Detroit Folk Fest at the Trumbleplex, Saturday May 153 years ago
Spotlight on: SOUTHWEST DETROIT
Impressions of Southwest Detroit
Streets lined with bustling mom and pop shops, hand painted business signs adorning the side walls, street vendors selling their goods, lowriders cruising the streets, and flea markets popping up on the weekends; where else could this take place in Detroit but the Southwest side?
Impressions of Southwest Detroit is a collection of cultural artifacts and studies that show the unique culture present in Southwest Detroit. The project is meant to instill a sense of pride in the community.
3 years ago
More Signs of Life: DAC Conner and Meldrum
Beating up on Detroit is so passe, at least around here it is. Still, there is money to be made in exploiting the struggles of America’s 11th biggest city. So it is in light of Chris Hansen’s over-the-top, ‘coon huntin’-to-survive story of Detroit, that it seems appropriate to talk about some of the great things happening in a couple of Detroit’s tougher neighborhoods.
The Detroit Action Commonwealth (DAC) has existed in some form for approximately 3 years. The DAC began as a few low-income/homeless individuals around a soup kitchen table at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen on Conner Street. Since its humble beginnings, the DAC has grown to a membership of over 1600 and includes chapters on Meldrum St., Conner St., and in tenant buildings in the Downtown neighborhood.
Together these chapters have achieved numerous victories. For example, the DAC has sued the Secretary of State to waive the fee for obtaining identification if you are a low or no-income citizen and has negotiated a 50% discount for birth certificates at Detroit Vital Records. These actions have resulted in many citizens gaining the means to obtain identification which can lead to gainful employment and/or the ability to prove that you are to receive benefits. Downtown, the tenant buildings have organized to push for more fire drills, better security, and held landlords accountable for their failures in addressing bed bug problems. DAC Conner and DAC Meldrum have been working with Southwest Solutions to take advantage of neighborhood stabilization funds to get neighborhood eyesores boarded or demolished. They are also working on an “Adopt-a-House” program which would put homeless into homes based on “sweat equity.” That is, candidates for home ownership would put work into a house, and own the home on the condition that they are prepared for home ownership.
While the DAC strives to put people into homes, get ID’s for people, and pressure landlords to hold up their end of the bargain, one of the most important things DAC achieves is its ability to put community members in positions of power. Many of the citizens the DAC works with have never understood that they deserve decency, that they deserve control over their destiny, and that they have skills that can translate into success in their lives.
At the DAC Meldrum chapter I have been able to personally observe the development of community members into leaders who recruit others and build social capital within their community. While it is a cliche, each one has their own gifts. Some of our leaders excel in articulating and inspiring, some contribute through tireless commitment to tasks like making phone calls and organizing meetings. Regardless, the DAC has become another avenue in which citizens can start to realize their power.
While Detroit has become the posterchild of urban blight, I remain steadfast in my love for this city because while the problems that plague every city can be hidden behind the shiny glassy castles of the downtowns in Chicago or New York, the pain is everywhere: downtown to midtown to the neighborhoods. These community groups are important because as Detroit comes back and gentrifies, it is vital that we not simply push the impoverished into new enclaves, but that poor neighborhoods are a key component of building up the neighborhoods of tomorrow.3 years ago
YouthVoice visits Ann Arbor
Friday, April 23, 2010
This term, the UM chapter of Roosevelt Institute made it a chapter-wide goal to go beyond policy writing and get involved in the community. The Center on Urban Planning and Community Development at UM took initiative by planning a college tour for fifteen middle and high school students from Detroit public and charter schools. In collaboration with Youth Voice, a youth empowerment program in Southwest Detroit, UM’s Climax Dance Team, and a group of dedicated UM seniors, the UPCD center arranged for a variety of educational and fun activities for the students. Following a lunch with UPCD members, the kids went on a tour of the UM Detroit Observatory and other campus landmarks, participated in a college life Q&A session with UM seniors, and danced in a hip hop workshop led by Climax. The students learned about the variety of student activities on campus, financial aid opportunities, and the high school- college transition. Above all, it was a day of fun activities and a refreshing departure from the traditional policy writing focus. Valuable connections were made with other campus groups and experienced community organizers in Detroit. The college tour was a successful event that the UPCD Center hopes to repeat in the future. (Ruth Wang)3 years ago
Mexicantown, Southwest Detroit
By all the good stuff (Armandos, Cafe con Leche, the best little bakery in Mexicantown3 years ago
I just wanted to write this down so I don’t forget it (from some notes in my journal):
Yesterday, my friend Elizabeth and I went to All Saints Center to help members of YouthVoice apply for this Summer Leadership internship… well, it turned out that because of transportation issues and some last minute organizational roadblocks (bureaucracy is cute) the YouthVoice kids couldn’t make it. So Elizabeth and I were talking with Helen (mon amour, co-blogger and a Harriet Tubman Center for Community Organizing intern who works with YV) about how we can best offer services to the youth. There were some kids working on the computers around us, and Helen told us to go talk to them, which is one of the cardinal rules of community organizing, isn’t it?
Turns out the two girls that Elizabeth and I met were just perfect for the internship (both in JROTC and both working for afterschool programs for Detroit youth at All Saints), but also just really inspiring and wonderful people. I was surprised at how eager they were when we talked about helping them with ACT prep or math tutoring. As we were working on the internship application, I got to talk to one of the girls at length and listen to her story. I think her statements say a lot about the change that’s happening in the city right now, and I’d like to share them here…
Alysha told me that both her mother and her father’s goal was always to get out of Detroit. Because of their own upbringing and life’s circumstances, neither one of her parents was able to get an education.
“My mother was an adult before she was a teenager,” Alysha told me, referring to how her mother had to care for her siblings at the age of 12. “She was never given the materials to have a future.”
“Education wasn’t an option for them, but my Dad worked his way to the top.” Alysha’s father coached her little league team as a child, and has been saving money for her to go to college. “My Dad showed us the world for what it could be and what it is. He showed us things and let us make the decision of what we want and what we don’t want.”
When her brother started to slack at school, Alysha’s father brought him in to work alongside him at the autoshop where he works, and it was “all A’s and B’s from there.”
Alysha told me that it had always been her parents goal to get out of the city, that success for them was escape. Her father had recently saved up enough money to move the family to Dearborn, although she and her siblings still attend DPS schools.
I asked her if escape from Detroit was her goal.
She told me it wasn’t.
“My goal is to leave the city and get an education, so that I can come back to make my community a better place.”
In one generation, it seems as though so much has changed in terms of how people see Detroit.
Anyways, we’re going back on Thursday to work on resumes and help them finish up with their applications. They said they might be able to bring some friends, which I hope will happen. The kids I meet get me more and more excited about the possibilities for the future of this city. They’re so smart and optimistic and ready to lead…
3 years ago