Regarding Long Marches, Short Marches, Rallies and Reality
by David Rambeau
First, let me thank you, the reader, for taking your time to consider my presentation about social action in our community. I offer my work for your consideration, critique and perhaps discussion, and not as a prescription for implementation.
Recently, in August actually, two commemorative long marches were held, one in Detroit and one in Washington, D. C. They served to remind us of similar marches lead by Martin Luther King, Jr. held 50 years ago in both cities. Those 1963 events were staged at the height of the Civil Rights Movement back in the day. The two held in August 2013 were designed to remind us of our journey and to ask for a continuation of our social action process. For the thousands who participated in these marches they signified something vital, something worthwhile. They also demonstrated a particular level of awareness and involvement. They represented social and personal choices, that is, if you were involved in any of these what I call long marches, and subsequent rallies, you likely weren't involved in something else.
For example, I wasn't involved in any of these long marches. During the first one in Detroit in 1963, I was at a picnic on Belle Isle with other members of Project BAIT. We listened to a live radio broadcast of the march. During the second one in Detroit in August, I was at the Concept East Theater Black Theater Conference we were producing at the International Institute. Most black folk who live in either city, Detroit or D.C., also weren't at these marches. They too, were doing something else. We all have choices.
Mind you, I'm not against marches, long or short, so let me get to the short marches (which I obviously favor). I have ten short marches to offer for your consideration. None of them involve traveling far to participate in; none will involve listening to long speeches in the hot sun. None will involve expending any burdensome travel fees or require donations for "the cause." They will require some personal consciousness and commitment.
The first march I suggest is to your local public library to obtain a library card, and after that, your use of the card and your library on a regular basis. While there, you might also decide to use the computer lab and access the Internet to explore the world, if not the universe, and several of its challenges. There's no direct charge for a library card, though you will be charged if you have overdue books or DVDs, or need to make copies of documents.
Your next march is to the Secretary of State's office to obtain an official photo ID card, usually a driver's license, not so you may drive your car, but so you can register to vote. The photo ID will cost you, but you probably need one when the police intercept you to perform a "stop and frisk", so it's an investment that has multiple benefits.
Next, you should march to the city clerk's office or the election commission and register to vote. A significant number of Detroiters have registered to vote, but an insignificant number (18% in the primary election) actually voted. Maybe 50% will march to vote in the general election in November. That's obviously better than 18%, but I will not be impressed if there is an increase. Will you? I use the evaluative chart in general use in school systems to evaluate an election turnout. If 90% turnout, it's an A; 80% a B, 70% a C, and so forth. You don't have to guess what I think about our turnout in the primary.
The fourth march I suggest to you is to a food co-op or buyers co-op for the purchase of your groceries on a cooperative basis. Food purchases are generic with few brand loyalties, so I'm not suggesting you break any or at least not many brand attachments. I am suggesting that you change your consumption consciousness. I know that that is difficult, but who said short marches would be easy.
Your next march, if you have children in the school system, is to parent-teacher meetings. Simple, right? Wrong. Most P-T meetings have more teachers than parents in attendance. No wonder our graduation rates at all levels of education are so low. We haven't learned how to do short marches. You've got to practice, practice, practice. Long marches may come only once every 50 years, but short marches need to be taken on a weekly or on a regular basis depending on the circumstances.
We're halfway there. Your next march is to a local bank or credit union. Some marches are political; some marches are economic. They all can produce social change, but they can't if you don't participate. They're not down the middle of the street; they're on the sidewalk. They don't require mass numbers; they do require aggregates to make a difference. And make a difference they surely do.
Another food march is to your yard, back or front, or to the vacant lot nearby, or to any available space to plant a garden and compost waste products. How vital are these? Not only do these marches solve the food crisis in our community, they also solve the waste crisis, the obesity crisis and the employment crisis. For the record, about half the residents in Detroit suffer from food insecurity. That's what food stamps are all about--- insecurity. About three-fourths of urban public school children are food insecure. If young people aren't in school many, too many, have the miss meal colic. Ready, set, short march.
Fortunately, many residents participate in the next march. That's the neighborhood clean-up march. This one happens every spring in Detroit. I hope you participate. Builds community spirit as well as cleans up the city. I wish one was held every week for the Filthy-McNasty Boarding Area at the Rosa Parks Transit Center downtown. Attendants clean up the building. Somehow they don't get to the boarding area. To call the boarding area dirty would be offering a compliment. Check it out. D-i-r-t-y. Needs a clean-up march.
Another community march is the neighborhood watch. A number of stalwart souls participate in this. They don't usually march, as such, but they do travel around their neighborhood in their cars. They don't get enough recognition, so let me offer kudos to them for their work. I wish we had more citizen patrol marches. This kind of march/patrol might have stopped the recent assault and robbery of two elderly women on the westside. We have too many home invasions in Detroit. We need more neighborhood marches to interrupt what seems to be a pattern of misbehavior.
And finally, the tenth march--to the Detroit Institute of Arts for their Friday evening chess sessions for young people and adults. Does my heart good to see all of these bright young people playing chess. When I see them I see students graduating from high school and college, becoming leaders and followers in the future. I see mannerly and disciplined youngsters making our community more civil. I see participants in short marches, and maybe long ones too, if they choose to do so. I see hope. And you will too.