Why I bought a house in Detroit for $500

This week on Idealists in Action, we’re exploring the concept of Home.

Photo by Mike Williams (via Buzzfeed)

Drew Philip boarding up the windows of his house in Detroit.
(photo by Mike Williams, via Buzzfeed)

Drew Philip was 23 years old when he bought his home in Detroit for $500 at a live county auction.

This powerful essay, originally published on Buzzfeed, chronicles how the author rebuilds his house—and makes himself a home—out an abandoned building filled with plastic bags, rotting carpet, and broken car parts.

Although Detroit has been talked about a lot lately—both as an almost post-apocalyptic cityscape of decay, and as a new hotspot for young, poor, (usually) white artists—the author describes the community he’s discovered there in terms of its kindness:

It’s been happening quietly and for some time, between transplants and natives, black and white and Latino, city and country—tiny acts of kindness repeated thousands of times over, little gardens and lots of space, long meetings and mowing grass that isn’t yours. It’s baling hay.

It’s the Detroit that’s saving itself. The Detroit that’s building something brand-new out of the cinders of consumerism and racism and escape. I’ve attended a four-person funeral for a stillborn baby that could have been saved but for poverty. I’ve nearly been shot by the police during a stop-and-frisk. I’ve seen three structure fires within a block of my house. But I’ve also walked out of my house to see hundreds of tiny snowmen built by neighborhood children. I’ve seen tears in the eyes of a grown man releasing a baby raccoon into a city park that he had saved from being beaten to death by teenagers.

Some scrappy teachers just opened a school in a formerly abandoned building behind my house. I stretched a ladder through the missing window of the abandoned house next door and nailed it to the kitchen floor to reach the peak of my own roof.

Read the full essay here.

Have you ever taken on a tough project that’s brought you a better sense of home? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Join Idealist on March 11 as we launch a new global movement for action and change!

 

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This new year, shake the world with a new dream

Today’s inspiration: activist, author, and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs.

Grace-Lee-Boggs-by-boggsblog.org_

The fierce and graceful Grace Lee Boggs.
(photo courtesy boggsblog.org)

Civil rights activist Grace Lee Boggs is still at it. At 98 years old, she continues to be an impassioned voice for blighted urban communities, empowering them to rise up.

How? By “putting the neighbor back in the ‘hood.”

In this video, Grace is with her neighbors in her hometown of Detroit. What I love about this footage is how unassuming Grace is. She’s a legend — and the subject of the upcoming documentary American Revolutionary — yet here she is, wearing a sweatshirt and having a low-key chat about bettering the community. This is grassroots activism at its core.

I could listen to her talk all day. She says:

“Whatever your walk of life, race, or class, you have the right and duty to shake this world with a new dream. Because the world is waiting for a new dream.”

It’s 2014. What’s your new dream?

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Cash prizes for your artwork, ideas, or international work

Want to do some good in the world but could use a little help? Check out these contest folk and grantmakers who want nothing more than to give you their money:

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Total amount of cash up for grabs in this post: $157,000. What are you waiting for? Photo by Yomanimus (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Rice Award
Are you a professional between the age of 18-30 who is making some serious headway in the field of global development? Apply to receive a $1,000 grant, an inscribed plaque you can bring home to mom, and an honorary year-long membership to the Society for International Development (SID). Caveat: applicants must have an affiliation with SID. Deadline is April 29.

BE BIG in Your Community Contest
For over 50 years, Clifford the Big Red Dog has been making children laugh with his larger-than-life antics and saving them from the doghouse by imparting kind lessons. Everyone big and small is invited to submit their ideas on how to use Clifford’s positive traits to better their neighborhoods. Grand prize is $25,000 with smaller amounts given to second and third place. Added bonus: Scholastic, HandsOn Network and American Family Insurance will work with the winner to ensure their idea comes to life. Deadline is June 17.

Back to School 2011 Contest
Tired of teen pop stars like Justin Bieber overtaking folders, notebooks, pencil pouches and more? Instead of doodling in class, use your creativity to design artwork that inspires action in your community related to education, environment, peace and volunteerism and a healthy lifestyle. Do Something and Staples will give the winner the opportunity to see their designs in Staples stores nationwide and a $1,000 scholarship toward school. Applicants must be between the ages of 13-25. Deadline is July 22.

PandoProjects
The folks behind this new NYC-based nonprofit believe solutions start with you. Anyone over the age of 18 can submit their ideas on any issue in the five boroughs – although the target demographic are tech-savvy Gen Y do-gooders. The selected handful of emerging leaders will each receive $5,000 plus tools, guidance and promotion to help execute their project within six months. The first wave of awesomeness is currently underway, but look out for the second one starting in July.

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