Inside Southwest

Written by Gionni Crawford

A tradition that started as a way to bring together young people in Southwest Detroit can be touted as "Dream Cruise: Southwest Detroit Style"

Hundreds of people gathered to see the showcased lowriders at the annual Blessing of the Lowriders event in Southwest Detroit, one of Detroit's most vibrant communities, along West Vernor Highway May 5, 2012.

The first Blessing of the Lowriders event took place 14 years ago in 1998 at Ste Anne's Catholic Church in Detroit.

Victor Villalobos is the founder of the Blessing of the Lowriders event and is passionate about telling stories about how lowriders were established. He believes this event ties the community together and dispels myths about youth, gangs, lowriders, and the Southwest Detroit community in general.

"When people think of lowriders immediately they think of old American made cars, but lowriders are also bicycles.  Old Schwinn "Krates" and "Stingrays" are the two most popular bicycle styles used to convert to lowriders," said Villalobos, "By accepting bicycles to be blessed it brings families together to build, paint, and display their works... young men and women love to show off what they labored over."

To keep the community-binding tradition going, Victor and Young Nation partnered in 2010 in hopes to attract more young people.

Young Nation promotes youth and community development through cultural and educational initiatives.

Young Nation is helping break stereotypes about Southwest Detroit (the community) and lowriders (the people) and using lowriders (the cars) as mentoring tools.

"We're excited that Young Nation has a big enough roof for us all to live under with our passion-based projects and want to have that be part of what gets out with this event." said Erik Howard, founder of Young Nation.

Villalobos realizes that there are a lot of unconfronted myths about Southwest, but he believes that this event has effectively combated those myths.

"Over the years I think that it has been very effective because the day that we had the first blessing the community and congregation at the church was accepting to the lowriders. These young men and women went back to their communities to tell other lowriders how accepting and uplifting it was to participate in mass."

Lowriders were not the only thing spectators could enjoy, Southwest Detroit is known for its surplus of ethnic restaurants and businesses.

"Southwest Detroit is a community built on pride. Even after a neighbor leaves they always find their way back for at least a visit or a bite to eat. I have always said once you have "bounced" down W. Vernor Hwy, you are hooked...you'll be back."

If you're looking for a history lesson about the Blessing of the Lowriders tradition and customized cars, contact Victor Villalobos via email at vicvillalobos@yahoo.com or Erik Howard at mrehoward@yahoo.com

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