DETROIT, MI — Three thousand backpacks filled with school supplies will be delivered to the doorsteps of Detroit families in need on Saturday as part of a partnership between Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, Community Movement Builders Detroit and Black Lives Matter Detroit, the groups announced in a news release Thursday.
Saturday will mark the 14th consecutive year of the backpack program, previously held annually as part of a neighborhood festival in Detroit’s Zone 8 called “Restoring the Neighbor Back to the Hood”. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the cancellation of this year’s festival, the group said its giveaway program is continuing this weekend without the live music and art, but with the same heart.
“This is a commitment I made to my community,” said founder Yusef Bunchy Shakur, co-director of programs for the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion and lead organizer of the Detroit chapter of Community Movement Builders. “I try to serve my neighborhood and the residents of Detroit the way I wish someone had done for me when I was a little boy. I want to show them that somebody cares, somebody believes in them and they’re worth the effort and the time. This is about hope.”
Shakur founded the event shortly after his release from prison in 2001. He said in the news release that he draws from his own life experiences as inspiration to help restore humanity in his neighborhood. Raised in Detroit by a single mother, Shakur co-founded a Detroit gang at the age of 15. At 19, he said, he met his father for the first time while in prison.
“We’ve been able to impact thousands of lives over the years, motivated simply by caring for our community,” Shakur said, adding that he is hopeful the full-scale festival — a celebration that included live music, art, healthy food and the backpack giveaway program — will return next year to the block he grew up on. “It was always so much more than a neighborhood festival – we were demonstrating peace, love and hope. It was a family affair. We broke bread together as neighbors.”
Families were able to pre-register to receive a delivery of up to two backpacks per house. Social distancing requirements will be adhered to when the deliveries are made, to maintain the health and safety of community members and program volunteers.
For more information, visit www.miroundtable.org.