“Charity Hicks needs our prayers” was the email’s title. “I am writing with some sad news . . . Charity Hicks was in a hit-and-run car accident a week ago in New York City.” She is in a coma, on life support. Many of you know Charity from these pages. She is the Virgil who guided me through the hell that has become so much of Detroit – and she is the Beatrice who showed me often-hidden signs of hope. The granddaughter of Alabama sharecroppers recruited to come north to Detroit’s once-booming auto plants, she is a firebrand who has given her soul to the neighborhoods she loves and despairs for in equal measure. She has no illusions about the city in which she lost, first her job, and then her house, sold at auction to a bottom feeder who offered it back to her for a tidy profit – a city that, she says, “has given up on government” and spawned a generation of young men so marginalized they “would kill you without thinking about it.”
But despair always gives way to determination, to her belief that out of the rubble will grow a garden. She has dedicated her life to food security, and in a city where 150,000 people live outside the cash economy, she finds hope in Detroit’s 27 urban farms and 1,800 community gardens. More than hope: “There is power in these gardens,” she says. “They show our resilience and our resistance.”
May those qualities see her through now.