Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May: Detroit I Do Mind Dying

This month's book Detroit, I Do Mind Dying was an exciting read for me. Even though the books we have read are disparate in many ways, as I read this book I felt common threads come through-- namely models of action. When I took this idea to the reading group, many felt more depression than the excitement for the models. Several people felt that they had 'read this before' in the sense that these models had been offered up and implemented but racism in the workplace, and degradation of life still existed everyday. This spurred a conversation about how to live differently and proceed in life without getting too down. I am the eternal optimist in the group. Others like J have a more protect yourself and family before all else attitude, while Raphael voices a 'back to the land' approach. There are several people, Raphael being one of them, who deeply believe in the need to respect life. The way he and others talk about this is on a level that is so deep, it's hard to explain. But a conversation in this reading group gave me some insight, maybe it's a story you have heard before: for one man, before coming to prison life was cheap-- very cheap. He'd seen people get hurt, die, had taken a life himself. He lived in a culture that normalized, and even confirmed this way of living. He's spent the last 18 or more years in Youth Detention then Adult prisons where respect for life has a different dimension. He felt coming to prison was the best thing for him b.c it was here that he turned his attention to life in a new way. In turn, I saw, in new way, his constant concern for human life and environment we live in. This man and others talked very eloquently about the need to not just protect one person, one community but contiguous communities (that would of course link up to be every place, every where). Having said that, it is still surprising to me that these books have been 'depressing' for many people, as the Black Workers Congress had this kind of global rights for communities in mind. Perhaps that it did not come to fruition was the difficult part.
On a final note, many men have said that they did not agree with the politics of books we have read, or sometimes didn't like them, but they have appreciated exposure to these new ideas. They unanimously said they knew they would not otherwise have access to these histories or schools of thought and they were very appreciative for our collective effort to make it happen (and BIG thanks to AMY for her amazing coordination of it all). I think some will write letters to you all individually.

I will be out of town in June so our next meeting will be in July and I know that by then you Chicago folk will be done with your meetings. However I will post here again for the final group, so keep a look out for letters and a final report back.

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