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‘Uncomfortable Conversations,” Grassroots Efforts Crucial to Neighborhood Revitalization

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How can Detroit increase opportunity and improve quality of life for its neighborhoods? That question served as the backdrop for the “Sustaining Neighborhoods: Champions of Revitalization” panel. Among the issues discussed, ARISE Detroit! Executive Director Luther Keith said neighborhood revitalization efforts must begin at the grassroots level.

“Stop waiting and start the block club that your community needs,” Keith said, challenging Conference attendees to look beyond downtown and midtown. “That’s how you move the needle.”

Citing his organization’s ability to mobilize hundreds of volunteers annually, Keith said ARISE Detroit! empowers community members to take a vested interest in their neighborhoods by developing innovative ways to address issues such as illiteracy, high school dropout rates, crime and youth violence, drug abuse, domestic abuse, neighborhood blight and unemployment.

“What we have in Detroit is a lot of small success stories and we have to continue the momentum and provide these stories to the outside,” Keith added. “You won’t find harder working people than those in the communities and neighborhoods of Detroit.”

Quincy Jones, executive director of the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, is focused on changing negative perceptions about northeast Detroit neighborhoods by working with a number of community hubs and residents to improve conditions.

“We must be comfortable having uncomfortable conversations about race and equity, and income and equity,” Jones said. “Resource hubs are important in bridging gaps between residents and redevelopment.”

Moderated by Faye Nelson, vice president of public affairs for DTE Energy and president of the DTE Energy Foundation, the panel also included Tom Goddeeris, executive director of the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp., and The Skillman Foundation’s Henry McClendon. The session was sponsored by the DTE Energy Foundation.