Urban Farming in Detroit
AMY GOODMAN: Grace Lee Boggs, in Newark twenty-six people were killed in the rebellion, twenty-four of them African American, then a fire captain and a policeman. In Detroit, forty-three people were killed. How did that happen? Were there indictments? There were none in Newark.
GRACE LEE BOGGS: There were not indictments. And the question of — I mean, the question — I think what I hear, Amy, is that we think that the question of justice is a question of whether we indict or whether we prosecute. And I think that we’re reaching another stage, where we have to see the question of justice in terms of how do we rebuild our communities, how do we restore our people, how do we as Americans with this terrible crisis that we’re in now, not only in our cities but across the world, how do we become human beings, how do we take another leap in our evolution as human beings.
The above was transcribed from a “Democracy Now” interview recorded on July 13, 2007. And my sincere thanks to Dr. Lester Spence for insisting that I become more informed about the unrecognized gold in my own back yard.
Yeah, I did say that Detroit needs at least one major grocery store chain and that it was a major blow to the city when Farmer Jack’s closed up its last two stores recently. I did say that. I confess. I also said, more or less, that anybody who says we can fill that gap by growing food in vacant lots and in our back yards has a balloon for a head. I said that I ain’t no damned vegetarian, have no intention of becoming one, and that even if we could provide the city with all the vegetables it needs by harvesting our blight with a little fertilizer, that still doesn’t solve my need for meat. You can’t harvest cows and pigs out of the ground. Chickens either.
I admit it. I did say these things. And furthermore, I stand by what I said.
However. Having said all that, I recently had the opportunity to become acquainted with an organization called Urban Farming that in barely two years has managed to do some rather amazing things right here in the city and is in the process of spreading the message nationwide. But Detroit is the base. What Urban Farming is doing is shedding lots of green light on Detroit’s overabundance of weed-choked vacant lots and creating food – free food – where once there was nothing but ugly. It’s not easy to coax a healthy cucumber plant out of a bed of cracked glass, cement, and syringes, but that is essentially what these folks have done. And it’s nothing short of amazing.
But what is even more amazing to me is the philosophy behind the whole thing, promoted fervently by the project’s founder, Taja Sevelle, which is to use abandoned land to eradicate hunger in Detroit. I don’t know yet how convinced I am that such a massive task can be accomplished in such a way, but Taja is probably one of the most convincing folks I’ve met in awhile. If this thing can be done, she will truly find a way.
So no, I’m not saying that I no longer believe we need a grocery store chain in this city because we absolutely do. Mom and Pops can’t fill the gap, black-owned can’t fill the gap, and Urban Farming can’t fill the gap either. But what Urban Farming can do is to help rebuild the city by helping to replace death, destruction and emptiness with food, hope, and community. This kind of vision goes a long way, and even when a chain does finally return to Detroit, projects like Urban Farming will continue to be a critical component of the ongoing process of rebuilding and re-imagining this city. I truly believe that when you have fallen to the economic depths of where Detroit is right now, it will be the new day creativity, the energy, and the hell-let’s-just-try-it attitude of urban farmers such as Taja Sevelle, combined with the wisdom-guided direction of urban warriors such as Grace Lee Boggs that will be what brings this city back.
Because, at the the end of the day when you’ve spent everything else, rampant creativity and determination are what kicks in to save the day.
“And I think that we’re reaching another stage, where we have to see the question of justice in terms of how do we rebuild our communities, how do we restore our people, how do we as Americans with this terrible crisis that we’re in now, not only in our cities but across the world, how do we become human beings, how do we take another leap in our evolution as human beings.”
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