I see that I was optimistic as to my own growth, development, and contribution as of week one. In week nine—that went by so quickly!—I see that my judgement was largely right on. This was truly an enriching experience, despite the limitations imposed by a global pandemic.
I came to better grasp how prevalent incarceration is in our nation. I learned of the unique challenges faced by incarcerated individuals and their children both in the book sense and through my interactions with children and spouses of incarcerated people and formerly incarcerated people themselves—these interviews I had with community members were certainly some of the most valuable moments of my time in DCERP. It makes me envious of even how much more I would’ve been able to get to know the community were I to have been living in Detroit.
And I do feel as though my work was meaningful for me and useful for 3D. Though it wasn’t very much research oriented as I would have thought going into the program, I was always doing something new, so I never got bored with my work, and Tiffany and Jen always made sure that I knew that my efforts and my work was appreciated.
Thinking of the word community, I defined it in sort of a textbook way week one: “a group of people united by a shared experience, common interest, or common goal.” I still believe this is a solid definition, but it feels academic and sterile after stepping just a little into the community Tiffany has created. It doesn’t convey emotion. It doesn’t convey well the comfort, security, and feelings of meaning that come with belonging within a community. It doesn’t convey the love and compassion shared between members of a community. It’s hard to capture this in a definition. And perhaps not all communities share these qualities. But 3D showed me a community with all this. Warmth. Fun. Love. Interest. I said it before, I regret not being able to join this community more fully by being with them physically.
And that’s another reflection from these two months—physical presence and closeness is so important. Though I’m extremely grateful that we do have services like Zoom where we can connect face-to-face miles apart, there’s some essence of communication that it misses. It’s awkward. I feel particularly awkward using the platform. I feel it’s harder to develop trust and harder to get a sense of who someone is. So, while I am in full support of taking whatever means necessary to quell COVID and save lives, I yearn—yes, a dramatic word—I yearn to resume life as it was.
Finally, I’m so grateful for all the people I’ve had the joy to interact with through these past few weeks. Thank you to the cohort. I wish we could’ve lived together in Detroit and gotten to truly know one another, but maybe we can meet up in Ann Arbor this fall! Shoutout to Ray—you are so kind, thoughtful, intentional, and knowledgeable. You truly did a wonderful job with your first crazy year of DCERP. And finally, a big thanks to Tiffany and to Jen for giving me the opportunity to work with and learn from them, for their mentorship, and for their dedication to social justice and love for their community.