Movement Building

Current Project: Uniting Detroiters

The aim of the Uniting Detroiters Project is to document, make recommendations, and assist with increasing capacity to strengthen the civic and organizing infrastructure in Detroit in order to (a.) maximize resident voices and power along with allied organizations; (b.) support cross generational leadership development for movement building; and (c.) promote a unified strategy toward progressive social change work in Detroit. This work builds on the near decade work of the Building Movement Project (BMP) in Detroit under the leadership of Linda S. Campbell, long time Detroit resident and a Building Movement Project founding team member.

Beginning with a small planning group, the Uniting Detroiters project will continually expand to include other organizations that are constituent based such as neighborhood associations and block clubs and activist groups that are focused on specific issues such as food access, urban agriculture, education, land use, transportation, local governance, and media justice.  Long time BMP social service partners will be invited to participate in the planning and development of process as well.  In the fall of 2011, BMP expanded its planning group to include additional learning partners.  Project learning partners include a local urban anthropology professor and a visiting graduate student with expertise and interest in counter cartography and land use.

Key activities of the project will include:

  • A landscape analysis that maps where movement building is occurring across the city;
  • Ongoing convenings and skill share sessions that promote a collective vision, learning and skill building, and solidarity across networks;
  • Production of study tools and materials that support movement building activities
  • Engagement and support for locally led campaigns for change

The Uniting Detroiters Project aims to bring Detroiters together to create a counter-narrative about the city to the one portrayed by the media and many of our political leaders.  We believe that collective study and reflection are important for creating a more just and equitable city.  We are currently developing two study tools to take stock of social justice work happening across Detroit and build movement in the process.  The tools we are developing are:

1) A short video documentary
2) A “People’s atlas” project.

Both are explained in brief below.  We would like to know how you think these projects could help you in our own work, what you would like to see in them, and if you (or others you know) would like to be involved.

The Uniting Detroiters documentary will feature the voices of residents, activists, and organization staff involved in progressive social justice work in Detroit.  The documentary, which will be approximately 30 minutes in length, aims to highlight Detroiters’ visions for the future of the city, perspectives on the contemporary political moment and governance in Detroit, and opportunities for supporting one another’s work.  It is based on the videotaped interviews that we’ve been conducting over the last few months (which many of you have participated in).  We want the documentary to provoke discussion in community convenings about strategies and tactics to build grassroots power, deepen democracy, and foster good governance.  The documentary will be made available for community members for use, workshop, study, etc. in other forums.  The documentary is envisioned primarily for local use and as a community-organizing tool for Detroiters.  Our goal is for the documentary to be a resource in the libraries of local organizations and institutions.

Atlas of Social Justice Work in Detroit (People’s Atlas)
The Atlas is envisioned as a collective writing and mapping project.  It is based on the idea that creating maps isn’t just about knowing where things are, it’s about asserting control, claiming territory, and making demands on our leaders.  We think residents should have their own mas that can provide a response to the re-mapping of the city done by the Detroit Works Project, politicians and developers.  The Atlas will be a reference tool (like a directory).  Towards that end, the Atlas will be both a guide to social justice work happening in the city and a collective study of the political moment.  We plan for it to include written text, maps, interviews, and a directory of organizations.  But more importantly, it will bring Detroiters together for movement building.  In creating the Atlas, we hope to help Detroiters to collectively examine, analyze, and tell their own stories about challenges facing the city (e.g., the state takeover, government rollbacks, privatization of public infrastructure and resources, the foreclosure crisis, gentrification issues, etc.) and the numerous was that city residents are resisting those incursions and building alternatives.  The Atlas will be written for the broadest public and will incorporate personal stories and community members’ own writing.

A couple ideas of what can be mapped:

  • Effects of government cutbacks (bus wait times, street lights not working, etc)
  • Displacement from gentrification
  • Victories by local organizations, i.e. how residents have changed the city for the better
  • Alternative visions for Detroit neighborhoods
  • Stories by activists who made a difference in their communities

…the possibilities are almost endless

We want to create a hard-copy version of the Atlas so that it is accessible to people who don’t have internet access, but we will probably have a version online as well.

How to become involved
We feel this project will only succeed if it is useful for the organizations and individuals with whom we have worked.  We welcome all your ideas on the “big picture” and fine details of the project.
Plus we also use assistance in the following areas:

  • Conducting interviews
  • Analyzing interviews
  • Shooting B-Roll (footage of the city, events, etc)
  • Film editing
  • Research assistance (and data) for the maps
  • Writing: we hope this project is collectively authored, therefore we would welcome seeing some of your ideas on paper for the Atlas.

Atlas related reading:
Dennis Wood, Rethinking the Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 2010).
William Bunge, Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, [1971] 2011).

Related posts on Uniting Detroiters:

Video: ‘People’s Atlas’ Convening – Aug 10, 2012

On August 10, 2012, Building Movement Detroit hosted the second Uniting Detroiters Convening at the Solanus Casey Center. Over 50 people gathered to discuss citizens right to the city, collective […]

Second Uniting Detroiters Convening

Please join us for the second Building Movement Detroit Uniting Detroiters Convening on August 10, 2012, at the Solanus Casey Center (1780 Mount Elliot Street) from 10am to 3pm to […]

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