The sight of a group of heavily armed Black men patrolling urban neighborhoods in uniform and providing services to local communities might sound like something from the 1960s or 70s, but these details represent a current description of New Era Detroit.

This group has dedicated itself to serving and protecting Black communities in Michigan’s largest city. The group has made a name for itself in the streets of Detroit and across social media for its bold yet largely celebrated approach to community safety.

New Era Detroit describes itself on social media as “an organization formed to restore black unity in black communities in Detroit as well as across the nation.”

As described in an interview conducted last year by the publication rolling out, the organization was founded in 2014 by Isiah “Zeek” Williams.

Since then, New Era Detroit has initiated a series of more than a dozen community programs in the city. Some of its activities include toy drives for neighborhood children; health and wellness programs centered around veganism and healthy eating; community cleanup campaigns; and self-defense courses.

“Our whole goal is to make sure that we have a sense of organization in the Black community,” Williams told rolling out.

While New Era Detroit’s various service programs have endured it to many in the Black communities of Detroit, it’s the organization’s more eye-popping displays of force that have gained it a presence on social media.

The group itself posts a number of videos of members assisting and protecting residents, particularly Black women, as they engage in activities like pumping gas or carrying groceries home. These images, shared by other accounts as well, have garnered millions of views on sites like Instagram.


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The sight of these men – dressed in militant-style uniforms and openly carrying large rifles – have made New Era Detroit stand out and drawn comparisons to the Black Panther Party founded in the mid-1960s.

The Black Panthers had a mostly antagonistic relationship with police and authorities like the FBI, involving shootouts, arrests and even assassinations of figures like Fred Hampton.

However, unlike the Black Panthers, New Era Detroit has maintained friendly relationships with authorities.

As Yahoo News reports, Michigan’s open carry gun laws largely allow the types of public displays of firearms that New Era Detroit practices.

A representative for the Detroit Police Department told Yahoo that the police force has “a good relationship with New Era Detroit” and that the organization would often call police in advance to let them know of their presence so that the sight of these armed Black men wouldn’t be mistaken for something else by cops.

From its base in Detroit, the organization has expanded to a number of other cities under the New Era Nation label; it has also fielded interest from other countries, and thus created a New Era World branding to cover all its activities. Despite these expanding efforts, however, the main focus of the organization remains serving communities in Detroit.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Yamiche Alcindor, Williams stated that the organization’s core priorities were about “making it a lifestyle to get out in the community, build relationships with people and work on realistic issues and not wait for something to happen.”

As Detroit continues to deal with issues of crime and development within the city, New Era Detroit will continue to have many opportunities to live out its community-focused mission. So far, it is a mission that everyone from the police to the folks in the neighborhood have welcomed.