Detroit 2015

Planting a Vinyard


Planting a Vineyard
BY REG | JUNE 29, 2015 |
alt space which is a community incubator space developing sustainable independent, grassroots and community-driven projects that bring social and economic viability to the Island View community. This center for alternative work, play and lodging is now the largest vineyard in the City of Detroit since prohibition. If you’d like to learn more about the vineyard project or alt space use the contact form.

A week of events celebrating the 100th birthday of Detroit activist, philosopher and writer Grace Lee Boggs Center for Nurturing Community Leadership for the last forty years came to a close for some with a gatherings of over three hundred at the Charles H. Wright Museum. For some of us the celebration continued with a day of reflection that included members of the national visionary organizing network who have met annually for the past three years to discuss the projects, the victories and the challenges as well as re-discovering the power of conversation.

We held a morning session at alt space which brought together a handful of the growing network. Individuals spoke of the work happening in communities on the east and west coasts. There were report backs from network collaborators who are now living in Detroit in which we learned of projects in co-housing and worker cooperative development. A new participant told of her work with children of the incarcerated while another group presented on developing a visionary organizing laboratory, a place they hoped would serve as an entry-point for those who desire a clearer understand of the meaning of visionary organizing.

Visionary Organizing, based on my understanding, is place-based work to create alternatives to outdated and dysfunctional systems in order to meet the needs of individuals, their families and their neighbors. It requires working in concert with others in our community, which as Julia Putnam of the James and Grace lee Boggs School put it in her closing remarks at the Charles Wright, is not a group of like-minded individuals working towards a common goal, but individuals with different needs, beliefs, traditions, (the list went on), managing to work together for the common good regardless of how inconvenient, risky, downright impossible things seem.

We included in the Saturday report-backs, some time thinking about alt space and how to continue in the development of the project. Others expressed a desire to contribute offering input on everything from where to keep the fire extinguishers, to pricing structure and solidarity housing. A lawyer in the group volunteered to look at what the legal structure of alt space could be. We spent time on business model generation using the Business Model Canvas where everyone had a chance to input on the potential aspects of alt space as a self-sustained for movement building and putting our values into practice.

On the Sunday after the visionary organizing report-backs we held a community pot luck with others who had been part of the celebration week and neighbors from Field Street. We shared food and shared stories. There was a ceremonial planting where those in attendance got to plant their own vine and dedicate it to someone they loved. We had dedications to Jimmy Boggs, Charity Hicks and my mom Catherine Flowers, all of whom are deceased and all of whom played a role in bringing me to Detroit in the first place. The pot luck ended with a tango lesson given by Blake Kownacki, who is also the visionary farmer behind the vineyard at alt space.