Lean On We
For its residents, the riots that changed the physical and emotional landscape of Detroit in 1967 hit close to home.
For then 11-year-old Teresa Clarington, they hit really close to her childhood home in Boston-Edison.
As the daughter of Reverend Dr. Isaac Clarington of Greater Quinn Church, that home was already a spiritual hub for the community — then circumstance transformed it into something entirely different.
“My brother was home on leave from the Army, so we were like a mini-command center,” Teresa recalled. “Soldiers would come in to use the bathroom. My mom would fix them stuff to eat.”
“They parked a tank in the back of our garage.”
The experience shaped Teresa’s worldview in ways she still vividly remembers today.
“It made me question what life was worth,” she continued. “There are always going to be good people — and it only takes one to spoil it for the rest. I witnessed that firsthand: All the shooting, the snipers, the looting, rioting, the burning of our own city… I just couldn’t comprehend it.”
And so began a lifelong commitment to being one of the good ones.
From student council at Central High School, to a degree in Nursing, to volunteering for Operation PUSH with Jesse Jackson and even serving as a union negotiator throughout her career as a flight attendant, Teresa has worked tirelessly to place a high value on life.
Proud to still be living just around the corner from her alma mater, she now serves on the Life Remodeled Community Advisory Council where her focus is on programs for those she believes need them the most.
“My thing is zero-to-12, but also 62-and-up,” Teresa explained. “I want my seniors to get out, seniors who are homebound. If we can take a day or two, just to get them out of the house… To keep them engaged, to keep them active. You don’t know what fresh air does for the body. It’s easy to forget that as you get older.”
So, Teresa volunteers and spreads the word about the various organizations operating out of the Durfee Innovation Society and the programs they offer specifically for seniors, believing local access is key.
“That’s the beauty of this place: Everything being offered is what this community needs, and it’s either right here or it’s coming,” she said. “And you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
When she’s not getting seniors out the front door, Teresa is opening doors for younger residents too, inspiring a new generation of Detroiters to do their part — including her granddaughter, Sara, a member of the Life Remodeled Youth Alliance.
“In my family, we have a saying: If you get, you have to give,” Teresa said. “I’m going all the way so that my great-great-great grandkids can say their great-great-great grandmother helped.”
“Because these are our roots… We need to do something to help.”
In other words… We all really do need somebody to lean on.