01/23/2013 11:52 am ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

It Starts With Justice

With the new plan to revitalize the City of Detroit, one commonly reflects on the optimism of the future as relative to the past. Yet the present holds more pressing issues that can be addressed in a meaningful and pragmatic way. It is almost daily that the greater community sees news updates on a former mayor. The murder rate is a continuous reverberation for victims' family and the growing sense of violence. Sights of blight, lack of development, and what is more often perceived as a terminal school system are aspects of the present which is the reality. Although many believe in the dream of the future and hold nostalgic views on the past, the here and now will determine the motivation for a better co-existence.

Justice is needed for a civil society to operate, and the level of justice determines the success of the society. Justice not only refers to crime, but crime is a large part of the overall cultural issue with the area. It is easy to ignore or become desensitized through media or a process of division. What the metro Detroit area has is a segregation of attitude. It is the notion that crime happens over there or in that other community. The attitude that one neighborhood is safer than the other and that it is each community's own crime issue to be dealt within isolation. It is the muggers and thugs being told to hit the 8 mile.

Though it isn't as simple as cooperation. The level of crime is just one indicator in a fight for cultural justice. Visions of morality on a local level may be the path to fulfill the aspiration of a progressive reality. It is not right that people should live in fear, with lack of support, poor education, or limited access to nutrition. Whether it is someone down the street, on another continent, or who shops on a different corridor from one's own, the decency and respect for human life is shared by all no matter how much we try to segregate it from our own experience.

Many groups and organizations are actively correcting and fighting the apathy which seems to grip the localized reality. Detroit Reading Works and The 313 Project are two organizations that fight for the justice needed to re-magine a culture. Detroit Reading Works is on the front lines to aid in the issues of illiteracy throughout Metropolitan Detroit. The notion that everyone should be able to read is not simply a matter of greater opportunity, but is a crisis of morality. The 313 Project is one effort that provides pro bono legal advice to undeserved communities, organizes works projects, and supports local businesses. The revitalization is as much about the small acts as the big plans. The difference is that small acts produce instant results. If one really wants to improve the world we live in, then they should look to the left, look to the right, and then do something.

This is true for local, state, and regional politicians as much as it is for volunteers. It seems that leaders in Lansing are seeking a pleasant peninsula and yet they refuse to look around themselves and see the faults of aggressive policy. It is time to understand that justice and progress is within the individual not the conglomerates imposing what is best. Education, nutrition, and safety are the three most pressing concerns for the individual today. Take care of the people and they will lead a renaissance society out of the ashes from a culture presently on fire.