Neighborhoods Day unites Detroit communities through acts of service

One of Barry Randolph’s favorite Bible verses is Matthew 5:9, which says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” 

Being a peacemaker for the community and social justice is the cornerstone of the pastor’s house of worship in Detroit’s Islandview neighborhood. And that’s something he’s preaching to his young congregation at Church of the Messiah, with the majority being Black men under the age of 30, Randolph said. 

“It (the Bible verse) says peacemakers, which means peace is not going to be given to you. You have to fight for peace. And you got to understand that it goes beyond just religion,” he said. “It goes to righteousness and through just doing the right thing.”

Peace will be on full display at the east side church Saturday as members participate in the 17th annual Neighborhoods Day, a city-wide effort that celebrates Detroit’s communities with activities like concerts, art festivals, health fairs and beautification projects. 

More than 150 churches, block clubs and community organizations across the city will take part in the day of service organized by ARISE Detroit!, a nonprofit coalition of more than 400 community organizations that promotes volunteerism and activism. 

The King Street Block Club at the 2022 Neighborhoods Day. This year’s event will feature more than 150 churches and community organizations.  (Photo by Luther Keith)

The day’s events include the Belle Isle Art Fair and the Sidewalk Festival, an arts and culture event on the city’s west side; the groundbreaking of an affordable home in the North End by the nonprofit Stafford House; children’s activities at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library; and Jazz on the Ave, a community festival along the Avenue of Fashion. 

When ARISE Detroit! Executive Director Luther Keith started Neighborhoods Day in 2007, he never thought it would become the large event it is today. But he said it’s a testament to the people in the neighborhood and how much they want to improve their city.

“Creating Neighborhoods Day was a way to visibly show people what the people in the neighborhoods are doing,” he said. “And then to remind people, ‘Don’t just think about the neighborhoods on one day. Come back the next day and the next day because these people are working all year long,’” Keith said. 

A day of peace and community service 

At Church of the Messiah, Randolph will host “Peace City,” where young people will make pledges to create peace in their neighborhoods. 

“It’s going to be a declaration given by the young people in Detroit to be able to say that they’re looking at their future in the city as being something that’s bright. So these are our community activists out of Detroit, who are part of organizations that bring positive things to the community through young people,” he said. 

Attending the event will be Ragine Head, the director of Detroit operations for One Love Global, a Lansing-based nonprofit that promotes racial equity and youth organizing for social change; Elijah Richardson, the president of Whose House Our House (WHOH) Detroit, an organization that brings together the community and law enforcement through sports; and Ridgeley Hudson, a community activist who recently ran for the Detroit school board. 

“Peace City” will also feature a tour of affordable housing projects the church has worked on through its nonprofit Church of the Messiah Housing Corporation and urban farms in the Islandview community. 

“It gives communities and neighborhoods an opportunity to be able to showcase to everybody what they’re proud of,” Randolph said about Neighborhoods Day. “So many times we always hear the bad news about the neighborhoods but this is an unique opportunity to be able to talk about what you’re proud of in your neighborhood.” 

In the Airport Sub, Alkebu-lan Village has been a fixture in the neighborhood for 45 years, providing educational, cultural and recreational programs to more than 1,000 Detroit families. The African-centered nonprofit initially started out as a martial arts organization and later evolved to include youth programming and community development. 

But martial arts is still a part of Alkebu-lan Village’s core, as it will host a demonstration for the community on Saturday. Founder Marvis Cofield said martial arts is a tool that teaches one about self-respect, self-discipline and self-defense. 

“The African way of teaching martial arts is by using the three Ms–mental more than martial,” he said. “We’re not just interested in the physical. The mental represents educating them about themselves, knowing who they are, and how to learn about the world that we live in.” 

Cofield said Alkebu-lan Village has remained in Airport Sub all these years because he believes in giving back and strengthening his community. 

“I just believe in rebuilding our neighborhoods one brick, one building, one block at a time,” he said. 

Minnie Davis, center, with members of her nonprofit Young Men-N-Motion at the 2022 Neighborhoods Day. The organization mentors boys and young men in Detroit. (Courtesy photo)

Meanwhile in the San Bernardo neighborhood on the west side, organization Young Men-N-Motion will hold a youth cleanup at the Mathis Center. The nonprofit launched in 2006 and mentors boys and young men from the ages of 11 to 26. Young Men-N-Motion offers educational programs, community service and exposure to places outside of Detroit, like traveling to Belize in Central America to build a house for a family of seven, said founder Minnie Davis. 

Along with the cleanup, the event will feature vendors such as the Wayne County Oral Health Coalition, Michigan State University Extension and the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network. And they will be giveaways for books, diapers and other baby items, clothes and shoes.

Davis said San Bernardo is a tight knit community with people who support one another. 

“It’s a great place to live and work and get to know your neighbors,” she said. There’s a lot of great things going on around here. Everybody works together to keep it together.”

Click here for the full list of community events.

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