Every Kung Fu movie talks about the mix of martial arts and a moral obligation. The Alkebu-lan Village has lived them since 1978.
When the Village was started by Marvis Cofield nearly 40 years ago martial arts were all the rage, and he saw it as a way to improve his community. Located at 7701 Harper, Alkebu-lan Village has always stressed what Cofield calls the three Ms – mental, moral and martial.
Mental and moral take precedence over martial as well as the importance of education and community outreach.
“You can’t do it by yourself, we have to do it for others, with others, helping the less fortunate,” Cofield says, summing up his view on the martial arts, Alkebu-lan Village and life. He has been a martial artist for more than 35 years and is a 7th degree Black Belt.
Over time, the organization has grown to have an even larger role in the community. It currently provides educational, cultural and recreational programs to more than 1,000 Detroit youth and their families annually through on-site and outreach programs. There is tutoring and homework help for anyone up to age 18 who is in school, leadership programs, visual and performing arts, as well as youth entrepreneurship training and community service.
For example, Alkebu-lan Village recently held the African World History Program and provided nutrition classes in collaboration with Michigan State University.
They also do local clean ups and don’t stop in their own backyard. When a request comes in to help other neighborhoods they are ready and willing to go to work. That’s often what’s planned after a demonstration of martial arts skills. It’s a way to keep or renew pride in the city.
One of those demonstrations and a competition will take place at the annual Summer Martial Arts Extravaganza at Alkebu-lan Village on Aug. 6 between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. for students ages 4-16. Competitors will come in not only from Michigan, but from the whole Midwest to take part.
After the martial arts extravaganza, and what they call a major clean-up, there will be a special presentation.
It will all be part of the 10th annual ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Day, which celebrates the work block clubs, churches, businesses and organizations, such as Alkebu-lan Village, do every day to create a better Detroit.
Neighborhoods Day has grown from 55 events in its first year to 256 last year with a cumulative nine-year total of more than 1,400 community improvement projects of all kinds. There have been health fairs, concerts, parades, festivals, back to school events, cleanups, beautification projects and more.
Alkebu-lan Village has been there since the beginning.
Luther Keith, executive director of ARISE Detroit!, had written about Alkebu-lan Village when he was a columnist at the Detroit News and developed a friendship with the organization and Cofield. He will receive an honorary black belt at the martial arts event on Neighborhoods Day along with the many black belts, who have not gotten the recognition they deserved over the years.
Keith will be honored for his work and the organization’s commitment to create a new wave of volunteerism and develop programs and activities that combat illiteracy, high school dropout rates, crime and youth violence, drug abuse, domestic abuse, neighborhood blight and unemployment in the city.
“It is people like Marvis Cofield and his organization that make ARISE Detroit! so fulfilling because of the positive impact they are having on eastside Detroit neighborhoods,” says Keith.
Some may question why Cofield started Alkebu-lan Village almost 40 years ago. His commitment began back in the 1960s when a group of black Wayne State University students started doing their own community outreach. At age 14, Cofield was one of the people they helped. When he grew to adulthood, he used his skills in the martial arts to do the same thing for future generations.
Alkebu-lan Village has trained more than 250,000 individuals in the martial arts since its inception.
It’s paid off – for Detroit and his organization.
Over the years many kids have come in and had positive and helpful experiences through Alkebu-lan Village. It has not been a one-way street. As the kids grew up, went off to college, and in some cases moved away, they still helped out the place that gave them so much.
Some gave time, some taught skills, and some gave money. No matter how, they kept the cycle of positive influence going.
The importance of learning and strong moral character have been stressed by Cofield by way of martial arts for decades, both on his own and as a part of larger organizations like ARISE Detroit! He does it all to help kids avoid what he calls the three Ss – living on the street, shackles on your feet or under a sheet.
Cofield sums it all up with, “Each one, teach one, reach one, each one.”
He has turned that mantra into a multi-decade crusade for the best Detroit we can all get.
Alkebu-lan Village can use volunteers for the Summer Martial Arts Extravaganza and its day-to-day operations. For more information on the organization as well as finding ways to volunteer please go to http://www.alkebulanvillage.com/
Registration for the 10th annual ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Day is now open. Groups and individuals can register at www.arisedetroit.org or phone 313-921-1955.
The Kresge Foundation is one of ARISE Detroit!’s major funders.