I am currently writing this post from the Detroit Metro Airport listening to the Game of Thrones soundtrack as I wait to board a plane for the first time by myself (I always travel with my twin sister) to attend my first ever research conference ran by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, titled Fighting Injustice: The Power of Research, Policy, and Activism in Challenging Times. I am excited because I have not been back to California since moving away from the west, have not seen my mentor, Gordon, in months, and I believe my research from the prior year compliments my work in Detroit. All this being said, it was a short week at LearnEarly and Arts Resurget, but it still proved to be an eventful and productive one. I continue to learn a great deal every day working alongside Carson and my supervisors, Jillian and Jassmine.
For someone who talks and writes a lot (word vomit), I am finding it hard to describe all my observations of my organization and Detroit in words—there’s just so much that when it comes time to write it all down, everything floods out of my brain. Similar to the lab I work with on campus, our team at LearnEarly is small, but mighty. I work under the direction of two dedicated, intelligent, passionate, and immensely kind women. After being out for a few weeks, Jassmine smoothly began fulfilling her role as our main supervisor under Jillian. In just the brief time I have started to get to know her, she has taught me so much and provided me with wisdom on our work and life, in general. Jassmine creates a workspace that is inclusive, understanding, encouraging—a space where we can be vulnerable and honest. She lifts me up while also providing me with constructive criticism. After working in these warm spaces: my lab and LearnEarly, I know I will only accept employment in similar environments. Especially given the heavy work we are completing during this summer, I believe our work spaces must be collaborative, communicative, and loving. I thrive best in spaces where I am respected and where my voice is heard. Observing how Jillian and Jassmine treat us and others reaffirms this.
During my time this week with Jassmine crafting flyers and envelopes to reach out to care centers across Detroit, we have had in-depth conversations about the history of Detroit and social and political issues, especially those that pertain to the city. These conversations coupled with my observations of the city remind me that all social justice work is connected, complex, and multi-layered. Early childhood development is not only rooted in education, but also healthcare, the environment, economics, etc. All these issues overlap; we are just addressing one slice of the early childhood world in Detroit. After attending Detroit Startup Week on Monday, I am beginning to understand how important the business side of things is when it comes to nonprofit work and also recognizing I need to expand my economic and business-based knowledge, which to be quite frank is pretty intimidating. Adding to this, reflecting after attending Detroit Startup, I felt some discomfort thinking about the monetization of certain services: healthcare, the private prison system, etc. and the monetization of people as “influencers.” We are in a dramatically changing world; I was reminded of this when I attended this event in Midtown, which I did not even know was originally Cass Corridor, and when we watched the documentary on Cass Corridor. My thoughts are a bit disjointed today, but I guess what I am trying to get at is that I am really starting to recognize the negative side of capitalism and further deepening my understanding of oppressive systems that have propagated poverty and inequality in the city and across America. As I keep repeating throughout my other blog posts—it’s a lot. Lots of learning and growing and reflecting.
Lastly, this is unrelated to the prompt, but I had to mention it. Spending time with and getting to know the DCBRP cohort has been one of the best parts of this experience. I loved going to the Heidelberg Project with everyone, our impromptu trip to Belle Isle last Friday night (thanks for the idea Brandon!), going to Eastern Market, talking while making dinner, all the little things. You guys are incredible, and I am looking forward to seeing all that you accomplish in and outside this program! I attached some pictures of our trip to Belle Isle. Watching the sunset and the city lights turn on as the sky darkened was a beautiful sight. I also attached our group photo from the Heidelberg Project, the cropped pic of me my sister so kindly sent (she said I looked like a dementor—thanks Madie, I love you haha!), and my poster from UROP to give you some background on my research. Hope you all have a great weekend!
Note: Here is the link to the conference I am attending: https://www.spssi.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&pageId=480
And here is a link to my lab, ELATED Lab: https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/jmattis-lab/
The first picture is of Brandon, Brenda, Janani, and Sarah sitting along the Detroit River.