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 change....to start somewhere...to 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.
-Amin

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.

video
video



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.

Detroit Day 4


Today was less scattered, but as busy, as others. We began our day at Earthworks, an organization dedicated to educating the community on locally sourced produce and crops, and the value that they bring. This includes the money saved on grocery shopping, healthy eating, and cultivating self-esteem. Part of the group worked on sorting and moving sprouting plants, preparing them to be moved from one greenhouse to a different building. The other section of our team went to the "Hoop House," to weed bigger (yet still young) plants.

During lunch, we had the opportunity to eat at the soup kitchen, a mainstay of Earthworks's mission. Earthworks has community gardening, public showers, and a soup kitchen program. It was important to mix and mingle in the group with other volunteers, and not clump at one table with exclusively Catalyst participants. Many of our members reported that this helped start more interesting conversations, and expose both local people and Hamline students to different types of lifestyles.
After Earthworks we made our way to the Charles H. Wright African-American History Museum. This museum was already in the schedule, but had been recommended to us by the LGBT Detroit staff members with high regards. The museum had multiple captivating sections, with the main exhibit named “And Still We Rise.” This production started out with a short introductory video, and then went into a multi-room exhibition on the history of slavery from its beginnings to its current-day implication on African-American Rights. We thought an hour would be enough to view the writings and objects, but it wasn’t :( we were very disappointed when we checked the time and had to run through to make it to the van on time.

After the museum, we made our way back home. Detroit home, not St. Paul home, but I have noticed many of the participants calling our place of residence “home.” For dinner: tacos, chips, refried beans, all the fixings, with a late night delivery (sans expected-peach cobbler) from Happy’s Pizza.

Tonight’s reflection brought much insight on privilege and where we all fit on that spectrum, and how we fight it from that place. More updates to come.

Love and light,
Joe and Amin

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hello all:)!
My name is Tonya and it's safe to say I'm still alive (that's for you mama). More importantly, I'm loving my time here in Detroit. This is my first time blogging so bare with me on this journey of me attempting to transform my endless and messy thoughts into words.
This is my first Catalyst trip and I didn't know what to expect really. However, the third day was just Wah-BAM in my face. Hopefully you read the previous post, but we volunteered at Neighbors Building Brightmoor and Motor City Blight Busters which was very overwhelming. There are times where I question the impact we have on this community and the difference we are making, but when we volunteered at the Brightmoor Center... it was just different. Obviously we didn't see the center finished, however, when Brittany talked to us about the vision of the place I could see the passion and dedication in her eyes. Additionally, I was having a blast taking things apart with a hammer and hitting my dear friend, David, with dry wall. All the community gardens and artwork in that small space to which we walked through were incredible and breath-taking. I never witnessed such a thing within a community because it was filled with love and hope. BUT I can not express my emotions when we walked into the greenhouse. No joke, I was bouncing around the house shouting " Look it's ciltrano! OH! Broccoli!"(the co-op lover inside of me came out). Also the LGBT talk made me reflect on my community in St. Paul and my hometown. I wasn't exposed to it during my high school experience and ever since arriving to St. Paul, I'm sooo grateful for the resources and opportunities provided in my area. Overall, I'm learning so much about Detroit and just everything in this short amount of time. I would also like to say that today we volunteered at a soup kitchen by weeding out the gardens and that alone has conj
ured this small idea in my head. I'm planning to coordinate a community garden in my hometown where the community comes together and be all cute by growing produce together. During that we would educate the public about healthy eating and such, and then we would donate the food to the local food shelf. It would be this cycle of love, healthy livin', and togetherness.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I apologize for all the emotions, typos, and more. Have a good night and check in the next few hours for new posts.

Tonya








Some more thoughts on Detroit...

It is the fourth day of our catalyst trip and I must day that there is so much to reflect on, but so little time to do it. I'm going to do my best to sum up what has been on my mind the last two days in addition to providing an update to you, the readers. Yesterday, we had experiences with three community organizations, the first Neighbors Building Brightmoor, the second Motor City Blight Busters and the third LGBT Detroit. On this trip I have been taking every experience that we have as a way to reflect what Community Development is and how these orgs are impacting the community. In our experience at Neighbors Building Brightmoor we saw numerous

aspects in their organization where they were considerate of taking the community's needs in consideration. For example, in their new community center that we worked in, they are planning to develop cooking classes so members in the community can utilize the vegetables that are being grown in urban farms in the area. This is just one of the numerous ways that Brightmoor connects with the community, but served as a shining example of what I believe to be an organization contributing to community development.
Something else that has been on my mind is the experience I had at Motor City Blight Busters (MCBB) yesterday. I caught myself doing what I never hope to do in regards to judging a book by it's cover, or in this case a person by their appearence. MCBB has a tea house connected to their organization and our group was waiting there before service, that was when a member of their org came in, whose name whas Dom, and he was wearing all camo, and obviously a veteran of the military. Recently, I have started to organize in the peace moment and what this man triggered in my mind was army, imperialism, the U.S's military conquests. Before I have even engaged in a conversation with this man, I made a pressumption and stigmitized him holding negative connotations to him. Little did I know that he was a veteran who has been working in disaster relief since his last tour in the military. I need to remind myself every day to identify when I do this, because if I continue to do this I will push myself into a hole of judgement and rejection of random people that I don't even know. Well, this is what has been on my mind for the moment, moree thoughts to come, Austin Jensen signing off...
-Austin Jensen

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Today, we begun our day with a early morning service at Neighbors Bulding Brightmoor. Having been told that we would be working at a community garden, we expected to spend the day doing gardening. To our surprise, most of the day was actually spent cleaning remnants of a demolition project as the contractors worked on creating the new community building. Their mission is centered around providing services to single mother's in the nearby community. Specifically, the focus is educating mothers and children on preparing the produce grown from their own gardens. While we couldn't see these services being put into use, the passion of the founder/executive director of this project helped us envision what kind of impact the services of their center will provide to help revive their community.

Our second service was with Blight Busters, which is a veteran based service group based in Detroit. At first it was a little hard to know exactly what to expect. The office for Blight Busters was attached to a coffee/tea cafe, since no one was in their office we headed next door. I (David) was overwhelmed by the friendliness of our server and the atmosphere overall. It was amazing to see how this black owned business had become successful via memorabilia on the walls. After we had ordered our refreshments, we headed out to Blight Busters Community garden, where we quickly picked up some trash. Many of our group members mentioned that they felt rushed during this segment of the day. Nonetheless we finished the task at hand and continued to the next. Next we spent time helping sort through tool donations and organize their warehouse. Dom and Gordon our community partners gave us a background of their organization and what their aim is. They provide experiences in which veterans can make a positive change, while working through PTSD and other forms of stress potentially caused from service. They explained how much of an impact these opportunities have had on so many veterans. Dom and Gordon all explained their vision for their organization and how they plan to expand over the next decade. It was very inspiring to see how much they cared about veterans and their own community.

As an added bonus to our long exhausting day, we were privileged to attend a weekly discussion hosted by Detroit LGBT. This week they were focusing on Heroines in the Detroit Black Lesbian community. This was a learning experience for the whole group and we valued a natural community dialogue on the current dynamics surrounding the LGBT community. Our host were very welcoming to our presence and allowed us space to observe and participate. Overall this marked a good start to the week and has raised our expectations even higher for the rest of the trip.

-David P & Abby A

Monday, March 21, 2016

Some Thoughts on Detroit...

It is the end of the second full day in Detroit and I must say that I am moved, in terms of our Community Development group's commitment to this alternative spring break,  in addition to how our group have been learning and becoming more attuned with one another each day that passes by. Thus far, we have become more acclimated with our surroundings, as well as starting to dive deeper into the idea and concepts of community development.

First of all, what is community development, and why is that the focus of our trip when specifically talking about Detroit? Over the past couple months as a group we have been trying to figure that out, and one reason community development is an essential social justice topic is because of the state Detroit has been left in from the collapse of the auto industry. Since the nineteen fifty's, the Detroit metro has decreased in population from almost two million to just seven hundred thousand people today. What effects can this have on what was once one of the biggest cities in the country? Well, in the last couple days we have seen first hand, some of the effects that the decline and collapse of the auto industry has had in Detroit.

To those that are reading this post I want to ask, have you ever been to Detroit? If you have not been to Detroit what do you know about this place? What are some of the words that you identify Detroit with? From many conversations I have had with individuals asking this same question in the last six months, the most common words I have heard are: Crime. Collapse. Murder. Auto Industry. Cold. Stolen Cars. Arson. It is an unfortunate reality that this is the stigma that has been placed on this city and that has been dipicted among popular culture for the better part of the twenty-first century.

Yesterday, on our way to the Heidelberg Project and on our way to the grocery store that morning, we met the reality of the numerous houses that have been gutted, with many that have had a fire at one point or another. Some parts of the city have been incredibly desolate, while some neighborhoods look nearly prestine. On one corner there is a deserted apartment building, while a large garden sits on the next corner. Detroit in fact, is home of one of the fastest growing cities for urban farming in the U.S. Why don't we hear this when someone describes Detroit? One reason that I theorize this happens is because we let the stereotypes and the stigmas that are presented to us to be engrained as an outright truth. This is not a revolutionary concept or idea, but hope that it can serve as a reminder into how society, especially in this country we set definitions to things such as to what a city is percieved to be like. How do we categorize certain things on a daily basis? In this case, society has categorized Detroit on a multitude of levels holding negative connotations and stigmas to them, while ignoring that this is a city has gone through an unforseeken population decline due to the decline of industry over the last sixty years.

In the two days I have been here, I have been met with nothing, but kind hello's and good mornings. Over the next couple days I hope to experience more of the same with the rest of our Detroit Community Development Catalyst group with our several busy days ahead. I am Austin Jensen signing off, more posts to come...

-Austin Jensen

Day 2: Walk and Talk and Arts & Scraps



We began our day today with a "walk-and-talk." The point of this was to acquaint us with our surrounding neighborhood. It was refreshing to see members of the community out and about and not see the city through only a tourist lens. They were all very pleasent and greeting us with "good mornings." This walk gave us an opportunity not only to get to know the neighborhood and our partners better, but to address and talk about different questions related to social justice and community development. Some of the questions included:
What is one way that you work for social justice in your everyday life?
What do you consider the most valuable thing you have?
Is world peace possible? Why or why not?
After our walk-and-talk we had a bit of down time and reflected a bit as a group. We ate lunch and then went to participate in our first service project with a the non-profit organization Arts and Scraps. The main purpose of Arts and Scraps is to give a new life to recycled materials and reinforce lesson that have been taught to students in classroom in a fun way. The focus is on S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Enginering, Math), and taking a creative approach to this type of learning. We broke off into different groups and helped to organize art materials that would eventually find their way into a classroom. A majority of the materials used are donated from different companies. We cut foam that had been donated from the automobile industry and turned it into smaller parts called "lungs," "crowns," "sharkfins," and "lighting bolts." Then we spent times organizing boxes that we had filled with used tickets. The last portion of our service was dedicated to helping Arts and Scraps promote their non-profit. We made videos that could be shared on their social media platforms. One group made a fun mission-drive oriented video, and the other wrote a theme song directed for the kids who would be touched by this organization. At the end of our four hours with Arts and Scraps, collectively we put an estimated 5,000 smiles on the faces of children throught the city and its surrounding areas.
At the end of the day some members of the group were struggling with the idea that we would never get to see the effects of our work and the smiles we helped make. It's important to remember though that we as volunteers are there to serve the community and not our own agenda. That is what true service means.

-Joe D and Megan B

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Day 1: The Heidelberg Project and Detroit Historical Museum

After an eight minute drive away from the house we are staying in, the group arrived at Whole Foods to buy groceries for the remainder of the week. Personally, we viewed this choice of store as problematic in terms of the context of the community and who can afford to shop there. This concept was emphasized through the drive there. As we travelled, the stream of burned buildings, abandoned houses, and broken windows slowly morphed into the gilded, gentrified vision of luxury apartments and costly natural food stores that are out of reach for a large majority of the surrounding community. In this case, this seemed as though some suffered under the feign of "social responsibility." In contrast, later in the day we visited a local grocery store just 3 blocks from our house and noticed that the customers were of the community. The store appeared to have prices that were reasonably priced for the community.
Our next activity was visting Detroit's well-known Heidleberg Street- home of the Heidleberg Project. Initially, the reactions of the group seemed to exude the excitement of visting a tourist attraction. However, as we walked along the street filled with houses and installations permeated with art and symbolism, the reality of what we were viewing set in. We began to feel the weight of the art we initially distanced ourselves from. For a very brief moment we were forced to view the atmosphere of Detroit as they presented it: struggling, isolated, misunderstood, and aware of the burden of living in a city that is a ghost of its former glory.
To end the day, we visited Detroit Historical Museum. The overwhelming response was that there was a disconnect between the accurate portrayal of history and reality. Although some exhibits, such as the Motown tribute or America's Motor City, were more enjoyable, we could sense the outdated nature of some of the information presented.
Overall, the first day's introduction to the city reminded us to recognize our position and goals as visitors in Detroit.

-Kalli W. and Tiara A.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Welcome to the 2016 Community Development Catalyst blog. Whether you are a loved one, friend, or a curious individual that stumbled upon us, we appreciate that we recieved your attention and we are excited to share our journey.

Our names are Austin and Alex, we go by A&A. We are the Detroit Community Development site leaders and if we include our Catalyst Colleague Allie, we go by Triple AAA. Our trip consists of 8 Hamline students including David, Megan, Tonya, Abby, Joe, Tiara, Kalli and Amin.

We are also focusing on art for social change and how people of Detroit use art to transform the community. We are working with and visiting various amazing community partners. We are working with Arts and Scraps, Heidelberg Project, Motor City Blight Busters, Neighbors Building Brightrmoor, Earthworks, a church in Flint to pass out water, and visiting the Empowerment Plan to hear how they are benefitting the community and how tis is impacting the community.

Each night a differnt person(s) will be blogging an update on the experience our group has each day on the trip, in addition to students blogging on their own time on experiences from their perspective. We want to thank you again for visiting our group blog and hope that you continue to stay updated on our journey!

Peace and Kind Regards,
A&A