In 1774, Abigail Adams wrote to John, “We have too many high- sounding words and too few actions that correspond with them.” In 2002, Kwame Kilpatrick texted Christine Beatty, “IT’S NOT ABOUT TEENAGE FANTASY, IT‘S ABOUT GENUINE LOVE DEEPER THAN I HAVE EVER FELT.”
What, you may be wondering, do these two missives have in common? Summer in the City. On the brink of our 11th year, we may have finally resolved the tension between words and actions — and, for that matter, teenage fantasy and genuine love. The SITCionary is an evolving vocabulary of Summer Speak that captures the substance, style and spirit of our work:
The Three Fs: “Fun, Flexible, Fulfilling” seemed like a radical idea at the time. We wanted to reimagine volunteering as the most fun way you could spend some of your summer — something so easy to do you’d have no excuse not to. And both a spiritually fulfilling experience and practical way to fulfill your school’s community service requirement. With the number and diversity of our volunteers continuing to grow, things get more “F’ed up” every year. (See also “Finale Friday Foto” and “Funky Friday Fieldtrips.”)
The Three Ps: “Paint, Plant, Play” aren’t just projects; these Ps are the product of partnerships all over Detroit and time-tested initiatives that meet the needs of volunteers and community partners alike. Artists and non-artists paint by numbers to create murals that highlight strong neighborhoods and deter graffiti. With or without green thumbs, volunteers provide critical community garden support, planting, weeding, watering, landscaping and harvesting. And who better than an enthusiastic, encouraging teen to be the buddy of an energetic elementary school student? (See also “Practical, Productive, Purposeful.”)
Do-ocracy. Summer in the City was started and continues to be run by the young and the restless — the types who have trouble sitting still and kindly resent being told that they are the future when the need and opportunity are unprecedented in the present. They step up and stick around, turning their values into value. Better still, the new crew is populated primarily by people who started volunteering when they were teens, grew up with the organization and are now cultivating experiences for their successors even richer than the ones that got them hooked in the first place. (See also, “reCREWting.”)
The Collaboratory. After what seemed like 40 years of wandering in the urban desert, Summer in the City found a permanent home in the promised land: Southwest Detroit. Thanks to the generosity of Jewish individuals and institutions, we now have a place to call our own — in one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods. The Collaboratory is as much a conceptual space as a physical one. And, importantly, a literal home for seven SITC Fellows.
Backpacktacular. Another ad hoc idea turned time-honored tradition: After summers with some of the coolest campers on the planet, send them packing back to school with new bags, filled with school and art supplies. After each annual effort to raise the money and procure the goods, the ROI is plain to see on the faces of kids who know they’ve got allies rooting for them to succeed.
Baumvelopes. The oversized envelopes where we put our daily paperwork would be too banal to mention, except that they are the namesakes of Michael “Clutch” Baum, our wunderkind CFO who booked it back home after graduating from Brandeis to continue being the change he wishes to see in Detroit. Note to Title Source: Hire him after his internship ends.
Ben Falik is a SITC founder. For more on the deeds behind the words, visit summerinthecity.com.