All of the events and group meetings we have attended this summer have definitely doubled, for me, as learning experiences in some way. I enjoyed how different they all were, but how they all culminated in showing different sides of Detroit from its history to its music to its art. I genuinely believe my time in Detroit wouldn’t have been as impactful had I not been to some of these events. One group meeting in particular I think stood out as the most influential, and that was the African American Historical Museum’s celebration of Che Guevara.
I don’t think there has been an experience in Detroit that I think about as much as the Che Guevara lecture. I always had this vague idea of who he was, but never how impactful his leadership was across the world and especially in Detroit. I’m not saying this lecture completely turned my political identity around, but it really synthesized a lot of the beliefs I already had into one perspective. I was particularly taken when one of the speakers mentioned how leaders must be willing to do the work that everyone else does and that Che Guevara was always willing to do this. Leaders must be equally committed and dedicated to show that everyone is equal and apart of the same working body. I wish more world leaders had the courage to really address the conditions in which so many people live in, really understand them and not hold themselves exempt from them because they are a “leader.”
Another concept that I’ve dwelled a lot on was the issue of violence that was brought up by an audience member. While I do think the speaker who answered dodged the question a bit (specifically, how do we justify the loss of innocent lives in these armed political efforts? –> see: FARC in Columbia), I do think he raised a very important question, how do we define violence? We are taught specifically what to associate with violence and no system will teach you that the system you’re in is an active perpetrator of violence. Further, we must ask ourselves what we have been taught is and isn’t violence and challenge ourselves to think outside the system we’re in. So then, is systematic oppression, not violence? As my coworker stated, is intentional ambiguity in the law, not a form of violence? Is convincing you that your vote actually counts not violence? These are all ways in which people are fundamentally oppressed and is oppression not a form of violence? I really think that the United States does perpetrate violence, not just in unjust armed conflict, but in how the system operates, especially given the history of what the country was founded on. But I also think all countries do this in some capacity. That being said, I am grateful that I get to live in a country that is privileged in so many ways, though my personal privileges are not felt everywhere in the states.
But back to Che Guevara, it was just so groundbreaking to me to hear these new ideas and perspectives on today’s political climate. Especially as I go to school in such a liberal city like Ann Arbor, it’s important to hear perspectives that challenge the way you think, even if that means just going a step further from what beliefs you’re used to (i.e. accepting the US political system as effective and open to change). Overall, the lecture has really influenced how I interpret propaganda against Che Guevara and his movement, but also what kind of future I want for my world and my country and my father’s country and for the United States. I am so grateful to have attended this lecture as I really think it’ll stick with me for a long time.
P.S. I just got my U.S. citizenship this past Monday so I’m excited to finally get to vote (even if it doesn’t matter? hmm, I’ll have to think on that one).