Not Ghost Town, But Homefulness Town: Re-Views for the REvoluTion
April 14, 2014
At POOR Magazine's indigenous news-making circle we call Community Newsroom this April there was a storming result of women and organizations coming together with holiness to lead the circle. We got visitors from other parts of the country, and what they said confirmed that for some reason, gentrification and mistreatment is going on all over the United States. Our visitors came from Detroit to screen their film, “We Are Not Ghosts.”
I went to their movie screening at the First Congregational Church of Oakland. “We Are Not Ghosts” is about the problems in Detroit and the wonderful outcomes there, which grew from people’s work regardless of class, creed, color, or religion. A lot of people think gentrification is because of race and class privilege but I sincerely believe gentrification and mistreatment work against both the poor and the rich. No class, less class: it doesn’t matter, private corporations tear down family stores and indigenous-led gardens.Evidently Detroit was known to be the worst place in the United States and there are miles and miles of nothing, like the desert. The screening showed live footage of grassroots solutions like what they call the D-town Farm, a literacy school, and even a biking system. I wonder if the Detroit which they refer to as “ghost town” will spread amongst all the people and then everyone will collaborate against displacement and gentrification like Detroit has been doing.
The garden in the movie is led by all races, and it is unique, because white people are always criticized for building nonprofits in the low-income communities, and do not teach people how to establish their own nonprofits. But here white people’s role is different and they collaborate with people of color leadership. They grow beans, rice, wheat, vegetables, and they raise their own animals that are not pumped with hormones but cared for with love. The gardeners have another project that bakes fresh pies and a whole line of fresh desserts. They interviewed the youth at the end of the screening and they said they like the green life and not the deserted place they were. They are not owned by corporate entities, because it is people-led, and I was amazed how they turned this deserted place into a living joy with peaceful practices and healthy environment.
The thing that most stuck out to me was the literacy program that was led by mothers and volunteers who teach the kids leadership skills as well as regular reading curriculum. One of the teachers stated, “We have to love these children like they came from our own womb, and connect them with elders.”
Lastly they made transportation by riding bikes and traveling from neighborhood to neighborhood. Less pollution is a great idea as is teaching exercise as a meaningful thing to practice in life.
At the end of the screening we had group discussions on how the Bay Area is being targeted the same way Detroit was. I just recall this one lady saying white people need to teach other white people how to treat blacks. I brought up a suggestion stating all people have to learn from each other and respect each other because of the differences of culture. There does not have to be an isolated training on how to work with low-income based communities, because black people are human, white people are human, Chicanos are human, and the list goes on. We need to hear from everybody. The group I was in had concerns about how corporate government might destroy what they built, but hopefully that doesn’t happen. Another statement was that the people in the movie are not just making a garden, they are creating a green community that doesn’t have to rely fully on the government.
The problems facing Detroit and the Bay Area are deeper because a lot of people with no education mostly tend to be poor people, and they have no jobs. No jobs means more crimes, and that is what the main leader of the “We Are Not Ghosts” group brought up after they announced, “The people in Detroit are not Ghosts and they are showing how to make the planet.” They are flipping around the way things usually go, turning away from violence.
The reason I wrote Homefulness in the title is because all of us poor and indigenous, multi-generational, multi-racial, multi-lingual folks at POOR Magazine launched a similar almost exact project in East Oakland on sacred Ohlone land we call Homefulness in Deep East Oakland. This is a neighborhood that is intentionally blighted and destroyed by what Tiny at POOR calls poltricksters and real estate snakkkes, causing folks who dont know to be is terrified to enter because of the violence, but we are humbly building this landless peoples movement with love and our own values as fellow poor people who have been racialized and hated. We create jobs when we have the money to that get distributed to the community already there and actively work to lift up the neighborhood through jobs and prayer and spirit, which then works to keep the violence down. We see this as an example of a poor people-led autonomy and self-determination. We collaborate humbly with other poor people-led groups and learn from the examples of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Landless peoples movement in Brazil, the Shackdwellers Union in South Africa and now, hopefully our beautiful comrades from Detroit.