by Taylor Peters
My great-grandparents settled on the Westside of Detroit — in the house I call home today – in 1962. They’ve seen many ups and downs in this neighborhood, but unlike so many others, hard times never made them move. Raising four generations and counting, our family holds this neighborhood near and dear to our hearts. All of my neighbors have been here for quite some time and we consider each other family.
Lucille and George Peters from Camden, Arkansas moved up here so they could create a better life for their five children— one girl and four boys. While working for Ford Motor Company and Flaming Embers restaurant, they never thought they would experience anything as chaotic as the 1967 rebellion. We stay on Clairmount a few blocks away from where the Rebellion started. Military tanks were rolling down our street, a curfew was enforced and, as the death toll rose, the Peters’ second oldest son was locked away for looting. But they still didn’t budge.
With Kwame Kilpatrick being from this area, when he was Mayor, there were so many events going on at the parks, recreation centers, schools, and churches and he made sure to be at most of them. This neighborhood was busy and so alive! When he was indicted, the neighborhood went right back to square one. Schools were being closed left and right, there were no streetlights, and more houses became vacant. But most of us still stuck around.
We’ve seen so much in this neighborhood, with gentrification creeping our way. Now is the time for us to unite stronger than ever. It amazes me how people could abandon a city fifty years ago in a time of crisis, and then come back and feel entitled to the land as if they’d been here in the struggle like the rest of us.
But now is the time for us to say, no, we will not be pushed out of our homes for new development or gentrifiers. All over Detroit you see messages of city pride and black unity. Hanniyah (my best friend since I was seven years old) and I wanted to do more for our community, so we started a garden. The lot where the garden is now was home to two houses, abandoned for 10-plus years before they finally got torn down. When we came up with the idea for a garden, that spot was perfect for what we had in mind. Even though the lot is at the corner of my block, the city refused to let me buy it for the “side lot price.” Luckily, my old neighborhood friend lives two lots away from the garden and his dad didn’t hesitate to purchase the lots for us so we could turn it into “Motown Community Gardens.” With help from some of our millennial friends and money from our own pockets, we’ve managed to maintain the lot. I’ve also been putting in work at Brother Nature Farms in Corktown in exchange for materials such as hay, compost, and plowing needs.
We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Now we’re in the process of getting our 501(c)(3) status, so we can get more funding. Our long-term goal is to create fresh produce gardens all over the city to eventually open up grocery stores, locally sourced restaurants, coffee shops and more. We want to create more jobs for our people so they won’t have to depend on the system for work or food.
This garden is important because it brings a sense of community pride and unity back to us. People are more than likely going to step up and want to become involved when they see progress being made. It lets gentrifiers and outsiders know we will not be moved. We are strong, we are here to take back our streets, own our own homes, and employ our own people. Detroit is now the blackest city in ‘AmeriKKKa,’ so what we achieve here matters. We are setting the tone for people around the nation.
My name is Taylor Peters. I’m 23 years old with a passion for progression and self sufficiency for the black residents in Detroit. I’m an only child from the westside of the city. For 3 years now I’ve been a licensed massage therapist and wellness coach. My goal is to teach the people of my city holistic health options and how to grow and maintain their own food supply while working for themselves and the community.