drew philp

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intro’d to Drew via his tedx (2017) on radical neighborliness

John Cummings (@mrjohnc) tweeted at 5:13 PM – 25 Apr 2018 :

@doctorow Walkaway is leaking: My $500 house in Detroit — and the neighbors who helped me rebuild it https://t.co/noCHYdy39m(http://twitter.com/mrjohnc/status/989281197414109185?s=17)

radical neighborliness

2 structures – freeways (allowed people to leave the city at will) and walls (made sure only certain people could leave)

grace lee boggs: the most radical thing that i ever did was to stay put

5 min – the neighborhood hadn’t died.. it had just transformed into a way you couldn’t see if you didn’t live there.. it was there i first experienced the power of radical neighborliness..t

6 min – an incredible testament to the power of community.. to staying in one place.. and to taking ownership of one’s own surroundings.. of simply.. doing it yourself..

7 min – we don’t necessarily have to beg the govt to provide solutions.. just start ourselves..

8 min – radical neighborliness is the zigote (bio:  basic structural and functional unit of all organisms) that grows into a world view that ends up in homes & communities we built in ways that respect humanity and the environ.. it’s realizing we have the power to create the world anew together.. and to do it ourself

undisturbing our current disturbed ecosystem..

this is the detroit you don’t often hear about.. the detroit between the ruin porn and the hipster coffee shops.. the bn-aires saving the city.. there’s a third way to rebuild and it declines to make the same mistakes of the past..t

9 min – while building my house i found something i didn’t know i was looking for.. radical neighborliness is just another word for true community

the renaissance you hear about in detroit is true.. but what isn’t true.. is that this renaissance is reaching most detroiters..

10 min – in 2016 alone.. 1 in 6 houses in detroit had their water shut off.. the un has called this a violation of human rights.. and since 2005.. 1 in 3 houses.. has been foreclosed in the city.. rep\in a population about the size of buffalo ny.. 1 in 3 house foreclosed is not a crisis of personal responsibility.. it is systemic..t

many are worried segregation is returning to city on coattails of this renaissance

this is the price we’re paying for conventional economic resurgence..we’re creating 2 detroits.. 2 classes of citizens.. cracking the community apart.. for all the money and subsidies.. for all the streetlights installed.. the dollars for new stadiums and slick ads and positive buzz.. we’re shutting off the water.. to 10s of 1000s of people..living right on the great lakes.. the world’s largest source of it..t

11 min – separate has always meant unequal.. this is a grave mistake for all of us..t

thurman interconnectedness law

when econ development comes at the cost of community it’s not just those who have lost their homes or access to water who are harmed.. but it breaks the pieces of our own humanity as well..t

undisturbed ecosystem

none of us can truly be free.. comfortable.. until our neighbors are too..t

krishnamurti free will law

none of us if one of us

living your life as a reflection of the world you want to live in.. i know a third way is possible.. because i have lived it..t

13 min – true change.. real change.. starts first w community.. w a radical sense of what it means to be a neighbor..t

as it could be


detroit et al


find/follow Drew:

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Journalist and screenwriter. My first book, A $500 House in Detroit, out from  now. Order below (Profile photos via )



A $500 House: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City out from Scribner April 11, 2017!

hold request from library.. thanks library

In addition to writing, Drew built his house in Detroit with his own hands; hitchhiked across the United States; taught writing, literature and theater extensively in prisons and juvenile institutions across Michigan; taught a class about racism at the University of Michigan; and is a graduate of the New England Literature Program. Drew graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and is 31 years old. He lives in Detroit with his dog, Gratiot.




in spitting distance of the planet’s largest source of fresh water, the great lakes, the water bills were almost twice the national average..


the house was as much will as he was it. walking inside was like hiking thru his cluttered and brilliant mind


i realized the room and this block were the incarnate vision of philosopher i had read in college, living just a few locks away and more than ninety years old. grace lee boggs was detroit’s patron saint of transformation, the spiritual center or almost anything truly innovative in the city. although difficult to pinpoint exactly , her fingerprints touched many communities like this, striving for a new image of possibility. i had found an idea made manifest..


just between 2003 and 2007 67 000 houses went into foreclosure in detroit..


i decided i wanted a house nobody wanted.. a house that was impossible.. it was during that time i decided i was going to do this the old fashioned way, w/o grants or loans.. i could have called the house ‘art’ and people would have thrown money at me. it would have been comparatively easy.. and likely would have been able to get more done. but i wanted to prove one man could take a house and make it into a home w/o someone subsidizing it.. if it needed to be done that way, what was the point

it seemed wrong, too, to come into a place, esp one so poor and suck up all the money. there were people who had been around much longer who could use a roof that didn’t leak.. i didn’t want any part of that.. it would separate me from my neighbors

those loans (to men returning from ww2 – 50s) were not available to black in detroit. the same soldiers who fought under the same american flag.. white neighborhoods didn’t get them either if one black family or if bordering a black neighborhood


i heard mutinous racket.. andy and kinga pushed a giant box w broken wheel down the road in the rain, laughing at their folly and achingly in love a dozen years after marriage..  they looked like puppies in a mud puddle, a big mess of joy.. it was a scene i never would have imagined coming out of detroit


there was no point in dreaming of a better world if you can’t sleep with yourself at night (on knowing the balance of taking these houses over while be white and having access to resources)

at the same time you had to be able to come home in the evenings w your head held high. you couldn’t spend your life getting kicked around…. w/o getting trapped up in any of the petty ghetto bs..  aside from work in the drug trade, protecting your manhood was the number one reason people got shot..

will: you can having anything you want if you make it yourself.. (rather than buy it) .. if you built it w own hands.. don’t have to be ashamed of anything (on: is it right to live in an opulant house and have nice things amid so much poverty)

i’d say.. building it has to do w resources you can get.. (and others can’t) .. so i’d say.. yeah.. we need to (if we can.. and now we can) take care of everybody..  no opulence ever.. but esp not until everyone is free.. et al


detroit is the most flammable city in america


the world’s largest municipal incinerator (3 stories high.. football field long) was heavily subsidized.. detroit has an asthma hospitalization rate three times the national average.. and the highest rated of asthma in children among large cities in the us.. nearly 1 in 6 residents suffers from the disease.. some cities in the suburbs not only bring their trash to be burned in my neighborhood, for me and my neighbors to breathe, they pay less to do so than we do


if you would like an inside look at detroit’s continuing third world level of corruption, a good place to start is the incinerator..

in its latest national study, the center for public integrity listed michigan dead last in laws and safeguards for ethics and transparency..


the more i was hungry and cold the more i was aware there were hungry and cold people in the world.. and it made me want to work harder.. i decided it would not defeat me, and i would use the cold, hunger, and physical pain to harden my body and will..


people don’t need some ratty donated coats. they need fair prices on their heating bills..

or to disenage from money altogether


that’s the beauty of living on forestdale. it was almost impossible to be lonely. no matter how hungry i was or how broke i was, someone would always feed me, invite me in, have a dance party on a tuesday in the winter..


that winder i was the most broke, hungry, and cold i’d ever been, but no one on that block ever let me go without. they never let me forget i was part of something larger than myself, an organism made of many people, and that i would have the chance to pay it forward someday


by 1962 more than 43 000 people had been displaced by urban renewal just in detroit, 70% of them black


govts flush w postwar tax money were happy to build the infra to accommodate them (people moving to suburbs), while letting cities decay. it would start a long history of policy decisions that prioritized the suburbs over the city and ensure michigan would have some of the wealthiest ‘burbs in the nation surrounding one of its poorest cities..  it was the start to building the most segregated metro area in the us


i don’t know anyone who has redone an abandoned house w/o a dog


community happens like falling in love. you can’t plan it, or force it, or dissect it like a frog. you can’t try to make it happen. it just does, like falling for someone.. your heart wants what it wants..t

so .. let’s listen to our hearts more.. ie: self-talk as data

tweet in response to this tweet:

Tangential to the thread (do read it!), but responding to this quote..

While you can’t plan love, or community, you *can* actively encourage and prepare the conditions in which it can take root, can flourish – just as you can attack them.

You choose.

Do choose.

Be active. https://t.co/UvQGslMkQZ

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/dilgreen/status/991811704014168065


on the yarn bomb web of how the community was connected.. but the garbage trucks couldn’t get thru w/o being tangled in the web.. it was also strange that people were coming to the community and attempting to explain it to us..


they say your possessions own you at some point.. yet in a way the house didn’t own me at al.. the house was me.. and i was it.. i had put all of myself into this once living building; it was my other, an extension of my body, my being, my soul.. it wouldnt’ be that way if i’d just bought it new.. it wasn’t building a portfolio or an investment.. i was building a shelter, a necessity of life, and by extension myself.. .. it didn’t own me any more than by body owned my mind. it’s said that cs lewis once wrote, ‘you don’t have a soul. you are a soul. you have a body’

my house wasn’t a commodity.. the dollar and cent value matters only when housing, shelter, is a commodity, ..t ..when homes are meant to be discarded, the occupants moving on to bigger and better things.. when a house is something just meant to be consumed..


cold air can be overcome in more ways than cold water..


when you turn on your faucet, or flush the toilet or take a shower, it is almost certain that that clean, fresh water is brought to you by materials manufactured or mined by someone in a bondage so great it would be illegal in america or europe, by a process that is rapidly killing the very planet that we will leave for our children. we have slavery running thru the walls of our homes and stitched into the fabric of our clothes. as a people we need to think about this..t

begs we try a nother way to live for (blank)’s sake

as it could be..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


there is almost no public transportation in detroit..  stymied by suburban politicians /residents who want things to remain exactly as they are

it was people like these, when seen as individuals and not faceless masses of suv driving automatons, who would crack my self righteous facade and instinctual disgust at the suburbs.. it forced me to see that the reason people left detroit were maybe more complicated than i’d thought, and demonizing them wasn’t as easy as i wanted it to be..


(on all the people coming into detroit).. one investor was a wealthy banker who wanted to turn the neighborhood into a farm, as if people like paul who’d lived here for decades weren’t working on that already. but he didn’t want to support what was already going on, rather, to come in and start something w his name on it..


consider for a moment. there are only three times i have ever had guns pointed at me point blank (i’ve been lucky).. those three times have not been by ‘thugs’ or ‘gangster’ all three have been by police officers.. i knew, personally now, the mistrust of the police by people who live in places like e detroit and baltimore and ferguson, how at worst they can act as just another gang themselves.. coupled w the hopelessness of rehabilitation in the american prison system, this is why i refuse to call the cops..  that was just a little taste of what black and brown and red folks deal w every day..


the danger is that in our relentless chase of progress we’re erasing ideas and ways of living that we can never get back. ideas and ways of living we may need to heal our earth and our ailing society..


what i learned that first winter was that my goal wasn’t to build a house. it was to transform myself by building a house…. what living in detroit had taught me was that the goal wasn’t to build a new city. it was to transform ourselves by building a new city.. t


gardens are dangerous to those 62 men who control the natural resources of our planet and own half the world.. they rely on dependence.. also dangerous to politicians.. also dangerous to the idea that consumption and stasis are the only ways to live..t


weren’t these the people who i’d been told were all drug dealers and criminals, people too stupid to leave detroit? why were they living here? hadn’t all the good people moved out by now, the ones who could..? weren’t all the people living in neighborhoods this damaged broken themselves..?  maybe they were all just stuck here and couldn’t escape..

or was it that they didn’t want to leave, and those things were misrepresentations at best, lies at worst? maybe i had stepped into real community, one tied together w memory and friendships, history, shared experience and relationships, something that could only be built from years and trust and mutual understanding..

i’d had time to think about that furnace again too.. accepting the gift.. was a relief not just from the cold but from the traditional masculinity i’d clothed myself in, the role of the provider, .. the man who needs no help… it was a relief to admit i couldn’t do it all myself. i couldn’t be both above the community and of it; receiving gracefully wa just as important as giving generously. if i was to truly embody the universal ideal, not just classical american mythical one, i’d have to wash the shame of receiving help from my countenance, and in doing so any final subconscious judgment of others who took it..t


above all else.. my relationship w my neighbors would keep me safe

gershenfeld sel


(on occupy); people were moving past blink protest.. woodstock lasted 3 days.. occupy 3 months… and maybe next time we’d get three years. for a few days, a few weeks a few months, people saw that another way of life was possible. they lived it, if just for an instant..


‘if i want to pay them, i can.’ .. ‘mom. you just ruined their good deed. who the hell are we? just because they drive that truck doesn’t mean they don’t take pleasure in helping other people.. it’s not all about money, and i know you like to do things for others. it makes you feel good.. you just took that away from them’


if we’re going to make this work we cannot be afraid of one another..t

thurman interconnectedness law.. assume good


i hesitated. i needed the meat. i looked thru the sight on my gun, the cruel, straight crosshairs trained on the chest of the larger deer. they were so peaceful. they do us no harm. i hesitated. i took my eye away from the glass and thought. maybe i didn’t have to do it. maybe i was doing this only because it’s what you’re suppose to do. if you’re a man you go out in the woods and you kill things…. i needed the meat. but did i really need the meat? was there some other way i could get my food?


i knew the man outside wasn’t my enemy. my enemy was the poverty that drove him to it. my enemy was the addiction stunting my community and the lack of help for it.. my enemy was the desperation we’ve allowed to ferment w/in our brothers and sisters.. my enemy…

thurman interconnectedness law..

whether i liked it or not, whoever was out there was part of my community. and whether or not you like it he’s part of yours, too. it seems like every week a new massacre is confirmed, reported on, and ultimately tolerated. now we all live in detroit.


it’s very american to try to make a better world. it’s even more american to do it w a gun. . t ..i know that ignorance comes from society and cruelty from pain. and i knew fear comes from the same place. i had come to detroit to help, to try to do good, and this seemed like the opposite. the danger, of course, was becoming a beast myself. the real danger was injuring my own humanity.

had whoever was outside come in, i would have killed him. and if that deer in the forest could have defended herself, she probably would have tried to kill me, too.


60% of detroiters lacked even basic access to the http://www..


dan gilbert.. owner of quicken loans.. made his money originating mortgages..  quicken is being sued by the us justice dept for mortgage fraud.. gilbert just lost a labor lawsuit..  one of his real estate companies also emptied two downtown buildings full of people: one was a longtime artists collective, the other was full of the elderly..



he (dad) had climbed the ladder of the american dream.. he found it lonely and wanting at the top. it was making him sick, the petty indignities of a local politics as fractured and deaf as for those on the national scale..


emergency management was also at the root of the poisoned water in flint, detroit’s little brother to the north..

nestle siphons off 150 gallons os water per minute from great lakes to serve their bottle water operation.. aside form a small permitting fee, they pay the residents of michigan exactly zero… nestle is now petitioning the state to increase their allowance to 400 gallons a minute, still, of course, for free.


water was indiscriminately shut off to pregnant women, elderly people, and those w illnesses.. per michigan’s laws, children could not be raised in a structure lacking running water.. if folks had water shut off and couldn’t find a place for their kids, the state would take them..t

when all was done more than 80 000 had water turned off.. more than a tenth of the city.. .. the number still w/o water is likely in the tens of thousands..

while residential customers were getting shut off, detroit refused to go after businesses that were past due.. ford field.. chrysler group.. amid all this, after having been shut off for years, the grand fountain on belle isle was turned back on .. the park now leased to the state – the freely flowing water taunting those w/o it

water bills were also tied to property taxes, contributing to the eviction crisis.. t..  as people moved out, the solution to declining revenues was to raise taxes on people who stayed.. one of poorest cities in us.. w some of highest property tax rates in nation.. we were paying for nearly nonexistent services.. yet paying the most for them..



the atlantic estimate 1/5 of detroits’ population could lose their homes in this manner.. more than 100 000 .. it’s a crisis of refugee proportions..t

after bleeding the city dry, people from the suburbs and all over the world began to buy up blocks of homes at rock bottom prices and letting them sit, uncared for and dangerous.. t..michigan radio has estimated that at least 20% of detroit land is not owned by speculators.. the vast majority of those structure rot..

public school under emergency management  all but 3 yrs since 1999.. irony.. the district’s debt under emergency management ballooned and dps was out of money to pay teachers..  the debt increases..  nearly all owed to the state as if they were trying to make the schools and the city financially unstable.. when public institution and commons are on the skids, it’s much easier to privatize them and put more money in the pockets of your friends, and in some cases the corps their wives helm


the pensions got screwed.. took a reduction in their monthly checks, cost of living adjustments, and health care from what they were promised during their decades of work for the city. the avg pension was making 19 000 a year.. keep in mind they just gave – not a tax break, a handout – more than 250 million to a billionaire to build a new hockey stadium...t

now tell me again who the welfare queens are..

why there was that much cash available but not in the right place is a mystery..  (no sale off of art ane pensioners take cut.. and.. nearly a bn in private/state money)

just 4 yrs before.. the fed govt bailed out detroit’s auto industry.. to tun of about 85 bn.. similar to (2 of 3) banks too bit to fail bailout… there was no bailout for the people of my city


in corp media the bankruptcy had been discussed as ‘paving the way’ for detroit’s ‘renaissance’..  in a city more than 80% black.. almost 70% of those leading the regeneration were white..t

consider the political cronyism, the corp theft, the poisoned water in flint – and most esp our loss of democracy (many lost voting.. yet still paid taxes), a dry run for the rest of the nation.. t

and rerun of indigenous/undisturbed ecosystem


we were going to have to pit our humanity against their money, and the fate of detroit was now a microcosm of what was happening to the country at large..


we worried detroit will lose some of its radical neighborliness,  that people will be gentrified from their homes.. the city will become an unaffordable dystopia ruled by numbers instead of beating hearts..t

tweet while reading:

The “Black people should just build their own” never takes into account all the times when Black folks did build their own and it was taken away, burned down or destroyed. The issue has never been us not building but other’s not allowing us to keep our own.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/FirstGentleman/status/991465290650157056

we need a new measure of progress

or to quit measuring all together.. set people free.. sans money.. and just trust that

these skills are not innate and must be learned.. as i had myself, building my house..

perhaps not.. perhaps it’s more that we have to unlearn the capitalistic way.. et al


i’ve passed by these imperfections a thousand times.. each time thinking about fixing them, sometime. i know anything can be fixed..


our only failure can be trying nothing new


(while bidding on house for a neighbor).. it’s a funny thing, deciding, in us dollars, how much good neighbors are worth.. .. in dollars.. how much do you love your neighbor..t

this is perhaps our biggest disturbance..  measuring things/transactions/people


(on buying house for 2300): i was lucky.. this was the first time in my life i had any savings and could have done something even remotely like that.. their house and security was paid from the advance for this book you hold in your hands..

loaning them the money was a small act, just one house, and one family and frankly it’s not enough. the problem is systemic, not personal..  i realize ending the book in this manner plays right into the white savior narrative.. but the struggle is not over, this isn’t the end. detroit is out there, places like this all over the world are out there..  i have no tidy endings or easy solutions to offer you.. we have to do what we can and when you dedicate a life to attempting to expand the possible, anything can happen..  

i may have saved one house, and my neighbors and detroit might have saved me, too. i know that’s cliché but it’s true.. what matters is we did it together..


‘i feel sorry for people who are not living in detroit. detroit gives a sense of epochs of civilization in a way that you don’t get in a city like ny. it’s obvious by looking at (detroit) that what was doesn’t work. people are always striving for size, to be a giant. and this is the symbol of how giants fall.. *people are aware they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. we need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history ..t.. when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political and spiritual values..  these are the times to grow our souls. each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power w/in us to create the world anew.. we are the leaders we’ve been looking for’ – grace lee boggs


*as it could be..