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  • Writer's pictureDeb Seaton


"We do have hope and hope does start in all of us. So maybe I can take the initiative...if I see my neighbors, I'll introduce myself and just go from there." - Participant Monique Taylor on the importance of the Neighborhoods Summit.

Detroit _ There are more than 580 miles between Philadelphia and Detroit. Depending on the carrier, the flight can take up to an hour and a half or more. But Halimah Muhammad made the Saturday morning Nov. 2 flight and would return home that same day to get more information about up-and-coming Michigan housing at the 10th Annual ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Rising Summit.

Interested in the auction process of the city, the culinary nutritionist said she plans to move to Detroit and become a homeowner.

Muhammad, like scores of others, attended the summit at Wayne County Community College District’s downtown Detroit campus.

Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the summit’s goal was to equip residents with strategies and solutions to improve their neighborhoods. The summit included 12 workshop sessions with information on various aspects of neighborhood revitalization. Keynote speaker Portia Roberson, CEO of Focus:HOPE, delivered a message on the organization’s goal to employ Detroiters, the effects of poverty on residents and her own struggles living without health insurance.

Home Ownership Workshop: Do Your Homework

As an aspiring homeowner, Muhammad said that the summit’s importance to her was the opportunity to learn about home ownership.

“The importance of all this is home ownership, especially for people that are minority also people that are native to the actual area,” she said. “I think a lot of times people think home ownership is out of their reach, but definitely being able to be affiliated with certain programs and certain summits like this, allows people to be educated about a lot of things. Educating yourself and going to events like this is definitely helpful.”

Muhammad went to the Land Bank/Home Buying session that spoke of the importance of improving credit and home ownership can help repel gentrification. Panelists mentioned the properties listed in on the Detroit Land Bank Authority website, the difference between landlords and slumlords and the auctioning process.

“There is value in home ownership and the responsibility that comes with it,” said Rod Liggons, director of community affairs for the Detroit Land Bank Authority. “But we have to let people know. We are seeing houses being sold by the dozens.”

Entrepreneurship Workshop: Importance of Partnerships

The Entrepreneur Success session focused on cultivating the existing businesses that are in Detroit neighborhoods to maintain healthy communities. Panelists said starting businesses in neighborhoods requires partnerships with the City of Detroit and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation to facilitate completion of projects.

In this session was Angy Webb, a life-long Detroit resident who she tries to come every year to the summit. Each year, she hopes to learn something new that would help her community. Webb said bringing an Aldi grocery store to the west side Cody-Rouge area, would be beneficial because of the grocery chain’s reasonable prices and organic food.

“I wanted to find out how I could help develop businesses in our own community,” she said. “That we would have places close by that are convenient for our community residents. It’s important that people collaborate together to figure out what it is that is offered that would bring about a benefit to the community.”

Early Childhood Support Workshop: Helping Parents and Caregivers

The Early Childhood Support workshop focused on issues that affect the future of Detroit children.

Camarrah Morgan of the Kellogg Foundation-funded Hope Starts Here program said although the initiative contributes to community cleanups and blight removal, the focus includes creating and improving childcare facilities and safe spaces around the city and helping more parents be aware of what they can do so their children are ready for school and life.

“We are working very diligently to ensure that each child living in the city of Detroit knows that they’re the world’s future and they have the support needed to help them be leaders in the future,” Morgan said.

Also featured on the panel was Monique Taylor, a parent ambassador for Hope Starts Here. She said the summit shows residents and nonresidents that Detroit is here to stay, and the city is welcoming to everyone. She said she learned everyone one counts, and all should participate in the nation’s census count next year.

“My takeaway would be that we do have hope and hope does start in all of us,” she said. “I even struggle with is just knowing my neighbors. So maybe I can take the initiative this week and just go out, if I see my neighbors, I’ll introduce myself and just go from there.”

Retired farmer Willie Spivey, who attends Wayne County Community College, came to the event after noticing a flyer. He says he is interested in purchasing property to utilize his sweat equity and will bring back the information for his peers. He attended both the Land Bank and Early Childhood Support sessions.

“I ride the bus and they tell me all the time, ‘they’re building this for them,’” says Spivey, “I tell them, ‘no, they’re building this for anybody who will come.’ Quit playing, quit moping – especially the males – get up and get busy.”

Hire It Done Jobs Workshop: Focus on Education

But getting busy may require some level of education before making the community better. Panelists on the Hire It Done session consistently referred to the importance of having a high school diploma or equivalent to find jobs, in addition to the reality of making a living in the non-traditional way.

“Most adults who do not have their GED or their high school diploma cannot read at a third-grade level,” said Raven Scott, outreach and event planner of Detroit@Work. “Certain training schools will say, ‘you at least have to be fifth grade math and reading.’ And people cannot get to that.”

Panelists also discussed how technology has changed the way youth have obtained jobs, many agreeing the model of graduating from high school and college isn’t the only form of success and businesses should consider that when recruiting.

“This is their world,” said business consultant and ARISE Detroit! Board member Leslie Graham Andrews. “We don’t get to go into their world and change the rules and try to make their world fit our reality. That’s just facts.”

Whether it is starting a business or finding a job, for Detroiters, the future of neighborhoods all seemed to address a similar theme: doing one’s fair share. Before leaving the sessions for Philadelphia, Muhammad said it can simply start at a resident’s home.

”If people just started with their particular home, like if they picked up the trash on their street, if they cut the grass, if they made sure the house is aesthetically pleasing – if every single body did the exact same thing, the neighborhood would be kept up.”

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