It’s offensive if I’m offended


Yesterday I took a trip to my small local grocery store and got a call from my best friend about her amazing time at the Women’s march in DC. She was giddy with excitement and we shared about our hopes and ideas and experiences participating in the actions of the day. As I left the store, a man who was checking out looked up at me and said “You’re so cute, so beautiful, what’s your name?” I looked at him but made no reaction and continued my phone call. He followed me out of the store and repeated the same line. I turned and said “I’m on the phone” and he said- loudly- “Oh, she’s too loud though, that’s too bad.” I was livid. I was almost to my car at that point but I turned back and approached him and said loudly: “You are incredibly rude. You are being extremely offensive.” His provocation had worked in getting me to talk to him so he went back to trying to be charming “You are so beautiful, so cute, what’s your name?” I repeated that he was being offensive and he said “No I’m not! I’m not offensive.” to which I shouted “It’s offensive if I’m offended!” Continue reading “It’s offensive if I’m offended”

They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds


Above the land, exposed and hard
they’re aching just for touch.
They chase a thousand beaded dreams
but never have enough.

When aching grows, it overflows-
a sharp and biting cuss,
In our eyes, their reflection,
so, they tried to bury us

Inverted dome, we made it home-
a womb beneath the crust.
We bore so deep, in waking sleep,
like seeds with waterlust.

And when the river didn’t sate
We dug still lower wells,
unbudded branches lay in wait-
those fallow patient cells.

From depth restrained, and dark contained-
no count of nights gone by-
until that time, again we rise
roots first, and then the sky.

This poem is written as a message of solidarity from Detroit to Standing Rock, with particular recognition for the Pueblo Camp who taught me the significance of building shelter underground in the womb of the earth.

Reflections on Standing Rock


“The battle has just begun. I will stand to protect the water, the land. I am asking each of you to come stand with us.” -LaDonna Brave Bull Allard

what it was like

I came to Standing Rock in answer to this call. I wanted to lend my energy to the beautiful movement that is being borne out of the glaring act of violence which is the Dakota Access Pipeline. I wanted to learn from those who were standing up to the environmental status quo. I wanted to spend my Thanksgiving in honor of native people rather than over a full plate of willful avoidance back home. The trip was less than a week, with two full days’ driving time, and yet it was a transformative experience. I have the tendency to romanticize and I don’t want to create the idea that it was some sort of fairy tale but in so many ways the place and the movement that is Standing Rock is entirely beautiful. The people, the attitude of work and service, the prayers, the songs, the hope, the solidarity, the reverence to the natural elements- it was all beautiful. I and many others came by choice but, at its heart, this movement is an obligatory act of self-preservation for the Dakota/Lacota/Natoka people. The camp and the movement that drives it is borne out of the very real threat that is the Dakota Access Pipeline. What follows are my observations from my short time at Oceti Sakowin camp. Continue reading “Reflections on Standing Rock”

A Patriot is Born- Hamtramck, USA


As a multigenerational caucasian-American, I have lived my life in a position of privilege relative to many other Americans. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, most of mine have been met, and I enjoy the luxury of being able to quibble and complain about relatively minor offenses. It’s always been hard for me to really wrap my head and my heart around a positive notion of America. I usually hedge. I focus on our racist past towards native peoples, african-americans, non-christians and non-whites. I focus on our shortcomings in health care, environmentalism and education relative to other countries. I focus on our ego-driven militancy and subversion of other governments. It’s hard to feel the love.

But, since I moved to Hamtramck, I become unexpectedly and enthusiastically more patriotic than ever. I love that this community exists, I love that it exists in America, I love that I get to be a part of it.

Continue reading “A Patriot is Born- Hamtramck, USA”

Goodbye Goodwell’s


The following is a conversation that my friend Margo Dalal and I had about the closing of Goodwell’s Market. 

Michele: “Pocket sandwich with avocado and cheese.” For an indecisive person, figuring out lunch can be a difficult prospect. What I loved about Goodwell’s is that I always knew what to order and, when lunchtime rolled around, I always knew where I wanted to go. So when Goodwell’s closed its doors abruptly and without explanation about a month ago, it left a bad taste left in my mouth. And if the conversations I’ve had with dozens of other Detroiters this past month are any indication, I’m not the only one feeling a little hurt, a little sad, and a little hungry for more than what we got when Goodwell’s went goodbye.

Margo: I am not angry that Goodwell’s closed, I am upset that I could not help, even if I wanted to. I am sad that there is one less place where Detroiters, new and old, could come together for an affordable and healthy snack. One reason I really loved Goodwell’s was the diversity in their customers. I loved to eat there and people watch, have a nice conversation with a kind senior gentleman, or sit outside and spontaneously see people I love.

Michele: First let me say that Goodwell’s doesn’t owe me anything, not really. They were a for-profit business that gave me what I paid for every time and more. But, while there is no explicit violation, an unspoken social contract was broken with this abrupt departure. When a business establishes itself as a gathering space for community, when it becomes a mainstay of affordable, healthy, mindful food, we come to rely on it and that trust should be rewarded with open communication. Continue reading “Goodbye Goodwell’s”

Silent Auction

img_4909Detroit’s Largest Missed Opportunity

(originally published in a similar form by

Last month, the ACLU filed suit against the Wayne County Treasurer (WCT) for foreclosing on owner-occupied homes. The lawsuit has been anticipated for years, and could dramatically affect the fate of thousands if it successful halts the auction sale of those properties, but, even so, it would only impact one tenth of the tax foreclosed properties headed for auction since most occupied homes in the auction are already vacant or are occupied by someone other than the owner. Most occupied homes in the auction are not owner-occupied, and most protections (including due process)
apply to owners, not renters. In some ways, the greater tragedy lies in the foreclosures that go unchallenged because the protections most occupied homes in the auction properties that exist apply to the owners so most of the injustices aren’t even considered illegal. 

The Wayne County Tax Foreclosure auction is regarded nationwide as an opportunity to by Detroit homes on the cheap, but the people who have the most to gain (and the most to lose)­ in the auction– the current residents– often have the least access to take advantage of it.

Lack of information is a chronic problem throughout the foreclosure cycle, and affects renters far more than homeowners­– the auction passes noiselessly over these homes, and their residents, with no lawsuit or cover story to capture deafening silence to the people inside. Continue reading “Silent Auction”

Small Claims: A Slow Journey to Justice in the 36th District Court


Originally published by ModelD Media

In the early morning light, a line of people slowly builds at the front doors of the 36th District Court. A bail bondsman in parachute pants stands patiently beside the line, waiting for the grinding gears of justice inside the building to churn out some clients for him.

The 36th District Courthouse is near the hub of Gratiot’s spoke, in an area that hosts an unlikely mix of functions: large-scale entertainment and criminal justice. Comerica Park and Ford Field are blocks away, and so is the unfinished jail, which is the possible site of a possible arena for a possible MLS team. The court itself is the subject of rumors about being turned into a hotel. Perfect. The sports-and-justice district brings an interesting variety of people here at different times of week and day. Sprinkled throughout are parking lots and hotdog vendors that are surprisingly well suited to both client bases.

Continue reading “Small Claims: A Slow Journey to Justice in the 36th District Court”

Mother-to-be, to be


I was the first patient to arrive, but not the first person. The lights were on inside the dull concrete block building illuminating a receptionist, nurses, counselors and doctors as they set about their day. Those other cars were apparently for the protesters who positioned themselves along the road and beside the entrance, waiting for people like me to arrive. Apparently their conviction hadn’t quite hardened yet so I walked a weak gauntlet as they halfheartedly make the case that I’m going to hell.

I waited 19 years to lose my virginity and 4 years to have sex without a condom and 1 month to take a pregnancy test and 3 weeks to get this appointment scheduled. All things considered, the wait wasn’t long but the weight of this secret on my conscience these 21 days has been like a migraine of the soul, or maybe something like what it feels to be pregnant past the due date– skin stretched and streaked, back bowed and aching, kicked at from within but helpless to meet the implicit demand of the one inside knocking to be let out. I’ll let you out, far before you asked. I almost wish for the physical manifestation of this feeling to make itself apparent because the feelings are so much yet I have nowhere to place them. This is the lump that has been bearing down on my mind since the day the stick silently shouted at me like this feeble line of picketers who share many of my feelings but none of the perspective. Fuck them. Fuck me.

Inside, I sign in and take a seat, setting the wheels in motion for what will be a strange mixture of medical and social services. First is the ultrasound, a process I’ve never experienced but have witnessed 1,000 times in the fantasy realm of television. Hollywood is obsessed with the symbolic poignancy of glimpsing a grainy sight and a muffled sound of The Future personified. I am making small talk with the nurse about her daughter’s summer camp activities in an effort to focus my attention and to portray myself as a more balanced person than this experience alone might suggest me to be.

Continue reading “Mother-to-be, to be”

It Takes A Flint To Start A Fire


160120-protest-in_lansing-flint-water-crisis-yh-0631p_2d88d1eecd4854a4a31edee714ed0293.nbcnews-fp-1200-800It takes something truly egregious to catalyze public action – we all now know the harm that was done and the toxic combination of neglect and manipulation that led to it. Will Flint be the tipping point?


Originally published by

The violation of human rights in Michigan has been going on for decades – the inevitable result of maintenance deferred in a strained economy. The canaries have been singing for awhile with emergency management, crumbling infrastructure, job loss, poverty, failing education, and so on. But since we keep falling it seems we haven’t hit bottom yet. As with other social movements, mere mistreatment isn’t enough to provoke true change.

It takes something truly egregious to catalyze action and Flint may provide the spark.

Continue reading “It Takes A Flint To Start A Fire”

Policy ideas to fix Flint’s water crisis (and help avoid another)

Originally published by ModelD

Flint water

Gov. Rick Snyder has apologized for the inexcusable failures of leadership that led to the current situation in Flint, where tens of thousands of individuals, including children, have been poisoned, dismissed, neglected, and lied to. What’s clear at this stage is that great harm has been done to both people and the city’s infrastructure.

Now that state and local government have acknowledged the truth, they will have to do something about it. Any good nerd knows that “I’m sorry” doesn’t de-corrode miles of water piping or detoxify children – we need money to pay for that. But how will we find it? Here are some policy suggestions that could help ameliorate the water crisis in Flint and buttress the rest of our state’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Top it off

In the midst of ongoing financial and social instability in many of Michigan’s cities, the price of oil happens to be at a 10-year low. The current approach to this happy circumstance seems to be to just enjoy the break at the pump, but we are missing a real opportunity. The fact is that Michigan is facing grotesque infrastructure disinvestment, with aging roads and water infrastructure that our governments have proven to be either unwilling or incapable of addressing. We need to take collective action to take advantage of the opportunity that low oil rates present. What Michigan needs is a “Top Off” law that would set a price floor on gas prices.

Under this law, any time market rates of gas fall below $2.00/gallon, the gas station would become a savings account for state and local infrastructure fund. The differential between market rates and that indexed value (which could grow gradually over time) would provide funding for projects from road repairs to water pipeline modernization. If market rates exceed $2.00/gal, then we pay nothing. If prices stay above that index, well, we’re no worse off than we are now. The law would create a fund to address infrastructure issues that aren’t getting paid for now, and certainly won’t be when gas rates hike back up again. Continue reading “Policy ideas to fix Flint’s water crisis (and help avoid another)”