Angelenxs in Detroit

People have the power.jpg

This past weekend, we (PMJ team members Adonia Lugo and Río Oxas) traveled to Detroit for the third annual convening of The Untokening network. Untokening Detroit showcased the communities thinking beyond market-driven revitalization for mobility solutions, and we came back with a lot of ideas.

Visiting Detroit as Angelenxs, we saw familiarly wide streets and encountered the usual long distances between destinations. Río in particular felt a sense of connection with their history, as they share here:

 Río in a selfie at the Motown Museum

Río in a selfie at the Motown Museum

Río in Motown

Detroit was closer to home than I realized. On the most superficial level, it’s the Motor City, which is closely linked to my many years of advocacy for bikes, bussing and walking. On the most deepest and profound level, Motown actually contributed to my existence.

My mom was born and raised in El Salvador facing such hardship that of all her siblings, half of them died due to starvation - Rest in Power. Mi mamá Bernarda tells me that when she was young, she survived starvation by filling up her belly with happiness. Her favorite way to do this was to escape into music, tunes that she’d hear neighbors blasting, as her family didn’t own a radio.

As a kid, I remember my mom’s glee as she listened to the Temptations, The Supremes, Diana Ross, and more. After I visited the Motown Museum this weekend, I realized the depth and the power of Black people in Detroit. Their insatiable desire to thrive transcended countries, language, culture, and more. This was contagious to my mom and her community in El Salvador, and it helped her survive. Simply put, there was no mountain high enough, no river wide enough. Detroit connected me further with my mother and reinvigorated and inspired me with the amazing and incredible power that Black people have in such a racistly rancid area. They’re thriving amidst racism there; I felt it in the air, water, and earth.

So, Detroit was a good choice for this year’s Untokening convening! At the convening itself, we were impressed by the good collaboration happening in Detroit between disability justice and transit justice advocates. We’ll recap the panels more fully in another post, and we’ll also be following up with information from the session we co-facilitated, “Untokening New Mobility.”

Below are Río’s photos from the Heidelberg Project, a legendary Detroit landmark created by artist Tyree Guyton in response to blight in his neighborhood.

Adonia Lugo