any Detroiters feel that what has been missing from Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works Project plan to revitalize the city has been input from the people of Detroit themselves. They are asking: “Detroit Works for whom?”
To give voice to the community, a coalition of local activists affiliated with some of the city’s leading community based, nonprofit organizations will convene Detroit’s first city-wide People’s Movement Assembly from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 28 at the Sacred Heart Church. The main goal of the People’s Movement Assembly (PMA) is to provide a forum for community voices to be heard, and then organize to create solutions for the concerns that are raised.
“Whether you are in a block club, neighborhood group, youth program, mentorship, sorority, fraternity or even just a concerned individual, we hope that people can come into the PMA with their ideas and experiences and leave with new connections and ideas about how they can contribute to the future of grassroots Detroit,” says William Copeland of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC). “I expect that the networks of people committed to interrogating rightsizing, building democratic processes and increasing grassroots vision of change [will grow]. We will learn more about how to communicate with Detroiters about political change and our organizing strategies will deepen and improve.”
Organizations that have publically signed on to the Detroit PMA include, Detroit City of Hope, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Centro Obrero, Sierra Club Environmental Justice Group, Detroiters for Dignity and Democracy, Detroit Green Party and the People’s Water Board. The PMA is open to address not only the Detroit Works Plan, but all concerns that citizens of Detroit feel are necessary to address in order to revitalize Detroit’s future.
“The Detroit People’s Movement Assembly takes a grassroots approach to finding solutions for the city’s problems,” says EMEAC Executive Director Diana Copeland. “We believe that self-determination should be at the center of the PMA and the city’s foundational strategy for the future.”
“Corporations cannot dictate or marginalize the role of Detroiters. Citizens of Detroit must be involved in the planning of the city’s future, and the process for decision-making must be truly democratic,” she says.
PMA leaders seek to mobilize the large segments of Detroit communities left out of the Detroit Works Plan discussions. They also hopes to galvanize community concerns surrounding other controversial government initiatives, including the Emergency Financial Management Bill passed by Gov. Snyder, and the potential privatization of the Detroit Water system.
“A PMA is a flexible process,” says local activist Vincent Martin. “When we first started off in November, the right-sizing was the issue. Since then, they’ve come up with this [EMF Bill] and some serious draconian style legislation.
“[Politicians] come up with a grandiose plan where they are trying to move people. It doesn’t even matter what their status is. They can be homeowners and [politicians] are using extortion-like tactics: If you don’t move, we aren’t going to give you any services. How do you talk to your constituents like that? That’s a direct insult to the people who have been sharing their blood, sweat and tears to help keep the city afloat.”
The PMA will include a look at the history and roots of the Detroit Works Project along with community asset mapping. Also, resolutions will be created to address community transformation on topics such as food sovereignty, education transformation, health and healing, and many more.
Detroit PMA participants also seek to organize grassroots solutions to the problems facing Detroiters when government initiatives are unable or unwilling to address those problems.
“The PMA is a co-creative event that builds consensus toward outcomes and strategies for the greatest quality of life and the greatest civic pride of the people of Detroit,” says Charity Hicks of the Detroit People’s Water Board. “The Mayor has his process that is really driven by the so-called budget deficit. It’s driven by the so-called need of the municipal authority. But he didn’t ask the people who are the ultimate authors of authority on what’s needed. Hopefully, the PMA will get people [to see] they have power. There is really no tangible form of power without the permission of the people."