Detroit: A Raisin in the Sun? by Malik Yakini

Council member Ken Cockrel must be trippin! On Tuesday, December 11, after he, along with Saunteel Jenkins, James Tate, Gary Brown, and Charles Pugh, voted to approve the ill-conceived Hantz land sale proposal, he was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying, “a ‘no’ vote would have sent the message to the world that Detroit isn’t really serious about urban agriculture.” The foremost advocates and practitioners of urban agriculture in Detroit opposed the Hantz proposal. It is groups like Feedom Freedom Growers, Earthworks Urban Farm, the Garden Resource Program and D-Town Farm that have informed the nation and the world that Detroiters are serious about urban agriculture.

Councilman Gary Brown is tripping too! In the same article, referring to the vocal opponents of the land grab, he was quoted as saying “very few of them talked about the Hantz Farms project. It was mostly about a dysfunctional city government that makes it hard for them to buy” land. There have been many arguments waged against the scale and type of farming that Hantz proposes. There have been calls for an environmental impact survey. There were pleas to hold off on this deal until after Detroit’s comprehensive urban agriculture ordinance is passed by the city council (which is expected to be next month). There were major concerns raised about pesticides. It is disingenuous for him to suggest that residents were only concerned about the broken process of selling city-owned land, although those concerns are also real and valid.

Unfortunately, most of Detroit’s political leadership lacks real vision. They are locked into an obsolete worldview where justice takes a back seat to “development.” Cockrel, Jenkins, Tate, Brown and Pugh need to be spanked!

Pugh needs to be spanked twice, because he is rude to citizens! His referring to an angry citizen at last night’s public hearing as “the lady in the orange wig” is deplorable. Can you imagine a school principal saying that to an irate parent at a school meeting, or a court official saying that to an angry plaintive? Leaders and public servants have to be held to a higher standard than the general public.

To add insult to injury, on a day when not only the precedent setting Hantz deal was being voted on, but other issues critical to Detroit’s ability to maintain home rule were being decided, Council President Pugh held the meeting in the council chambers that only has seats for 40 citizens. This left more than 100 people unable to get into the proceedings. Just like two weeks ago, many gave up and left. Right down the hall is a council auditorium that can seat hundreds. Similarly, at last night’s hearing, more than 200 people could not gain entry. This is not democracy!!!

Detroit’s political leaders should be thrilled that so many citizens want to be engaged in defining what our city will become. Instead, they box us out, and hold the people in contempt! The people have legitimate dreams and aspirations. Perhaps our elected leaders need to re-read the famous poem Harlem by Langston Hughes. The title Harlem could just as easily be replaced by the name of our beloved city Detroit.


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Malik Yakini is the Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.

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