Sarah Mueller (ACG ’16)
In June, thanks to a generous gift from Leeway Foundation, I had the incredible privilege of traveling to Detroit with my partner to attend the Allied Media Conference (AMC). I had long heard of AMC and have always wanted to attend in order to experience the real Detroit.
The most resonating impact of AMC is that this annual gathering of community builders, activists, media makers, is perfectly housed and grounded by the great city of Detroit with its rich history of resistance—a history that is as complex and politically-tainted, as it is beautifully intersectional and perseverant. The 2017 AMC, in particular, was wildly special, as this Summer marks the 50th Anniversary of the Detroit Uprising—a title which, all these years later, even in the wake of the Ferguson and Baltimore, is still controversial and debated as to whether it was a riot or a rebellion.
There are a lot of different things that a lot of different people will tell you about this city. They will tell you it’s broken and that it is spent. You will hear that it’s been abandoned and blighted. You’ll also be pitched that it’s a “blank slate,” that it is up-and-coming.
Corporations, like those that abandoned the very People—black, brown and indigenous—whose labor they exploited and the booming economy they milked, are now returning and “re-discovering” Detroit. So, we must ask the question with all histories—Who gets to control the narrative? AMC centers the People, as the gatekeepers of Truth.
The guidance and lens provided by AMC showed me, in my short residence, that while a myriad of lower case t truths proliferate and coexist, we must continually fight for the illumination and (re)centering of Capital T Truth. AMC provoked us, as storytellers and narrative keepers, to ask the questions, first proposed by vital feminist, activist and writer, bell hooks—in her coining of the Oppositional Gaze—“Who is looking? What are they seeing?”
It is true that large swaths of Detroit are abandoned and do appear broken beyond repair. It is true that miles of former bustling shopping districts and blocks on blocks of handsome brick homes are shuttered closed. Places like these are where seeds of the lies of the American Dream were sown and the fruits of which were destroyed.
No one can fault a family for leaving for more and better paying work. No one ever willingly abandons the happy home they’ve created. My limited observation has shown me that it is nothing short of a miracle that folks have remained, continue to organize and rally for Justice there. Native Detroiters, like Arabs in Occupied Palestine, possess a wild sumud or perseverant steadfastness — in that, their very existence and refusal to leave their land is their resistance.
The power of Detroit and of the Allied Media Conference is in the People. It’s beauty stretches back to trailblazers like James and Grace Lee Boggs, who proudly called Detroit their home. We were reminded that the Struggle is on going and that while long from over, it is easier and better fought when we all come together—fighting for one another’s liberation.
Detroit activist and healer, Charity Hicks, first issued the call to “wage love” in the ongoing fight against water shut-offs. It is in this spirit that I close and encourage us to in all aspects of daily work and practice continue to … #WAGELOVE.