Sunday, January 6, 2013

Taking Root

Taking Root by Guy Mingo

          It's getting increasingly difficult for me to tolerate the holidays and their artificially manufactured hype. But you just can't help but reflect on the future when the New Year comes around. For me, 2013 brings an opportunity to reassess this "blog", which I've now determined is paramount to my creative and political activism.
         To start, I've committed to increasing the frequency of posts to one a week. I have a stable of musical sketches that can easily keep that pace. But what about the topical trajectory?
          In general, I don't have the sense, or the self-control, to adhere to one subject-- a downfall I've struggled with forever. Although I increasingly see the inter-relatedness in the long list of progressive causes, addressing them all in one forum is difficult and probably undesirable.
          Thus far, I've mainly focused on the increasing political and economic attacks by the state of Michigan on the city of Detroit. But I increasingly feel that climate change and/or environmental justice is the one subject that, if any, deserves continuous attention from political activists.
          Successfully arguing the structural weakness of a capitalistic, jobs-based economy means little when the earth's climate is heating up to the point of non-sustainability for human life.
          So where is the federal government when it comes to climate change, which is now accepted as imminent  by an overwhelming majority of climate change scientists? Encouraging catastrophe if recent actions are any indication.
          A perfect example is the U.S. Department of Interior rushing the approval, in 2011, deep water drilling by Shell oil in the Arctic waters north of Alaska. The sad irony, (or, more accurately, the criminal wrongdoing) is that the waters are only now accessible to drilling because of the extreme ice melt that has occurred due to the warming climate, which of course is a result of carbon emissions.
          I can think of no better example of the unwillingness of government to represent the best interest of "the people", than the failure of federal and state government to respond to the piles of evidence that carbon emissions are decimating our atmosphere at an unprecedented rate.
         So where does the type of leadership exist that can pull us out of this environmental and political downward spiral, and how can we make it a priority in our community? I'm glad you asked.
        I made a timely visit this week to a grassroots-led, community space where I was reminded, yet again, that, in the words of Grace Lee Boggs, "we are the leaders we've been looking for."

        I first came across spoken word artists Kevlar and Camara-El during a last minute internet search for some audio content to add to the Guy Mingo track featured above.
        A December 8 spoken word performance by the duo was filmed at the 'Conscious Corner Cafe' during a community discussion about the Hantz Woodland development. The meeting, which was also attended by actor/activist, Danny Glover, was convened to create a unified front against what many are calling the largest sale of public land in Detroit's history.
        Breaking one of my golden rules, I grabbed material from an existing artist. So I immediately made a point of reaching out for their consent.
        A phone conversation with Kevlar led to a visit to the 'Conscious Corner Cafe' a community kitchen and gathering space near the corner of Kercheval and McClellan, in a near-eastside neighborhood that is highly underserved by our depleted city government.
        Kevlar and Camara-El are two members of the 'Black Tie Collective', a group of performers and artists dedicated to the creative and spiritual uplift of the Black community. In addition to spoken word performances given around town, they host events next door to the 'Conscious Cafe', at the 'Rhyme 'n' Reason', a space dedicated to youth and adult classes in poetry, creative writing, chess, dance in addition to general tutoring.
        That impromptu visit affirmed my growing belief that real political change in the community, and the environment, can only be achieved by starting at the grassroots level. The 'Black Tie Collective', for example, has set its sights on providing public services that the feds have let go in favor of subsidizing the military, big banks and the oil barons. In the process they've planted seeds in a place that needs them the most. Their commitment to the community is the energy necessary for those offerings to take root and grow.
       My undying thanks goes to Kevlar and Camara-El, who's vocals are featured in the above track, for their graciousness during my visit to the 'Conscious Corner Cafe'/'Rhyme 'n' Reason', and for allowing me to embellish my music with their carefully crafted spoken word. Look out for their upcoming events.        Peace. Guy Mingo.