in the blood.
If you know Jackie Victor, you know she’s not one to shy away from speaking up for what she believes in. Likewise, spend just a few minutes chatting with her daughter, Rafi, and you’ll see that trait is simply in the Victor blood.
“They say you should never talk about politics with family, but I’ve always been like, ‘nah, that’s bullshit.’ I'm going to talk about politics with everyone because I think we need to be talking about it. I think wanting to have those conversations is part of the reason I’ve always been friends with older people.”
Compared to your average high school senior, Rafi is indeed wise beyond her years; so, those conversations often begin with politics and extend to encompass the myriad of issues that move her.
“I’m definitely liberal and am particularly interested in issues around the female body and female sexual empowerment, LGBTQ rights, as well as social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, and issues like police brutality against African-Americans and ending the school to prison pipeline. I think I became active at such a young age because of my moms. They taught me so much about morals and what’s truly important.”
Raised by two brilliant women who were also starting a business together in the then-struggling Cass Corridor taught her much about strength and perseverance. But she also had the unique experience of being raised by the diverse community in which her family lived and worked, giving her exposure to people, places and things that were a far cry from the typical suburban upbringing.
“Our neighborhood was a melting pot where everyone came together, but my parents always made sure my brother and I were aware of and grateful for the privileges we had. I go to Cranbrook now, and it’s kind of a bubble where people can really lose sight of what’s important and are often focused only on themselves, so I feel fortunate to have been raised outside of that bubble… I got a lot of great perspective from my parents, Detroit and the bakery.”
Avalon has remained a second home for Rafi since Jackie and Anne opened its doors two decades ago, and the loyal patrons and staff who’ve watched her grow up have become extended family members.
“My moms were just starting the business when I was born, so they were working all the time. They never wanted to deal with babysitters, so they would put me in the file cabinet drawers until I grew out of them. I started cooking with the bakers as soon as I could, and I just thought it was awesome. Everyone knew me and was so good to me, and not just the employees either. Avalon has such a big community. I don't think I've been there once and not seen at least two people I know.”
Those formative years not only cultivated in her a profound connection to and love for Detroit and its people but also gave her a front-row seat to the good, bad and ugly of the city’s renaissance over the last two decades.
“Honestly, right now I'm a little frustrated by the state of the city. It just seems like there are a lot of new people coming into Detroit, which is good, but it’s making living here so much more expensive for the people who were here first and so they’re being forced out, which is shitty. I think that if people want to come here and live, they should find ways to integrate with the existing people and contribute to the community. Ultimately, I think Detroit’s future will be determined by what people decide to fight for, and I hope we decide to fight for people and communities rather than just opening a bunch more Shinolas.”
That very same sense of empathy and compassion is part of what inspired her to study law when she heads to university next year.
“I've known what I wanted to do since I was five… My dream is to reform the criminal justice system. I realized early on that I was really good at arguing and getting my way. Then, when I was a little older, I was inspired by a character named Olivia Pope on the show Scandal. She’s this badass lawyer who works with the White House and is just the embodiment of female power in the workplace. She’s never intimidated, but rather, she’s intimidating, which is so cool. So, changing the world has been my goal for a long time. I'm good at arguing. I'm very fiery because of my parents and I'm very passionate about what I do because of growing up in Detroit.”
Of course, though her dream career doesn’t appear to include taking control of the family business, it almost certainly includes returning to her Detroit roots down the road.
“I’m applying to a few in-state schools but also kind of want to get out of Dodge for now. Still, I've always seen myself coming home at some point. All of my family is here, and my family the most important thing in my life. Detroit is my home, but I do wonder what it will be like when I’m ready to come back.”
Smart, spirited and inspired to be the change, Rafi is a refined reflection of the people and places that raised her so well. And though it’s hard to say what’s in store for the city at this fragile point in its development, we should try with all of our collective might to make it the sort of place people like Rafi want to put down roots.
Fortunately, the stories we’ve shared over the last year are proof that countless good souls are striving to steer the Motor City in the right direction. And whether those individuals are stoic stalwarts who’ve dedicated their lives to the city, globetrotters who’ve realized the greenest pastures exist within our 142-square-miles, or newcomers longing to contribute to something bigger than themselves, a common thread unites them all…
A commitment to seeing a city and the people who call it home rise like never before.