Thursday, June 11, 2009

PANW Editor Featured in Detroit Free Press Column on the National People's Summit

Speak up if you want change to happen

June 10, 2009

Attending high school graduation parties last weekend, I was struck by the contrast between enthusiastic young people and palpably subdued adults. While the kids chattered about their futures, the adult conversation was all about the stress of long-term unemployment, pending foreclosures, destroyed credit ratings and mounting bills.

I have a new perspective on post-9/11 New York and even New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I'm realizing it's possible for an entire city -- even a nation -- to be clinically depressed.

This year, it seems like even summer has forsaken Detroit.

"We'll survive," people say just to avoid thinking about what happens if we don't. "What else can we do?"

Maybe we can try the one thing we haven't tried yet -- letting out a collective shout.

Something for all the people

That's just what the organizers of the National People's Summit and Tent City hope that Detroiters are finally ready to do.

"A lot of people are in a state of shock," said Abayomi Azikiwe, a spokesman for next week's event. "They never anticipated that this kind of economic decline would happen in the United States. But it has, and we have to wake up and be proactive."

For three days beginning Sunday, the People's Summit will include rallies, speeches and demonstrations on the issues of unemployment, foreclosures, national health insurance and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of them are directly tied to misguided economic policies of outsourcing, overproduction, predatory mortgage lending and an unsustainable military budget, said Azikiwe.

The People's Summit has been timed to coincide with the National Summit, a conference of more than 1,000 business, economic, academic and government leaders organized by the Detroit Economic Club.

The National Summit, to be held Monday through June 17 at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, is billed as a "gathering to define America's future."

Let the leaders know

But Azikiwe said the National Summit will be missing the ordinary people who have been adversely affected by the decisions of those attending.

"The corporate and government leaders who created this problem haven't changed their perspectives about what's going on," he said. "We have to make our voices heard."

On Monday afternoon, there will be a march to the Renaissance Center. On Tuesday, there will be a noon rally in front of the complex while former Michigan Gov. John Engler, now president of the National Association of Manufacturers, and American Axle & Manufacturing Chief Executive Officer Richard Dauch address the convocation inside.

When I asked Azikiwe whether he thought that mere demonstrations would change our dire economic situation, he reminded me that's the only way that systemic change has happened in the past -- when the people speak up.

If the current economic conditions make you want to holler, here's your chance to be heard.


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