In August I attended a street fair hosted by Dream of Detroit. I left inspired by this burgeoning community being lifted up by people with an audacious vision. Dream of Detroit is a Muslim-led initiative “combining community organizing with strategic housing and land development to build a healthy community and empower marginalized neighborhoods.” as stated on its website. For a city that has been on the receiving end of demolition after demolition of its ‘blighted’ housing, Dream of Detroit offers a different vision. Dream’s strategic housing and land development initiative on Waverly Street (the street the fair took place on) aims to attract homeowners to inhabit all of its vacant properties.
It wasn’t a coincidence that Dream of Detroit’s target area includes the The Muslim Center. The Muslim Center, a mosque that also houses a gym, cafe, community services and more, has been an active staple of the black Muslim community since the 80s when it opened its doors under the leadership of the late Imam W. Deen Muhammad. Other life sources of the area include HUDA Clinic and its urban garden. HUDA clinic serves the uninsured of Detroit with its medical, dental, podiatry, ophthalmology and mental health services. The clinic opened its doors in 2004 on funds gathered by the Muslim community. HUDA’s urban garden offers the community fresh produce and herbal remedies for various illnesses. What I saw at Dream of Detroit’s fair was a strong desire and effort to build a holistic community based on principles of sustainability, faith and compassion. I saw avenues being opened for people to develop and maintain supportive relationships—whether they be cultural, financial, familial and otherwise.
Grassroots efforts to repair and empower communities are often overlooked to uphold a simplistic picture of ‘blighted’ and grim urban areas. This simplistic picture often draws in efforts from outside of the community for economic development that ultimately prices native residents out of their hometowns. Dream of Detroit’s initiative emerges from the very community it seeks to revitalize. It is a reclaiming of culture, land and community which is an antithesis to the kind of ‘development’ that sees black and brown people as dispensable.
I look forward to seeing this initiative come to full fruition.