Skip to content

Detroit is a critical place to explore American democratic, economic, cultural and diversity issues. The 2019 Humanity in Action Detroit Fellowship program was a 10-day immersive program which focused on community-centered efforts of urban redevelopment in the city of Detroit. It took place from November 15 to 24, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan.

The 2019 Humanity in Action Detroit Fellowship program additionally offered the opportunity to apply for:

  • Two, three-months long, paid internships in Detroit;
  • A project grant competition awarding two winning projects $5,000 each to implement their Detroit-based project.

the 2017 Detroit Fellows

Background on Detroit

Public resources and significant private investment have drummed up national attention at what is now being seen as Detroit’s revitalization story. How is this being done in an equitable manner?

Once one of America’s largest cities, a beacon of American innovation and culture and home to one of the most successful black communities in the country, the city soon became a poster child of the post-war deindustrialization of urban areas in America. With the subsequent migration of large industry opportunities and much of its population, Detroit fell into a decades-long period of economic distress, a disproportionate amount of which has been felt by its minority communities.

2018 Humanity in Action Fellows in Detroit at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Since a municipal bankruptcy filing in 2013, Detroit has witnessed a surge of redevelopment. Public resources and significant private investment have drummed up national attention at what is now being seen as Detroit’s revitalization story. With this newfound attention on developing a “new Detroit” come essential questions about equity:

  • How are these development efforts reshaping the city and its communities, both positively and negatively?
  • Are current gains from these efforts equitably distributed geographically or socioeconomically?
  • Who should be driving these development efforts, and how can stakeholders coordinate efforts?
  • What should sustainable development of Detroit—of its economy, social fabric, infrastructure, and beyond—look like?

Bridging the Theoretical with the Practical

Issues of inclusive urban development are of global importance. Understanding the intersections of these issues and the role that multiple stakeholders play is critical to the future of Detroit and the professional advancement of Humanity in Action’s Fellows who live and work in many communities facing similar challenges. We promote sharing perspectives, skills and knowledge with local and international emerging leaders working toward more inclusive communities in Detroit and in their respective home countries through a program that is both a space for learning and hands-on service immersion.

This Humanity in Action program looked to immerse the Fellows in contemporary efforts to promote inclusive urban development through a two-fold practical and theory-based engagement.


Mural at the Eastern Market (“The Definite List of Everything That Will Keep You Safe as a Black Woman Being in America”)

The 2019 Humanity in Action Detroit Fellowship provided 20 civically-engaged participants of diverse disciplines the unique opportunity to address questions of the urban redevelopment of Detroit through an equity-focused lens. The program immersed the Fellows in contemporary community-based efforts to promote inclusive urban development through practical engagement and collaborative learning. Participants had the opportunity to work alongside Detroit organizations on ongoing efforts around relevant development and equity issues. The Fellowship also included site-visits, discussions, lectures and tours examining the past and future of urban redevelopment in Detroit with equity at its center.

Fellows worked with partner organizations in the city on projects related to food justice and access, cultural programming, education, real estate and workforce development and urban planning.

The practical component:

Fellows, in groups of five, worked directly with Community Partners in Detroit on discrete projects supervised by the Community Partner organizations. Cutting across a diversity of issues, neighborhoods and types of projects, the variety of projects allowed Fellows with different skills and experiences to contribute.  2019 Community Partner organizations included Urban Farmers Inc., The Tuxedo Project and Zachary & Associates. More information about the projects can be found here.

The theoretical component:

Fellows learned about the historical and contemporary aspects of Detroit’s development story through a rich offering of speakers, facilitated discussions, site-visits and social engagements. These sessions were separate from the practical component but drew on many of the topics Fellows worked on on during the program.

Past Program Agendas & The Kerner Report

Download materials from Detroit-related past programs which followed a different model.