How one woman's visions transformed a corner of the city
Published: August 29, 2012
"The more they can see up here, the more inspiration I believe they can get themselves," Carey says. "In my own family I see the change. Usually my family used to sit out here and get drunk and drink on the lots. They don't do that as much anymore. They get in and chip in now."
Valerie Brunson, a longtime neighbor, noticed it too. "For some reason it brought, like, a calming effect or something," the 48-year-old says, "'cause it used to be off the hook around here."
Carey sits in the shade of Mr. Leon's truck on a sunny afternoon, and she's trying to leaf through her ancient Bible, but her broken fingers can't turn the pages.
This thick book has been passed down her family through generations, since the 1800s. It's a magnificent edition, with intricate illustrations and exquisite lettering. She uses its baroque depictions of Biblical history as the basis for her paintings.
But her hand is useless right now because two homeless men who came to stay at her house last night got into a drunken brawl on her front porch, and as she tried to break it up her fingers got crushed in the doorframe as one man threw the other into the door. A neighbor used household tape to bind the fingers together. One of them was clearly broken; the knuckle was completely out of alignment. She hadn't gone to the hospital and didn't plan to. She's simply too busy finishing all her projects. Goodin gently prods her to go, she gently refuses. Like many inner-city residents, she can't or won't go to the doctor on her own.
As she emerges from the truck, neighbors gathered in the street once more, giving her hugs, admiring her the paintings and complimenting the sunflowers that grow near the sidewalk.
"This is sharp. This is sugar-sharp," Brunson says of it all. She's a community activist, a former female boxer, a tough woman whose voice becomes tender and soft about the beauty that's bloomed on this ruddy block. "People be just amazed. They be like, 'Y'all in the hood doing this?' But all this is strictly community. There's so much positive going on but they're only highlighting the negative, so everyone thinks Detroit is so shitty. I got people that come in from out of town that be like, 'I love it here,' but their perception of it is bad because everybody think everybody is bad."
A man walks up with a bag of food as Carey sits in Mr. Leon's truck, still trying to leaf through that beautiful old Bible. "And we have this one right here that brings bread and stuff for the people that come and eat. I can't always feed them out of my pocket," Carey says. She softly tells the man, "OK, put them in the house."
He turns and walks in Carey's front door like it's his home, just like everyone else out here does, because for anyone who wants it to be, it is. Just as God told her he wants it to be.
Detroitblogger John scours the city for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
> Email Detroitblogger John