Resilient Neighborhoods: Corktown nonprofit debuts mental health gym during outdoor market series

On a balmy Friday in late July, a DJ is blasting Latin dance music from stage under a willow tree on Trumbull Avenue in Corktown. The music is directed towards a parking lot where people are mingling and vendors are selling food, art, crafts and a variety of other products.

The festivities are part of an initiative called Fantazma Market & Cafe, sponsored by the nonprofit Detroit Hispanic Development Center (DHDC). Launched last year, the market was created to open up employment and entrepreneurial pathways for Detroiters and local small businesses, especially those owned by people of color. Located at DHDC's Corktown headquarters, the market takes place every Friday from 6 to 11 pm. 

Each of the markets have a theme. In the past, these have included everything from Anita Zavalaa comedy show to karaoke and a family carnival. On July 29, that theme was "Havana Nights."

"It's a really good night, a lot of dancing and music and fun," Anita Zavala, DHDC's social entrepreneurship and wealth-building manager, says of that days events. "[We're having] some salsa performers and lessons. We are selling Cuban sandwiches and mojitos and rum punch."

Detroiter Eva Salcedo, who runs a business called EvaMazing Creations, was among the vendors at the market that evening. She makes a combination of candles, body care products, and spiritual items with the assistance of her husband, Salvador and is a big fan of the market.

"I have been coming all summer," she says. "I love the events. I love the people that come through. They're like family now."

Brittany Tansil of Warren also participates in the market. Through her company Royal Rebel LLC, she offers food and crafts  merchandise that includes items like homemade cheesecake and decorated wine glasses.

"I found the market on Facebook," she says. "It's more helpful than a lot of otherErika Casillas places [that] charge an arm and a leg. It's more affordable for people starting out in business." 

Tansil also appreciates the business classes DHDC offers to vendors and has found they've given her better insight into running her company.

Erika Casillas, a Southwest Detroiter, also runs a booth at the market. A vendor of handmade jewelry, including rings, necklaces, and bracelets, she too has had positive experiences there.
"It's been really good," says Casillas. "I've met a lot of people and vendors, and I've had a great experience with them. I recommend vendors to come out and sell their things here!"

A DJ plays salsa music at Fantazma Market's "Havana Nights" event.Mental health gym pilot

The market held during the last week of July, however, was a special one, as it also featured a ribbon-cutting event for a new initiative being offered at the DHDC building called the Inception Mental Health Gym

A collaboration between DHDC and a Michigan-based company called Inception, the gym makes use of emerging technologies to treat issues like anxiety and depression..

"We're partnering with Inception to do some trauma healing using cutting-edge technology to help our youth really address some physical changes of trauma, the way it affects your body."

The mental health gym space was developed by entrepreneur David McCullar, who operates another facility in Farmington Hills, who developed his own system to treatDavid McCullar his own health issues.

"I got into this is [because I was] dealing with anxiety and panic attacks," he says. "I was into a lot of alternative [health practices], and I came across brain training, and that helped me reduce my anxiety."

The new space at DHDC makes use of emerging noninvasive techniques like neurofeedback, magnetic therapy, and red light therapy. Although these technologies may seem a little far out, there is some research showing that red light therapy, which makes use of low-wavelength light, and neurofeedback, which develops self-control of brain functions, hold potential for treating issues like inflammation and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The new mental health gym at DHDC headquarters, which is a pilot program, is being funded with the help of a $73,000 grant from the Skillman Foundation. The nonprofit plans to treat local young people between the ages of six and 25 at the space with 30 minute sessions. During their time at the space, the youth will listen to music and interact with Inception's technologies which are designed to help people's bodies and minds return to a state of natural balance.

"When people are stuck in a stress response, you literally need a pattern interruption to interrupt you being in a hypervigilant state," says McCullar. "These are very high concentrated doses of relaxation. It's not going after any symptoms. It's just helping the systems of the body."

David McCullar, CEO of Inception, poses with technology at DHDC's new mental health gym space.Upcoming market events

While DHDC's mental health gym is a new addition, Fantazma Market actually got started last year. After launching last August, the market took a winter break in December and reopened this spring. This year it will be operating from April to December. 

At first Fantazma only had about four or five vendors, who sold their merchandise on office tables that DHDC rolled out onto the lawn of its parking lot. Since then, the vendor booths have gotten a little fancier, and the market now averages about 20 vendors a week. The amount of visitors varies from week to week, anywhere from 20 to a couple hundred people depending on the event. 

"It's definitely grown a lot," says Zavala. "Our vendors are making money and coming back every week. We've already had about 200 different unique businesses including our pop-up kitchens and entertainment vendors that we provide payment to, so everybody is making money."

As for the future, the market is going strong with lots of themed events on the way. Planned themes for August include a full moon ceremony, elements of hip-hop night, and an end of summer bash, and a fashion show is in the works for September. 

"Every week it's something different, something fun. something family-based," says Zavala. "So it's always great to bring out the kids. We have a lot going on."

All photos by Nick Hagen unless otherwise noted.

Resilient Neighborhoods is a reporting and engagement series that examines how Detroit residents and community development organizations are working together to strengthen local neighborhoods. It's made possible with funding from the Kresge Foundation.

Salsa dancing at Fantazma Market.
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