Comrades and Relatives,
I feel the need to update you before I voluntarily walk into the current police repression of the Twin Cities. I planned my trip to coincide with the Republican National Convention and the coinciding counter convention being planned by dissidents throughout the country. My plan while there is to continue to meet people interested in alternative economic practices, witness the most poignant demonstration in the States since the WTO shutdown in Seattle 1999, and to volunteer in the kitchen to feed thousands of people in the streets. I expect interrogation as soon as I walk off the bus.
But before tomorrow, lets go back to Detroit. I was seriously moved by the statistic I heard at the only caf in town with some degree of margin-culture, the Avalon Bakery. Detroit was meant to accommodate 2 million people. The population today is around 80,000 and continues to decline. And it felt like the wasteland that those numbers describe. An early morning "traffic report" cut to a shot of barren highways. Public squares stood empty, their fountains presenting for no one. Trees grew out of disheveled warehouses. Weeds overtook vacant lots where abandoned homes had been bulldozed. And roofless houses, like a charred skeleton, littered the broken city.
Sure, there's some romanticizing of a place like this: a post-industrial workless wonderland free for the taking, ripe with opportunities to create a pirate utopia. But in reality, the scene was sad. Some people do still live in Detroit, and the few that I met from the activist scene were bitter and burned out. It's hard to create the world you wish to see when there are no resources, few comrades to inspire, and no spare energy. Instead, most turned to alcohol to blur the scene of their economy slowly disappearing.
On a much less gloomy note, an emerging gardening movement is starting to sweep Detroit, an effort that might revive the city. An organization called Detroit Agriculture Network umbrellas several smaller groups all providing the metropolitan area the tools and social resources necessary to transform those vacant lots into a local food system.
In the end, I organized Trumbullplex's zine library in hopes of jumpstarting their infoshop and free school and moved on to Chicago, a place on a seemingly permanent upswing. More on Chicago later.
Milwaukee boasts a small (yet happy) activist community sandwiched between the elites of the Eastside's Lakefront and the Westside ghetto. This area, called Riverwest, reminded me of West Philly and is similarly grounded in a few decades of counter-cultural living. Riverwest's vibrant Neighborhood Association laid its requests for more gardens, a food co-op, a local newspaper and a farmer's market, all of which it now has. In this little nook I found the food co-op, which not only supplied my refrigerator for two days but also served as a social nexus for a handful of neighbors.
So, now I'm short on time. This update is incomplete but I wanted to get it off before things pick up around here.
'Til next time, all my love.