Wednesday I attended a poetry reading at the Trumbull Art Gallery. It was put on by he Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County, the Trumbull County Brownfield Coalition and Rust Belt Poets and Writers. The theme of the reading was revitalizing nine brownfield sites in Trumbull County. This is the poem I read:
I have no poetic skills. I am only a poet by the necessity to account for these times.
Ashes as Fertilizer
110 years ago the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was founded.
Their union’s preamble said, “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.
That surely became apparent when factories closed up,
displaced workers and left chemically wasted brownsites behind
in places like Detroit, Flint, Gary, Chicago, Youngstown, and Warren.
When the corporations came to communities
they demanded all manner of handouts,
like corporate welfare and lower utility rates.
They are the real entities who get “entitlements.”
No matter who says it corporations are not people.
They don’t have the soul, conscience or morals
that makes up a working-class human being.
Corporate CEO’s have limited minds
as they’re limited by their only goal……profits.
They put profits before people and the downside
of capitalism is that people are expendable.
Our newest valley industry is fracking and storing
600 chemical toxic waste water from fracking wells.
These are temporary jobs at best and the whole process
is a slow motion holocaust against the Earth.
There is no dignity in being a dumping ground.
If you’re waiting on a bailout from Columbus
They’ve taken our pulse and consider us flat lined.
They have designated us as the region to house the state’s prisoners.
The other recent businesses in our area are Rent A Centers, check cashing stores,
pawn shops, used car lots financing people with bad credit
at some horribly high interest rate and dollar stores everywhere
because we are down to our very last dollar.
They all fall into the category of poverty pimps
and they arrive when your community is down and out.
Then we have drug stores on every corner to serve our aging population.
What jobs do we have for the next generation?
I’m not happy that my two kids had to move away to find jobs.
How about you? Did your kids move elsewhere to find jobs?
We’ve got enough bike trails, parks and community gardens.
Those aren’t things that will keep our next generation here.
So my suggestion is down to three familiar words jobs, jobs jobs.
Let’s quit treating these brownsites like we are absentee landlords
and look around and get ideas for them that are working,
in the rest of our big wide world dealing with abandoned facilities.
Argentina has something that is working and growing.
It’s their worker-ownership model (called The Take)
The movement of taken factories gained enormous momentum
after the Argentine economic collapse of 2001.
Workers at some of these factories thought it was crazy
to let their former workplaces stay vacant while they were out of work
and already knew how to run the businesses and operate the machines.
They began to occupy their factories and demand the right to work,
and to re-start production as a worker-owned cooperative.
This resulted in more than 180 cooperative factories with 10,000 workers.
Chicago is the home of the first worker cooperative takeover
of a factory in the US, New Era Windows.
It seems like a better investment than more taxpayer-funded
pro sport stadiums for billionaire owners.
Workers would gain self-esteem by having self-determination.
Brownsite’s reuse should be decided by
the communities they are located in.
Our children should serve as a major voice in the process
by telling us what kind of jobs would keep them in our valley.
The first step in utilizing brownsites is awareness,
then add in involvement and it equals a movement.
The site, the area’s needs, resources and local skills
should all be factored into a democratic vote
by the community on what the site should be utilized for.
If it could based not on short-term greed
but on looking to our children’s future
our area could be an inspiration for the nation by building
cooperatives on these abandoned factory sites as a social movement.
One hundred years ago Ralph Chaplin an IWW member
wrote the song, “Solidarity Forever.”
It’s ending chorus states that with solidarity,
“We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.
If our community could come together
in solidarity to build that better world
from the ashes of brownsites
all of us parents could have some gentle pains of hope
that our children will see they could have a future here.
Killer Mike: “Reagan”
Keller Mike on Ferguson.
“Why can’t we, with a more intelligent policy,
actually have houses that are affordable,
built at higher densities than they are at the moment
and built on brownfield sites.” – John Prescott