A public event held at the end of November was called “Detroit Bankruptcy: One Year Later” and was hosted by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, WDET, and Detroit Public Television. It was billed as an opportunity for the key players in the city’s bankruptcy to share their thoughts on the settlement in a series of one-on-one interviews. Protests began when Governor Rick Snyder took to the podium. These protests continued as retired bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes attempted to describe all of Detroit’s accomplishments in the year following the bankruptcy. By the time Mayor Mike Duggan was set to take the stage, organizers had called the event off; the protesters had shut it down.
This act of civil disobedience exemplifies the disconnection of the city. It exposes how the news media frames and legitimizes the system of Emergency Management and the way it was used to restructure Detroit. Signs at the event read, “WDET brought to you by Jones-Day” (the Emergency Manager’s Wall Street law firm/WDET sponsors) and “WDET taking the people out of public radio.” In the one year after bankruptcy we have seen two narratives: one, made by New Detroit and supported by the media, is that things are looking up. Public officials, developers, and investors want the public to believe that Detroit is in recovery and that our white saviours and their collaborators have come to the rescue. The second narrative comes from people on the ground who are sick and tired of being sacrifice zones; from people who refuse to let bankruptcy define this city. The second narrative comes from Detroiters who’ve resisted the decimation of democracy since the first Emergency Manager was appointed to our schools and who are creating community-rooted solutions to the problems of modern urban life.
With every week comes a new scandal from our elected and unelected officials. Whether it’s the corruption and kickbacks taken by EAA representatives or the misallocation of funds for the blight removal program under Mayor Duggan, citizens are taking notice. The water crisis in Flint due to lead contamination reminds us of the deadly ramifications of Emergency Management and the utter lack of care the Snyder administration has for this state’s black, brown and poor children. People are losing their homes, their access to water, and their children’s education is being traded for a paycheck. Recovery doesn’t look the same to everyone and to those struggling to get by it looks like a cruel joke. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr may have left Detroit to return to Jones Day, but the damage he did will haunt us for years.
We have a lot of work to do, but there are people speaking out against these injustices and innovating real solutions. There are people out in the streets, in front of courthouses, taking over events that won’t let only one story be told. There are people building local food sovereignty, community self-governance structures, alternative business co-ops, place-based education, participatory/restorative justice models, local independant media, community benefit agreements, community land trusts, and strengthening our bonds with each other while attempting to heal from our racist history.
As we look into the new year, Critical Moment is doing our best to help get those stories to the people that need to hear them. In this issue, we give the latest on the Homrich 9 trial and the plight of political prisoner Reverend Edward Pinkney. We celebrate the great work done by EMEAC and the creation of a new community radio station, WNUC. We also sadly say goodbye to some truly great movement leaders who we’ve lost this year.
The loss of Grace Lee Boggs of the Jimmy & Grace Lee Boggs Center To Nurture Community Leadership and Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has been felt throughout the city and beyond. These visionaries worked tirelessly to promote peace and fight for justice. We also lost a young mother and water warrior, Tangela Harris. While they are at rest, we know the fight continues. We see the fight in the trial of the Homich 9, who put their bodies on the line to physically block tyrannical water shut offs and in the persecution and abuse of political prisoner Reverend Edward Pinkney. We see the fight in the resistance to Gov. Snyder’s Educational Achievement Authority which seeks to destroy our schools and the futures of our children for their own political and economic gain. We see the fight in organizations whose purpose it is to address real needs of Detroiters.
This issue is later than we had planned and bigger than normal. In the new year, we hope to increase the size of our collective and continue to improve the richness and depth of Critical Moment. We can only do that with your help. Please consider volunteering: as a writer, artist, distributor, ad person, or fundraiser.
The Critical Moment Collective
Critical Moment — an independent voice by Detroiters for Detroiters