Saturday, March 26, 2016

What We Will Remember

The last week we have had the pleasure of visiting the cities of Detroit and Flint on our Catalyst alternative spring break trip. While we wait to get on our flight back to the Twin Cities we thought that some of us would say a couple things about what we would remember about this experience.

I will remember the stories that I was blessed to hear from numerous residents from both Detroit and Flint. Three months from now I hope that I am still sharing what I learned from all the people that we met that were so warm and welcoming to their city. I will remember that Detroit is a community that is vastly misconstrued and stigmatized, but if you talk to people in the community, you would feel like your in a different place, than the one that is being talked about and stigmatized in the media. I will remember how our Community Development grew into a community of its own.
-Austin Jensen

First and forefmost, I am going to remember all of the people I have met and grown closer to on this trip. There are some amazing people in the city of Detroit who we had the opportunity to work with on this trip. The one similarity they all share is their passion: they have passion for the city and a deep passion for people in general.  We as a group have grown very close, so everybody involved will hold a certain place in my heart. This trip has instilled a sense of curiousity in me. I want to know what I can do to make a difference in the communities I am a part of.  I've realized the importance of self-education and how necessary doing research is when working toward a cause.  Making a difference might not be easy; it may be uncomfortable, but it is always possible.
-Joe Davidson

I will remember the laughs, smiles, connections with passionate and innovative community members, moments of truth and sparks of curiosity. I will also remember how the stereotypes of Detroit were squashed within 24 hours of arrival; the media has this city all wrong. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a week building community with such an inspiring and inquisitive group of students. In many ways my view of the world is not as rosy at 31-years-old, but students never fail to remind me that I have the ability to take create start do something.
-Allie Quinn

I will remember the eye-opening insights I have learned from my team members, community leaders, and people of Detroit and Flint. When I look back at the Catalyst experience, I think I will reflect on this as a time of self-exploration and self-education in relation to social justice issues. Hamline Catalyst is exactly that, a catalyst for change. Therefore I value the six month experience as a turning point in my life, to bring the knowledge and passion I learned from Detroit and bring it back to the Twin Cities to inspire change - in thought and action. I also will remember that the people carry the burden of the systemic flaws and faiures of public officials. However, the people of Detroit and Flint are resilient and are willing to repair the damage done by others.
-Megan Bouwens

I won't forget our amazing house, and how smoothly the shared chores went. Further, everyone on the trip was so welcoming, empathetic, and selflessly vulnerable. There was a safe space to share, or not to share. Outside of the group, I will remember the supervisors that (overall) treated us with kindness and respect, and the community members that shared their stories with us. It is important that we bring these experiences back to Saint Paul and beyond, to continue this work in a meaningful way.

Although it may seem like a small thing, I will not forget that people spoke to you when passing on the street. I appreciated the how are yous and good mornings that I received when simply passing someone in the neighborhood. It is something that I only feel in small pockets of Minnesota. I felt the sense of community in Detriot and will miss it when back in Minnesota. I will remember the strength and fight of the communities in Flint and Detroit. This trip has allowed me to briefly feel a sense of community, in a city that is not my own. I hope to bring the lessons of community building back to the Twin Cities. I look forward to coming back to Detriot soon.
-Tiara A-H

And this blog concludes our trip, but does not conclude our stories and experience. We hope that we get the opportunity to share some of our experiences with those close to us whether they are family or friends, in addition to anyone else where our catalyst trip comes up in discussion. We want to thank you so much for reading our blogs and keeping up with our experience, this is the 2016 Community Development in Detroit Catalyst group signing off...

Site Leaders: Alex & Austin (also known as A&A)
Staff Member: Allie
Trip Participants: Tiara, Abby, Tonya, Kalli, David, Megan, Amin and Joe

Friday, March 25, 2016

Stories from Detroit...

Upon the conclusion of this week (that paradoxically allowed days to fly by while the minutes within them seemed to tick reluctantly), I have an entire collection of memories, thoughts, and information to process. However, my immediate desire to remember is derived from those stories that etched their way into my permanent recollection by making me feel something. These are the stories that overwhelmed me in the best possible definition of the word because I couldn't remember Detroit more meaningfully, more passionately in any other form...

Capuchin Soup Kitchen and Earthwork Urban Farm
Priscilla showed Tonya and me a photo of her son. He gazed back at us through the edges of the photograph. She spoke of the day he got his license, the day he told her he got a job on top of going to school just to help her pay the rent, the day he was racially profiled and blamed for crime at a store he had frequented since the age of 10. Michael: now boy of 16, varsity jacket, big smile, dreams, hopes, aspirations, memories, tendencies, things that kept him up at night. But none of these things mattered when he was shot; the only thing that mattered then was the color of his skin. She spoke of the day her son was killed by the police.
I cannot begin to imagine the constant pain of having to worry about the fatal reality attached to your child each time he walked out the door. Only then to have this thin grasp on hope for basic safety and security shattered in an instant, devastated in a single phone call.
"But I just saw him, he was just here," she said.
Michael was killed after a typical Friday night basketball game at his own high school by someone whose job it was supposed to be to enforce justice. Priscilla was forced to wait in her car at the crime scene and then again wait endlessly in a hospital waiting room simply to be told that her son was not the boy on the operating table, but the boy that had died upon impact of the bullet. 
The thing is, a listener could just leave the conversation in a state of contemplative sadness, reminded of the viciously real threat that unequally exists for only some lives. While Priscilla leaves the conversation broken-hearted, forever scarred by a system that allows a teenage boy to die attending a basketball game. No mother should have to tell this story. 

Flint, Michigan
First, she drew a house. A house with crooked windows and a lopsided foundation, resting visually unstable on the scribbled grass below. She said it was falling down; I asked why and she didn't say. Silently, she began to draw a single stick figure standing on the front lawn. I smiled, easily fooled by the veil of the beautiful naivety and innocence we tend to see cloaking children. 
"Are you going to draw yourself in?" I asked.
"No. Because the police are coming and I don't want to get hurt," was Jasmine's immediate response. 
My heart sank as any trace of the innocence of her drawing faded into oblivion and another figure appeared on the page to handcuff the first.
"He's angry," she said. "This makes me feel lonely." 
By the age of 6, this little girl from Flint, Michigan had more to teach the world in a single drawing than many could explain in their lifetime of experience. As a society, I think we have the unfortunate tendency of assuming that children know less than they do. When, really, Jasmine's fears tell us more than some would like to accept or even acknowledge about the reality of this country. This little girl could be, conversely, what the system is afraid of because she is unfiltered, inexorable proof that something is systematically wrong. When only six years of life has taught a black child fear and isolation, the justice system has failed them. 
"He has his hands up," she explained to me. "But he's sad because he's going to jail."
Her voice was so soft and matter-of-fact. Because this is her reality- an absoluteness and authenticity so clear that anyone attempting to deny inequality can simply ask the children to explain it to them. 

It is not my job to tell anyone else's story, but it is valid to acknowledge the truth that so many stories like Priscilla's and Jasmine's remain unheard by the world. Lost, omitted, altered, and hidden in the streets and homes of the city many outsiders consider a ghost town. But this is no ghost town of 700,000 souls. Every broken window and every broken heart shatters the silence whether or not we are there or willing to hear it. We cannot dare assume the emptiness of this city when so many are still here picking up the pieces. Picking up the pieces even with bleeding fingers; these people are strong. 
As we have learned, the success stories of Detroit are so often derived from the instances of neighborhoods and communities uniting for change. This could mean the creation of community gardens, giving the church parking lot space for water and food distribution, recycling materials to make art, or simply knowing every person on the block. But each situation demonstrates that despite everything they might be facing, people are stronger together. After this trip to Detroit, that is what community development means to me.

-Kalli W.

Flint and the Water Crisis

Today we arrived at 11:45 am in Flint, Michigan and immediately were met with the realities the community in Flint, Michigan have been facing of the last year and a half. If case if you havn't heard Flint's water has been poisoning thousands with lead in their water since April 2014 when the city's water was switched from Detroit's system to the water in the Flint River, where almost immediately residents started complaining about the taste and discoloration of the water. Over the last few months the Flint water crisis has arisen in mainstream media and has showcased how dollars are more important to the govornment than to the lives of citizens because thousands have been poisoned including 10 people that have died from bacterial infections that were found in the Flint area. Here is an update from my perspective on our trip and service to Flint today.

We arrived into Flint, Michigan only to see the discoloration of the Flint River before we got to Greater Holy Temple, the church we did service with today. Right when we pulled in, we were greeted with the warm face of Mama Jones. Before we even got to park the van, we saw an enormous collection of cases of bottled water that filled up the parking lot of the church. Near the church, there was some soldiers from the National Guard that were handing out cases and cases of water to Flint residents, which is what we would eventually be doing.

We met up with Mama Jones and she explained what exactly we would be doing today. We were going up to a garage, (it was more like a barn, big building) to load water and food into residents cars. This water was different that the water the National Guard was passing out, because it was considered "loose." These were cases that were either opened and put in boxes or that were still in their cases, but were considered open. There were also big boxes that had gallons and gallons or water both drinking and purified which was specifically supposed to go out to families with small children or infants. Our responsibility was to give 8 cases of water per household, which was important because some residents came and were picking up water for their neighbors, so we sometimes had to load 24 cases of water into some people's trucks including sometime's a half dozen plus gallons of water. Every household would also recieve a bag of potatoes, which we were told would mitigate the effect of lead, and a bag of snacks. Residents also recieved baby wipes and formula if residents had small children.
The first hour we were there giving residents water and food, it was moderately slow, but from 1-2 P.M. we nearly always had 3-4 cars that were getting loaded up at once. One thing I noticed is that the residents were very gracious of what the church was providing them, and of the help we were giving them by insisting to load it in their car. I would not have guessed that this watercrisis was happening from the reception the residents were exuting. I started to think about if this happened where I lived and how I would react, I must say that it would be much different than what I saw today, but what I saw was a community, a church and the people coming together to make the best of this situation and grow closer together than ever.

I talked to Floyd who is a driver of the forklift at the church and we debated about how long that it would take for the water crisis to be over. Floyd explained to me that there are vast amounts of piping that needs to be replaced and that he had heard that it is estimated that there wont be safe or clean water access for another 2 to 3 years in Flint.

Think about that. Three years without having access to use water to brush your teeth, bathe in, or just take a drink of water from your faucet. The cricis was best explained by Bishop Davis from Greater Holy Temple

"We are free to make choices, but we're not free from consequences.

Consequences outweigh choices."

The resident's of Flint are the onces suffering the consequences that were made from the choice of saving a few dollars by the Michigan govornment.

The community of Flint are suffering the consequences...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Arts & Scraps- Videos

After volunteering with Arts and Scraps for the second time this week, we rewatched the videos that we made on Monday. We were given free reign to make videos that represented the mission of Arts and Scraps and this is what we came up with...
I mean, we thought we were pretty creative.

Hello all,

In the words of Ice Cube " Today was a good day!" -Tiara

Even though it rained all day, it was a fufilling day for all. Today we traveled all the way to Ponyride building and explored The Empowerment Plan. Personally, (Tonya), I didn't know what to expect since we were unable to volunteer. Once we got there we climbed the stairs to The Empowerment Plan room. Roughly 20 women were focused and were sewing their big hearts away away as we enetered the room. Our tour guide, Cassie, told us that their goal was to ultimately provide the opportunities for homeless parents to overcome the neverending cycle of struggles through employment. I thought the goal was just..great. Cassie stated that donating the coats are important but they want to help Detriot as a community and the indiviudals who are struggling with homelessness. I found that interesting because I assumed that a non-profit would be known for donating their commodity, but The Empowerment Plan is focused on helping people. As we weaved through the stations, I noticed all women's determination and just geniunely strong women. Also, the coat itself is just WOW! It's just innovated and practical. There's three layers with a detachable leg section, self-heating, portable, and made from recycled material (Donated from Carhartt). HOW COOL IS THAT?! The tour ended where Cassie showed us other non-profit like Floyd and Lazlo (look it up because it's just neat). I would also like to mention like Cassie was just so cute and loveable, I could tell she was passionate about her job and the women working
Still pouring rain, we went back to Arts and Scraps again where our creativity was essential. One group took upon their hands to design a bran spankin' new "Welcome:)" sign to which they killed. I wish you guys were there because it was just...yes. The other group actually attempted to use the kits but make other things out of the materials than the expected result (I hope that made sense. If not, I'm sooo sorry!) Anyways, that group made things like paint palette, night vision glasses, an alligator, and a frogg. (standing ovation, yes). Today was filled with innovating non-profits, great goals, and arts & crafts. I enjoyed this experience and totally looking forward for tomorrow SO stay tuned tomorrow! Thank you and have a beautiful night:)))

-Tonyaa and Tiaraa

"Welcome:)! it's a beaut

Our group in a small coffee shop with Cassie (Far left!)

My Roomie:) She's a ray of sunshine

Crafternoon! (Crafting in the afternoon! Clever!) 

Thank you again! "See" you guys tomorrow:)

Some thoughts on Detroit before Flint tomorrow

I am amazed that it is already Thursday and that we have finished all of our services and visits to orgs in Detroit. This week has went by extremely fast and it brings to my attention how crucial and important time is in regards to just about anything, whether it is an alternative spring break trip, or your everyday life. I'm a philosophy major and have a conflict studies certificate, which attributes to why things like this are on my mind. My time in Detroit has made me think about the construct of time and the fact that this may be one thing that is vastly needed in the community to adjust to the city downsizing greatly in population. I have heard from some of our service partners that building community is all about taking the time to work together to create positive change in the community.
In the numerous orgs that we have visited and our community partners we have had service with, nothing has made sense to me more that the idea of how important a garden is to building community. In Earthworks, there were numerous programs that were available to members of the community allowing them to connect with one another, while providing a way to become more educated about the importance of accessible, healthy food; with the presence of numerous food deserts thoughout Detroit.
Another takeaway I have while reflecting on these last couple days is the fact that we have seen so many aspects of community development. We have seen evidence of how Art for Social Change is instrumental to building community. At Neighbor's Building Brightmoor, Arts and Scraps and the Heidelberg project, art is used as a medium to connect the community. At Arts and Scraps, educators go out in the Scrapmobile to schools so they can have students work on projects made from materials that originally would be disgarded. At Brightmoor, tbeir Artisans are working to create a community center and make a space where youth can paint, a place where creation is a possibility, in addition to growing gardens where abandoned houses were once standing. Heidelberg is essentially the same concept as Arts and Scraps, in terms of using things that were disgarded to create art.
I am grateful that I was able to co-lead this trip, because it has provided an opportunity to see how Detroit is innovating and evolving as a city in addition to allowing me to see eleven humans bond and grow closer together through an educational and fun experience. Until next time, Austin Jensen signing off.
-Austin Jensen
Being able to come to Detroit and experience it has been amazing, and I have learned so much. There has been self-learning, I've gotten to know the members of our group better and develop relationships with them, and I've learned about the city and the different communities that have been and are still being built here.
Detroit gets a bad reputation in the media; this definitely played a huge part in the stereotypes I had coming into this trip. In all honesty I pictured a broken city. Not just related to the infrastructure, but the people as well. I was wrong, and I feel it is important to address this. On his trip we have all had the opportunity to meet some of the most genuine people there are in this world. For instance, all the people who run and work the various non-profits we have volunteered with. These people have passions that run far-and-deep. There are two passions that have really stuck out though: love for this city and love for people in general. This is true of the residents I have the opportunity to meet as well. In reality we have been here for a very short time, but I feel as though we've made genuine connections.
It is important to address this because coming in it is not what I expected. I had a conversation with a man at the Earthworks Organization that we volunteered at and he really opened my eyes. It's hard to trust the news. It's a business; they have the goal of making money. That being said, they'll say and do what they need to to get views and clicks because that equates to more dollars. This isn't a broken city, but that is often times how the media portrays it in my eyes. The media fails to address the reality that there are people working hard everyday to make changes. This is a city that is working on its foundation so as to build itself back up. But a lot of work does still need to be put into this city to construct this solid foundation. There needs to be conversations held. Not just to address the money disparities, but about other disparities that are at work including race, sex, education, and many, many more.
I can't stress enough how eye-opening this trip has been been. The things I've seen, the people I have met, and the people I have gotten to know much better, who have all taught me so much, will stick with me. I'm eager to see what the rest of the trip has to offer.

Peace and love,
Joe Davidson.