In a few short weeks, I will have served Detroit for two full years through 826michigan. For me, it has been two years of incredible growth. Detroit is my home; it’s the place where I was born and raised. But for a number of years, particularly those right after high school graduation, I was determined to do whatever it would take to build a life far away. I attended college out-of-state, with plenty of familiar faces from home, but more than a few of them declared, “Detroit is over and done. Don’t go back there.” My friends were convinced that Detroit was the place where youth, idealism, and an opportunity for greatness went to die. (NOTE: I recognize that may seem a bit melodramatic, but there’s no exaggeration in it and we were all only 20 years old). At any rate, I believed them. I believed them so fervently that when I did return home, I felt like not only had I failed, but I was the failure. I nearly convinced myself that I allowed my shot at creating a life of meaning to pass me by. Before wallowing though, I wandered–with my eyes open wide–and became reintroduced to my hometown. My neighbors had hope, the best most contagious kind of hope, and they passed it along to me. Now I know, because other Detroiters helped me to remember, that Detroit is simply in a growing phase. If we stay committed, focused, on the ground, and engaged–what can we not do?
These days, in my role as a program manager at 826michigan, I get to see elementary school students engage critically along those lines each day. These students attend the James and Grace Lee Boggs School where they are taught to view themselves as solutionaries who have the power to make a positive difference in their own communities. Detroit belongs to them as much as they belong to it, and what they learn in school matters to the world around them right now. Consider what that kind of empowerment does to a young mind and the potential it has to transform the near eastside neighborhood in which the school resides.
In the fall of 2013, a group of first- through fourth-grade students joined 826michigan’s after-school writing club at The Boggs School. We published their work in a chapbook, and to be honest, I definitely thought that was the end of it. But there is something magical happening in The Boggs School–in Detroit–that just won’t quit. During his spring visit to 826michigan last May, 826 National co-founder Dave Eggers met with the students at The Boggs School and listened to their stories. To put it mildly, he was blown away and pushed for a more substantial publication of the students’ work. So, that chapbook has been reprinted along with illustrations by best-selling author Dave Eggers into the delightful picture book, Where Is It Coming From? I am honored to be able to say that I was a part of its formation, but more than anything, I am proud to witness the celebration of such a good creation by children in the City of Detroit.
This week, wonderfully and unexpectedly, Where Is It Coming From? has received a phenomenal endorsement by the New York TimesSunday Book Review. For me—-for 826michigan—-it is a reminder that Detroit is not done; the evidence sprouts up all around us.
Thank you, Friends, for being a part of this great work with us.
To Solutionaries Here and Beyond,
To purchase Where Is It Coming From?, visit Literati Bookstore’s website or Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair in person. Proceeds from this book will be split evenly between 826michigan and The Boggs School. http://literatibookstore.com/product/whereisitcomingfrom