Table of Contents
- Community Experiences: Overcoming a Challenge in Kibra
- Kibra: Settlement of African American People
- Meeting Beautiful People During My Stay
- Challenges Faced in Kibra
- Overcoming a Challenge: Ethnic Discrimination and Equality Struggles
- Kibra Cartel Takedown: The Brutal Incident
- The Impact of the Massacre: What the Community Learned as a Result
- Kibra: Overcoming a Challenge and Things I Learned
Before immigrating to Canada, I have resided most of my life in United States of America. Throughout my life, different events have motivated me to indulge myself in community work. Volunteering is something that I loved doing since high school. I have always been a very active member and volunteered in many communities including Indian Reserves, Refugee Centers, Shelter Homes, Kibra Settlement and many more. Of all those experiences, spending time in Kibra stands out the most because this experience had a huge impact on my views of struggles of minorities and the discrimination they face. Living with Kibra Community is not something I expected to do few years ago. I experienced how important overcoming a challenge, and what you learned as a result was. However, there were news highlighting the growing social inequality, and this led me to question, who are the poorest communities in America? The racial bias remains pervasive in diverse cultures through the globe with the United States being at the top list (McKnight, 2016). With the sustained international migration, the question is how to create more pluralism, equality, and open-mindedness in communities (O'Brian, 2015). I later found out that people living in Kibra Settlement have been ignored. I had seen reports in the media showing that living in these settlements is almost like living in the ghetto in Third World countries (Bishop, 2014). However, I still had to gather more information about this myself. It is with this knowledge and interest that I decided to live in and experience life in the biggest black settlement in Detroit, Kibra. I had to push myself to my limits of emotional strength. In return, what I got from the experience is unforgettable and so meaningful.
Community Experiences: Overcoming a Challenge in Kibra
My experience with the community was thrilling as well as discouraging, and I got to learn more about their culture, and as an outsider, they gained a lot from me as well. I felt a personal responsibility of assisting people mainly in household dimensions. I felt the urge to improve the lives of different individuals by giving back to the community. The people who were lucky enough to receive my assistance in various areas were very grateful, and in return, I learned a lot in the process even the negative experiences. Area where I got chance to volunteer was family. I visited homes where old people resided and helped them in day to day activities. One of the roles I played was providing entertainment. Playing instruments such as guitar and piano is a significant passion, and I chose to entertain these people through this. A high number of seniors benefited from music therapy especially if they were feeling unwell. Another role was bringing meals to them. Some of the old people ware not able to cook or have anyone to cook for them. I took this opportunity and prepared delicious food for them which we happily shared. I would also help them acquire transportation to different places, especially shopping and purchasing other items. I accompanied them to the shopping malls and helped them buy the things that they needed. A large percentage of the old people suffered from loneliness, and this is where I played the role of listening and talking. The major challenge in the areas that I volunteered was ethnic discrimination. People were degraded for belonging to a different ethnic and cultural background. Having gone through this experience, I now know how it feels to be an outsider in any community. The fight for equality has been going on for decades without much success especially in American (McKnight, 2016).
Kibra: Settlement of African American People
The Kibra Settlement in Detroit, Michigan is one of the biggest African American settlements in the United States. As it is well known, Detroit is one of the cities with the highest number of black people in America, leading at 84% of its population being African American. This makes the average White American and other ethnicities a minority in this vast city, with me being part of the remaining 16% (Lawrence, 2014). This further sparked an interest in wanting to know how it would be like to live in such an environment, and also a great interest to experience what it would be like to be a minority in a white dominated country like America.
Here, rumor has it, that the only illegal thing was to be rich. The rest, in Kibra, has grown to be as common as the sun rises every morning, and was not news anymore. Crime and drug abuse have become so rampant in this settlement that people try to avoid this area of Detroit as much as possible, and even the local police department advises strictly advises visitors against going to this area (Bureau, 2015). The sighting of a different colored person roaming the tiny, dirty and crowded streets of Kibra is often a recipe for disaster, as several gangs will want to get hold of them once they set foot in their territories in and around Kibra (McKnight, 2016). Many, from federal agents to simple tourists and visitors, have been killed or kidnapped in this seemingly normal and peaceful settlement that many men, women and children call home (Green, 2014).
Meeting Beautiful People During My Stay
After getting a few contacts inside who would assure my safety and an overall tolerable stay in Kibra, I went ahead to move in, with little apart from the essential things that I needed to survive. Jessica, an 18-year-old young girl living with her mother and ailing father soon became my friend, and got to move around with me around Kibra, ensuring that I did not get into trouble with any of the local gangs or troublesome locals. This young girl was key in ensuring that I learnt as much as possible about Kibra, and why the settlement was the way it is. She went ahead to explain to me the day-to-day life as a young woman in Kibra, and how she got to survive the stay till now. From Jessica, I got to learn that there were still sensible, ambitious and hardworking young people in Kibra, who only lacked the opportunity and the finances to cater for the betterment of their careers.
This made even more sense when I was introduced to the local football team, which would only afford to play football in some garage backyard, as the settlement’s football field was grabbed by a person wishing to build private developments on the land. I noticed the dire need of a coach, as well as the sheer determination of the team members to play and use the little skills they had acquired online to make their game better. This inspired me greatly, and with the much I could remember playing football back in high school, offered to play with them twice every week and help them however I could.
Challenges Faced in Kibra
During my stay at Kibra, my luck ran out a few times, during which I found myself in trouble. Sometimes, trouble would mean getting all my stuff robbed in the middle of the day while people look on. Some other times, trouble would mean being made fun of or people being rude to me if I asked them a question or a favor, such as asking for directions to somewhere. While all these were nasty experiences, there were several heartwarming experiences. These included acts of extreme kindness by strangers on the streets, such as those who would help me after I got into trouble with the gangs.
Sometimes, families around Kibra, mostly old women living alone, with their sons and daughters either dead, in the gangs or lost and never to be seen again. It was always so heartwarming and awe inspiring to have such invites to a humble meal and learn of people’s experiences in and around Kibra. It was also a nice experience to interact with different people, and if possible, help them in any way that I can. The Kibra football team was also a great and inspiring experience, and not only did the players become part of my team, but also became my friends with whom we shared life experiences together. However, after a few months of living in Kibra, most of the days remained uneventful, as people had grown accustomed to me and some even liked me, and most of the negative experiences faded in time.
Overcoming a Challenge: Ethnic Discrimination and Equality Struggles
During my stay in Kibra, many things happened that are not what you would call normal in other places. Being a minority in the heavily black dominated and poverty infested community, I was lucky not to have experienced many of these first hand. For sometime in the beginning of my stay, I had a challenge with several gangs in the area who even at some point, made me a target. Seeing my sudden appearance in their community and the extreme rarity of outsiders in the area, the gangs thought I was a spy sent to investigate on their unlawful activities such as drug trafficking, prostitution and robberies. At one point, I was even abused and frisked, looking for any identifiable linkage between me and any state or federal authority that would have sent me to investigate them.
However, with a lot of convincing and playing along, I was able to convince the gangs that thought of me as a spy that I was not a spy, and was in fact, there to help their community grow and prosper, and help their people lead normal lives just like the rest of Americans. I was able to convince them that the government was smart enough not to send a person as conspicuous as me to such an area to be a spy. My ease of identification and my inability to blend into the predominantly black community would have sold me off to the gangs, and would have made me a terrible spy to them. After these initial periods of doubt and being suspicious of me, the gangs finally got to believe me and stopped treating me as a threat.
Kibra Cartel Takedown: The Brutal Incident
The infamous Kibra cartel takedown was one of the most remembered and most brutal cartel takedown in the history of Detroit. This cartel takedown took place during the time I was a resident of Kibra, and I was equally shocked and devastated by the event. The takedown consisted of a hundred men/women raid by the anti-narcotics police unit, in conjunction with the Detroit Police. The raid was aimed at bringing down one of the biggest drug rings, known for drug trafficking and sale of illegal drugs in many arts of the sates, as well as neighboring states. The raid was aimed at capturing the cartel leader, famously known as Bolt, and his crew of close associates. This gang was the leading gang in Kibra, as well as all around Detroit. Most of the young people in Kibra, even some in my football team were either direct or indirect members of the gang. Many were used as traffickers of drugs to various individual buyers and clubs around the city.
This raid turned out to be a bloodbath, where Bolt and his large crew of goons armed themselves and engages in a spirited firefight with the police. However, the police were well prepared for such a turnout, and the cartel members were left either dead or badly injured. A total of 34 young men lost their lives, including the cartel leader, Bolt. This included members of other friendly gangs who came in to help Bolt fight off the police. More than double the number were badly injured, each having been hit by several bullets or grenade shrapnel. The raid turned out to be an absolute disaster, and many people in Detroit were angry about the massacre of the tens of young men by the police.
The Impact of the Massacre: What the Community Learned as a Result
While almost everybody was unhappy with the incident, the parents and relatives of the young men and women were especially angered by the incident. They took to the streets of Detroit for days on end, protesting the massacre of their children. I was also greatly affected by the raid, as I lost several of my team members to the police during the exchange of fire. While two more lost their lives on the way to the hospital. Three members of my team were dead while seven more lay critically injured in hospital, on the verge of losing their lives.
The young girls had grown to be very close to me, as they saw me as their only hope of ever getting out of the Kibra neighborhood and living good and comfortable lives in their later years. I had been greatly inspired to mentor them, not only in playing games but also in other aspects of life that they all had problems in. During my interactions with them, I had even convinced several of them to go back to school and pursue their goals. Now with the raid, all of this had been taken away and many of the young people were bound to go back to where they were when I found them in Kibra, as desperate and hopeless young people that were willing to do anything, even sell drugs, for their survival. The young people had lucked a purpose in their lives, and that was what I was determined to give them at any cost.
The incident not only had a great impact in the lives of the teenagers and young people arrested and injured in the raid, but also had a great impact in my life as well. The community had become disoriented, and I began losing most of my friends as everyone lived in fear and confusion of what would happen next. The other smaller gangs who had failed to prosper under the influence of Bolt’s gang were not beginning to assert their dominance in the community, taking any single opportunity to steal from people and frustrate the settlers of Kibra even in broad daylight. Incidents of robberies and drug abuse began to rise shortly after, and the community that I found was now at a worse state than ever before.
Due to the high levels of mistrust among the residents, word started going around that in might have been the cause of the massacre. The settlers of Kibra were of the notion that I had been sent undercover to uncover Bolt and his gang, and that I had called for the raid and given all the intelligence about the area to the police. This was mainly because I was different from them, being a minority, and that I was one of the newest people to settle in the area in the previous months. This brought back all the initial tension that people of Kibra had about me from the beginning, and the people become more and more suspicious about me every day. With time I was being followed around and everyone wanted to know what I was up to. Nobody wanted to be associated with me and even my closest friends that I had made in Kibra were all skeptical about me and my possible relation to the raid. It was a close neighbor who tipped me off of a plan to take my life, and who consequently helped to get me out of the settlement, where I resumed to my normal life, afraid of what would have happened to me if I had not fled that night.
Kibra: Overcoming a Challenge and Things I Learned
My stay at Kibra was one part of my life that I will never forget. The experience that I gained from the short interaction that I had with the people of Kibra is an experience that I will always use as a teaching to me and others around me for many years to come, as it formed a whole new experience that I never thought I would experience before. Initially, I thought I was just going to join in as a normal social work volunteer, where I would spend the normal five months as normal volunteers do and then move out to go on with my studies. However, this happened not to be the case, as I became more attached to the people of Kibra, especially the young and old ladies. This, and my different ethnicity as a minority led to me being more conspicuous to the community, and this became the basis of the long and strong interaction with the people. From my interaction with the people of Kibra, I got to learn that there are still many Americans out there that are yet to experience and enjoy the American Dream as many other Americans all around the United States do and have as a normal life.
To sum up, my experience at Kibra also taught me of how far United States has left to cover in order to eliminate racial discrimination in this country. While many Americans deny the existence of racial discrimination due to the fact that they form the majority in almost all other parts of the United States, I got to experience first hand the feeling of being a minority. This helped me understand the stigma around minority races and how the people feel when they are discriminated on grounds of skin color. When I would be stopped and frisked due to my color in the black community, I would feel the stigma and the hate that would come from that experience. I experienced the extreme feeling of racial discrimination when I was suspected of telling on the gang and their leader, bolt, just because I was the only one in the community that was different. The community was willing to go to lengths of even demonstrations for their black folk, even though they had been killed due to their own wrong doing and fighting with the police. Living conditions are deplorable, and most people live without proper resources. The community is plagued by high rates of crime, joblessness, and drug abuse. The majority of substance users are youths and young children. Despite a strong social support system, the area is mostly neglected by the federal government, lacks.
- Bishop, S. (2014). When whites become minority. Journal or ethnic and social integration, 23-41.
- Bureau, U. S. (2015). Black or African American. United States Census Bureau Report, 255-300.
- Green, S. (2014). The Black Population. U.S. Census Bureau Report, 2-15.
- Lawrence, D. (2014). Racialized politics: The debate about racism in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- McKnight, J. (2016). Racial Discrimination in America. Green & Sons.
- O'Brian, S. (2015). Supporting one of our own. Journal of International study of Racism, 400-462.