Democratic Control in Detroit

By Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan

Sherman (Urban Tilth) and Michelle (MG) sitting with Baba Charles and Mama Sandra at the Hush House in Detroit. photo credit: Doria Robinson

Here in Detroit, people are rising up. The State of Michigan recently announced a takeover of the city government through an ‘Emergency Manager.’ On our first day here in Detroit, one of our generous hosts, Invincible, shared with us that this process has been used to take over several other cities in the state of Michigan. And surprise—they’re all majority Black cities.

Like in Oakland, this has also happened repeatedly with the Detroit Unified School District. The elected School Board is currently meeting—IN EXILE and in the face of the state forbidding them to do their public duty.

Some quotes from the spaces we were in today where folks spoke to the moment:

“Conditions bring the people together, not leaders. We must step up and take control. We must put the government in its place.”

“We’re in a classic civil disobedience moment. We’re tired.” 

“Our unions are being taken over by the bosses. The people have to be the unions. And we are here to work for/serve  the community. We’re here to be foot soldiers in the neighborhoods.” (from the president of a local public sector union)

At rush hour on Monday morning, a small group of folks shut down the 8-lane highway in protest of the Emergency Manager takeover—one of many acts of civil disobedience sure to continue. And in the last week, our friends at the Black Community Food Security Network Kadiri Sennefer and Malik Yakini cut a fresh new song about the people rising up that was produced to project a message of resistance to the community.

The punchline of the day yesterday was that Mitt Romney was being considered for the Emergency Manager position—in a Democrat stronghold city that is 80% Black.

Whose city? If it wasn’t already clear, the fight is on.