This is the perfect opportunity to explore a big city. There’s always something new to explore, and this fellowship will point you in the right direction. From meeting like-minded change-makers, to exploring a new record shop, to trying a new cuisine in an unassuming historical building.” – Malik Gibbs-Ochoa

Golden hour with Smokey at a park.

I Challenge You

One of the first days of Challenge Project #1 saw my team leading joint stakeholder interviews with Yvette Bass, who serves as Program Director for the Detroit Parks Coalition (DPC). Throughout our insightful conversation, Yvette shared about what made Chandler Park so special for them, including introducing her to a deep appreciation for the sport of lacrosse and the six years they spent with the Chandler Park Conservancy pushing forward the mission for its residents. That day, Yvette called on us to invite friends, family, coworkers, anyone we came across to just visit a Detroit park.

What stuck with me the most was the pride she had when it came to championing the park in light of its notorious reputation. This sentiment resonated with me as I thought about my favorite park in Detroit. Located in the heart of Southwest, Clark Park has played a pivotal role in my life, providing an open-air space for community members to enjoy. I can recall countless hours spent after school roaming the park with friends, enjoying Clark for what it was and accepting it for what it was not yet.

Since my time at Chandler Park, I made it a mission to spend time intentionally reconnecting with my local parks. Whenever I can find the time, I find myself in one of the many diverse parks across the city. I’ve been able to introduce my appreciation of these parks to my (dog) son Smokey, who would bark that his favorite park is Patton Park for the bike trails or Belle Isle for its access to water.

Like Yvette, I too will challenge you to find yourself in a Detroit park.

ABOUT: Howdy, y’all. My name is Malik and I am a native Detroiter, hailing from Southwest. I graduated in the middle of the pandemic (2020) from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (GO BLUE!). I am a Data Evaluation and Impact Specialist at Teen HYPE. I am a proud father to a 3-year old German Shepherd named Smokey Haze and a 5-year old Ball Python named Arana. During downtime, you can find me getting lost in a good book or exploring Detroit and its surrounding suburbs, likely with Smokey in tow begging me for a pup-cup.