Auntie Na's Village is proud and honored to announce being chosen by Lowe's as a 2022 Lowe's Hometown Grantee. The much-needed funding will be used to renovate the Food Pantry to better service the community.
MSU Nurses the Village
In a recent article published by the MSU Nursing News, clinical students from the Michigan State University’s College of Nursing Accelerated BSN program talked about their time in the Village and how it has impacted their views on the roles nurses play in a community. Student Fouziah Tabateh said "Public health nursing is something I wouldn’t have foreseen myself getting into; however, after my time at Auntie Na’s, I gained a new appreciation and could see myself going into that field,”. “My whole reason for going into nursing is because of my compassion for my community, it is made me consider going into public health in the future.
The Village and the community benefits when there are partnerships formed with local agencies. They increase their ability to serve and support because everyone gives and receives. To view the entire article, go to Students, Detroit agency partner to support low-income communities | College of Nursing (msu.edu)
Come out and Join Us every Saturday as we help out the community by passing out free food, hygiene kits, clothing and more. To participate, you have a few options. You can fill out a volunteer form located in our volunteer section via the website, call Auntie Na at (313)-808-8940, or you can show up during the designated time of the event. Set up is an hour before the event and cleanup is the hour after the event. Please note that this work is outside, so please wear something comfortable. We appreciate the support!
Auntie Na’s House would like to extend a huge thank you for the love and support we have received during this time of political and social turbulence. To know that there is greater support just beyond our community on Yellowstone keeps us moving closer to achieving our mission of unconditional kindness, sustainability, and justice. Thank you to those who have donated to our ongoing efforts to improve our community and to those who have applied their hands directly, literally building our organization from the ground up. Your help improves conditions for those who rely on our services to survive and, as a result, our community at large. We wish you love and prosperity, two things which have graced us throughout this journey.
Recently, Auntie Na's Village was interviewed by a journalist from the Nonprofit Journal Project. The Nonprofit Journal Project is an initiative inviting nonprofit leaders across Metro Detroit to contribute their thoughts via journal entries on how COVID-19 has affected their work in terms of racial injustice and inequality, issues of climate change and more are affecting their work- and how they are responding.
Special thanks to the Nonprofit Journal Project and their partners, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Co.act Detroit for making this opportunity possible.
Here is a link to the interview below:
The Nonprofit Journal
Auntie Na’s House stands at the corner of Yellowstone and Elmhurst on the Westside of Detroit. Over the past 50 years, this house on Yellowstone St. has sheltered 5 generations of Auntie Na’s family through the rise, fall, and rebirth of the city of Detroit. Through it all, we have maintained, we have survived, we have rebuilt, and we have struggled to bring the ‘unity’ back to our ‘community’. As one of the last intact and inhabited structures on our block, Auntie Na’s House has been a solid rock in the floods of time.
Our Time to Expand
One house cannot provide for all those that have passed through our gate seeking support. Now, it is time to expand our dream. We have begun to build a Village in the abandoned heart of Detroit. For us this means finding a way to gain collective ownership and control over the land, housing, and basic resources needed for survival in our community. For too long, our communities have been owned and controlled by a tiny power elite which seeks to profit from our suffering. It is time for us to take back the Promised Land and build a Village to sustain our people for generations to come.
Over the last couple years, we began purchasing abandoned lots on the block in order to expand our community programs and build Auntie Na’s Village. So far, we have purchased 3 lots which we have converted into a Community Garden and a Playground. The community garden is both a source of nutritious food for our food programs and it is a teaching garden for our young people to learn farming skills.
Since October of 2016, we have purchased 4 houses on our block which we are in the process of rehabilitating. These purchases were made possible by a grant from the Kresge Foundation as well as generous donations from our supporters. These homes will become residences for individuals and families in need of shelter and will host our community outreach programs as we expand. Our goal is that by the Summer of 2018, we will have our Medical House, Nutrition House, Clothing House and Learning House rebuilt and operational. Each one of these Village Houses will be governed by a Community Board - comprised of Residents, Program Coordinators, Staff, and Youth. The Village Houses and Land will be collectively owned by our non-profit, and will be held in trust so that we may pass them down as an inheritance for the coming generations.
We Are Planting Seeds
Each person that contributes to Auntie Na’s Village is planting a seed for a future bountiful harvest. Just as the plants in the garden are helping to feed the body and the spirit of our people, we are planting the seeds of unity and community to nourish the roots of a stronger generation. We are calling on all our supporters – past, present and future – to help us harvest unity by planting a seed for Auntie Na’s Village. This could mean giving your money, your time, your talents, your voice, or your resources to help us build our Village. Please consider contributing to our SEEDS campaign and help us reach our goal of raising funds to construct our Village Houses, expand our Community Outreach Programs, and realize our dream for Auntie Na’s Village.
Thanks everyone for the many blessings and birthday wishes, those near or far, those that forgot and those that remembered. Today I wish for a poem and a prayer, today on this day I was born, today on this day many lives would change, today on this day nothing in this world would be the same, today on this day my steps were in order and my life preordained, today on this day, my prayer/my wish I claim on this day. I’ll take a knee, I’ll take a knee stand, I’ll hold your hand, I’ll take a stand for equality for my child and grandchild, all over the land, today on this day I’ll take a knee on abuse and brutality, today on this day I’ll take a stand for the rights to free clear water and Healthcare, today on this day I’ll take a knee for freedom of speech, freedom of war, freedom of nuclear bombs, freedom of poverty for everyone, I’ll take a stand, a knee, a hand to help hold up my fellow men/women, today on this day I will, will you?! take my hands, take a stand, take a knee, today on my birthday I wish, I pray.
“By the faith of a grain of a mustard seed, all things can be done.” It is worth repeating Auntie Na’s words of last year so we can marvel at all that has come to pass. Out of the ashes Auntie Na’s House returned stronger and more unified than ever. Our apologies for not posting a lot, but we have been hard at work throughout our (re)building process. The summer of 2015 was filled with fun, games, water, fishing, and more as we kept our babies entertained and off the streets. On the subject of fishing, Auntie Na’s babies refused to let us fry the fish they caught, prompting us to transform a 3-year-old sinkhole on the Eastside into a thriving fishpond ecosystem. The children and fish were thrilled; this city not so much. Upon the city discovering what we had done, the fish found themselves evicted. Nevertheless, “Two legs, four, flippers or fins, if you come through our gate, we’ve got you.” Auntie Na’s words rang true and we took the fish over to the Westside to stay. Toward the end of the summer, Auntie Na began rekindling her connection to Oberlin College in preparation for another school year of engagement and collaboration. Out of these conversations sprung Auntie Na’s Harvesting Unity (ANHU).
ANHU formed in the fall of 2015 as an Oberlin-based supportive organization that would help manage volunteers, communications and technology, fundraising, networking, research, and other efforts to expand Auntie Na’s House into Auntie Na’s Village. Auntie Na inspired this creation when she visited the campus in September for a talk and the group gained momentum through a fall break trip where eleven students spent a week in Detroit working alongside Auntie Na. Through our collaborative efforts ANHU…
– Led multiple weekend trips and a month-long trip to Detroit in January;
– Connected Auntie Na’s House to the internet and started a monthly newsletter;
– Raised over $13,000 from grants and individual donors;
– Connected Auntie Na’s House to numerous organizations, including Georgia Street Community Collective, which became our fiscal sponsor for 501(c)(3) tax status; and
– Researched new programming ideas for the center, ways to acquire more property, and ways to become our own 501(c)(3).
Those days weren’t always positive, of course. For instance, we learned in October of 2015 that the old Midwest Casket Company right next door to Auntie Na’s House was up for auction around $5,000. Through ANHU we were quickly able to raise the funds, but were outbid 8 minutes before the auction’s end by a real estate agent. The next thing we knew, the Casket Company – which would have been the perfect outlet for the expansion of Auntie Na’s House – was up for sale for $69,000. We persevered, however, eventually acquiring three vacant lots down the street for the expansion of our garden and tutoring program. We also manifested the energy to bring 50 cases of water to Flint during their time of crisis and began hosting our monthly Bazaars, where we bring together Detroiters offering everything from clothes to blood pressure checks, bicycles, bounce houses, face-painting, and more. Everything at our Bazaars is free.
As time went by, ANHU itself began to change. The focus shifted from what Oberlin College students could do at Auntie Na’s House to how power could be built in local communities around Detroit. ANHU came to stand for two things:
1) The transformation of Auntie Na’s House into Auntie Na’s Village – a space to ensure the self-sustainability of the community surrounding Yellowstone, and
2) The outreach to other organizations and individuals who have similar aspirations for their community and could learn from our successes and trials in furthering their dreams.
We dream of a unified Detroit with intergenerational grassroots community centers throughout the many communities of our city. We dream that these centers will know one another and treat one another like neighbors, supporting one another and amplifying our collective voices to address the powers that be. We dream of lessons throughout these centers for young and old that advance the, perhaps radical, prospect that they come first, before corporate power and profit, corruption and negligence. Our center may be small, but our dreams are grand, and we know that we are not the only dreamers. We stand in lines at food pantries every week scraping together the supplies to sustain our center and in those lines we hear our same aspirations echoed back to us. We speak to the people who hope for better things and have ideas, but whose ideas have always been shut down by conventional wisdom, by the status quo. Well, we’re here to encourage them to join us in challenging that status quo.
We are taking further steps in service of our dream by using one of the grants we received in the fall to launch our Peewee Planters Program. Through this program – named in honor of Auntie Na’s grandfather – we hired four 16 to 22-year-olds to work for our community center and our fiscal sponsor, the Georgia Street Community Collective. Through this time we encouraged them to light their sparks – those qualities they have or subjects that they are passionate about – ablaze and grow into young leaders in their communities. We taught them about the real history of their city, about the challenges we face and the ways we can move forward. We discussed the impacts of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and more. We encouraged them to be team-oriented critical thinkers.
As we continue to harvest unity throughout Detroit, we encourage you to stay close to us in conversation and support. Please follow us at http://www.facebook.com/Auntie.Na.Harvesting.Unity or, better yet, stop by and say hi. All are welcome.
In December of 2014, we watched our dreams slip through our fingers as the house that we knew and loved went up in flames. In those first days after the fire, it wasn’t easy to find the will to push on. The damage that had been done to the house was so severe that it was unclear if we were going to be able to rebuild at all. But when we shared the news with our loved ones and asked them what we should do – a resounding reply came back, ‘We’ve got to rebuild. We’ll help you!’
And so, in the weeks after the fire, a team of volunteers started gutting the house and a stream of supporters started sending donations. By the end of January, we had raised almost $6000 online, had secured more than $5000 in private donations! With those funds, we were able to pay an electrician to redo all the wiring in the house (the old electrical system being the cause of the fire in the first place). We were also able to pay two local construction workers – Zeek and Mr. Pew – to completely rebuild the walls, ceilings and floors throughout the 3 stories of the house. The transformation was remarkable.
I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels to know that in our time of need we can rely on our communities to step up and support us. The support, whether financial, emotional or physical, has been incredible. Thank you all!
This past week, a group of volunteers from Oberlin College came up to Detroit on their Spring Break and put some love into Auntie Na’s House. New murals now adorn the walls, instruments made of found objects sit in the basement, and the interior of Auntie Na’s House has come back to life. In the next week, new windows will be installed through out the house and some of the final interior painting and refurbishing will be completed. As Spring slowly creeps back into the city, life arises anew in Auntie Na’s House.
“By the faith of a grain of a mustard seed, all things can be done.” – Auntie Na, January 2015
All it took was a little faith. We are still holding steadfast to our vision for the future, reaching out to our networks, and putting in some hard work. But we’re sure that the house will come back more vibrant than ever before.
For us, the maxim ‘Out of the ashes we shall rise’ is not just the motto of the city of Detroit; it is more than just a metaphor for struggle; it is a lived reality. It is a prophecy that we act upon in the present to make manifest our dreams for a better world.
For now, we’re gonna keep on pushing. There’s more work ahead of us, but the worst is surely behind. We’re planning on reopening our doors at the end of May. I hope to see you there. Until then, thank you for all you have done.
Can you believe this is the same room?
A little after 5pm on Monday, December 8th, Auntie Na locked the front door, piled the kids into the van, and drove off from Yellowstone leaving Christmas lights blinking in the window. Na, the kids, and some volunteers had been making Christmas gifts for elementary school students, and had been packing winter coats, boots, hats, wool socks, and children’s toys into gift bags. Every year, Na does a Secret Santa for the kids and sneaks the gift bags into their cubbies the day before school lets out for Christmas.
This year, Auntie Na’s House was not to live out this gentle dream in peace. Shortly after she left, she got a call from her neighbor telling her to rush home. Na and the kids drove back to Yellowstone to find the house ablaze, flames roaring out the front window, walls and ceiling igniting, wood beams snapping and cracking, charred pieces of the porch falling onto the ground below.
The fire department eventually put the fire out, but the damage was done. The fire swept through the first floor, destroying countless items of sentimental and financial significance. The rest of the house has sustained smoke damage, and subsequent water damage, since many of the windows were broken out. Na and the kids had to watch as that fire swallowed up years of hard work, aspirations for the future, and the present reality of this vital community center, which is a support and backbone for so many who are struggling in this community.
All of us are still reeling from this tragedy. I, personally, have been able to think about little else, and have been struggling to find words to express the gravity of this loss. Many of us have pinned our hopes and faith to this little community center. While the rest of Detroit is spiraling downwards in crisis, Auntie Na’s House has been patiently nurturing and caring for those who are the most vulnerable. While the rest of our country has been grappling with the daily police violences against Black and Brown people, folks at Auntie Na’s House have been doing the incredibly important work of raising up Black youth in an environment where they know that their lives have meaning – that Black Lives Matter.
This senseless disaster – a fire started by some Christmas lights hanging in the window – is too big a burden to bear at this trying time. We desperately need the love and support of our communities. All those who have been involved with Auntie Na’s House, in whatever way, we need you now. We need you to share with us your stories, memories, photographs, poems, songs, artwork, and love. We need you to help us rebuild Auntie Na’s House – with volunteer labor, donations of materials, and connections to other organizations who can help us. We need you to support Auntie Na’s House financially. The home was not insured (a result of the deep poverty of this community). We are relying upon financial donations to rebuild the home. We need funds to purchase some new Christmas gifts for these kids – all of the Christmas gifts were burned in the fire. Also, it has been a constant struggle for Auntie Na’s family to pay the utility bills and property taxes. In the midst of this horrible disaster, the city, banks, and/or utility companies may try to repossess the house and shut off its services.
We cannot, we will not, let this happen. The spirit of Auntie Na’s House – the generosity, compassion, faith, and kindness – lives on in all of us who have been blessed to connect with this community. We would be failing ourselves if we let this tragic fire be the end of Auntie Na’s House. Let us prove to Na, her family, friends, neighbors, and community that we truly care about their struggle – that we are willing to make sacrifices in our own lives to make sure that people can survive and thrive at Auntie Na’s House for generations to come. Let us take this moment to prove that Black Lives Matter – that we will not abandon folks in inner-city Detroit the way that corporations and governments have been doing for half a century.
As I look back at all the photos I’ve taken over the past two years of working at Auntie Na’s House, I see a lot of joy and beauty that has come with the transformation of that house. Those memories are wounds now too – they are scars yet to heal, that open anew each time I revisit them. For me, there will be a long process towards healing. Right now, the only way I can conceive of healing these open wounds is to make sure that Auntie Na’s House does not fade into memory – that it lives on in the present, and holds fast into the future. This story is yet unwritten, but I imagine that it will unfold alongside the story of the rest of the city of Detroit.
In 1805, a great fire swept through Detroit, leaving massive destruction in its wake. A priest, Father Gabriel Richard, had recently opened a Roman Catholic church and a school that were incinerated in the fire. In that time of crisis, he wrote a motto for the city of Detroit, one that is as true today as it was then – Speramus Meliora, Resurget Cineribus – “We hope for better things; it shall arise from the ashes.” Today, if you drive through the city of Detroit, on almost every block you will find abandoned, boarded-up, decrepit, burned out houses. Each one of these was once someone’s home. In fact, Auntie Na’s House has taken in and supported many who have lost their homes to fire. As you drive around the city, you will also see children playing around in the streets, old men shuffling to their cars, pregnant women leaving the Dollar Store, and homeless folks pushing around grocery carts. These people need a place that they can call home, a place to find a hot meal, some baby diapers, a warm coat, and a loving embrace. Auntie Na’s House has been that place for 6 generations of her family. Let us make sure that it remains that for 6 generations more. Resurget Cineribus – It Shall Rise From the Ashes
Detroit is in the middle of a serious water crisis. In an effort to drastically cut city services and balance the city’s astronomical debt, the city is undertaking an aggressive policy to shut off the water to 40% of the city residents. Every day, city workers and contractors go around the city shutting people’s water off for unpaid water bills. No water. No showers, no cooking, no washing your hands, no brushing your teeth, no watering the garden, and you damn sure won’t be drinking. They are cutting off water to families with children, pregnant mothers, elderly, disabled, small businesses, churches, private residences, everybody! (who isn’t rich and white).
Crews have disconnected service to 31,300 customers since Jan. 1 due to unpaid bills and will continue that this winter — stopping only during long bouts of below freezing temperatures when the ground is too hard to dig to water connections. At the end of the summer, after intense pressure from activists, the city agreed to a short-term moratorium on the shut-offs. A several-week respite allowed people behind on their bills to enter into payment plans. Shutoffs dropped from a high of 7,200 in June to 1,600 in August. They have since picked back up with 5,100 in September and 4,200 last month.Currently, 74,000 Detroiters are past due on their water bills with bills averaging about $570.
Meanwhile, the people of Detroit have been standing up, protesting the shut-offs and providing water for their neighbors. Groups like the People’s Water Board Coalition and the Detroit Water Brigade have been organizing mass civil resistance, challenging politicians, judges, and the Emergency Manager as they continue to implement the water shut-off policy. In addition, these organizations and others have been mobilizing networks for community self-help, where existing community institutions are provided the tools and resources they need to become a Hub for the distribution of water.
At Auntie Na’s House, we’ve been giving away food, clothes, school materials, toys, and everything else for years. It only seems logical (in this crazy world we live in) that now we would start giving out water. Since August Auntie Na’s House has been involved in water distribution efforts on the Westside of Detroit. The Detroit Water Brigade assisted us in obtaining large water jugs, bottled water, and a rain barrel, for rainwater catchment. Since then, Auntie Na has been turning on her tap, filling up containers are giving out water to all those in need. The Water Brigade also collaborated with Auntie Na’s House in going door-to-door in the neighborhood, passing out information about how to get your water bills paid, and where folks can find free water. Lastly, the Brigade has offered to help pay Auntie Na’s water bills, so that we can continue turning on our taps and giving water to the neighborhood. Many thanks to the Detroit Water Brigade, and all our volunteers!
It is in these times of crisis, that we learn something about human nature, and the true nature of the economy we live in. In Detroit, the Federal, State and City governments are colluding with corporations to dismantle city services, impoverish the community, and destroy the will of the people. Meanwhile, people on the ground are dealing with a situation of dire crisis and scarcity of basic resources. In this moment, we might imagine that the people would turn against each other, hoarding what little water, food, or money they have to preserve their self-interest. But no, instead we see what true compassion, solidarity and community look like. At Auntie Na’s House, we know that water is a human right, that water is the source of all life, and that for the liberation of all people, water must be free. At Auntie Na’s House, we practice what we preach by giving out water to our neighbors – without asking for anything in return, without demanding they show us ID, or prove they are somehow deserving of this water. We give freely because our hearts demand that we show compassion to our people.
If you would like to support the ongoing work at Auntie Na’s House, please consider donating today.
We’re not doing this for the money, but we do need money to sustain the programs, keep the doors open, and keep the water flowing. Many thanks!