Detroit Proper: ‘The Tetra’ Encourages You to Fan the Flames Within

the Tetra

It’s hard to hear about the record-breaking heat waves, the melting of the polar ice caps and the scorch of fatal forest fires without wondering if we’re in the end times. After all, St. Peter predicted how the world would be destroyed the second time around – a prediction reiterated by James Baldwin in the title of his 1963 book,The Fire Next Time.

In times like these it’s hard to stay centered. Can we retreat into ourselves when the world needs us to be angrier and louder than ever? And yet, how do we protect ourselves from being consumed by the flames of protest? What good does it do if we all melt down?

This was how I was feeling a couple of months ago when an email landed in my inbox. It was from this mysterious source called “The Tetra,” and it seemed to be talking directly to me. “I invite you to embody your authentic nature everyday: Fire,” it spoke to me in a voice that was both poetic and vernacular.

“You are not wilting or stagnant, Your Grace. You are the forest fire. You are sprawling, a light moving through the world – not just ashing, but transmuting. Everything you touch don’t just burn … it wants to burn. Like you.”

Could it be that my spark is exactly what the world needs now? Is it possible that I can transform my world – and the world at large – by embracing the fire this time? It’s not the first time that an email from The Tetra has whipped my head around, helping me to face life’s challenges, both personal and global. The mysterious emails draw from many paradigms, including popular music (especially rap), mythology, African Yoruba, and mother’s wit. 


Always, they seem to have a calming effect, urging me to seek my own power in the face of perceived powerlessness. They push me toward my creative spirit, allowing me to define my own world and my place in it. Evidently, I’m not the only person overwhelmed by the roiling heat of these times, nor am I the only one getting daily messages from The Tetra. The emails were started by a couple of Detroiters who saw the need to help people rise above today’s turmoil, and to support people living on the margins.

“All the dirt that has been swept under the rug is being uncovered now,” said one of the co-founders. “This is one way to help people unpack what’s happening and stop walking round bottled up.” The founders started sending out their secret messages as an experiment in community healing on New Year’s Day 2018. At first, the list was mostly people they knew in the metro Detroit area. Now, after a year and a half, the list has burgeoned to more than 7,000 people who have heard about The Tetra by word of mouth or who’ve been invited by their friends and acquaintances to sign up. 

The founders are determined to keep their identities secret. “We want people to opt into the community based on how the messages resonate with them, not based on who we are,” one founder said. “We want to see whose energy is calling them to join in.” 

The goal of the project – which is half art, half spiritual practice – is to build a network of people committed to healing, restoring justice and creating the world we need, person by person. Hence, the emails renew daily, helping subscribers ask hard questions of themselves. Some emails require “homework,” some require contemplation. All of them move us closer to the fire inside.

“Change happens one day at a time,” one founder said. “Healing is only possible when what we are running toward meets us with greater reverence than what we left behind.” Will the founders ever reveal their identities? Yes, they say, when their Tetra community is ready to move into collective action. Until then, we have to do the work of making sure our individual embers glow as brightly as possible.

“What resistance has been pushing up against your fire, trying to deter it, trying to smother it?” The Tetra recently asked. “What would you like your fire to transform this resistance into?” The Tetra said, “we don’t need no water;” let the right things burn.

If you’d like to start receiving daily Tetra emails, sign up at or email

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