This is not exactly something that I’ve learned, but it’s something that I keep noticing over and over again in my work: Detroit is a community of passionate, thoughtful adults and equally passionate and resilient youth. DFA’s summer program is partnered with a larger program called GDYT, or Grow Detroit’s Young Talent. GDYT and its partners, youth-focused nonprofits around the city, meet weekly. Through these meetings, I’ve gotten to chat with leaders of many of these orgs and they are all so passionate about the work they do and really really thoughtful about the way they approach their work.
COVID-19 has definitely made their work more difficult and more relevant than ever before. Because of racial injustices across the board, including environmental racism and in public health and the food system, Black communities are at higher risk of contracting and dying from coronavirus. Detroit is 85% Black. The pandemic revealed these inequalities and proves that it’s extremely important to be investing in Black youth and Black communities at large to support economic development and political autonomy. At DFA, COVID has posed a challenge to how we usually run the summer program. Normally, the students will sell food products at Eastern Markets, take field trips around the city, and learn together in a classroom. Now, the whole program is virtual. We have had to develop the curriculum and basically invent a whole new system and it’s been exhausting, especially for my mentor and the leadership team at the org. Everyone is working really hard to make it work.