A Loss for Words…

Hi friends! My name is Angelica Anderson (That’s me in the pic below!) and I am a junior at Concordia College majoring in Food, Nutrition, and Dietetics and minoring in Environmental Studies. While I spend a lot of time on our beautiful campus, right now, I am enjoying the High Impact Leadership Training (HILT) trip to Detroit. We have done a lot so far and have learned quite a bit about the “Motor City,” and I am going to share with you our adventures of today.

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I wrote this introduction a few hours ago in hopes that it would allow me enough time to process the magnitude that was today (I have also rewritten this opening sentence about ten times and none of them fit). It seems that I am at a loss for words…not a great thing when you have to write a blog post! I guess I can sum up today by saying profound ideas, priceless knowledge, and limitless opportunity were the key aspects of our travels.

We began by receiving a tour of Detroit courtesy of Rich from the Boggs Center for Community Leadership Nurturing (I won’t go into the history of the center, but I encourage you to do some research on their website http://www.boggscenter.com). Rich took our crew to the areas of Detroit that people, especially tourists, tend to shy away from. We saw the abandonment, shambles, and homelessness. We saw the stark difference between Eastern Detroit and downtown. We talked about war, drugs, and gangs. It was the real, unfiltered history of the great city. Something the Detroit History Museum couldn’t even offer.

Following our tour with Rich, we made our way to the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm. For those of you reading this who know me well, you know that I have a soft spot in my heart for urban farms. I think they are the bees’ knees. So naturally, I was ecstatic to volunteer at one during our trip. The urban farms I have visited were vastly different from this beautiful Detroit farm. Firstly, Oakland Avenue is the street the farm is located on and the farm literally spans the entire street and is beginning to cross to the next. What!? Usually urban farms are limited to a yard or two! Secondly, Oakland Avenue Urban Farm not only has fruits and vegetables, but also honey bees, chickens, and art shows. I have never seen anything like it, my mind was blown. Thirdly, and the most remarkable of all three points, the urban farm was booming with sales, community involvement, and state funding. I wish I would have been able to speak with the owners a tad bit more to learn the secrets of the trade. However, it was fulfilling to help them clean out their garden beds from winter and see some minute signs of spring.

The rest of our day was spent reflecting and bumming around the Detroit Riverfront in the heart of the city. It was strange traveling out of the abandoned area to the populous downtown portion – I think it offered the group new perspectives on how Detroit is cared for. We also managed to get a flat in one of our vans and had to remain at the waterfront for much longer than expected. Not ideal, but definitely made a great memory and offered some extra time for camaraderie.

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It is hard to express the value these events had in my day. I learned so much about Detroit and myself. There were numerous grand narratives and thought provoking statements given by Rich that will stick in my head for a lifetime, and seeing the successful Oakland Avenue Farm provided me with a newfound hope for the future of urban agriculture. In closing, I want to leave you with two key pieces from Rich that are playing like a skipping record in my brain:

1. “Economy versus humanity.” Are we going to [continue] sacrificing decent human treatment for a prosperous economy?
2. “We must go from being white, to being human.” Rich did not offer an explanation for this unique statement, but injected it into a conversation about immigration, racism, and economics. Decipher the meaning how you would like, I will be doing the same.

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