Detroit is a beautiful city. How often have you heard someone utter those words? Detroit is a beautiful city. If I repeated the phrase would you believe me? The architecture The smiles The history The food The art The bikes The songs The cars The stories The struggles The fight The music Detroit is a beautiful city. Detroit is creative. Detroit is love. Detroit is tenacious. Detroit is radical. Detroit is strong.
One of the ancillary benefits of participating in the Culture of Health Leaders program is getting to travel to new cities across the United States for our quarterly convenings. These meetings are more than just the typical “conference” where “subject matter experts” present monotonous doldrums of facts and figures. Rather — our convenings are transformed into an immersive learning experience where our senses unite with the people who are on the ground building a culture of health.
During our most recent convening hit the road to visit the Motor City. The D. Motown. America’s Comeback City. The lands of the Anishinaabe. Detroit, Michigan.
Walked The Belt with Jay Adams, the Creative Director for Survive Detroit and devoured an amazing Grilled Cheese and Collard Green sandwich
Ate amazing donuts at Dilla’s Delights (and chatted with J-Dilla’s daughter and uncle)
Jammed with Mollywop! & Deportee at the D.Cipher Music Series on the Dequindre Cut
Danced for my life at Colors — thanks to DJs Haley, Dewayne, and Xavier
And of course — visited the place where the hits were made, the Motown Museum
The city of Detroit was nothing like I imagined it to be. Like many people, I believed the stories that others told about the city. I should have reminded myself to believe none of what you hear; half of what you see; Detroit is a fascinating city full of vigor and vitality. Yes, the city has challenges, but I also won’t ignore the fact that I met people who live in and love their hometown and are working to rebuild the Detroit they want for themselves and future generations.
As you know this summer, I developed the Remix The Block experience for the high school, undergraduate, and graduate students interning for the Prince George’s County Planning Department. I repeatedly say the program was so much fun for me because I LOVE working with students who are passionate and interested in getting to learn more about the neighborhoods that they exist.
As part of the December 2019 issue of Planning Magazine, there was a special feature on developing engagement strategies for helping young people get involved in planning and designing their communities for the future.
I am ecstatic to have been interviewed by Juell Stewart for the December issue of the American Planning Association magazine on Planning for Future Leaders. I had the opportunity to discuss the impetus for designing the Remix The Block summer experience and my perspective on engaging youth in the land planning and community development process. Since planning is a futuristic act, then we should allow the people whose future it is, take a claim to it! Thankful for the trust and support that my Planning Director and the administrative team at the Planning Department provided me. I’m constantly working to integrate new and traditional ways to help people of different backgrounds have more involvement and influence in the future of the places they experience. Grateful that this program and hard work was recognized as a useful practice for other practitioners.
In September, I had the extreme opportunity to present at the 2019 Black Communities Conference with my sister Ashley Drakeford and my cousin Kyle Reeder on The Dinner Table at Canterbury Court: Kinship as a Catalyst for Social Activism & Community. The session focuses on our dinner conversations and our work in organizing around food justice, environmental stewardship. This was my first time attending the conference and it was an incredible experience. There were sessions on EVERYTHING dealing with black spaces and social connections. Dr. William Darity Jr. provided an outstanding keynote making the case for reparations.
The Dinner Table at Canterbury Court focuses on how extended family connections can be used to foster social activism and personal development (read about Familial Capital in Tara Yosso’s Whose Culture has Capital). In the Drakeford/Reeder family, the dinner table served as the place where our parents and elders shared information about our family’s history, connected it with present realities, and gave us a platform for us to speak our own truths.
The Drakeford/Reeder family has been rooted in Prince George’s County, Maryland prior the Civil War and has leveraged kinship as a means for supporting the broader community goals. This includes serving as trustees at the Ridgley Methodist Episcopal Church (National Historic Site), the Highland Park Rosenwald School (one of few Rosenwald Schools operating as a school site), and training faith-based environmentalists. The dinner table was the hub of our black community. It served as an opportunity to build critical thinking skills, practice articulating sound logical arguments, and learn more about the world from others.
The Dinner Table at Canterbury Court is presented in three courses:
Course One: Our Family History. The historical context of the foundation of the Drakeford/Reeder family and how proximity can help sustained ongoing community engagement.
Course Two: From Dining to Service. Case studies and examples as to how kinship and experiences at the dinner table are used to leverage ongoing service projects, community organizing and advocacy.
Course Three: Setting More Tables. Provides participants with strategies and information on how to build community change through family dinners.