Knocking Out Blight
What happens when a world champion teams up with Repair the World and volunteers from near and far? Together, they take one small, important step to repairing his corner of the world.
The champ is Tommy Hearns: the Hitman, the Motor City Cobra, the first boxer in history to win five world titles in five different divisions. His corner, now that he’s retired from boxing, is East Grand Boulevard and Helen Street, where he grew up on Detroit’s East Side.
Packard produced its last car two blocks away in 1957, the year before Hearns was born. The neighborhood’s “tough love” helped mold him into a Hall of Fame fighter. When Hearns returned to Helen Street, he found no houses remaining — not the house he grew up in nor any other homes on the block. In their place, weeds grew up to his shoulders and pheasants roamed among illegally dumped car parts.
But the place still spoke to him. And so did his old neighbors, who shared their pride in his accomplishments and desire to see him reconnect with his roots. So he stayed in touch with them and reached out to Repair the World, a Jewish service organization, as well as friends and fans, including Jackie Kallen and Ryan Fishman. Together, they mowed, weeded, mulched and painted to help clean up and beautify the neighborhood in advance of a major community celebration Hearns is planning for August.
Here are some quotes from the people there:
Here’s one of Detroit’s native sons who understands his role in what our community would call ‘tikkun olam,’ and literally wanted to repair the corner of our world that made him a champion — eight times over.
Tommy’s desire to inspire others who made their mark after Detroit made their mark on them is an important goal, and it’s something we should play a role in on either side of Eight Mile. Beyond that, to stand with a world champion and class act like Tommy and a pioneer of women’s rights like Jackie, that’s not an experience you have every day. Like Jackie breaking ground as a female promoter, my great-grandfather Samuel Rosenthal was one of the first Jewish boxing promoters with some of the first Jewish fighters in American history.” -Ryan Fishman, 13th District State Senate Candidate
-Jackie Kallen, First Lady of Boxing
-Eric Greenberg, Volunteer