"EXCELLENT AND UPLIFTING!"
“I saw the rich history of Detroit in this film. The families, the churches, the neighborhoods, the picnics, the employment. We must convince our young people to not move away but rather to stay and continue the push forward.”—Selina Johnson, Hollywood Golf Institute
By Anne Marie Biondo
Venita Thompkins was visibly moved as the lights went up in the auditorium. She had just watched the documentary,
ARISE Detroit! The City The Heart The Hope, which took her back to the summer of 1967.
“It was like traveling in time,” Thompkins said. “It was my time. I live near 12
th Street, and my community comes from a place of healing.”
Calling the film “wonderful,” Thompkins said it shows just how much the city has healed from social and economic challenges – and its hope for the future.
The highly anticipated documentary is about ARISE Detroit!, a non profit coalition of more than 400 community organizations promoting volunteerism, community activism and positive media coverage to create a better Detroit . The film premiered on Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Detroit Public Library, main branch. ARISE Detroit! was officially established in 2006.
As with Thompkins, many viewers of the documentary applauded the good works of so many residents while stating the need for younger generations to keep the momentum going.
“This film is excellent,” said Patricia Dockery, a retired attorney of Detroit. “It reminds us of why we cannot neglect our own legacy work and encourage our children to stay with it.”
Dockery, like so many who attended Sunday’s premiere, is a community organizer focusing on neighborhoods. She is executive director of Stafford House, a non-profit focused on safe-transitional housing, community outreach and education in the city’s North End neighborhood.
Selina Johnson, a professional golfer inducted into the International Afro-American sports Hall of Fame, has taught more than 4,000 young people how to golf since opening the Hollywood Golf Institute in Palmer Park 35 years ago. She agreed that the film pointed out that Detroit needs its young people.
“I saw the rich history of Detroit in this film” Johnson said. “The families, the churches, the neighborhoods, the picnics, the employment. This history should never fade away. We must convince our young people to not move away but rather to stay and continue the push forward.”
Award-winning filmmaker Jeffrey Miller and his crew spent six months working on the documentary. The finished product is a compelling exploration of the city’s past, present and future, highlighting the work of thousands of neighborhood volunteers and featuring interviews with a diverse group of nine high-profile community leaders:
Dr. Curtis L. Ivery, Chancellor of Wayne County Community College District
Carol Goss, former president of The Skillman Foundation
Edgar Vann, Bishop Second Ebenezer Church
John George, Detroit Blight busters
Sandra Turner-Handy, Denby Neighborhood Alliance
Rev. Carl Zerweck III, Rippling Hope
Wendy Jackson, The Kresge Foundation
Shirley Burch, Community United for Progress
Derek Blackmon, Black Family Development
“I wanted to tell the story of why we needed an ARISE Detroit! in the first place,” Miller said. “I wanted to counter the false national narrative that black folks in Detroit were doing nothing as their city went down in flames. I know the resilience of the people who were working hard to keep the lights on.”
Miller said the progress being made today in the city would not be possible without the efforts of the community groups that comprise ARISE Detroit!
“This rebirth that we’re currently experiencing wouldn’t be happening except for the yeoman’s work these community groups are doing,” Miller said. “The way I see it: the people involved in those neighborhood groups laid the foundation upon which the current boom is being built.”
The film depicts multi-ethnic neighborhood groups doing everything from arduous clean-up work to throwing a party. They are dancing and singing at music festivals and neighborhood picnics. They are sweeping sidewalks, planting urban gardens and boarding up abandoned homes. Children paint tree trunks. Elderly enjoy time at local fairs. Thousands of volunteers having been organizing and participating in such events year after year during a single day in August each year since 2006. The number of events has grown from 55 to more than 200 each year.
Thomas Wilson, a retired teacher and vice president of the 2
nd Precinct Police Community Relations Council, said the film shows how people are coming together to take care of the city he loves. “This is home, and you’ve got to take care of home,” he said.
Carol Schoch, founder of the Detroit Children’s Choir, said the film was honest. “It showed the whole picture. The good, the bad and the ugly from the people who know the whole story. It also shows hope. It’s what’s needed and what’s given.”
Jennifer Young, of Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, called the film “uplifting” and confirms what she and her Millennial and Gen-X friends already know about Detroit.
“There’s so much here now,” Young said. “There’s so much going on. My friends and the people I hang out with . . . we care and we’re working on projects now. We’re not waiting.”