REDEEM was started by men and women who grew up in the city of Detroit; went to School in the city of Detroit; and worked in the city of Detroit. During our youth, we witnessed first-hand, the terrible effects of drugs (particularly crack cocaine) on the Detroit Community. Many of our family members fell victim to the lure of drugs and were either using drugs, selling drugs, and/ or in prison because of drugs. We watched our communities decline and we saw people change for the worse. As a result, most of us grew up with no fathers and no male role models. Many of us latched on to the negative images that we saw in real life as well as those that were magnified in the media. These images helped to form the stereotypes that shaped our perspective about life and ourselves. Because of this warped perspective, many of us made mistakes in life, but fortunately, we pressed through high school and graduated from college and we now have careers in various fields including education, politics, biology, engineering, criminal justice, psychology, and nutrition.
With a new perspective on life and with love for the people of Detroit, we decided that we cannot just leave the next generation to fend for themselves. Realizing that social conditions and negative influences played a major role in destroying the lives of our family members and friends, we felt that it was our moral duty to intervene, especially since conditions have become worse. With proper research, we confirmed that young minds adapt to the images and social conditions that are prevalent in their environment, and as a result, follow in the footsteps of those who look like them and those who they see most often. Well, who and what do our children see every day when they wake up and go outside to play or go to school? They see some of the same things we saw when we grew up: drug addicts, drug dealers, homeless men and women, groups of unemployed men drinking and smoking, abandoned buildings, overgrown fields, and other negative images that distort the meaning of their lives. What do they see when they look at TV at home? They see men and women who look like them being arrested; men who look like criminals and thugs; women who are struggling alone with their children; and other negative images that reinforce the distorted meaning of their lives. Although there are thousands of positive people who look like them in Detroit, they don’t see those images in the right proportions. We asked ourselves, why do these conditions persist? How did we get here? We found very interesting results.
Our results led us to deal with the population of Detroit who return from prison. Because of the toxic environment that we grow up in, we often make mistakes that lead us to prison early in life and once tagged with a felony, it is almost impossible to get decent employment. As a last result, we end up committing more crimes (usually drug dealing) to make money, and eventually, this lifestyle leads us back to prison. The most harmful part of this cycle is that the actions of this population become the indelible images that are planted in the minds of our children, and it is this false perception of “fun living” reinforced by the images and the music of mass media, that interferes with our children’s moral values, which interferes with their interest in education, which ultimately interferes with their ability to become productive citizens in their communities. REDEEM’s mission is to take these individuals and re-educate them, and help them start their own businesses and find employment or start school. At the same time, these individuals give back to Detroit by cleaning parks, cutting overgrown lots, and just being visible in the community working and helping. Eventually, our children will see men and women doing positive things in the community as well as owning their own businesses, and this is the start of balancing the images that affect our children’s perspective on life as well as giving our men and women a second chance to lead productive lives.
“When all people have a fair opportunity in the pursuit of happiness is when our city will be a better place to live, work, and play.”