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Detroit Summer

6/15/2010 by Celine Kuklowsky - 1 comment

Aiyana Stanley Jones

A few weeks ago, Aiyana Stanley Jones was killed by the Detroit police, who raided her home while she was sleeping.  The incident passed the national media’s “if it bleeds it leads” rule and was even more tragic because Aiyana was only 7 years old.

Five days later, 20-year-old Damion Gayles was shot and wounded by the police only a few blocks away.  The community was outraged and the media picked up that outrage as well.

But what is less known about Detroit is how the people in this city that has been under economic, political, and police siege for so long, have been gradually building an infrastructure for peace and promise from the grassroots.

Peace Zone for LifeWhen violent crime and police brutality spiked in the 90s, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality was formed to document acts of policy brutality and misconduct, to create greater accountability and justice from law enforcement, and to advocate for a police force that is more racially diverse, more respectful, and more adept at dealing with and serving people of different backgrounds and abilities.

One of the Coalition’s core organizing strategies is to form “Peace Zones for Life” across the city in which mediators are called in to arbitrate conflicts between neighbors and families rather than the police.  Their idea is to “put the neighbor back in the hood” and to transform tragic events into community-building efforts for safer futures.

The killing of Aiyana and shooting of Damion have sparked the creation of new Peace Zones  across the City.  The shootings are tragic, but the innovation and tenacity of the Peace Zones deserve celebration.

Another kind of peace zone are the spaces and places being made where youth can participate in change-making and thrive.  Central to such efforts are veteran activist Grace Lee Boggs (who will be 95 in July) and the Boggs Center, which was established in 1995 by friends and associates to honor and continue the revolutionary legacy of theory and practice of Grace Lee and her husband, James Boggs, now deceased. Read More…


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