Poor People's March tours community gardens in Flint, MI

06/21/10 Kelly Benjamin
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A contingent of poor and homeless people from the Tampa Bay area is marching with the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaigns 12 week, 24 city march from New Orleans to Detroit for the US Social Forum to draw attention to those affected by the recession and foreclosure crisis. WMNF’s Kelly Benjamin is embedded with the group and brings us this report from Flint, Michigan:

The Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign rolled into Flint, Michigan this weekend, a city that, along with Detroit, marks ground zero for the deindustrialization and decline of American cities. Members of the Poor Peoples march were given a warm greeting by locals that included a bus tour of the area dubbed as the Overgrown Poverty Tour:

Flint is a beautiful example of what has happened to this entire country, corroded from within and held down. Industry has been taken away and shipped over seas. The American worker is now outdated.

One of the tour guides, Roxanne Adair, told us that the city’s decline began over 40 years ago when manufacturing began to fall off in the mid-1960s. Since that time the city has lost half its population: “and since then we've lost the majority of the jobs.

Flint’s depopulation has left vast swaths of abandoned houses in derelict neighborhoods all over the city, many becoming targets for arsonists and drug crime but over the past couple of years a new youth movement called the Peace Mob has begun redeveloping their community organically based on community gardens, shared housing, and mutual aid:

Phillip Jacks is a member of one of several dozen community garden groups that have sprouted up in recent years across Flint. The explosion in community gardens in the city has been aided by a unique program sponsored by the Genesee County Land Bank called adopt a lot that allows residents to garden on vacant lots free of charge, as Roxanne Adair explains.

Compare that to Tampa where City officials recently turned down a request by the Seminole Heights Community Garden to lease a portion of a neglected park on a dead-end stretch of 22nd Street-the contrast is glaring. Curtis Hunt, who traveled with the Poor Peoples March from St. Petersburg was inspired to start a community garden when he returns home. “Gardening is what’s gonna bring us back”

Tune in later this week for more coverage from Kelly Benjamin at the US Social Forum in Detroit, Michigan

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