From the first moments of Oxygen’s newest series Preachers of Detroit, it’s clear that the reality show, premiering Feb. 20 at 8 p.m., isn’t going to shy away from taking a hard look at the city’s current state.
“I love Detroit, Detroit’s my home,” says pastor David Bullock over images from around Motown. “Detroit was the epitome of the American dream. A place where you could get a good job, work hard and raise your family. But then it all changed… Detroit is currently in its darkest season.”
Last year, the city closed the door on 16 months of bankruptcy and the unemployment rate as of December 2014 was 7.4, while the national average was 5.6. But Preachers of Detroit, a spinoff of Preachers of L.A., showcases the religious leaders who are aiming to improve Motown through their ministries and activism.
“Detroit is important because it has a very unique narrative around it right now— and that’s resurgence,” said Brie Bryant, Oxygen Media's VP of development, production and original programming. ”The strength and ability to rise up from hardships. Those are all the things I think regular people can connect to.”
That possibility to show a new side of his city is what drew bishop Clarence Langston, who has been preaching for 21 years, to the series.
“So many people’s eyes are really on Detroit to see what’s happening and they’ve heard so many negative reports— they aren’t sure,” said Langston. “So I think that’s really going to be powerful. And I believe people are going to be able to see the grace that’s on our city.”
Bryant is also looking forward to America viewing Detroit at a more personal, on-the-ground level. “It’s a place that we see on the news all the time,” she said. “But to be there with real people as they live and breath it will be something that is different about the series and a good time to do it.”
The development VP explained that Detroit is a passion project from executive producer Lemuel Plummer, who grew up there and still has roots in the city. “This is a tale that stays as true as we could possibly imagine it,” she said. “From the footage to the discussion.”
The pilot episode features the cast members—including the first female, African-American bishop in the city, Corletta Vaughn, and Evanangelist Dorinda Clark-Cole—having a “powwow” to figure out how to help the black community. Although all seven individuals are men and women of the cloth, they see different solutions.
“The series is going to show the resolve of the city and just how we come together to get the job done for our communities,” says Langston of those meetings. “The Detroit preachers, from the scenes that I’ve been a part of, we were willing to put away any differences that we may have [to get] in the trenches doing the work.”
Although the series features many African-American community leaders, Bryant says its premiere during Black History Month was a happy accident. But “it’s going to be empowering,” said bishop Langston. “It’s really going to be a blessing for African-American people to be able to see an experienced image of themselves being broadcast like that on television.”