Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Blackouts & Bike Rides
Peter Claver (1581-1654)
Monday, September 8, 2014
I write from the 3rd floor of St. Peter’s Church, overlooking the gentrifying neighborhood of Corktown. Today, is the biggest sports day for Detroit in recent memory. The Tigers and Lions play back-to-back this afternoon, just a mile away in downtown. I watch middle-aged white men in Lions jerseys parking across the street 8 hours before kickoff, pre-gaming at one of the Irish bars on Michigan Ave. Meanwhile, an African-American woman in a wheelchair finds shade under the tree in front of the church and the cross-country team from the local high school glides by towards the high rise buildings looming ahead. These sights allow me to ponder the past few days.
On Friday, 75MPH winds and heavy rain ripped through Detroit, pounding trees & over 200 power lines. Strangely, our neighborhood didn’t go dark until noon the next day. It wasn’t easy getting into a rhythm without the frig and our electric stove, but it gave us an excuse to eat $5 large pizzas and cheap Mexican food from restaurants in areas blessed to have power. The outage lasted 50 hours for us, culminating in the 2014 Blackout Cookout on Monday night, a neighborhood BBQ where everyone brought all their thawed freezer items to share.
On Sunday, we joined new friends Cindy & Lucy in a discipleship commitment ceremony during the St. Peter’s morning service. After a time of deep sharing & communion over a more intimate Friday evening discipleship dinner, this service was a time rich with symbolism, being blessed with water straight from the Detroit River and bottled water from West Virginia that had been donated to St. Peter's for the water station. Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann (below with grandson Isaac) assured us that this water isn't magic or miraculous, but a deep reminder of solidarity that binds every living being. Indeed, all of Earth’s water—drank, bathed & baptized in, from the Jordan River to Detroit River to the San Juan Creek—binds us all into what Dr. King called a “single garment of destiny.”
Later that day, as the sun began to set, we took a bike ride into Downtown. Not to worry, Comerica Park had power!
Every block we rode, we saw murals, like this one, on the side of a grocery store:
We also saw Michael Jackson come back to life on the corner of Livernois & Michigan Ave, where MJ and his boom box show up weekly.
With internet access and power restored, we are starting to get into a rhythm of life here in Detroit. Time at the soup kitchen and water station connects us more intimately to marginalized and oppressed people. We are slowly meeting our neighbors on Cecil, low-income & working class families creatively struggling to survive. We are also attending many events that focus on social analysis, whether race, immigration, the distribution of city services, the city's historic bankruptcy or the community enriching practices like urban gardening, farmers markets and creative resource sharing. Indeed, we are receiving a daily education.