|What is Hope? Where does it come from?
Hope emerges, seemingly out of nowhere, when people who have viewed themselves mainly as victims begin feeling that another world is possible and that by acting together they can bring it into being.
Movements begin when Hope trumps despair,
That’s what happened in 1941 when tens of thousands of unemployed blacks, in response to A. .Philip Randolph’s Call to March on Washington, forced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802 banning discrimination in hiring by defense plants.
It’s what happened in 1955 when the black community in Montgomery, Ala., responding to the Women’s Political Alliance’s Call to protest the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, began the successful 13 month bus boycott which inspired the many movements of the sixties.
It’s also what happened in the early 1960s when the Black Power movement began in Detroit with a few individuals and groups declaring that it was intolerable for a city becoming majority black to be run only by whites.
Overnight people who had been divided by all kinds of issues began coming together.
That’s what’s happening now in Detroit.
In response to the call of the Boggs Center to commemorate the 40th anniversary of MLK’s “Break the Silence” speech and of the 1967 Rebellion by “Transforming Grief into Hope,” people are coming together across race, class, ideological and geographical lines.
More than two dozen diverse community organizations have endorsed the event.
On the afternoon of April 21, at the Williams Community Center, epicenter of the 1967 Rebellion, they will say with one voice “ Let’s stop the killing! Let’s come together and build our lives and our city. Let’s build the city of Hope for our children and our children’s children in memory of all the victims and survivors of gun violence.”
The gathering - from 3:30-6 p.m. - will feature Food, Fellowship, Singing, Poetry, Speakout and Art. Participants will post photos of their loved ones who have died needlessly on a wall of commemoration.
“Grief into Hope” is part of an all-day celebration of P.E.A.C.E (Partnering to Engage and Activate Community Empowerment) which begins at 12 noon at the Center with youth-led workshops and speakout, hosted by Pioneers for Peace. In the evening, from 7-9 p.m., T.E.A.R.S. (Detroit Teens Eyes & Ears) will create a Memorial collage and conduct a candlelight vigil.
April 21 is the culmination of the efforts of many organizations and individuals who have kept hope alive over the years by diverse initiatives, e.g. honoring the legacies of our ancestors, marching against crackhouses, planting community gardens, painting public murals, creating youth theatre. founding an alternative high school where teenage mothers raise farm animals and fruit trees and installed wind turbines on top of the barn they built.
Last year’s decision by community foundations to focus on reviving specific Detroit neighborhoods has contributed to the renewal of hope. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s subsequent selection of six neighborhoods to revive was welcomed by grassroots Detroiters who have criticized city officials for focusing too exclusively on downtown development and courting developers.
The recent series of “Shrinking Cities” discussions, workshops and films at the new Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCAD) and the Cranbrook Art Museum has also contributed by challenging Detroiters to view de-industrialization as a unique opportunity to create a new post-modern self-governing city.
A huge poster on the wall at MOCAD reminds visitors that “The crises of state organization and economic development have put the spotlight on self-organization….The ‘gaps’ made available by state withdrawal offer possibilities in shrinking cities for the development of social and cultural initiatives of a liberationist nature, which can give rise to viable, socially integrative and culturally ambitious activities.”
As Mayor Kilpatrick put it in his March 13 State of the City speech: “It’s up to us.
Together, we can grow this city. Together, we can!”
THINKING FOR OURSELVES
Falling in Baghdad
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, April 15-21, 2007
This week marks the passage of four years since the fall of Baghdad to the U.S. military when the “Shock and Awe” campaign directed by Donald Rumsfeld came to its dramatic conclusion as tanks rolled through the streets of one of the oldest cities on earth.
The image that captures this moment in the minds of many Americans was the toppling of the 20 foot statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdus Square. This image was meant to simultaneously convey U.S. triumph, the impotence of Saddam, and the joy in Baghdad over the arrival of American troops.
Before a small crowd of international journalists and about 100 Iraqi militia, US soldiers placed chains around the neck and outstretched arm of the statue, tied it to an armored vehicle, pulled it down and dragged it to the ground. Initially a soldier had placed an American Flag on the statue’s head. Facing criticism that this might be viewed as an inflammatory symbol, the U.S. flag was replaced with an Iraqi one. Surrounding this event were images of Iraqis celebrating at Saddam’s plunge into the dust, dancing and kicking at the fallen image.
Within a few days we learned that the whole event had been staged as a photo op. It turned out that many of the photos circulated world-wide had been doctored to make the celebrating crowds of Iraqis appear bigger than they actually were.
Like so much else about this war, the fall of Baghdad was surrounded by orchestrated efforts to obscure facts, manufacture lies and manipulate emotions. All too soon it became clear that Baghdad had really fallen not into the hands of American troops but into chaos. The U.S. was as impotent as Saddam in stopping the slide toward civil war and there has been no joy in the deployment of an occupation army.
Today nearly 100 Iraqis die every day. On virtually every dimension of life, from infant mortality to death by violence, life in Iraq has become worse than before the fall of Baghdad. The normal routines of daily life - prayer, school, shopping, going to work, playing with children and gossiping with neighbors - have all turned deadly. People disappear into crowded prisons and secret torture chambers.
It is this reality that compelled tens of thousands of Iraqis to take to the streets of the holy city of Najaf this week to mark the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. They did not come because they were “ordered to” as much of the press reported. They came to demand an end to the U.S. occupation. Organized by Moktada al-Sadr, the young Shiite cleric who has increased his following by his strong anti-occupation stance, the rally was a much more realistic expression of the will of the Iraqi people than anything orchestrated by the U.S.
Like the photo op staged four years ago, flags played a prominent part in this demonstration. This time American flags were burned and ripped apart. Iraqi flags were carried proudly, large ones that took teams of people to hold, small ones in the hands of children or draped over elders in wheel chairs.
In a widely-broadcast speech building up to the rally, al-Sadr urged the militias and the army to join together to defeat “your arch-enemy.” He concluded by saying “In the end, I renew my demands for the withdrawal of the occupier from our land.”
This demonstration says more about the future of Iraq and the futility of the U.S. presence than anything staged by an isolated president, able only to send more people to their deaths.