Stories of human resolve and resilience, captured in the midst of sweeping political change in Detroit, bring us a deeper understanding of the kind of community we are and the kind of community we want to become. As people fashion new ways of living and being, we see the possibilities of a future that is rooted in justice and compassion for one another.
Our sense of urgency has been heightened since our first publication. With the release of this, our second issue, we hope readers will think of Riverwise as a source of information and connectivity that they can expect on a regular basis. We’re a little bit closer to having a permanent place in the current media landscape. For the Riverwise collective, participating in and watching this creative endeavor come to life, from conception to reality, was nerve-wracking, but thoroughly gratifying. We are especially grateful for the responses, ideas and conversations that followed our first issue. Dialogue regarding our mission and identity is our highest priority.
In our first offering, we scratched the surface of several themes we intend to explore further. There are many stories of dedicated citizens taking it upon themselves to solve social and economic injustices, and such stories emerge daily as the resolve to do for ourselves spreads throughout Detroit communities.
The feedback we received from our first issue has been overwhelmingly positive. We thank you for your responses and ideas. We’ve heard powerful testimony from elders who were community activists in their youth, and elders who have just recently become politicized. We’ve reached young folks and students through teachers who have introduced Riverwise magazine into classroom settings. One of the most powerful comments we’ve received, due perhaps to the magazine’s attention to the past, present and future, is that it’s a “multi-generational” publication.
There is a new political intensity in our country and city. More than ever in recent history, people are seeking something to hold onto that will help them regain their political footing. We, the people of this city and country, are again facing basic questions of what values should guide our actions, who benefits and who suffers from the choices we make, and are there other ways to imagine our future? Riverwise is hoping that shining a light on people taking control of their own neighborhoods will provide a focus that we all need to create caring communities.
One such neighborhood is located near Wyoming and Grand River, where we held a Riverwise Community Conversation at the end of April. Community members joined Birwood block club officials and local activists working to strengthen their neighborhood and the people who live there.
Linda Gadston, from Family Hood, Inc., spoke about her efforts to create an organic, outdoor classroom for students in the neighborhood of Noble Elementary. Her plans include starting a wood-shop and a seasonal growing program that ensures something will be in bloom year round.
Also in attendance were recent transplants to the neighborhood, Carl and Robin Zerwick. They operate an organization called Rippling Hope, which combines a faith-based approach with grassroots organizing. They have partnered with block club volunteers and the city of Detroit in their efforts to restore vacant homes.
Norma Chriswell, from Woman to Woman Table Talk (W2W), encouraged all to attend the W2W annual summer outdoor family event which provides needed supplies for families in addition to entertainment and food. This program is one of many throughout the city that are emphasizing a sharing economy.
The Riverwise conversations have revolved around topics like visionary organizing, the role of non-profits and community organizations, how re-establishing communities is a return to historic social norms, and the importance of telling our own stories. Daily choices, actions and efforts to make life better for ourselves and our neighbors make a difference. They remind us that we are part of a broader community with invisible ties that reach beyond our particular blocks.
The increase in political activity emanating from historic Detroit neighborhoods is a subject that we cover in Riverwise issue two and will continue covering throughout the year. We understand the paralyzing social and economic crises we face, and an increasingly corrupt and callous government apparatus is not new. What is new is the willingness of neighborhood communities to respond in imaginative and thoughtful ways. No one will make the future we need but us. Increasingly, it is people throughout our neighborhoods who are addressing injustices like water shutoffs, inadequate street lighting, school closures and home evictions. Consciously and unconsciously we are shaped by the efforts for liberation that flow through our city. The Montgomery Bus Boycott is more than a memory. It evokes the possibilities of what people do as they act to change oppressive systems and empower themselves in the process.
Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty’s, “We Are the Opportunity In Our Crises,” uses a personal and historical narrative to take an even closer look at the evolution of the liberation movement of the 1980’s. Increasingly, communities are organizing around social injustices with the support of one another instead of waiting for institutional or political bodies to respond.
Through her budding organization, Between The Lines, Yvette Venson is using her intensely poetic personal story to provide support for residents in her housing complex. Beyond material support, she hopes to put herself and others back on the track to seeking out their life goals and creative ambitions.
Two feature articles put a diverse cultural stamp on our second Riverwise offering. Gwi-Seok Hong, Shane Bernardo and members of the Detroit Asian Youth Project remind us that cultural appropriation and population displacement are not all Black and White. They take a nuanced look at race relations in a rapidly changing city, through the eyes of the Chinese-American community.
Mayté Penman describes her personal account of the attack on undocumented workers and immigrants in Southwest Detroit, and points out the powerful healing value of Indigenous drum and song ceremonies that Latinx communities are turning to again.
In keeping with Riverwise’s coverage of contested land, place and remembrance, our Sacred Sites centerfold features the work of spoken-word artist, Khary Frazier. His insightful take on the structural demise of his childhood neighborhood brings a unique perspective on how, in the process of removing so-called ‘blighted’ structures, we’re also removing precious memories.
Diane Proctor Reeder’s article reports on the new plans underway for the site where the ’67 Rebellion began.
The Karasi Development, a project designed by two Detroiters who grew up near the site, will go beyond the usual housing and commercial district, by soliciting input and direction from neighborhood residents, ensuring that their historic memories of the community are represented in the proposed cultural center.
With this second issue, and the many to follow, comes responsibility. Massive cranes are everywhere you look in the downtown area, manifesting building projects that are being greenlighted with no public knowledge. Decisions are being made by powerful forces to reshape our city as smaller, whiter and wealthier. But there is an equally powerful swell of activity in Detroit neighborhoods by folks who have taken upon themselves the job of creating new communities. We won’t allow this activity to go unnoticed. It signals a transformation to a society built on values that are beholden to people, not power and privilege.