. Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15, from which derives the famous phrase ‘40 acres and a mule’

 

My grandfather used to say the problem with Detroit is that it owns itself. He didn’t mean that Detroiters owned it, but rather that their government did: a 2011 study found that local, state and federal governments own over 50,000 properties in Detroit, a full 12% of the total. In the hardest-hit neighborhoods, that number is closer to 50%. If this year’s round of foreclosure notices succeeds in evicting 65,000 homeowners – 51% of Detroiters are property tax delinquent – that percentage will only skyrocket. And the cost of just maintaining city-owned land is driving the city further into debt: $25 per lot for lawn mowing, hundreds more to board up and secure abandoned properties, the public price tags go on and on…

 

The official response to this spiraling problem has been to initiate more and more tax auctions, in the hopes that people will buy city-owned properties and renovate them. If the news this week is any indication, that approach is not working. A plan to auction off 400 abandoned homes has placed new owners in only a third of them, primarily due to prospective buyers not finding sufficient financing. Detroit has over 650,000 residents, but only 578 new mortgages were approved last year. No one will lend to Detroit. The free market isn’t coming to save us.

 

There is another way.

 

Detroit has full power to distribute this vacant and blighted land, and it should utilize that power to put it in the hands of regular people ready to fix it up.

 

Why not create a simple application to allow individuals and families with the will and demonstrated ability to improve public land to take ownership of it? The city already does this for so-called side lots, where residents can purchase adjoined properties to their own for as little as $100. Expand this program to all city-owned lots, and broaden the qualifications to include any Detroit resident or future-resident whose committed to living on the land and working it. And reduce the fee to $0 while we’re at it. You can call it reparations, or land reform, or even homesteading if you’d like.

 

In the original Homestead Act of 1862, homesteaders had to “live on the designated land, build a home, make improvements, and farm it for a minimum of five years.” In the case of Detroit, homesteaders would clear out blight, renovate salvageable homes, grow urban farms and gardens, and rehabilitate abandoned industrial and commercial space with new small and medium-sized businesses.

 

I’m not the first to suggest this idea. Economist Jeffrey Dorfman floated a similar idea last year:

With the claimants paying the costs of clearing away the blight and improving the properties, the city would save over $1 billion. The blighted structures represent about 20 percent of all parcels in the city. If they are a proportional share of acreage, they would be about 18,000 acres. That means that if people claim the maximum amount Detroit would need about 2,000 people to claim property under their homestead act to solve their entire problem. With over 50,000 people employed in the construction sector in the Detroit metropolitan area and over 100,000 in the state of Michigan, it seems likely that Detroit could find enough takers to solve much of their problem.

I agree with much of Mr. Dorfman’s idea, perhaps only deviating in my opinion that low-income Detroit renters and un-housed or precariously housed people should be given first priority to homestead. An ambitious construction training and apprenticeship program could benefit many of the nearly 16,000 Detroit homeless residents today and help them build financial independence while simultaneously solving the pervasive problem of people-less homes.

 

Governor Rick Snyder last year proposed a variation on this theme, though his plan would be only for foreign immigrants and would not actually entitle them to free/low cost land, just expedited Green Cards. I don’t oppose the idea of making Detroit a safe haven for undocumented immigrants – with this new Republican administration we may really need one – but first preference should not go to those with “high-skills” in whatever new industry Gov. Snyder decides will save Detroit, but rather to those with a demonstrable interest in cleaning up and building/working on the land.

 

The Detroit Homestead Act of 2015 could be a precedent-setter for the entire struggling rust belt, where blight pervades and exacerbates deepening inequalities in society. We have an opportunity to make post-bankruptcy Detroit livable again for millions of diverse people, reinvigorate the economy and the local tax base. All it takes is some bold thinking and long-term vision. And it starts with the land.

Turning Ms. Connie’s Water Back On

Posted on by admin in Blog post | Leave a comment

This article originally appeared on DetroitWaterBrigade.org

With help from the Detroit Water Brigade and small donors from around the world, one more Detroiter has running water and peace of mind again.

Learn more about how we’re helping Detroit turn the water back on: http://detroitwaterbrigade.org/waf/

Video by KC Burns, Detroit

 

 

Bringing Detroit Online: How New Social Network Tsu Could Help Close the Digital Gap

Posted on by admin in Blog post | Leave a comment
The Detroit Water Brigade's profile page on new social network Tsu.

The Detroit Water Brigade’s profile page on new social network Tsu.

Last week on a visit to New York City, I met a polite, unassuming young man who has a plan that could bring down Facebook. His name is Sebastian Sobczak, and he’s the founder of Tsū, a new social network that shares 90% of ad revenues with its users. In only its first three months of life, it has grown to over three million members worldwide. And it’s growing fast.

Sebastian and I sat down in his SoHo office and spoke for over two hours, where I drilled him intensely about everything from his politics to Tsū’s business model. The basics of it are simple: users sign up to join Tsū through existing users, who get small referral fees for bringing their friends onto the network. Then, every user gets ad royalties when their original content brings other users to see ads that appear in the margins of their feeds. It’s common sense: what brings people to a social network are other people, and they should be compensated when companies make money advertising on that network. It’s a kind of worker ownership for the Facebook factory.

But how does Tsū make money to keep the network going? They are actually a payment-processing company, Evacuation Complete, so their money comes from their 10% cut of ad revenues, and eventually a 3% payment-processing fee on all transactions on the site. (Right now, nobody hooks up their banks or credit cards to the site and all transactions are in digital “dollars” that get transferred around on the site. When your royalty payments exceed $100, you can request a check that is mailed to you.)

While social network ad revenue sharing is revolutionary in-and-of-itself – Facebook generated $5.1 billion in revenue in 2012 but still charges its users to share content beyond Facebook’s throttling limit – my ears perked when I heard from Sebastian what many Tsū users were doing with the money they earned using social media: donating it back to causes that had set up pages on the site. Charity Water, a non-profit that serves international water-scarce communities, has built 3 much-needed water wells in Ethiopia with the revenues and generations they’ve generated on Tsū alone. My mind immediately turned to Detroit, where disastrous shutoff policies have created first-world water scarcity. Could Tsū help Detroit get the water back on?

Here’s the thing: a full forty-percent of Detroiters lack Internet access at home, neither through a computer nor a smartphone. Even if they wanted to start making money from social media, they wouldn’t have the tools to do it. But what if Tsū itself could change that, by making Internet usage a net income rather than an expense for Detroiters? Like ad-sponsored free Internet in airports or train stations, Detroit could partner with Tsū to provide Wide-Area Network (WAN) Internet access to Detroiters subsidized by their social media browsing. Plus, the e-commerce generated by this expanded access would bring revenue to Tsū’s payment processing company as well as lower costs for Detroiters by opening them up to new markets that don’t price-gouge them.

It’s already happening. My organization, the Detroit Water Brigade, opened an account on Tsū last week and we’re already earning ad royalties and receiving donations. (Sign up at this link and you’ll be supporting us just by joining, plus we’ll shout you out!) Many of our international fans have joined the network and donated their ad revenues to us, and we use that money to deliver emergency water and winter essentials to Detroiters in need. We’re already dreaming of signing up families to stay connected with us through Tsū, where they can share their stories and seek out, or give, financial support through our growing network.

Could Tsū be the key to bringing equity and ownership to social media, and in doing so broaden the economic prosperity generated by our digital labor? I don’t know yet, but Detroit could be a good test run.

Dispatch from Detroit: Let’s Put Detroit Back to Work

Posted on by admin in Blog post | Leave a comment
A boarded-up house next to the former Michigan Central Station building near downtown Detroit. Photo: Balazs Gardi

A boarded-up house next to the former Michigan Central Station building near downtown Detroit. Photo: Balazs Gardi

This article originally appeared on JustinWedes.com

Over the course of the last few painful months, I’ve descended into the depths of another world that does not feel like America. A world illuminated by creaky old stove burners, backyard pit fires, and backseat car lights where people take shelter from the cold. On these pot-holed streets, even the streetlights don’t shine any more. The dark world of Detroit hunkers down in silence.

 

I broke this silence often last year, knocking on doors to half boarded-up homes whose only sign of human inhabitance were the tipped-over tricycles on the front lawn.

Do you have water running in your home?

No sir. I don’t.

Can I come in and talk with you about that?

I guess… 

 

The walk to the sofa to look at the water bill was often a shameful, hesitant one. The floors crunched under our feet from the stick of no mopping water. Cases of Poland Spring stacked up in the kitchen to feed the babies and cook. (Maybe also to bathe?) Plants shriveled up in the windowsills: plenty of sun but just no water. What Mother Nature gives man has taken away.

How much do they say you owe?

$3,200.

How long you been living here?

‘Bout 8 months.

 

The squeeze from above turns little blood out of these proud but humbled turnips. The bondholders demand more interest; the bankruptcy judge pounds his gavel and sips his water bottle. But life must go on. Life will go on.

Did you go down to the payment center?

Yeah, they told me they’d cut me back on if I paid $56 and got on their 2-year plan.

Did you sign the contract?

No, I don’t got the money.

 

The light outside is dimming, and I know that I should get going. After dark these streets are dangerous to navigate on bicycle. It’s not the “criminals” I’m worried about – most of those don’t live in these poor neighborhoods – it’s the distracted driver who doesn’t see me under the faint moonlight in rural-urban Detroit. I make plans to go with her to the payment center tomorrow with the check for 56 treasury notes that stands between her and hydration. Then a hug goodbye and a nod of reassurance.

 

America is better than this, goddammit! The country that built the automobile, that put a man on the moon, made a vaccine for polio, invented the Internet and gave us Miles Davis. How have we sunk so low? When did we turn off the motor to the Motor City?

 

Enough pity. Enough shaming. Enough guilt. Life is resilience. Life is opportunity.

Donde hay vida hay posibilidad / Where there is life there is possibility – Rubén Blades

 

Detroit is going to come back stronger, but it won’t happen on its own. You are needed to make Motown great again. Detroit will rise when workers rise. Detroit will rise when the 99% rises. Where Detroit goes, the country will go.

 

One thing I’ve learned in my hundreds of dark hours breaking the shameful silence of the street is that Detroiters are resilient and proud. They live with deep dignity and spit in the face of injustice and impossibility: where else will you see a man walk out of a half boarded-up home in a three-piece suit? And to a fucking job interview!

 

Detroit wants to work, it doesn’t want just charity. What life is there in begging on the streets? Dependency is a sickness upon both the individual and society, driving us into deeper apathy where we survive rather than thrive. What we seek is independence from the forces that have placated us and held us down. What we seek is dignity.

 

America is better than this, goddammit. Let’s put Detroit back to work.

 

I am the Chief Organizer of the Detroit Water Brigade, a non-profit organization that provides emergency relief to families without water in Detroit and advocates for an end to the water shutoffs. Join us in the coming months as we build equitable solutions to deep systemic poverty. Visit detroitwaterbrigade.org to learn more and follow us on Facebook & Twitter!