The BLI Retreat in Detroit is an annual weekend long excursion to see leadership in action and learn more about the City of Detroit! This year's theme was "Start Small. Dream Big!" where we explored what it means to fulfill goals that address larger issues by tackling them one small step at a time.
The first place we went to was the Eastern Market, where we met entrepreneurs and local businesses trying to shape their community through their products and services, while also enjoying some really good food! We then went to the University of Michigan Detroit Center where we met an panel of five difference makers, leaders, and entrepreneurs in Detroit. The panel ranged from the public sector with State Rep. Jewell Jones, to the private sector with J.P. Morgan Banker Shannon Smith, and was hosted by our very own BLI Alumni Donavan McKinney, a prominent social figure in Detroit. After the panel we went to Hitsville USA to understand the importance and role of Motown music in Detroit, as well as learn how a a private company, like a record label, can have prominent social impact on a community.To end the day we went to a local gastropub with some of the panelists from before to continue our discussions.
Sunday morning we went to D-Town Farms, an urban farm to help them plant, weed, and prepare their farm for the summer! We met with Malik Yakini, a lead urban farming activist, who explained the history of urban farming in Detroit and how he strives to create access to good, clean, sustainable grown food for all people. Even the hostel we stayed at, Hostel Detroit, is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing people to Detroit so they can experience the unique culture that Detroit offers.
Overall, the retreat was an opportunity for students to reflect on what their larger aspirations were, connect with leaders in Detroit to see them tackling large problems, and then reflect on what steps they could take in the future to achieve their own goals. Beyond that, many retreat participants made new friends, tried new foods, and saw a part of Detroit they had never seen before! It was a rewarding and engaging experience, and I can't wait to see what next year's retreat will bring!
by Sanjee Choudhuri