In the summer of 2014, I embarked on a solo backpacking adventure across Northern Michigan. With no one to talk to along the way, my journal became a powerful and necessary companion. I wrote journal nearly every day, sometimes many times a day, to capture the events and insights of my time on the trail or […]
My submission to The Moth Detroit StorySLAM topic: “Blood Sweat and Tears” When you go through a difficult time in your life, your body naturally deals with it by going into shock. This is a beautiful response because it allows you to go on with your life and get through every day when you’re not […]
The mathematical symbol for change is a neat little triangle Δ. I can remember drawing it on my notebook with a pencil and wondering why my pencil ended up back where it started. That pretty shape is little more than shorthand for futility, like a dog chasing its tail. There has to be something better. And yet, I […]
I grew up in a sweet, serene, safe community: a bastion of purity in small-town Michigan. We had no world-class issues. The police blotter in the local paper was comedically innocent: “raccoon topples garbage can,” “local man double-parks van.” But not too far away, trouble loomed large. Detroit, with its towering tombs was a shame to […]
People, like deer and celebrities, tend to cluster amongst themselves. Anytime you should encounter a sitcom star, be still! Lower your gaze. Chances are good that his Emmy-winning girlfriend and the whole supporting cast will come trundling after.
[Originally published by ModelD. All photos depict homes that were occupied when they were acquired by Detroit Land Bank Authority but are now vacant.]
Detroit’s greatest paradox is its abundance of space and its scarcity of quality housing.
The massive stock of single family homes once sustained double the current population. Yet each year, more Detroit homeowners become renters, squatters or altogether homeless. The problem is complex but the solutions do not have to be: what is needed is an immediate, scalable solution that will create stability and an upward trajectory for people, property, and the city at large.
It’s time for Detroit to reinvent urban homesteading by selling homes to their current residents. Continue reading →
Yesterday I took a trip to my small local grocery store and got a call from my best friend about her amazing time at the Women’s march in DC. She was giddy with excitement and we shared about our hopes and ideas and experiences participating in the actions of the day. As I left the store, a man who was checking out looked up at me and said “You’re so cute, so beautiful, what’s your name?” I looked at him but made no reaction and continued my phone call. He followed me out of the store and repeated the same line. I turned and said “I’m on the phone” and he said- loudly- “Oh, she’s too loud though, that’s too bad.” I was livid. I was almost to my car at that point but I turned back and approached him and said loudly: “You are incredibly rude. You are being extremely offensive.” His provocation had worked in getting me to talk to him so he went back to trying to be charming “You are so beautiful, so cute, what’s your name?” I repeated that he was being offensive and he said “No I’m not! I’m not offensive.” to which I shouted “It’s offensive if I’m offended!” Continue reading →
Above the land, exposed and hard
they’re aching just for touch.
They chase a thousand beaded dreams
but never have enough.
When aching grows, it overflows-
a sharp and biting cuss,
In our eyes, their reflection,
so, they tried to bury us
Inverted dome, we made it home-
a womb beneath the crust.
We bore so deep, in waking sleep,
like seeds with waterlust.
And when the river didn’t sate
We dug still lower wells,
unbudded branches lay in wait-
those fallow patient cells.
From depth restrained, and dark contained-
no count of nights gone by-
until that time, again we rise
roots first, and then the sky.
This poem is written as a message of solidarity from Detroit to Standing Rock, with particular recognition for the Pueblo Camp who taught me the significance of building shelter underground in the womb of the earth.
“The battle has just begun. I will stand to protect the water, the land. I am asking each of you to come stand with us.” -LaDonna Brave Bull Allard
what it was like
I came to Standing Rock in answer to this call. I wanted to lend my energy to the beautiful movement that is being borne out of the glaring act of violence which is the Dakota Access Pipeline. I wanted to learn from those who were standing up to the environmental status quo. I wanted to spend my Thanksgiving in honor of native people rather than over a full plate of willful avoidance back home. The trip was less than a week, with two full days’ driving time, and yet it was a transformative experience. I have the tendency to romanticize and I don’t want to create the idea that it was some sort of fairy tale but in so many ways the place and the movement that is Standing Rock is entirely beautiful. The people, the attitude of work and service, the prayers, the songs, the hope, the solidarity, the reverence to the natural elements- it was all beautiful. I and many others came by choice but, at its heart, this movement is an obligatory act of self-preservation for the Dakota/Lacota/Natoka people. The camp and the movement that drives it is borne out of the very real threat that is the Dakota Access Pipeline. What follows are my observations from my short time at Oceti Sakowin camp.Continue reading →
As a multigenerational caucasian-American, I have lived my life in a position of privilege relative to many other Americans. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, most of mine have been met, and I enjoy the luxury of being able to quibble and complain about relatively minor offenses. It’s always been hard for me to really wrap my head and my heart around a positive notion of America. I usually hedge. I focus on our racist past towards native peoples, african-americans, non-christians and non-whites. I focus on our shortcomings in health care, environmentalism and education relative to other countries. I focus on our ego-driven militancy and subversion of other governments. It’s hard to feel the love.
But, since I moved to Hamtramck, I become unexpectedly and enthusiastically more patriotic than ever. I love that this community exists, I love that it exists in America, I love that I get to be a part of it.
The following is a conversation that my friend Margo Dalal and I had about the closing of Goodwell’s Market.
Michele: “Pocket sandwich with avocado and cheese.” For an indecisive person, figuring out lunch can be a difficult prospect. What I loved about Goodwell’s is that I always knew what to order and, when lunchtime rolled around, I always knew where I wanted to go. So when Goodwell’s closed its doors abruptly and without explanation about a month ago, it left a bad taste left in my mouth. And if the conversations I’ve had with dozens of other Detroiters this past month are any indication, I’m not the only one feeling a little hurt, a little sad, and a little hungry for more than what we got when Goodwell’s went goodbye.
Margo: I am not angry that Goodwell’s closed, I am upset that I could not help, even if I wanted to. I am sad that there is one less place where Detroiters, new and old, could come together for an affordable and healthy snack. One reason I really loved Goodwell’s was the diversity in their customers. I loved to eat there and people watch, have a nice conversation with a kind senior gentleman, or sit outside and spontaneously see people I love.
Michele: First let me say that Goodwell’s doesn’t owe me anything, not really. They were a for-profit business that gave me what I paid for every time and more. But, while there is no explicit violation, an unspoken social contract was broken with this abrupt departure. When a business establishes itself as a gathering space for community, when it becomes a mainstay of affordable, healthy, mindful food, we come to rely on it and that trust should be rewarded with open communication. Continue reading →
(originally published in a similar form by Occupy.com)
Last month, the ACLU filed suit against the Wayne County Treasurer (WCT) for foreclosing on owner-occupied homes. The lawsuit has been anticipated for years, and could dramatically affect the fate of thousands if it successful halts the auction sale of those properties, but, even so, it would only impact one tenth of the tax foreclosed properties headed for auction since most occupied homes in the auction are already vacant or are occupied by someone other than the owner. Most occupied homes in the auction are not owner-occupied, and most protections (including due process)
apply to owners, not renters. In some ways, the greater tragedy lies in the foreclosures that go unchallenged because the protections most occupied homes in the auction properties that exist apply to the owners so most of the injustices aren’t even considered illegal.
The Wayne County Tax Foreclosure auction is regarded nationwide as an opportunity to by Detroit homes on the cheap, but the people who have the most to gain (and the most to lose) in the auction– the current residents– often have the least access to take advantage of it.
Lack of information is a chronic problem throughout the foreclosure cycle, and affects renters far more than homeowners– the auction passes noiselessly over these homes, and their residents, with no lawsuit or cover story to capture deafening silence to the people inside. Continue reading →
New York is a line at the airport taxi-stand, 50 people long, filled with strangers each going somewhere but incapable of considering the prospect of coordinating destinations with the somebodies around them.
New York is a special machine for fixing traffic lights, making its way down 7th Ave.
New York is two homeless people cuddling between a clean-looking sheet on the steps of a church. Fast asleep, at noon.
New York is a large glossy coated dog who represents his owner the way flashy cars do in other urban landscapes.
New York is a mother walking with her son in a stroller that is being pushed by another woman with darker skin.
New York is an entire wall filled with beautiful doughy bagels, nonchalant in the normalcy of abundance.
New York is a group of construction workers watching the final minutes of a Knicks/Heat game through the floor length glass windows of a 24-hour sporting goods store. Continue reading →