SID January E-News Community Partner Spotlight: EMEAC Hosts "Feed 1, Teach 1" Event to Digest Gentrification
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This article was originally published in Semester in Detroit's January 2013 E-Newsletter.
In December 2011, a Model D headline read, "We need to ask: Is gentrification happening in Detroit?" With the release of a framework for city-wide redevelopment, an upcoming Mayor and City Council election and the possibility of a City Emergency Financial Manager appointment, the question is still on the table.
Soon, cmmunity members and East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) will meet to answer it.
On a cold Thursday evening, members of EMEAC's Young Educators Alliance and Semester in Detroit intern Michael Williams made preparations for the upcoming community education dinner, “Feed 1,Teach 1.”
On February 16, the event will bring people from all walks of life to the dinnr table. There, community members are invited to explore what gentrification means here in Detroit.
Williams, an Afroamerican and African Studies major, Urban Studies minor and native Detroiter writing his senior thesis on gentrification, considers the word to be "layered," "complex" and "the closest term" to describe what he sees.
"I see my city changing. I see younger faces, more white faces, changing demographics and landscapes. I wonder, 'what is this all about?'" said Williams.
Though the definition of "gentrification" is contested, Williams finds that scholars and community members agree its effects are seen in physical, cultural and political displacement of lower-income individuals.
With its commitment "to protect and restore land, air, water, and diversity of life through informed personal and public action," EMEAC is deepening Williams' awareness of gentrification's negative effects.
The Detroit-based organization has direct experience with the cultural, political and monetary value of land in urban spaces. A few years ago, EMEAC's former office doubled in rent costs before the organization moved to The Cass Corridor Commons.
Currently, EMEAC's offices lie behind the heavy oak doors of the historic First Unitarian Universalist Church, a collective space shared with organizations such as Sugar Law Center and People’s Kitchen. The mixed-use arrangement meets the needs of the Church and community organizations, since the partners can maintain the landmark despite rising costs. Today, The Commons acts as a hub for community conversations, like the upcoming YEA event.
Siwatu Saalama Ra, who founded YEA in 2011, said she hopes to address important questions at the "Feed 1, Teach 1" dinner.
“We want to know, how can community people begin to talk about and fix agreements on land?"
To further discuss the topic of gentrification, all are invited to Cass Community Commons from 1-4:30PM on February 16 for Feed 1, Teach 1. The event will feature open mic performances from local artists, delicious food provided by the People’s Kitchen and an open dialogue with YEA members. Donations are welcome. For more details, please see YEA's Facebook Event.