“Black Lives Matter” At A Church In Gentrifying Corktown Neighborhood

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Corktown takes a stand in recent protests against system racism in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.

On the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in the city’s Corktown neighborhood, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is practicing “radical hospitality.”

“It’s important that we make clear who we are, where we stand, who we stand with and for.” — Denise Griebler, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

“St. Peter’s is a church that for 162 years has been welcoming anybody that comes to us,” says Denise Griebler, director of pastoral ministry and community engagement at St. Peter’s. “Everybody’s welcome, but you do have to be willing to sit down and eat with each other.” 

From running a community meal and kitchen out of their basement to providing shower and laundry services to the unhoused, St. Peter’s has established themselves in a neighborhood that’s rapidly changing and where some residents feel left behind.

Listen: “Radical hospitality” at a church in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood; WDET listeners sound off on gentrification in the area

The sentiment is also expressed upon entering the church. 

On their front lawn at one of the most visible intersections in the city, a massive banner reads “Black Lives Matter.”

Ryan Patrick Hooper
Ryan Patrick Hooper

As advocates of social justice and human rights, Griebler says the sign is a way for the church to communicate a message to protestors who have taken to the streets to demonstrate against racial inequality, police brutality and systemic racism.

“We see you. We see you struggling. We see your dignity. We see your hope and we’re in it with you,” says Griebler. 

There’s another sign on their west-facing exterior wall. Designed to look like a realty sign, it reads, “Not For Sale Since 1858.”

It was added as an act of resistance toward gentrification in Corktown and the displacement of long-time residents. As real estate in the area soared over the past decade, Griebler says they received more calls from developers wondering if they’d be interested in selling. 

Beyond the signs, Griebler says the most important thing right now is to listen to others. 

“As much as I think the signs are important, maybe the most important thing we can do is not make statements but actually listen,” says Griebler.  “It’s important that we make clear who we are, where we stand, who we stand with and for, but really, the best way we can understand what we’re doing and saying is by listening.”

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