Thursday, December 10, 2009

New book...

I ordered this a couple weeks ago from the Cathedral Bookstore (I'm trying not to use amazon for brand new books anymore), and it finally came. I started reading it the other night and I really dig it so far. She has a section at the end on the urban agriculture movement here in Detroit, which is pretty sweet. She's trying to fuse the agrarian writers (prophets) of the Hebrew scriptures with the contemporary writers, namely Wendell Berry. I've just begun, but so far I really like her perspective, and I'm excited to see where she takes it. I read ahead a little and she actually addresses the anti-city narrative of the Hebrew bible, including Ellul's Meaning of the City, and she neither embraces or fully denies the validity of this view and is more interested in engaging the reality of what is rather than what should be. I'm excited to read it. I'll have a review in the next Still Small Voice zine.


Today was the first time of the year (not counting january-march) that I woke up to snow. As much as I love the seasons and Michigan I can't lie...I'm not excited at all to see snow. I guess mid-December is late for the first real snow of the season if fairly fortunate. I went against my better judgment yesterday, knowing the cold was coming. In the garden I have salad greens, kale, spinach, and some root crops. I thought of harvesting, but was busy with other projects. The root crops are now frozen in place and the salad greens are wilted and probably not salvageable. I'm going to check it out when I get home and hopefully some of the crops have held out. Its supposed to go above freezing in a couple days, and perhaps some things will bounce back. We'll see.

Carl just posted a podcast of our most recent Detroit Villages in which Jim Perkinson led us in a discussion on white privilige in the context of urban ministry. If this is something that interests you I highly encouraged you to give it a listen here: Emerge Detroit

The moving process is getting a little bit closer. We're projected to move in early February. Our housing situation is not set in stone, but we have a few solid options. There are a lot of really great opportunities to start moving toward long term goals and being grounded in place.

Last night our friends over at the Jeanie Wylie house hosted their monthly film and discussion night. The film was one called Poletown Lives!, about a Detroit neighborhood that struggled to protect their community from being decimated to build a new Cadillac Plant back in the early 80's. It was the second time seeing it, and fairly frustrating in some ways. The litany of the powers' choosing profits over the common good is relentless, and confirms my lack of faith in large institutions and is further incentive to continue to pursue change at the grassroots level. I have very little hope or energy for reforming governments and corporatations.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

moving soon!

Well, I did it again. Way too long between updates. A lot has happened, but I won't bore you.

The biggest news is that we're most likely moving soon. We have a lot of logistics to work out and the details are pretty gray. If things go according to our current plan, we'll be moving to Brightmoor, Detroit. We will be renting-to-own to fairly small homes across the street from the brightmoor community garden. One of the major draws to the area is that there are already several other household living in a sort of intentional community. They are older than us and will hopefully give some amount of accountability and structure. There are some really great opportunities for urban farming. I think it might be one of the strangest neighborhoods that I've ever been in. On the one hand there are deer, hawks, and even foxes running around. The river rouge runs through the back yards. It feels like youre in a neighborhood in the forrest. This is juxtaposed by crack houses and prostitution. Its one of the poorest and most desolate places in the city. Yet there are a lot of exciting things going on there. Good people, good programs, good churches. I'm not totally sure what to make of it, but I am excited about it.

One of the most exciting (albeit scary!) things about moving there is the idea of being settled long term. Besides when I was a kid living at home with my family, I have never moved into a place with the mindset of permenance. This has sometimes negatively affected my attitude and work ethic toward places I've lived. Will this be different? How long will it take to break the "temoral" mentality? Will I be able to be fully present and give myself to the neighborhood? I don't really know the answer to those questions, and only time will tell. I am hopeful though. This is a truly exciting time for me and I think for all of us. We have desired an inter-generational, multi-cultural, multi-household community from the start...and thats what we'll be living within.

Here's an article about our block that recently was posted on a popular website: Urban Farming in Brightmoor

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I still suck at this...

I always forget to update this thing!

Gathering around the unhewn stone
Oh to be back in Philly again. Rolling into town was a good feeling, full of butterflies in my belly and the whole nine yards. This was a really great gathering. Good topics. Good speakers. Good friends. I feel like I learned a lot and made a lot of important connections and perhaps more importantly some old re-connections. Its amazing to me how much buzz there is right now about anti-civilization within the young Christian radical community. I find it exciting and hopeful, though its hard to say where it will go. I overheard a lot of "I kinda agree, but..." types of conversations, which I think is good. This is a hard topic, and one that needs a lot of exploration with our lives, in our sacred texts, and the world around us. It must be a prayerful journey together, because advocating for the collapse of everything is advocating for the death of much (and consequently life for many other things). What part we can/should participate in this as followers of Jesus is one that requires a great deal of reflection.
Nekeisha has a good summary of the conference here.

It was also really great to visit my friends and old community mates over in Camden, and go to Mass at Sacred Heart. It's really wonderful to return to places where so much growth and wrestling with life and understanding has happened. Being in Philly and Camden also made me realize how many people I love and miss because I never get to see them anymore. I just don't have the same sorts of connections here in Detroit that I do in the other places that I've lived.

The U.P.
Oh fall in Michigan! Upon returning from Philly, I fulfilled a hard promise that I made to my sister: several days of exploring the woods and waterfalls of the upper peninsula. By hard promise I mean joyous adventure! We went to Pictured Rocks, the Porkies, the Keweenaw, and a few other places. It was beautiful. Most of it was still peak colors for fall, though some were a little past peak. We got to go to the tiny town of Calumet where my dad was born...and the topic of the Woody Guthrie song "The 1913 Massacre". This song is a favorite for sure, so it was kinda neat to go there. I found it online with lyrics if you're interested.

Its funny to me how much people rave about tahquamenon falls, because a lot of the falls that we went to blew them away. I havent spent a ton of time up there, and it was my first time going to the north west portion of the UP. I loved it, and I'll definitely go back some time. I'll be posting some pictures soon.

more updates soon...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Out of town visitors and upcoming events...

This past week we met some new friends. Nate from Atlanta and Dwight from just outside of Philly came to spend a few days with us exploring Detroit a bit. They came as a time to listen and see what is happening in Detroit. I found it fairly amazing how many people and connections that they made in the short time that they were here. We shared with them some of our feeble attempts of community and our vision of our place amongst what's happening here in Detroit. It was a great time and we enjoyed hosting them.

Next week we have some new friends from Chicago coming up to spend a couple days with us and to get a sense of what Detroit is like. I'm hoping we can get a little work in the garden done while they're here, as well. We're going to be leaving together from here to head out to the "Gathering around the un-hewn stone" out in Philly Oct 16-18th. I'll report more on that after the gathering. If the you're interested in the question of faith and [industrial] civilization, you are definitely going to want to check this gathering out.

This past weekend I made it out to D-Town Farm's 3rd annual Harvest Festival. What a great space they have over there! I was told that they have nearly 2 acres under cultivation and plan on expanding next season. They had an ocean of collards like I've never seen before. They are right in the middle of a long neglected tree nursery in River Rouge Park. The discussions were all very stimulating and inspiring, with my favorite being the keynote about community resilience. Perhaps the most exciting part was that the event was put on by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and all the speakers were people of color. I get excited to see people of color or any other struggling group coming together to address some of the issues that their communities are facing and seeking solutions that come from the ground up. It was a very inspiring event. Props to the DBCFN!

Last night our Cluster group had our fall work day over at my buddy Will's community garden. We had a much better than average turnout and a good time on a cool fall night. We helped put his garden to bed, learned how to build compost bins out of pallets, make lasagna beds, and plant garlic. We also received our garlic from the GRP, which we will be planting next week.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fungus Fest

After G20, I got to go to the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club's annual Fungus Fest at Proud Lake. Though tired and feeling a bit under the weather, we still found some good mushroooms. Pictured above is the huge bounty of Maitake (or hen of the woods...or Grifola Frondoa if you really prefer). Its hard to get a sense of size in this photo, but this was enough to completely fill my back pack. We found a few other things, but nothing incredibly exciting. on the bike ride home we found some chicken (sulfur shelf) mushrooms on an oak tree too. That ended up being quite the feast. I don't have any pics of those. Its prime time for wild mushrooms, so get out there to find your fest!

G20 in Pittsburgh

It's been about a week since we've been back from pittsburgh, and I'm still processing the whole experience. I will say that it was a good experience and that I'm glad that I went. We had a fun crew and we had a good time for sure. Road trips, no matter the destination, always seem to make for good stories, and this trip was no exception. I wanted to share a few of my pics and a few thoughts.

As for the protest itself, I guess I have mixed feelings. We stayed fairly close to the anarchist groups the whole time, because I guess those are the folks there I feel I can relate to the most. My personal hope was to connect with some Christian kids and do the litany of resistance from CPT, but the two days we were there went by like a blur.

We stopped by a coffee house and then the Thomas Merton Center, before heading to the march on Thursday. The march was organized by a more radical group and they had no permits. They said (and I agree with them) that it seemed dumb and undemocratic to ask the people you're protesting for permission to protest them. We arrived at the park and there was people everywhere (2,000 maybe?). Rev. Billy from the Church of Stop Shopping was attracting a lot of media attention (pictured above) and was pretty entertaining. The black bloc kids were getting interviewed by TV folks, which seemed strange. I guess its good that they could explain where they were coming from a bit, because I'm sure few people in the mainstream have any sense of what their action is about. The march began to leave the park with drums and chants and started to head toward downtown. After maybe a quarter or half mile, the police declared it an illegal assembly and ordered us to cease immediately. They then used a "non-lethal" sonic blast, that was super obnoxious, though we were far enough that it didnt hurt us. Our crew decided to stop and just walk down another street, and many others went the same way. Others kept marching, but strangely enough after about ten minutes all the streets flowed into one and the march was back together and everyone cheered. At that point some kids brought a dumpster int other street and flipped it and were standing on it chanting "whose streets? our streets!" One of goals was not to get arrested, unless it was for something meaningful, and this didn't fit the bill. We decided to walk a block parallel. At that point the cops cut them off and blocked their path. I don't know the order, but at that point there was a standoff and the cops were shooting teargas and the black bloc kids rolled a dumpster down the hill at the cops. As soon as we felt the tear gas on our face we felt it was due time to get out of there, so we took off running. Other people were running too, some of them pulling dumpsters from the ally and flipping them to create a blockade for vehicles. Police were blockading the streets and things got real chaotic for a bit. Helicopters were swooping, vans full of robot cop like soldiers were storming onto the scene. They weren't giving us any trouble, because we made it fairly clear that we were trying to leave. The streets really did become a police state and a war zone for a bit and we were glad to get out.

Later that night we ate some food and hung at a Cabaret-type thing. We also got some great food. There was a little talk on the street of some late night smash and run, but that's not what we were there for either, so we declined. The riot cops were coming in by the busload to surround the conservatory in a park on campus where the delegates were said to be having dinner. The park was mostly drunk and curious college kids, and very few protesters. We were exhausted, so we just went back to the house that we were staying. Sure enough a lot stuff went down that night. Windows were smashed, and there was a standoff with the cops. It was said that someone threw a brick at the cops and so they unloaded their tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on the crowd. There's youtube videos showing the college students getting the worst of it in their own residence halls. Pretty wild.

The next day was a little more laid back more marching and rallies. more signs. more chants. more bandannas. more riot cops. little to no violence this day. That was nice. A few good speakers at the rally, a few I really didn't like at all. typical socialist rhetoric from the latter. The march ended in a park with a few more speakers and some music and some delicious food. Theres tons of funny side stories, but this is already longer than I wanted to write.

My thoughts: I thought there was a good turn out and a lot of neat folks there. I was disapointed in the lack of creative non-violent direct actions. I thought there was a lack in creativity in general. Also, the only point was disruption and media attention, as where protests of major summits in the past had shutting the whole thing down as a goal. AS a neo-luddite of sorts (at this point I'm a hypocrite for writing a blog...) I feel when property and technology becomes worshiped and seen as more important than people, community and the planet, those things may need to get smashed as the idols of the old testament were. However, breaking windows of some chain stores and a bank isn't really that. At that point all the creative power of radicalism is gone, and the media associates anarchism with destruction rather than building. I still hope that we (Christians and/or radicals) could be known for the creative and constructive of rebuilding society from the group up rather than breaking some windows. I don't really know what else I want to say. I didn't plan anything or do anything creative or good, so I can't just complain, but I was fairly disappointed with the overall "actions" and demonstrations. Still, like I said at the beginning, it was a really great trip with some friends, and it really caused me to sit back and think a lot about the meaning, means, and ends of resistance. It's going to be a long journey to understanding what I think.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Using this piece...

Well, I won't lie...I sorta hate blogging. I mean, maybe I like it but feel like I'm compromising my values a bit. Overall, I've tried to pull the plug from online "networking" sites like myspace and facebook. I've done this in favor of email, letters, phone calls, or best of all: face to face conversations. Perhaps more on that in my next post.

Anyway, I recently got this great new internship working with my buddy Carl Gladstone. I'll be doing some work around organizing our mini community of communities here in Detroit known as Detroit Villages. I'll also be doing some volunteer work here in the city. Part of my responsibility for this new position is to document and share my experience with others, and blogging seems to be the most practical way to do this.

A couple years ago when I was living in Camden, NJ, I made a curriculum for myself and created a homeschool type thing. While I wasn't always the best at staying disciplined, I read many books and learned a great deal. I skipped a formal education in favor of exeriential learning and reading books. I'm going to be doing a similar thing this fall, and I'm hoping to share things I' learning on here with others that may or may not be interested. We'll see. I desperatey need routine and discipline in my life, and I think writing on a regular basis will help out with that. Thanks for tuning in.