Monday, September 8, 2008

Youth Farm Stand--on a roll

A project with Youth Farm Stand--pedal powered mobile stand for east side Detroit produce.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Film makers

The leaves we all cut in late May will soon have a home on the roof of the
garden entrance. Stay tuned for a roof raising and a September plastering
gathering and rice and beans feast.

Friday, August 1, 2008

An outdoor room for EarthWorks Detroit

In early May, we cleared a small stand of elderberry trees (transplanted and thriving on the street side of the garden) to build this gateway and gathering space.

Wood is all Detroit grown and harvested by Kevin Bingham, footings made from salvaged urbanite.
This Monday we're going to sheath the roof with its first two layers.
More on how this space functions--practically and ideally soon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Convivial Places

Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto had a wonderful idea. They had a park bordered by distinctly separate neighborhoods and built an oven in the middle.
The confluence of food and fire draw people together, to sit, to eat, to talk.


Patrick at EarthWorks; Sharon at The Day House

Monday, July 7, 2008

zender and other places

At the intersection of Mt. Elliot Street and Zender Place on the east side of Detroit sits this structure. It is one of a number of gathering places built by residents and neighbors through the very local association of block clubs. Essentially like they sound, block clubs are somewhere between a block association and a loose confederation of friends depending on the organizers. The Zender Place sign (on an earlier post and across the street from this structure) which announces its welcome, subtitles itself "a great place!' (exclamation point is on the sign.

I love this enthusiasm--I value the hands that put this structure together, the folks that gather under its roof to talk, to grill out, to have a beer, and the joyous proclamation of the sign.

I have been reading The Great Neighborhood Book, put together by The Project for Public Places in New York that advocates for this sort of block level activity. Zender Place is fairly elaborate--the four poster with pitched roof and the grills speak to a relative permenance. Many of the other less formal spots around town do what Project for Public Places (PPS) suggests--offering a place to sit.
If you know of a block club or a structure of welcome or a good place to sit, send it this way--a photo, an intersection, your thoughts on what makes this a great place.
For the meanwhile, from the City's website if you're interested in starting a block club:
Block Clubs

Saturday, June 28, 2008

hanging at the Wendsters

so I'm spending the weekend house sitting for Wendy. It's so weird being here without the rest of you - I walked into Lolita's yesterday half expecting you guys to just be there hanging out, but you weren't :(

Everywhere I've gone since being here just reminds me of our month here: I walked to the tigers game last night, went to the market this morning, had delicious food from the Louisiana soul food place for dinner tonight...

However the thing that made me miss our time here the most was who I ran into this morning at the market...JODI!!! It was so crazy and awesome to see her. I met her fiance and his parents, they were shopping for stuff for the wedding next weekend.

I wish I could put into words how much I wish you all were here - I fell in love with Detroit when we were here but I don't think I realized how much of that love for being here was also due to the community we had.

I hope you are all enjoying the adventures your summers are bringing! We have to have a reunion as soon as everyone is back in Ann Arbor. Miss you all!!

convivial places

Welcome someone.
Make a place for people to sit.
Direct actions to turn a corner into a gathering place.

More on block clubs and benches in Detroit soon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


OK, I finally figured out how to do this with a little help from Nick. So Here's my poem in response to the wonderful haikus posted by Farrah. This is an acrostic poem created using the initial of everyone's first name.

To the Detroit Twelve

All praise to you who came full of
Ardor looking for flora between
Broken whiskey bottles and ragged fauna that
Cover the Park most times and other areas we
Crisscross daily in the D wondering how to
Escape the sad present and then you
Fell in full of vip and vim working your special
Juju, yeah, pointing us to the bright future right here
Jumping in full techno color beats
Knocking us off dead center zoned
Now we sense possibility
Something blowing in the wind

Sunday, June 22, 2008

a good well in the city: another kind of corner store

Whenever I can I stop by Goodwells on 422 W. Willis, just west of Cass Avenue. There, next to the Communist bookstore and a couple of doors from Avalon Bakery is a different sort of small neighborhood store--one that is part of building a healthy community through a thoughtful and well priced selection of wholesome foods. Started 2 years ago by Paul Willis (center in photo) and business partners James Wells and Gary Mixom, Goodwells is, as its name suggests, a good well in the city.
Appropriately situated next to Revolution Books, GoodWells is both a radical act and a great place to eat. Recognizing a need for access to better foods as well as role model for what a neighborhood business can be, GoodWells serves a small selection of excellent prepared foods (the Famous Pocket Sandwich at 3.95--a soy patty in a huge whole wheat pita pocket with sprouts, cucumber and a soy dressing--add avocado or cheese for an extra 50 cents is my favorite.) Good Wells also offers a comprehensive selection of dry grocery items in their compact space--you'll find hard to find items like coconut oil and Michigan Cherry Juice alongside dried beans--and a well-stocked small freezer with good fish and other staples. In the refrigerator are incredible juices made locally--Ginger Sun (ginger, honey and lemon) or the dark purple sorel (also with ginger and honey) fill out the West Indian fare and either make standard commercial juices seem thin and bland.
As noted in earlier posts, and plain to see from a wander in most Detroit neighborhoods, access to healthy food is a challenge. Besides corner stores, chain drugstores pop up with tax incentives since, theoretically, they sell grocery items.
Scratch the surface and you will find a selection geared towards processed cheese, high fructose drinks and chips. The legacy of poor nutrition, obesity and diabetes this food leads to has its counterpart in the pharmacy options of these same stores that offer medication to offset the effects of this diet.
Sit outside GoodWells at lunch or on a quiet Sunday and you'll see a broad cross section of the Cass Corridor neighborhood come in and out the welcoming screen door. The place and the staff are inviting, offering one of the greatest alternatives to suggest that small local businesses can provide services that depart from the patterns of high sodium/high sugar to whole grains, locally baked goods, organic produce and cheese. Plans are afoot to offer more and more opportunities for locally grown and produced foods.
If GoodWells can be the model for every neighborhood's corner store, we've got a good revolution cooking.

Monday, June 16, 2008

some background on food deserts

For Larry Gabriel's 2007 editorial in Detroit's Metro Times:

go to:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

corner store

The story Brother Jerry relayed is as follows:
In the late 1990's Brother Rick, a Capuchin Friar living and working on the east side of Detroit was heading out of his house to get groceries. He ran into a boy who lived nearby who, when informed of his errand, asked 'What gas station are you going to?' The gas station or the small corner store, like these two here, are the food options for many Detroiters. Recognizing the need for both a more complex range of food options while providing access and education about food to the neighborhood, Brother Rick established EarthWorks in 1998.
These corner stores, along with the gas stations are still present, the food options still limited, but the three gardens of EarthWorks supply fresh produce to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen while growing a visible and dynamic culture through garden and food access, seed and plant distribution, education, kids' and youth programs.

I wonder if the corner stores might somehow be a part of this--with a crate of local apples some time, a box of Meldrum Street grown berries, garlic, radishes.

Monday, June 9, 2008

food desert

Most neighborhoods in Detroit are food deserts. That is, access to produce and fresh food is severely limited, while access to food at all is a challenge, to say the least. I'll attach a link to the 2007 LaSalle Bank Study that supports this classification, but for now wanted to include these images. Using our project and EarthWorks as a center point, one can reach these stores within 20-30 minutes by bike, 45 minutes or so on foot, or through 2 city bus lines. Keep in mind that bus service is infrequent (hourly at best for these lines.)
Not served by any major grocery chain, Detroiters instead can buy food from corner stores such as these. Beer and liquor predominate the stock, packaged or processed food supplements the offerings, while cashiers sit behind bullet proof glass.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Haiku For You!

It's odd being back in lovely Lapeer. But since I'm moving again, this time to an even smaller town, I thought I'd fulfill my promise to Jessica and post the haikus I made about each of us, with the help of Sarah (of course) and Jessica. They are pretty much good-natured nonsense, so no, this is not my ultimate opinion of you as a person, just as much personality that could fit in 17 syllables :). So here we go...

Allison is short
Good things come in small presents
She can strut her stuff.

Andrea is pimp
I want to be just like her
She sings opera.

Erik rode his bike
"I was sobbing the whole time"
Sunscreen in his eyes

Janell is badass
Her snort is very funny
But not too funny

Caitlin is right here
And she has a nice smile
Harry calls her "Boo"

Sarah is so tall
It is fun to look at her
She should model too

Nick is "Who's the Boss"
He needs all of our receipts
Mastermind of cob

Becca eats a lot
It fuels her deep-thinking skills
And she writes well, too.

Christine plays the uke
She and Deborah are buds
Coolest kids in school

Jessica is Mom
She lays down the law for us
With no-nonsense face

Katie likes to walk
Coffee is her favorite
A good Laroucher

Farrah writes haikus
She reads before you can blink
Farrah's face has fans

And one last poem that I think sums up our time at Earthworks nicely (courtesy of Christine)

Repetition is
the key to adult learning.
To adult learning.

I hope to see you guys soon and if you're in Mayville, don't hesitate to call!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

City Potato Farm

This from the inspiring Aaron Timlin, who a group of us got to meet at CAID (Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit.) Aaron has a vision for a neighborhood grown cafe, and, perhaps more importantly for growing a neighborhood through a remarkable and genuine open attitude to what it means to be a neighbor.

For growing potatoes in vertical spaces like cities:
Fill one tire with dirt. Plant a potato.
When it sprouts, add a tire to the stack, add dirt, let sprout.
Repeat, fastening/binding each tire.
Harvest by lifting the tire stack and letting the vertical crop tumble.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Community; building...

"Insects tatooing my skin." When the surroundings morph into who you are today and who you deeply want to become, that's community. "Father holding my hand." Children reach out their hands, instinctively, knowing that it makes little sense to walk unaccompanied. Children reach out their hands, confident that they will be grasped and held, because that's what you do when you love. That's community.

I find that many of us seeking community are yearning for answers to unfilled childhood hands outstretched; outstretched in the earnest honesty that 5-year-olds have, that 15-year-olds smirk at, that 20- or 25- or 30-year-olds look back on with longing.

There are places where our surroundings become infused and confused with our souls, and that's community. When our sense of modesty is supplanted by the courage to reach out our hands, daring to believe that someone will grasp on and hold.

But community isn't forced. It's isn't created because you read the recipe in a book and it isn't maintained because you followed the rules. Community grows on collective vulnerability, reinforced by the presence of others taking that same plunge of faith.

So where's community? It probably starts with the children, because they don't yet know that being exactly who they are is something to be ashamed of. It grows when spirit is accessed, through song or common interest, through faith or common strife, through journeying or reckless abandon. Community is found when you stop trying and start letting, when you stop thinking and start feeling, and when it comes, you'll know. So if it's the gospel choir that lifts your soul, let it. Or if it's a sunny spring morning planting cabbage behind gleaners, let it. If it's exploring the city by getting lost on purpose, let it. Community sneaks into vibrant existence when you least expect it-- after 10 hours of stomping cob, for instance.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Creative Cities

Perhaps reverence is what we need to arrive at sustainable cities; reverence for the environment, reverence for each other, reverence for the work of city building. Maybe the "sacred" is what has been lost, thinking as we do that it is a word better suited to divinities than to the mysteries that reflect the divine. maybe we have lost the knack of seeing each other as partners in the revelation of creation. Little wonder we act as though the enterprise were strictly our own.
(from Paul Woodruff)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

It starts with a dream...

During creative writing with Lolita we were given the following prompt from Farrah:
"Whatever you can do or dream you can,
Begin it,
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

I was reminded of a conversation I had previously with a man in the soup kitchen at lunch. This prompt sparked this memory because he spoke of the ways he wanted to improve society and he had developed such an elaborate plan on how he was going to achieve these hopes--Yet he never acted...

"I am going to give back to society going around to schools and talking about life and how to make a difference" he said. "I would mentor because the youth today are the future." The best intentions are noting without action. What holds us back? Why do so many of us wait for the scenarios to change? Wait until the odds are in our favor? What does it take for us to move-- bringing life to the dreams and intentions our mind provides us? Why does the death of others often stimulate our progression and make us sprint through life in order to achieve our predetermined goals? He has a dream but a dream is nothing without a plan, and a plan is nothing without action, and action is nothing without hope for change. Who will instill this hope in the man who needs to take action on a plan to conquer a dream that he has....Should I?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Detroit layers and change

I came to Detroit looking for a way to answer some of my own questions and to have a more complete picure of what this city is about underneath the surface. At the end of our internship what I really have found is that the city itself is where the questions lie and there are a lot of people trying to answer those questions both in their own way and by working together with other community members.

Detroit may seem empty to some from the outside because it lacks the 'normal' amount of hustle & bustle, skyscrapers, megastores, and moneyholders that we are used to seeng in an urban metropolis, but Detroit can't be taken at face value. What matters more is recognizing, understanding, and working in the context of the many layers that run deep in the city's history, its neighborhoods, its organizations/businesses and its people.

I think that the ridiculous dreams of some, the undying love and understanding of others and the willingness to invest time, serious thought, and money from still others are the start of a combination that is going to make this city grow.

When I have more time I'll give a longer explanation about my experiences that make me believe this!

In the meantime here is something that I wrote during the creative writing workshop:

Change is the elephant in the room
Change is action
action, moving forward, leaping into the future,
sometimes before the present is even ready.

Change is struggle and pain
Pain caused by leaving behind the familiar, known
ways of living, thinking, believing, seeing.

Change grows inside of us and escapes through our
lips, eyes, ears, hands, and feet

It moves us before we are ready and takes us to places that we never meant to be.

Change reroutes the flow of rivers and streams from East to West
alters the path of birds flying North to South
it even allows new life to grow inside of a warm belly

Change starts with the ridiculous and ends only with time.


What Grows in our Garden

When we arrived as GIEU Detroit on 8 May, my relationship with the city was a smattering of blurred and isolated childhood memories: a day at the museum, a dance competition at Cobo hall, a hockey game at Joe Louis, a Tiger's game at the old stadium, a trip to the zoo. I knew token history about the city - how it was the home of automobile innovation, how it bustled at the turn of the last century, how it had been the hub of motown music, how there had been violence here some decades before I was born, how it has been experiencing white flight, and oh - don't forget - Eminem lived here, too. In the past, I found that people will often know the name 'Detroit' even if they don't really know of Michigan. The world knows about Detroit. Or does it?

Detroit carries a stigma - Detroit?! Why would you go there?! One really can't answer that question until he/she has come here. Pre-GIEU, would answer quite un-specifically, saying, "To discover the gems of this city that carries a tarnished reputation." We have seen many of these gems: the Renaissance Center, the Spirit of Detroit, Comerica Park, the Detroit institute of Art, Zeitgeist, Burt's, Eastern Market, Belle Isle, the Heidelberg Project and Mexican Town to begin the list.

As Monkeysarecool... said earlier, Detroit is a friendly city. This was certainly one of my first impressions. In Detroit, it seems inappropriate not to acknowledge another person. I especially like running along the river walk in the morning. Although the streets surrounding are devoid of pedestrian traffic, there are a number of people about the river walk walking, running or sitting and all of them are friendly. I exchange greetings with all of them, and occasionally I'll get a 'keep up the good work!' These exchanges aren't long but they stitch together a sense of community and goodwill that fosters connection and community.

I see this at the Capuchin soup kitchen, as well. The folks there are friendly and at any given table at any meal I was able to engage in gratifying conversations with perfect strangers. What I enjoyed even more, though, was the opportunity to listen to and observe the dynamics of the soup kitchen community. People know each other there, they share life together, they seek out each other to ask, "You alright?" I ate in the East Quad cafeteria for two years. Everybody knows all sorts of people at every meal, but the community at the Capuchin kitchen way supersedes what I observed at school. We've come to Detroit to explore community and how it builds. Well, guess what. Community is here and it's happening! Of course, community must grow, but it is very clear that Detroiters are a community and they are surviving. Together.

A little snippet on communication, too. Caitlin posted a beautiful creative writing response to the prompt "I am..." I particularly like the lines:
"writing and speaking--saying and clarifying,
trying to make people understand something that i can't even solidify."

Caitlin captures the complexity of communication - how do we have the courage to try and express what can't be can't be held onto and can't be infallibly organized and sorted? Somehow we find the audacity to do so and somehow we clarify and keep clarifying as things keep changing. Grace Boggs exhorted us to say, to find words to describe what we see and feel. She said if we can't find the words than make them up. I agree. It's hard to do and it can be scary. As Caitlin says,
"it's that crumbly cob ball that breaks apart every time i try to put it in just the right place."
To attempt communication is as risky as it can be rewarding.

We have been on the listening end of communication a lot during our time here. We have had the honor of meeting with and interviewing remarkable people: Malik Yakini, activist and community leader; Grace Lee Boggs of the Bogg center; the Capuchin friars; Patrick and Stacey at earthworks; Ms. G. Asenath Andrews, Principal of Catherine Ferguson Academy; Father Tom Lumpkin of the Day House; Sharon of the Day House; Lolita Hernandez, our dear house mom who we have learned is quite the local celebrity(!), and I'm sure I'm forgetting someone(s). These people are distinguished men and women who know Detroit intimately. They are respected and sought after thinkers, each with particular values and approaches to their city and our world. They have challenged us from all different angles and given us many feasts for thought. Now, it time to sift their words through our minds. We must talk with each other and the people that we will be with when we leave Detroit. By combining the words and experiences of others (from in or out of Detroit) with our own, we love the city in the way that the pastor at Hartford Baptist described last Sunday. We make the city necessary to us and ourselves necessary to the city. This our opportunity, priviledge and responsibility.

Beautiful Places


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Begin It

Begin it - not "do it"

It's not only up to him or her or me to do - only to start.

Maybe one person can change the world but maybe another has to begin that dream. Aren't we all changing the world in our own way? There are no buildings, monuments, streets named after us (who knows though - maybe some day) but we change each other and others change us and it creates a ripple effect.

Little stones ripple just like big ones. The big ones make more noise and bigger waves but the little ones change the surface and the bottom too. And a handful of little ones can make a big ripple too. Aren't you more likely to pick up and toss the pebbles anyway? I don't know many people who toss boulders. Change doesn't have to come from one big thing - the little ones build up and upon each other - they change the surface and structure. The big ones just reek havoc; sometimes that's good but other times you have to let the little ripples collide and see what comes of it.

Begin it.

Others can carry the ripple on - it's silly to throw a pebble and expect to control where and when it ends. It's just up to you to begin it and see where that ripple goes and how it handles the obstacles in its path and how it combines with other ripples and how far those go...

Begin it.

Past and Future

In response to Christine's photo from the Russell Industrial Center:

It looks like an old factory building. I could be wrong. You can see the wires and pipes but no people. It's easy to imagine them though. Like at the train station - standing on the main floor I could picture and feel the hustle and bustle that occurred there. I probably imagine it as grander than it was. What will it take for Detroit to be there again? Is that what we should even dream of? There's something about the uniqueness of this city that makes it so appealing - at least to me. Life seems slower here - there were so many people in Toronto and I don't think that made me like the city more.

What is this place? There is so much that it could have been or could be now - how does its history effect its future? How can you even know? There are stories in those walls and in the ground - stories that have been shared and stories that are lost forever. Those are the interesting ones to me - in how many ways and how many people did this effect? How important is that to moving forward? How tightly should you hold onto the past in order to move forward - without being burdened and without entirely ignoring what came before?



Come join us/ see what we've been up to
eat good food/enjoy good company

at the big garden on Meldrum Street near Kercheval.

(behind Gleaners Food Bank, Detroit).

Impossible prompts and other misadventures..except there are no other misadventures

Another response to Becca's writing prompt:

I am....

i am the prompt that is impossible to respond to. i am the prompt that makes you stare at the page dully trying to remember who is "I" and who am, is, are, were, was, or had "I" been?

i am changing every day, and i cannot find pretty little adjectives or nouns to describe how or why.

and that's the problem. 

writing and speaking--saying and clarifying,
trying to make people understand something that i can't even solidify.
it's that crumbly cob ball that breaks apart every time i try to put it in just the right place.

communication is my warm wall.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thoughts, Feelings, and some (Creative) Writing

As we begin our final week here in Detroit, the feeling of some sort of nostalgia is already looming. I miss this place already. I missed it when we were all in Toronto and the skyscrapers  started getting pretty monotonous.  I can't quite put my finger on what I'll be leaving; I feel as though I've had months of experiences packed into only 20-odd days. I know that our departure will be more of a 'See you later!' rather than a 'Goodbye' for me- and for the rest of us, I'm sure. There are so many amazing people here, amazing for their wisdom and for their commitment to their city and their neighbors. The nostalgia is for the places and the people, but a little piece of each will go home with me in the form of random pictures, notes, and fond memories of late night talks and walks around the city. There is also excitement, an anticipation to learn even more than I have already about the interconnected issues that we must face with respect to Detroit. Our short time here is only the beginning for me, and I hope that others in our little community feel the same.

And now for some creative writing!
In response to a photograph prompt of graffiti in the Dequindre cut (which happens to be posted here as well):

Empty chairs. Empty hallways. Coming back to an empty house. I used to think I liked being alone- often, at the very least. I used to tell myself, "Maybe I don't need people like other people need people." It was like cold water in the face when I'd come back to a 7'x11' room. No lights. No smiles. Just a floor made for doing homework on and a bed six feet off the ground. Sophomore slump? Then I woke up and I could see color again and breathe deeply and smile for absolutely no reason.  People do need people, and I'm one of those people. 
Places need people too.

In response to one of Christine's Polaroids of Eastern Market:

When I look at the sky, I see a constant that spans more than just a person, a city, a country, all those identifications that may either combine or divide us, or both at the same time. It's important for me to see the commonalities in things rather than what divides. I feel like we're taught those things that divide us our whole lives. 
I see bright blue sky, white clouds, and I see home. Only a man-made building or post to differentiate where, when. Only a man-made law or belief to differentiate who. Is community to finally realize that the things around us are not to be kept secret but shared? Should we start to share possessions and places like we share a blue sky?
Maybe sharing those things like we share a gray sky...

And in closing, a modest haiku to send us on our way:

Detroit Rock City
Urbanite for the cob bench
Makes people happy

I am...driven to be part of creating a future world that allows the soul within each and every person of the human race to have the opportunity to become who she or he is, and the desire to seek it. I am sure that my path in living this purpose is winding and full thick with obstacles; this is of no matter to me. I believe that the beauty that lies in truth will be my fuel as I continue forward.

Conversation, understanding, questions, and a struggle - these all signify a passion that burns.

To set aflame the burning pasion for life in each soul is what I see as my goal; I am unsure how and curious as heck to see where this drive will take me. All I know right now is that love - more like a brother's and less like a mother's - is a key ingredient. To have a world and yet lack love is to have nothing. I say to opposition and those who walk alongside me - I love you, and there's nothing you can do about it.
Is that what this is about? About making it all fit a mold that is ideal?But we are not - not like you and your boys who sit at the top. We will not fit our lives into your analysis of the current economic situation; will not fit our futures into your forecast for the world. The only forecast we listen to is the one beating within our hearts. And so you take, and you give, and you wonder why things aren't changing. You blame, and you give up. But save yourself the disappointment - by listening, understanding - that we are not you; do not want to be like you We want to live in the space between where we are and where you'd like us to be - so put down your models, your calculators, and your silly talk. Come to us, to othe people - to see who we are, and hear who we want to become.

Imagine understanding a "problem" from the ground up, and the humanity to it. We are like you, in a way, already. We have creative plans, dreams for our children, and pain and joy too share. Come to us, openly, and free yourselves of expectation, greed, and the aching thrill of power. Let your humanity connect with ours; only then can we begin to overcome.

Detroit: a Friendly City....

Detroit... Sure... it looks desolate, rundown, crime ridden, but once you get past the cosmetics, you find what is in many ways a vibrant, friendly city. It reminds me of Mimi from the Drew Carey Show; someone with really bad makeup yet nice in some way at the same time. In my wanderings around Detroit I have adopted what I call the "friendliness test;" I throwout a friendly hello to passersby and measure the number of responses. While Detroit does not rate as high perhaps as an average Southern city, the test has yielded a friendly response over %50 of the time. In contrast, Toronto scored pathetically with under %10.
The residents of the city seem intent in some small way to present a positive, friendly attitude. It does not seem to be isolated to one class or another, rather across the social spectrum. From upscale pubs to working class lounges to the soup kitchen, what seems to resonate is a distinct love for the city by its residents. Many younger people feel they may have to leave as they start to have families or find new jobs... at the same time, however, as one young professional put it, "my heart is always in Detroit, it is my home, and I will return."

I came to Detroit with no expectations, simply an open mind as to what I would find... However, after meeting many residents it is hard not to want to stay and explore. As we reach the end of our journey it is hard not to realize that we have barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. We have seen much of the good, and I'm sure there is much more, yet we have seen little of the bad.

the picture above was taken in the Dequindre Cut, it shows an artist's cot, and seems to tell a story of dedication and perseverance that characterizes so many of the residents of Detroit.
Although our stay in Detroit is concluding, its beginning is blended with excursions and experiences to seem as though we arrived months ago. On that first full day, still unacquainted with the City, I found myself getting on the People Mover with twelve unfamiliar people. The task was to explore the area around one of the stops of the People Mover with a partner. What struck me the most was not my impression of the city, but the impression my partner, Andrea, made upon me. We had stopped to buy a snack for some energy, and I was flattered by her willingness and desire to share with me wholeheartedly. Through a small act such as sharing some trail mix, I could sense her unselfishness on a larger scale. It's this kind of willingness to give that will strengthen our bonds to each other and beyond. Through food, we come together to share this necessity that reminds us that we are all human and have the responsibility and pleasure of providing it for everyone's benefit and nourishment.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Roots: A Metaphor to Use all the Way

...if we really want to speak of roots, let us rely on metaphor all the way, and let us imagine the history of our food culture as a growing--not a shrinking--plant. It gradually burrows into the earth, seeking vital nourishmwnt wherever it can, implanting its rootsprecisely in places as distant as possible(soemtimes unimaginable.) The product is on the surface--visible, clear and well-defined: that is us. The roots are underneath--generous, numerous and diffuse.

from Food is Culture, by Massimo Montanari, Columba University Press, 2006

Friday, May 23, 2008

With all of the new people, places, projects and ideas we have been introduced to in the past two weeks here in Detroit, it helps to get words down on paper to help us realize, organize, and explore what we are thinking and feeling during this time of new experience.  I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we have all been journaling pretty regularly, but another approach to discovering some of the issues in our constantly turning gears has been creative writing led by wonderful writer and Detroiter, Lolita Hernandez.  Our little family has gathered a few times to receive writing prompts from Lolita and sometimes other people in our group,  and then we take off with our thoughts and our pens.  What people have been coming up with and sharing has been truly inspiring for me.  The following pieces are two of my responses to the prompts in the writing workshops.

A response to insects:

It would be interesting to tour a beehive
One of the drones would be the tour guide.
They say that the drone bees are only good for one thing, but I think their forgotten role is giving tours of their humming sanctuary.
"To the left we have some royal jelly, and to the right we have the queen who eats green jell-o for life.  
Down we have some baby honeys, and up we have a huge human in white who thinks that they are our babysitter.  We humor it.
Now we will pass through this geometric hole to the next leg of our tour, mind the sticky substances surrounding your entire body.
Ok, here we are among the lovely ladies, they won't notice you but don't take it personally.
Ok, we've reached the end of the tour, please turn left at the next honeycomb, and max will receive you at the gift shop where your can purchase.....
Horseradish, mustard, strawberry jelly and the queen bee's life cycle calendar.  
Buzz again."

This next piece comes out of a prompt giving by Becca, one of my fellow GIEUers.  The prompt was "I am". Easy, right?

I am sure that this twitch in my eyelid should not be sticking around as long as it has been.  My glassy stare must be confused about this contraction of its protector.
When something you have relied on so heavily begins to act in unfamiliar ways it's exciting.  My pupil and cornea are rejoicing.  My iris is energetic, the veins in my lens keep pumping but now at record speed. 
Sometimes I am eyeballs, but is that only because that's where the action is taking place?  
In part I am what I see but what I see does now shape the way my heart beats blood.
There is a twitch in my eye and I hope it stays because
I am always looking for a new perspective.

Monday, May 19, 2008

the core

Walk through most any Detroit neighborhood, and you can quite easily purchase a soda, a candy bar. But not an apple. For that you need a car, or, the alternative--the time to wait for a bus to the edge of the city to a suburban supermarket.
Easy access to easy food is what we as a nation leave to Detroit and to so many of our inner cities. The cumulative effects of this are manifold--from childhood obesity, to lack of choice, from the loss of a connection to culturally significant foods to an abrogation of the bond between people and place.
Walk a few blocks parallel to the major streets in Detroit and a potential solution to these concerns is visible. Through hard work, residents of many Detroit neighborhoods are answering their concerns through gardens. Breaking rough ground to plant delicate seeds is an act that requires nourishment and nurturing. The fruits (or vegetables) of this willingness to wrestle something fantastic and vital out of what has been left to decay is a creative act that, like other art forms, is often relegated or isolated as a luxury, while in fact it is central to culture.
This direct action--the creation of productive and beautiful fields that provide the nourishment of urban agriculture is not only measured through the crops produced, but the creation of neighborhood gathering places, the transformation from abandonment to visual and cultural plentitude. The problems and its solutions are systemic. The cultural changes that accompany food revolutions can be harvested if they are cultivated from the ground up.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

we begin...

May 8: our group of 12 is headed to Detroit to work in collaboration with EarthWorks Urban Farm.
We'll start letting you know as soon as we can what we're up to and when you can come visit us.