Alycia Hutchisson of Royal Oak, Michigan, attended PPI 2010 and 2011. In this November 2011 report, Alycia tells the story of the genesis of her Rebuild Detroit project and of her journey into peacebuilding that began with those experiences.
Rebuild Detroit: One Household at a Tim (A project of A Mission of Hope, Inc.)e
I had been observing the decay of the city of Detroit since the 1960s, not knowing what, if anything could be done to reverse the destruction. In the spring of 2010, I came to the realization that there was nothing stopping me from doing something about it. I had heard about the Refresh Everything promotion sponsored by PepsiCo, and began the process to receive a grant in order to provide assistance in the community where I grew up.
Around the same time, I learned of the National Peace Academy’s 2010 Peacebuilding Peacelearning Intensive (PPI), to develop individual peacebuilding efforts initiated from individuals as well as institutions. Long story short, I was unable to secure the public support necessary to obtain funding from PepsiCo., and if I hadn’t received a scholarship to attend the PPI, the ember of my good intentions may well have been smothered. However, the impetus to move forward has continued to grow, thanks to the support received from the National Peace Academy in continuing to refine the idea.
A year and a half later, I’ve yet to raise sufficient funding to purchase and refurbish any of the vacant/abandoned homes on the street where I grew up; I’m still working to convince my brother to donate my grandparent’s home to a family willing to live there; and I haven’t begun community gardens on vacant lots, as initially envisioned. I have however, been raising awareness, building hope, and creating a space for progress in a city that I now understand needs all of its citizens to share in the task of restructuring at every level. I’ve become a bit of an unconventional voice within my personal circle of family and friends as well as at town hall meetings and cultural gatherings. Through speaking with neighbors in the community, I’ve also learned that others share my concern and interest in rebuilding. And my will to inspire action has led me to others doing related work within the community, establishing relationships with local nonprofit organizations as well as neighborhood groups who share common goals.
Progress has come mainly in the form of an amazing network of fellow peacebuilders from PPI 2010 and 2011 who have made significant introductions, forwarded pertinent articles, and continued to carry the positive intention for Rebuild Detroit as well as all projects of the PPI family. There has been progress in establishing Rebuild Detroit as a project of A Mission of Hope, Inc., to make a documentary video about the process of rebuilding from seemingly impossible circumstances.
And there has been visible progress as well.
Personally, I have met with Michigan congressmen in their offices in Washington, D.C., to advocate for peace. In the photos below, I am meeting with Michigan Congressmen Hansen Clarke (left) and Gary Peters (right). Thanks to the NPA, I received the following endorsement from Congressman Hansen Clarke, which may be utilized for future grant applications: “The City of Detroit faces a twin crisis: vulnerable people and vacant properties. By connecting families in need of housing with publically-owned properties in need of occupants and refurbishment, Rebuild Detroit presents a powerful, multifaceted solution for our great city.”
I am on a path to reconstruction, setting new wheels in motion slowly but surely, and the support system that I have gained through my connection with the NPA contributes to my perseverance as I journey forward into the unknown. The goals of building trust and positive racial relationships among the citizens of the Metro Detroit area are at the forefront, and I encourage owners of vacant property to donate to the common good, providing opportunities for some of the estimated 24,000 homeless to dwell in some of the estimated 79,000 vacant properties. It’s up to us; we will achieve what we collectively decide to achieve, and I continue to encourage all citizens to contribute — via a $10 donation to A Mission of Hope, Inc., where 100% of contributions are utilized toward specified projects, or by volunteering and beginning similar projects in their own neighborhoods to embrace the philosophy of shared leadership and shared responsibility as a way to proceed toward a compassionate, humanity-based and positive environment for everyone.
(Statistics from Neighborhood Service Organization and 2010 Census)