How, in a time of intense divisions drawn like fault lines across the country and within communities, do we reach common ground? It has to start somewhere.
For SAY Detroit’s new Better Together initiative, bridging racial divides is starting with one meal and one neighborhood at a time. Its primary activity is hosting a series of “Willin’, Grillin’ and Healin’” barbecues that bring together small groups of off-duty police officers, at-risk youth, former inmates, and local activists, each without knowing who the other guests are. After grilling and eating together, attendees begin to talk honestly about their relative experiences.
At the head of the table is program coordinator Darryl Woods, founder of “Fightin’ the Good Fight,” an empowerment program that works to help youth discover their identity to lead healthier, better lives and make good choices. It is, in many ways, a continuation of the RESTART Youth Deterrent Program he helped run at the Detroit Reentry Center (formerly Ryan Correctional Facility) where he served as a prisoner for 29 years until his sentence was commuted by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. An agent of change for himself, his children, and his community, Darryl is now an ordained minister and a board member of the Detroit NAACP Criminal Justice Committee. He was honored by the Detroit chapter of the NAACP with the Great Expectations Award in 2019.
“Some of the biggest obstacles to rid our city of systemic racism is the will to come together. This is not the time to turn on each other but the time to each other,” Darryl explains about the program. “We can’t get anywhere without first having a conversation and identifying what the problems are.”
Solidarity follows when we are committed to understanding each other, and then move forward together towards action. That action is the work of SAY Detroit in our city’s neighborhoods, removing barriers to healthcare, providing educational and employment opportunities where there are none, and lifting our neediest when they stumble.
So when it came to trying to bridge the yawning gap between at-risk citizens and local police, we at S.A.Y. Detroit figured that food, plates and a table were better than helmets, sticks and megaphones.— Mitch Albom, “Breaking bread with police to break down barriers” in Detroit Free Press
In a year of difficult choices, we choose to be Better Together. Join us.