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- Meet Ujijji Davis, SiD Spring ‘19 Guest Lecturer
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- "The Number One Thing Every Detroiter Must Do (Or, a History of Detroit)"
- Leaders and Best? Questioning the UM “Detroit Center for Innovation”
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- Student Perspective: Choosing a Fall Semester in Detroit
- Beyond Land Acknowledgements
- Detroiters Speak Debut at the New General Baker Institute
- Welcome, Kim Sherobbi - New SiD Community Advisor
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Where are you from?
My family lives in Evanston, outside of Chicago. I grew up there and came to Michigan in 2009 to attend UofM.
What interests led you to participate in SID?
For the first half of college, I had no idea what I wanted to study (at some point or another I was an Art & Design student, an LSA Honors student, declared an Anthropology major, attempted to create my own concentration through Independent Study, tried to enroll in the Residential College so I could be in their Arts and Ideas program, took music theory, philosophy, psychology, communications, sociology, history, political science, and American Culture courses...) which felt great until junior year and then started feeling scary.
Luckily around that time my frenzied and almost random grab at courses led me to an Urban Politics class with Greg Markus and a prison creative arts class with Buzz Alexander, both of which required community outreach work in Detroit. Between these courses and an incredible tour of the city from a friend who had grown up in Rosedale Park, my mind got stuck on Detroit and applying for Semester in Detroit was a way to explore that in a deeper way.
What was your SID internship like?
I interned at Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, a community development organization in Springwells Village, which is a diverse and vibrant and bumping area of Southwest Detroit. Super passionate and vocal residents. Great taco trucks. And the UNI people are smart and good at what they do and so welcoming. I helped with their graphic design needs, mostly making a set of infographics to illustrate a lot of the hard work they had put in to gather demographics about the neighborhood and the quality of life in the community.
The process of creating the infographics and displaying them in a local gallery for neighbors to see and really understand and engage with some relatively dry data made a lightbulb go off in my head. It allowed me to connect my creative, artistic side with the part of me that geeked out on policy and wanted to make some small impact on communities adversely affected by bad policy. In that way SID and Urban Neighborhood Initiatives showed me that through my interdisciplinary background I had something unique to contribute and a lot of passion that could go somewhere instead of fizzle out.
What drew you back to live and work in the city?
I kept facilitating workshops through the prison creative arts class that I mentioned before, and kept in touch with the great folks at UNI. Because of the way SID is structured, where each member of the cohort has access to a community organization across the city that is doing stellar work, I knew more about the non-profit sector in Detroit than in any other city and really loved what I was seeing. It seemed like a natural transition to finish my senior year and move to Detroit right after.
What is your relationship to your fellow SID alumni?
Well, I live next door to two of them! And share the city with a handful more. It's always great to reunite. SID people are really a supportive, thoughtful and hard-working bunch and everyone has gone on to do things that always open my eyes wider to the possibilities that the city has to offer.
What have you been up to since graduation?
I moved to Detroit the day after graduating and have dabbled in all kinds of work and play since then. I live in Southwest Detroit (in Craig's old neighborhood - one time I ran into him getting tacos and it was nice). I just came off a position as Field Director for a (winning!) campaign for a woman running for State Representative in my district, Stephanie Chang. Now I'm working at a learning lab in my neighborhood for adults who are hoping to get their GEDs. I've been devoting a lot of my spare time to cultivating a new Detroit-based magazine that my friends and I started about 8 months ago called The Periphery, and through that I get to stay creative and help showcase writers and artists across the city who inspire me.
How would you describe your relationship to Detroit?
Detroit is the city I live in. I see a lot of people overanalyzing what it means to live here and assessing their connection to the city in order to validate their choice to be here. Like any other city, I can project whatever I am feeling onto my surroundings - sometimes it is inspiring, sometimes it angers me, sometimes it is boring and I don't even think about it.
What advice would you give to someone trying to get involved in Detroit?
Detroit is the only city I've ever heard of in which people try to "get involved." Just come to the city and roam around or talk to people or volunteer somewhere or attend an event or eat stuff.