Beloved Detroit:

There are moments in history that cause things to change. The murder of Emmett Till, whose death served as the emotional cornerstone to the civil rights movement; the murder of four girls in a Birmingham Church that helped fuel the passage of the 1964 and 1965 civil rights bills, the assassination of Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, Black Panthers in Chicago that exposed the notorious COINTELPRO program of the FBI and other police organizations; the murder of Trayvon Martin still left without justice but whose memory helped to create this moment.  The Memorial Day murder of George Floyd.  Each of these tragedies snatched a sheet, uncovering a section of the racist injustice hiding beneath. Today we live in another such moment. The murder of George Floyd has snatched the last sheet of excuse covering the racist reality of oppression of African Americans at the hands of police in a way that no amount of preaching, teaching or workshopping could achieve. All of America is now forced to look and then to take a stand.

The first to stand have been our young. They have come forward from every racial and ethnic community, city and suburb, from every economic level they have taken to the streets demonstrating with courage, a capacity to motivate, inspiring and exciting all of us to  believe  that  a  righteous  struggle  is  about  to  bend  the  arc of  history  closer  to  an  intersection  with  justice.  The Detroit 21, a collaborative of the executive directors of community development organizations, join in support of our youth and this struggle.  Their passion, courage, perseverance, skill, and stamina are awe inspiring.

Our communities want to live in peace, and to be safe, to live without fear of violence from police or non-police. Building a resilient community where peace and safety prevail takes work. Right now, that work is centered on police violence. This form of violence is especially odious because it represents the ultimate power of society. It is presumed to be justified where all other forms of violence must be proven to be justified. It is protected by special rules, while other forms of violence are constrained by rules. It is executed with the supposition that it is for our safety. History has shown it is too often to the death or dismemberment of people of color; whether it is the police or Immigration and Customs  Enforcement (ICE) seizing people coming for  food  at  pantries  during a pandemic, tossing them into holding pens  without any due process, to the murder of a black man without provocation in the most public nonchalant act of murder since the days of lynching. Our values of integrity, justice, and love demand we speak up, stand up and stand against this with our youth.

We have had enough.

In our vision of a resilient community, police violence is not tolerated because a transformed covenant of safety rooted in shared community power prevails. We are not naïve. Use of force may be necessary for the safety of our communities but that force is restrained, unbiased, last resort and community monitored. The Detroit 21 seeks to build the resilient community in Detroit. As we go about this work we join with and accept the leadership of our youth in spearheading the transformation of our institutions to ensure integrity, justice, and love. In this community it is not enough to be “not a racist” we must be anti-racist.

The six foundations of a resilient community are:

People. The power to envision the future of the community and build its resilience resides with community members.

Systems thinking. Systems thinking is essential for understanding the complex, interrelated crises now unfolding and what they mean for our similarly complex communities.

Adaptability. A community that adapts to change is resilient. But because communities and the challenges we face are dynamic, adaptation is an ongoing process.

Transformability. Some challenges are so big that it is not possible for the community to simply adapt; fundamental, transformative changes may be necessary.

Sustainability. Community resilience is not sustainable if it serves only us, and only now; it needs to work for other communities, future generations, and the ecosystems on which we all depend.

Courage.  As individuals and as a community, we need courage to confront challenging issues and take responsibility for our collective future.

We, the Detroit 21, a collaborative of executive directors of community development organizations (CDCs), call on all parties to support the right of our citizens to protest, we demand justice for the most recent victims of this nationwide wave of brutality. Moreover, we call out ourselves, our families, our organizations, and our elected officials to personally and organizationally examine our own policies and practices that perpetuate explicit and implicit racism which serves as the frame and foundation for race-based police misconduct. We ask that we all pledge to be and behave anti-racist. Building this community that reflects our values of integrity, justice and love will not be easy or quick. But with the joint leadership of our young and not so young, the wisdom of elders, the support of those of good will, we will do what our foremothers and fathers bled and died to achieve:  an America where all people Black, brown, white, red, yellow, straight and LGBTQ+, old and young, male, female, and non-binary can live their lives in peace, acceptance, prosperity, and power, a resilient community of justice, integrity and love.


The Detroit 21

To learn more about Detroit 21 or to respond to this letter, please contact Chandra McMillion, Strategy and Implementation Manager for the Detroit 21, at chandra@mcmilliongroup.com.

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