Miini-Giizis was a Native event that took place two days ago in Campus Martius, downtown Detroit. You might think of it as the real independence celebration. Less than a mile north, the Freedom March also took place.
If there’s one thing true about Detroiters, it’s that they know how to organize. That’s why the noontime ending place for the Freedom March was Miini-Giizis. That’s two events. One group marching to join another. And lots of drums to go around.
I’m more inclined to capture what a unique event sounds like than what it looks like. So, I recorded 5 minutes of audio – the convergence of these two liberation groups – as the Freedom Marchers entered Campus Martius. After some slight EQing in Ableton, I threw it up on Soundcloud here. It starts with snippets of a casual conversation (teacher friends from People in Education, actually) with a deep drum hollowing in the background. A second set of drums grows steadily over the next few minutes as the Solidarity March approaches. After the sounds converge and quiet, you should be able to notice that much of the background noise the whole time has been the flow of water down the the stone wall behind me.
James Baldwin wrote a profile of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the February 1961 issue of Harper’s magazine. Before the assignment, Baldwin wrote to King, asking if it would be okay to tag along for two days “in order to be made able to convey some dim approximation of what it is like to be in your position.” From the King Papers archive at Stanford, here is Baldwin’s short letter in full, which exacts his distinct verbal cadence even on the page.
Dear Reverend King:
I certainly do not expect you to remember it, but we met over two years ago, in Atlanta. I was then doing a couple of articles about the South, and I am in the South again, for the same purpose.
I am writing you now because Harpers Magazine has asked me to do a profile of you, and I am coming to Atlanta—I do not know whether you are there or not, but one must start somewhere—to see if this can be done. I know that you are extremely busy and my effort would be to bother you as little as possible. I have read your book, and Reddick’s book, so there are many things I will not need to ask you. If you will permit it, and if it is possible, I would simply like to be allowed to follow you about for a day or two, or longer, in order to be made able to convey some dim approximation of what it is like to be in your position.
The effect of your work, and I might almost indeed, say your presence, has spread far beyond the confines of Montgomery, as you must know. It can be felt, for example, right here in Tallahassee. And I am one of the millions, to be found all over the world but more especially here, in this sorely troubled country, who thank God for you.
I will be in your church on Sunday, and if you receive this letter, and if you are there, I trust we will be able to talk.
The essay “The History that James Baldwin Wanted America to See” by Eddie S. Glaude is as much about King and Baldwin as it is just the latter. Rather than pitting the two against each another, Glaude is able to work the angles of their differences toward a prophetic indictment of America and American whiteness, like here:
As both Baldwin and King insisted, each in their own way, America is an identity that white people will protect at any cost, and the country’s history—its founding documents, its national heroes, its claim to be a moral force in the world—is the supporting argument that underpins that identity. This history is inseparable from the nation’s built environment; both monuments and the ways in which communities are spatially organized reinforce it. When King declared that the country’s moral vision had been clouded by “a poisonous fog of lies,” and when Baldwin said in Esquire that we needed to look at what we are doing in the name of our history, both were arguing that this history, the story we tell ourselves about what the country is, shapes the world we make going forward.
In Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital, John Restakis gives a global tour of cooperatives – their success and failures in many contexts. In Argentina, he covers the “taken factories” where workers turned failed, abandoned factories into cooperatively-run businesses. Restakis, of course, is a strong proponent of cooperatives, but he stops short of romanticizing this movement. Instead, he points one crucial weakness.
While idealism remains at a high pitch, practical skills required to run the complex enterprises are in short supply. Much energy and time are wasted precisely because the systems have yet to be built to enable a common stock of skills, concepts, and resources to be shared. Basic procedures like book keeping, accounting, inventory control, and marketing have to be learned co-op by co-op. Most pressing of all is the absence of managerial expertise. For enterprises that are fragile to begin with, these are things that can spell disaster. The absence of a boss meant that the entire pattern of work had to change.
His final assessment here – about the absence of a boss – is crucial. His notes that the worker-owners’ rejection of vertical authority was natural since it was this very structure that produced the prior exploitative conditions and factory failures. Yet in the void of this authority, they did not develop new, cooperative patterns to take its place.
Reading: Just cracked open Cooperatives Confront Capitalism: Challenging the Neoliberal Economy by Peter Ranis.
Writing: Still on the cooperative side of things, we finished our first Derute Black Paper and put it out into the world today. It’s “Rethink Your Resources: The Origin Story of Derute.” With these Black papers – among other things – we are trying to work against the capitalist notion of perfection. We designed a rather quick production cycle to collectively get these out, but we expect to update it based upon blind spots and oversights friends/readers help us to see.
Listening: Indestructible Texas instrumentalist trio Khruangbin just came out with a new album, Mordechai. I don’t know how they get that guitar to sound that way.
Viewing: Those four new Luther episodes from 2019 that were sequestered to the BBC are now available on US Hulu. In the previous seasons, I had come to think of Luther not so much as a dirty cop but as a cop not afraid to get his hands dirty. But in the first episode of the series, Luther’s new partner asks him if he’s a pessimist. “No, that’s my problem,” he answers. DCI Luther, the failed idealist, or frustrated romantic seems how the writers will bring this chap home.