By Patrick Geans
from the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT – Over 200 Detroit residents, community leaders and activists gathered for the Detroit Peoples Platform and Convention on Saturday, June 1 at Marygrove College. The convention was organized around five different platforms: government, jobs, land acquisition, food and transportation for each of the seven new city council districts.
“I thought it went really well,” said Linda Campbell of Building Movement Detroit who served as lead facilitator for the convention. “It exceeded our expectations, so for that, we are very grateful to the residents of the districts and our ally organizations. We had great attendance with a diversity of folks in the room. We had advocates there, and we also had neighborhood residents. We had folks from the block clubs and the association councils and faith based organizations. It was one of the most diverse activist environments I’ve been in in a long time in Detroit.”
The Peoples Platform Convention originated after Building Movement Detroit spent the past year meeting with residents and collecting oral histories in various communities through out the city. From those conversations the five platform issues of food justice, land justice, transportation justice, good government and good jobs arose.
“Those essential building blocks of a community are disappearing in Detroit,” Campbell said. “As a result, those social safety nets that are created by the five elements are rapidly disappearing. The platform is based on the essential needs of a community in order to have healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. We wanted to lift those five essential elements up.”
Coming into the 2013 election year with mayoral and city council positions up for vote, organizers decided to structure the platform according to the city’s new council districts. Convention attendees caucused with other residents of their districts to consider each of the platform items.
“We haven’t elected our council by districts in I believe over 90 years,” Campbell said. “It’s a new form of government that’s coming at an incredibly difficult time for the city. Part of the reason for us to come together was to discuss these issues, and build an identity within the districts. We want to establish relationships and identifying priorities in the districts that would align with the platform. Then, we wanted to look for opportunities to build across districts as well.”
Going forward organizers plan to reconvene district reps in ongoing dialogues on how to address challenges in the various communities across the city.
“The next step is to look for feedback from the various people that took part in the skill shares and workshops,” Campbell said. “We want to give ourselves an opportunity to get that feedback and see what we learned from our participants.
“We will then reconvene the district leaders that work and do outreach for the platform. We want to pull them together and listen to their feedback in terms of what it looks like moving forward with a strategy. We want to look at what we can do to build a viable platform around each of these issues in the districts that can be then taken and presented to the various people that are running for office or any of the various boards and commissions that will now be elected at the district level.”
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