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Healing Detroit: Moving from pain, reaching for power

By |2018-01-16T11:43:56-05:00December 18th, 2008|News|

Despite predictions of inclement weather and the stress of holiday shopping, 46 members of Detroit’s black LGBT community, representing approximately 18 organizations, made the commitment to attend the second “Healing Detroit” summit on Dec. 6.
Held as a follow-up to the two-day summit in February, this one-day summit was attended by many of the first participants along with some new faces.
Healing Detroit evolved following the 2007 conference hosted by the Peninsula Group. According to S.P.I.C.E. Interim Board Chair Andrea Wilson, “At the TPG summit we found that the agenda set for an association initiative was not too inclusive of people of color.” After talking to Reverend Darlene C.A. Franklin, Wilson as part of an ad hoc committee sat down to envision what a similar initiative would look like for the African American LGBT community.
“We wanted to have a more cohesive community” Rev. Azuka Milledge said. “But recognized there was a need for healing within our community before we could move forward.”
Terri Leverette, a member of that ad hoc committee, agreed, adding that, “A first step in the process of strengthening the black LGBT community was through a process of frankness and conciliation – addressing the burdens of racism, sexism, homophobia and the harms of colliding self interests in order to create a healthier environment to strategize for the group’s self interest.”
Serving as a fiduciary for this ad hoc committee, S.P.I.C.E. was awarded $30,000 from the Arcus Foundation to help with the creation of a “Healing Detroit” summit.
Pamela Alexander, who hadn’t attended the TPG conference, but has attended both Healing Detroit summits, didn’t know what to expect when she received that first invitation in February. “Healing Detroit is the process that it takes to extend a level of healing and forgiveness,” she said. “It’s like one participant said we can’t get stuck on one thing. Validate those experiences then move to the next.”
Although everyone agreed there was a need to come together as a community, old wounds heal slowly. Some like Dasheena Franklin came to the first summit at the direction of her boss. But as she completed the survey and participated in the first summit, she got excited about the process. “It was really necessary,” she said. “We can’t achieve our goals for our community without it. In our community it is hard to separate individuals from organizations. Fences needed to be mended.”
“I didn’t now what to expect at that first Healing Detroit. I heard the word healing and just came to hear.” Milledge chimed in. “Healing is very important but I was a little surprised at the format. I expected more structure for organizations on how to get along instead of some of the personal healing.”
Attendance at the second summit was down slightly and fewer organizations were represented. Milledge wondered if the personal healing from the first summit kept some people away. Alicia Skillman, incoming executive director of the Triangle Foundation, agreed that might have influenced some people’s decisions but felt “this kind of healing is so important especially in our (black) community in Detroit. We are like a family. We get into fights, disagreements. We get hurt. We needed this to get back on track.”
So what outcomes can be seen now that the first phase of Healing Detroit is completed? Most importantly new voices were heard and new leaders came forward. “At the first summit I spoke up a lot. At the break someone told me I was a trouble maker. But from what I was hearing about my community I became so excited, concerned, aware, passionate – I decided right then I would rather be a noisy trouble maker and help shake things up than sit by quietly while our community is in need.” Alexander said.
There were transformational moments when friendships were repaired, hurts exposed. Individuals who were new to the community and had been quiet at the first summit were more concrete, more grounded and more committed.
Everyone left the second Healing Detroit summit with a renewed since of excitement, urgency and action items to continue the strategic process for Detroit’s black LGBT community. A Healing Detroit for youth, exploration of a LGBT Black Caucus or PAC and recruiting andengaging new voices in leadership were a few of the action items decided upon.
There will still be the “healing” component in the future. “It is important to have a place where African-American LGBT folks can come together to care for the care givers and each other,” Kathie Griffin said. “As someone who works in the community for an agency providing services, I need this. I need to be able to tell my community how I feel, to share the burden of the challenges I face on my job each and every day and to know that they care and will step up to the plate.”
Healing Detroit, thanks to funding from the Arcus Foundation, will continue. “With all the transitions in our community recently, there are bound to be fractures,” Johnny Jenkins, Jr., Michigan program officer of the Arcus Foundation, said. “Healing Detroit is keeping the progress going and opening up strategic opportunities for the Black LGBT community.”
Planning has begun for the next steps in the Healing Detroit process. Contact healingdetroit@yahoo.com for information and to get involved.

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Michelle E. Brown is a public speaker, activist and author. Her blog radio podcast “Collections By Michelle Brown” airs every Thursday at 7 p.m. Current and archived episodes can be heard on Blog Talk Radio, iTunes, Stitcher or SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/CollectionsbyMichelleBrown/.