On June 18th, youth from Mt Zion joined with youth from Martin Luther for a week of service in the city of Detroit.
Detroit is a city with a lot of life and a lot of need. In some ways, it is a sibling to Milwaukee, a warning of what might become of us, and a sign of hope for our own future. Detroit is a city built on the auto industry; Milwaukee is a city built on the brewing industry. Mathematically, Detroit is the most racially segregated city in the nation; Milwaukee is #5. Detroit has been in population decline since the 1950s; Milwaukee has been declining since the 1960s, though not nearly as fast (Detroit is declining on average at 10% per decade; Milwaukee at 4%). Detroit is the only major metropolis to declare bankruptcy in the United Stated; Milwaukee currently stands on the edge of bankruptcy, literally having a bill go through the State this year to try to avoid bankruptcy in the city after projections estimated Milwaukee would be insolvent by 2025.
As the youth learned prior to the trip, bankruptcy and a whole history of things that led up to it decimated Detroit. The city had a population of 1.8 million in 1950; today it's barely 600,000 at a loss of about 200,000 every decade. A timelapse of housing in Detroit shows that from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s, communities and neighborhoods were destroyed and nearly vanished. As we found out from one local while in Detroit, for most of the 2010s, their neighborhood didn't have trash or recycling collection, nor did it have street cleaning; the result was garbage everywhere. Could this happen to Milwaukee?
At the same time, we saw major revitalization in Detroit. People everywhere are working to rebuild the city. Pockets of development showed up all around. Art projects that wowed us were everywhere. Though it will take time, community is returning to Detroit. It just needs help to get there, and a lot of support in the meantime. So, what did we do to make a difference?
Working with YouthWorks, the 19 youth and adult chaperones on the trip went to many locations over 4 days to serve in any way we were needed. One day we worked on an urban farm, weeding the field and planting tomatoes to feed the neighborhood. Another day we went to another urban farm - this time with animals! - to help them move from their winter setup to summer readiness, as well as some weeding. Urban farms are nonprofit projects helping bring fresh food to communities that have become food deserts.
Other things we did included:
All the youth had a wonderful time on the trip. It was amazing to see them enjoying serving! I wish every adult had a work life that gave them as much joy as the kids found on this trip. Multiple youth began asking what they can do in Milwaukee, and one youth, an Eagle Scout, has been encouraged to help us plan a local winter mission trip so that we can get to know our city the way we got to know Detroit.
Of course, we also had a lot of fun. We found a beautiful abandoned warehouse that had been turned into a community art project tagged by thousands of artists. We explored Belle Isle and enjoyed authentic Detroit-style pizza. And we spent a few hours at the Indiana Dunes. Plus, we celebrated two birthdays and had a group music jam session, including some cathartic screaming during Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble".
Thank you, MZY and Martin Luther Youth, for all your hard work and service!