New Era Detroit’s Hood 2 Hood Program aims to reach youth with outdoor recreation opportunities

Singing, dancing, and chanting while passing through the streets are common occurrences at community events.
New Era Detroit members and volunteers gather together to serve the community at the Hood 2 Hood Event Saturday, April 29. Photo by Zaire Daniels.

Summer is here, and Detroit residents are eager to participate in activities that promote motivation and good health.

However, according to a survey linked to the Michigan Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), African American residents and those living in the Detroit Metro area are less likely to engage in recreational activities. 

Age, income, and access to resources were identified as significant barriers preventing residents from staying fit and active. 

Recognizing these challenges, New Era Detroit has been implementing the Hood 2 Hood program for the past nine years. The program aims to connect with community members while distributing recreational toys to local youth, encouraging a love for safe outdoor play.

I volunteered at one of New Era Detroit’s Hood 2 Hood events and witnessed their efforts to inspire the community through singing, dancing, and chanting while passing through the streets. Many residents honked their horns in support or exited their vehicles to show solidarity with the cause.

New Era Detroit is part of a more significant, nationwide family movement aimed at helping urban communities become sustainable and self-sufficient. The Detroit branch has approximately 30 core members and hundreds of seasonal and year-round volunteers. 

The Hood 2 Hood program, initiated in 2014, was fueled by frustration with the insufficient response from community members to the deteriorating conditions of Detroit neighborhoods. New Era’s Hood2Hood events occur during the spring and summer, focusing on distributing financial resource information and recreational toys for children. 

Volunteers clean the streets of trash and debris in the target neighborhood while U-Haul trucks serve as mobile stations for a DJ playing energetic music and storing toys, trash bags, and other supplies. The convoy typically covers a 5-square-mile area during each event and reaches numerous families.

Nilajah Alonzo, a member of New Era Detroit’s administration team, said the organization’s approach to public service emphasizes the importance of community and environment.  

“With our Hood 2 Hood program, we go door to door, offering resources and information without asking for anything in return,” she said. “We hope this inspires people to become more involved in their communities.” 

At the heart of this community-driven effort are the volunteers. As New Era is a nationwide movement, it’s common for members from different branches to travel across cities, assisting with various events. 

I spoke to Erica, a Chicago branch member, about her inspiration for joining. Erica shared, “I joined in April 2016 while we were grappling with numerous instances of police brutality, and I felt compelled to take action.” 

She explained that the inequality Detroit residents face is similar to Chicago and prevalent in almost every Black neighborhood in America, highlighting the need for communities to organize and work towards change. 

Andre Murray Jr., a Detroit volunteer, involves his young son in these events, stating it’s essential to be a role model for him. Murray Jr. and his son enjoyed tossing a football before joining others in neighborhood activities. As an experienced boxer, Murray Jr. believes recreation helps build unity through shared challenges. 

“Having boxed for half my life, I’ve learned to respect the hard work and creative thinking of others,” he told me.

Inspiration through healthy lifestyles is a crucial aspect of New Era Detroit’s approach to addressing health concerns in our communities. 

“When it comes to wellness, it’s not just about getting people moving, but embracing a healthy lifestyle,” Executive Director Kiera Williams explains.

Mental health awareness and access to nutrient-rich food are additional challenges Detroit residents face. New Era Detroit offers programs such as Tangie’s Ride, a food distribution initiative, and Wellness Walks every Wednesday on Belle Isle as additional tools for community development. 

These efforts aim to strengthen the community for years, creating a self-sustaining cycle driven by its members. 

“When your belly is full your mind can work on something else and if you’re feeding your soul well, your mind will be clear,” Williams said. “So that’s why we do what we do how we do it. When you start to gather, you start to talk and talk, and build ideas and ideas change the community.”


Our reporting 

runs deep.

Get the latest local enviro news in your inbox with Planet Detroit.

Scroll to Top