Traveling Dialogues

Join us for intimate, informal tours exploring the Power of Place in Detroit and Ypsilanti.

Spend a day in Detroit with artists and educators considering, “What makes a community?”

Dive deep into the ways that the past shapes the present as you tour Ypsilanti with historian Matt Siegfried.

Add a Traveling Dialogue (or a few!) to your Place Based Education conference when you register.

What does it mean to belong in a community? A visit to Detroit.

Thursday, November 9

8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Limit – 35 participants – $50

Our Detroit dialogue will start at EMU with breakfast and the introduction of our driving question for the day: What does it mean to belong to a community? We will then go to the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, a school that developed out of decades of community organizing and that is attempting to use Place-Based Education school-wide. We will have a discussion about our question for the day with school founders and youth leaders. The youth leaders will join us on the bus and we will then go to the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nourish Community Leadership. There we will talk about visionary and transformative organizing and community building and discuss our question within the context of Detroit history and the efforts of Detroit residents to create just and healthy communities. We will have lunch at Mi Puebla restaurant in Mexican Village and end our day at Matrix Theatre Company, where we will engage in creating performance art around our driving question. Bus tour and discussions.

History of Eastern Michigan University

Presentation and walking tour

Thursday, November 9

1:30 pm – 4:00 pm


Occupying the heights overlooking Ypsilanti, Eastern Michigan University has long been a central institution in the life of the city. The school sits on the very earliest land division in Washtenaw County providing a unique opportunity to look at the changes in the land as the University developed. From the French traders and early American settlement, through farms and industries until today, we will explore how things like lost streams, student demonstrations, the G.I. Bill, and the interstate highway have impacted the physical and social layout of the school. We will take a close look at the gendered environment designed for middle class Victorian women on campus and compare it to nearby mills where working class women labored in a very different, but equally gendered space. We will learn some basic precepts of reading the landscape that will be used again in our explorations the following day.

Ypsilanti’s Black History
Presentation and bus tour

Friday, November 10
9 am – 12 pm

Between roughly the Civil War and World War I, Ypsilanti had the highest percentage of African-Americans of any Michigan city. We will take a bus tour to look at the rich history of African-American Ypsilanti. We will explore Ypsilanti’s south side, where we will see historic homes, churches, schools, and social halls. We will see the impact of urban renewal and the highway system, and explore the continuing costs of environmental racism and the social divisions in our landscape that have been formed and reformed over time.

Divisions in Ypsilanti’s Landscape
Bus tour

Friday, November 10
2 pm – 4:30 pm

Before the conquest of Michigan by the United States, the place Ypsilanti now occupies was a Potawatomi village. We will take a bus and walking tour to visit sites that illuminate the varied Native American landscapes and history of the area. We will explore the differences in tenure of the Potawatomi and Americans, and the relationship each group had with the land. We will look at the new market-driven property divisions brought to Michigan by the Americans and how our landscape continues to be defined by them.