1.) To characterize and support the life forms in our region and within its cultures.
2.) To support those living in the cities, towns, and rural areas by walking with them, enjoying shared waterways, remembering the the boom times and good times, and opening the door to utopian dreams and urban rebounds.
3.) To celebrate and encourage creativity and the do-it-yourself spirit of all the activists and survivors in our region. Solidarity forever in the city that birthed the UAW.
4.) To encourage local history, local tourism, and to encourage the younger generations to study history in their immediate surroundings. Places want to be visited; don't let them down. And remember the wise words of farmer-poet Wendell Berry, "When one works beyond the reach of one's love for the place one is working in, and for the things and creatures one is working with and among, then destruction inevitably results." Love where you are.
Join the Exploration
The Midwest is the nation's middlescape, its heartland. More than any other part of the country it has been understood in relation to pastoralism, defined as the "ideal middle kingdom suspended between uncivilized wilderness and urban-industrial evils." In Mideast Michigan, however, it's an easy drive from farm to factory, and many of our region's farmers were also shopworkers. Our region is hardly the "Pure Michigan" of the massively successful ad campaign that has produced a license plate slogan and reinforced the dangerous myth that you can step off the assembly line of modernity and retreat to a cottage "up north" and a pristine lakeshore. During the Flint Water Crisis, a tent city sprang up in a local park, and in it was a large placard that reflected the outrage Flintstones felt when our water supply was poisoned by the carelessness of state and local officials: "Pure Michigan, Pure Bullshit." The truth is this: our region should be called "Impure Michigan"--abandoned, poisoned, poor, and traumatized. Our narrative enterprise is a triage effort to document, map, and analyze human resilience across color and class lines, identifying the ways people are adapting, finding new kinds of work and new meanings through shared precarity and its attendant affects. In places hollowed out of economic value that were industrial powerhouses and centers of agrarian industry--new identities and ways of life are being born.
Mary Jo Kietzman (Project Lead)
Those who walk regularly around Flint stand out; they tend to be impoverished or mentally ill--they see and use the pressed-down paths through empty lots to liquor stores across the tracks from the abandoned mobile home park. They are the few who still use the old staircases built into the hillsides around Chevy Commons--paths men used to walk to Chevy-in-the-Hole.
Recently, I learned about the legendary, Big Bess, a very tall woman who walked around Flint in the fifties wearing a fur coat and talking to herself. "When she walked through our area everyone wanted to see her" said one of her many Facebook fans. She used to walk down Industrial Avenue near the Buick Plant. Lewis, Franklin, Stewart, near the Strand and State movie theaters, Davison Road between Davison and Flint, Saginaw Street. "She could cover a block in two steps, long stride."
I follow in Bess's footsteps and with this project encourage others to join me. As our postindustrial workforce sits inside all day at computers, human intimacy with the environment is being lost, and there is a need to revisit, to recover. Walk into a new part of Flint--you'll find it's not dangerous, just empty, ready to be visited and known closely. Walking is a way of working the land, moving forward collectively, quietly sharing lives, and imprinting our way into familiarity. It's been said that true freedom always involves a long walk and so does recovery. The trauma our region has suffered and continues to suffer requires a pilgrim people to take it back and kiss the wounded earth with their soles all the way from Flint to Port Hope.
Contact Project Lead