Chadsey Condon Youth Dialgue on Race and Culture

April 2012, Chadsey Condon, Detroit, MI - On Saturday April 21st, Welcoming Michigan helped host a dialogue on race and diversity for youth from southwest Detroit. Welcoming Michigan was a new partner for this event, joining JIRAN (Join In to Revitalize Arab American Neighborhoods), community program of ACCESS, and the Partnership for Youth Initiative, a Skillman funded youth leadership project that works in the Chadsey Condon and Southwest Detroit communities. This year fifty young people came together to build bridges across cultures and draft plans for how to create communities that are welcoming for all residents. The event was youth driven and organized, expanding on the success of previous years to include young people from more neighborhoods. This year brought together African-American, Arab-American, Caucasian and Latino youth from the Chadsey Condon, Cody Rouge and Southwest Detroit neighborhoods in an effort to create a cadre of youth leaders who will lead the charge of creating a more welcoming community for all Detroiters, regardless of culture or ethnicity.

The day started with a fun round of human bingo allowing the young people to get to know each other and learn more about other cultures. Youth facilitators from the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion then led participants in a conversation to build a common base of understanding around the topic of diversity. The MOSAIC Youth Theatre of Detroit performed their play “Speak for Yourself: Young Detroiters Speak About Race” and engaged participants in a discussion around real youth experiences of race and racism in the city of Detroit.

Throughout the day the youth enjoyed learning more about their peers through theater, hiphop, and dialogue. They also created action plans for how their neighborhoods can embrace diversity and become more welcoming to newcomers. One young man of Arab descent told the group how his family shared food with their Romanian neighbors during the Muslim celebration of Eid, and his neighbor returned the kindness by sharing a Romanian dish. Ideas for action included starting a diversity group at one’s school or place of worship, being friendly in your neighborhood, getting together more regularly with youth from different schools or cultural backgrounds, and encouraging other youth to participate in dialogue events.

The conversations between young people were honest and candid, and even continued out the door and on to the bus! The youth leaders concluded the day at the Arab American Museum in Dearborn, an experience many had never had before. We ended on a high note, with everyone learning to dance the dabke together, a traditional dance found in many Arab countries. It was a long but inspiring day and I think everyone went home with a little more knowledge about their neighbors and some excitement about taking action to create positive change.