Students spend time on Belle Isle

In addition to classes, internships, and living in the city, SiD organizes extracurricular activities around Detroit. We want students to be engaged with a wide range of people, communities and events happening outside of Detroit’s “bubble” (midtown/downtown). Importantly, we strive to instill and to reinforce the principle of respect when moving around the city - whether individually or in small/larger groups. We want students to understand that they need to be mindful of their presence in Detroit - how and where they move around - as most SiD students are not from Detroit.

Each week, SiD students are provided with a list of suggested activities happening around Detroit. To be clear, this is not a cut-and-paste “grab-bag” of random Detroit Facebook events. Rather, SiD Program Coordinator, Rion Berger, carefully spends several hours each week considering potential activities (almost always free or low-cost) from a wide array of community networks. We also organize our own program activities - again, with the goal of getting students outside of what some have referred to as the 7.2, or greater downtown Detroit, where most of the economic development has been highly concentrated in the past decade. 

Bike ride to Clark Park

Our first official outing was a group bike-ride from the College of Creative Studies where our students live this semester to Clark Park in SW Detroit. We broke into two groups of six and rode south on Cass Ave. into downtown and west through Corktown. Along the way, we stopped to point out significant historical areas in the city: the sites of Detroit’s two Chinatowns, the obnoxious tax-payer funded footprint of the Illitch’s so-called “District Detroit”, the complicated impact of Detroit’s Casinos on Detroit’s budget, gentrifying Corktown, and the bustling West Vernor corridor in Southwest Detroit. All in all, we had a good trip to Southwest Detroit that hot Saturday (as you’ll see in the photos), and continue to reflect on how/where we move around and the economics and politics that affect Detroit’s changing landscape. (Here’s a good read from Bridge Magazine on the complicated politics and economics of Detroit’s fast-growing bike infrastructure.) 

Students at A Lot of Studio

For our most recent program outing, seven students joined Rion and Craig to visit A Lot of Studio outdoor podcasting festival in the Hope Village Neighborhood. We were invited to participate due to our partnership with Detroit is Different - a community-based organization created by Khary Frazier that produces podcasts and other independent media created by and for Black Detroiters on the street where he was raised. One of our current SiD students, Gigi Guida, interns with Detroit is Different: her primary project work is assisting with the coordination for A Lot of Studio. She recently produced her own 5-minute podcast for her final project in the SiD Internship Reflection Seminar that creatively captures the powerful mission and work of Detroit is Different.

In addition to the delicious vegan and halal coney dogs made by Vicki Hooks-Green from Big Ma’s Coney Cart, we watched a live outdoor interview between Khary Frazier and long-time Detroit activist and poet, Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty. They had a fascinating discussion that broke-down the many, critically-needed planks in the Detroiters Bill of Rights that - hopefully! - will be on the ballot for Detroiters to consider on the August 3rd primary. After the discussion, we listened to some amazing Detroit blues led by Luther “Bad Man” Keith - noted Detroit community leader of ARISE Detroit and guitarist/vocalist. (Luther Keith’s uncle was the heroic federal Judge Damon Keith. His latest album honors Judge Keith who passed away in April 2019 at the age of 96.)

Watching Luther "Bad Man" Keith perform at A Lot of Studio

With spring classes now over, and as our students move into the second phase of the SiD Program that involves deeper and more intensive internship work, we look forward to organizing more opportunities for our students to move around Detroit with respect. Each Friday in July, our students engage in neighborhood-based projects for community partners including D-Town Farm and United Community Housing Coalition, and we continue to reflect individually and collectively on our presence, work, and experiences in the dynamic city of Detroit.