Everything you need to know about tomorrow’s “March for Love, Resilience, and Action” in Ypsilanti

A year ago this weekend, as several hundred thousand women marched on our nation’s capitol, well over 1,000 people took to the streets of Ypsilanti in solidarity. And, tomorrow, many of us will be returning to those same streets, not only to march again, but to discuss how we might better work together to address the challenges that we’re facing as a community. Following is my conversation with Desirae Simmons, one of the folks organizing the Ypsi March for Love, Resilience, and Action, which is set to begin tomorrow at 12:30 PM, in front of the downtown Ypsi library.

MARK: I just watched footage of last year’s march taken by Donald Harrison, and I was surprised to see how happy everyone seemed to be…

DESIRAE: I need to see this video! We can do a viewing party.

MARK: Donald just finished editing it yesterday. Here’s a link. I’ll also embed it at the end of this post… Like I was saying, I was kind of shocked, which I watched it, to see how happy everyone was. It’s almost like, even though Trump had just been elected, there was a sense of optimism and hope, like we were all coming together in solidarity to fight back against the forces that put Trump in power. Now, a year later… and maybe it’s just because I’m sick with bronchitis… I just feel so tired. I’m curious to know what you think the mood surrounding this year’s march will be. Will there still be optimism, or has that been beaten out of us?

DESIRAE: I do think that people may be a little tired- but only because they have either been out doing the work, or because they feel beaten down by the onslaught of pure insanity coming out of the White House and beyond. To those folks I say: dust off those work boots because we have some ass to kick! There have been some great things happening here in Ypsi- and I hope that comes through at the march. And, that in sharing space with one another we can be motivated to share in the responsibility to really effect change- locally, county-wide, across the state, and at the national level.

MARK: Am I remembering correctly that you and Mariah organized that first march because you were both pretty far along in your pregnancies at the time, and didn’t feel as though you could head to DC for the Women’s March?

DESIRAE: Yes, that was part of it. We also felt tied to the idea that in order to make changes on the federal level we needed to focus on the people power here in Ypsi.

MARK: What did you learn from that first march, and what have you been doing over this past year?

DESIRAE: I learned that Ypsi has a lot of pride and heart. People are not afraid to show up. Over the past year I have become very active. Becoming a mother has radicalized me in a way; I feel ambitious for the first time. I have always wanted to make an impact in my community but I now feel the pressure to make big moves and I refuse to settle for not-good-enough. I have been reflecting on what kind of community I want to live in- what kind of community I want Indigo to be able to own as her hometown. So, I’ve been trying to be a part of the change- cliche or not. I have been involved in Defend Affordable Ypsi’s efforts to stop International Village and to hold this town accountable to what we say we want- the ability that anyone, no matter income, race, or ability status should be able to be able to live here. I have listened to and offered to support efforts by families of We Love Ypsi Schools to stop the takeover of WIMA by WEOC. I have been a part of a growing citizen coalition called Rising for Economic Democracy in Ypsi (REDY) to demand a participatory process to be central to the Community Benefits Ordinance that City Council will be considering.

MARK: And you decided to organize this year’s march around the theme of gentrification. Why?

DESIRAE: Well, this year’s march is organized around gentrification, feminist spaces, and voter mobilization. We wanted to focus on areas we feel passionate about and also that we could make an impact on here in Ypsi. Gentrification is something that could impact the very face of Ypsilanti. Last year we focused on the history of resilience and action here. This year we want to ensure that we continue that proud history (and recognize that it wasn’t all good). When looking at some of the main causes of gentrification you can see that there is a clear tie to federal policies impacting the way that cities govern themselves. The idea of “growing the tax base” is founded on the lack of funding from the federal and state governments. Maybe we should demand our money back.

MARK: I believe, when we discussed the march a little while ago, you mentioned that there would be an event afterward, at the Riverside Arts Center. What have you got planned?

DESIRAE: We want to offer a space for community dialogue and sharing. Last year, we held an event the day before the march but needed to simplify. The majority of the group really long for true feminist spaces in Ypsilanti. We want to allow time for people to share what it is they need and to create a vision for what they want to see. We will also be registering people to vote. I am very interested in increasing voter turnout and citizen turnout. There will be a lot on the ballot in August and November and the majority of the people should be making the decisions. We are too small a community to be satisfied with 11-20% turnout. And, as citizens we can be more involved too. Not everyone will be able to do everything, but I want everyone to be able to do something. Ypsilanti Gathering Space is an example of this and there will be an opportunity for people to see the space and to sign-up to volunteer. And, DAY will be launching their new zine “Perspectives on International Village.”

MARK: Is there anything else you’d like for people to know before coming out on Saturday?

DESIRAE: We just have some amazing people involved in this effort. Matt Siegfried, Karlie Ebersole, Bryan Foley, Amy Shrodes, Yodit Mesfin Johnson, Mary Larkin plus the wonderful volunteers from LRAY and Women March On- Washtenaw and the staff or RAC- I am just so grateful for all of the support and energy that these folks bring. There is a lot to be hopeful about. And it starts with each of us.

The March for Love, Resilience and Action Ypsilanti 2017 from 7 Cylinders Studio on Vimeo.

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8 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted January 19, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    There’s also a Women’s March in Ann Arbor tomorrow at 2:00.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/302878776902151/

  2. Posted January 20, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    That video from last year was great, wasn’t it?

  3. Iron lung
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    This is like web 2.0.

  4. Jean Henry
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Not all steps towards big change are big steps. Usually they are not.
    The web was transformative in the end. Massively so.

    The weird thing about looking at systems change, which I do as part of my work, is that what people usually point to as transformative events creating change are rarely the cause of the change. Usually they are the larger manifestation of a change that has been years in the works. Often those smaller actions were considered failures. Similarly, declarations of change are rarely a signal of change. (Human individuals and human organizations have a lot in common)

    Anyway, I think Ypsi needs a “Love, Resilience and Action” march for reasons other than Trump this year. Hope it was a good time.

  5. Posted January 20, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t attend. I was home, resting. It turns out I don’t have pneumonia, which is good, but I’ve still got bronchitis. And I’m still hacking a lot. I’ve only heard one report so far, from Linette and Arlo, both of whom marched. They seemed to think it went really well. And they were happy that they participated. Hopefully others share that sentiment. I was sorry to have missed it.

  6. JC
    Posted January 21, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Here is the Defend Affordable Ypsi zine.

  7. karen
    Posted January 21, 2018 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    the problem with ypsilanti is the people who step up to “defend” it are usually the most passionate but intellectually incompetent people available. desirae and her group should be congratulated for their passion, but they are no less self-serving than those who have come before them.

  8. M
    Posted January 22, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Footage from this Saturday’s march.

    https://vimeo.com/252111168

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