By Christopher Rykiel
Grand Circus Park is a small park in downtown Detroit bisected by Woodward Avenue. For four days and three nights, people stayed in that park for the People’s Summit and Tent City.
A wide variety of people attended. Differences in national origin and ethnicity, age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, location and other differences served to unite people. They came from all around the country, including Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
When asked why they participated, there were common themes and reasons. Many people were dealing with unemployment and being unable to find work, or working with slashed hours, wages and benefits, or lack of housing and foreclosures, or other ills of capitalist society.
Robert Thomas, an African-American Detroit local, volunteered and stayed at the Tent City. He’s struggling to find consistent employment and get his GED.
Mike Martinez, a Latino member of FIST from Miami, volunteered too, even though he’s now a part-time worker because his hours were cut.
Marguerite Maddox, an African-American Detroit local, came to voice the concerns of people with disabilities; she herself is laid off.
The People’s Summit was a place of refuge and safety where workers from diverse backgrounds expressed their opinions and issues without the fear of reprisal.
The second most stressed theme was starting a people’s movement. Kim Greene, an African-American Detroit college student struggling with unemployment, emphasized that the People’s Summit is about “addressing and culminating of the issues and a fight-back strategy.”
Many people said that mobilizing the public starts from the youth. Scott Williams, a member of FIST from Chapel Hill, N.C., who balances being a student and worker, reasoned “as a youth organizer” that “youth in Detroit are hit the hardest by unemployment, a dysfunctional education system, and police brutality.”
Rosendo Delgado, a Mexican-American Detroit local who was laid off by Chrysler, said, “All workers need to understand that immigrant workers are oppressed by the same multinational corporations and banks that oppress workers born in the U.S.” He explained how our enemy is not fellow workers of other countries, but the bosses who exploit us for their extravagant profits.
Teresa Gutierrez, a Latina lesbian and activist for the Workers World Party, remarked that the People’s Summit made her feel “tremendously optimistic for the future.”
Rykiel is a college student and unemployed worker from Baltimore who volunteered with the People’s Summit. He is a FIST activist and organizer against foreclosures, evictions and utility shutoffs.