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Bishop Edgar Vann Launches Non-Profit to Address Equity in Detroit

Michigan Chronicle
Andre Ash

While the city of Detroit continues to make economic strides, it falls upon all of us to do as much as we can to ensure everyone is included in Detroit’s comeback. The truth is Black Detroiters in the labor force are nearly four times as likely to be unemployed as white Detroiters and are often disconnected from opportunities. Bishop Edgar L. Vann developed Detroit Equity Inc. (DEI) with the intention of working with nonprofit, community, and corporate leaders to change that.

“At a time when the very humanity of communities of color appears to be under attack, it is more important than ever for us to stand up locally for equity, inclusion and opportunities,” said Bishop Edgar Vann, Detroit Equity Inc.’s founder and chief executive officer. “We must work together to ensure prosperity is within everyone’s reach and Detroit Equity Inc. looks forward to joining a community of organizations in Detroit committed to making equity a reality.”

Bishop Edgar Vann has been a renowned interfaith, corporate, and civic leader in the City of Detroit for more than 45 years. Vann founded Vanguard Community Development which has led to $63 million of housing and commercial development in Detroit. He has served the City of Detroit as a member of the Detroit Police Commission, Human Rights Commission, and the State of Michigan Civil Rights Commission. He continues to serve on the Executive Committee of the Downtown Detroit Partnership and the board of directors of Henry Ford Health.

Following years of determination, planning, and support, Bishop Edgar Vann tapped Attorney Bertram Marks, who, like Vann, is a former civil rights commissioner, as co-founder and general counsel to aid in transforming his vision of connecting Detroiters to economic opportunities into Detroit Equity Inc.

DEI will provide a range of nonprofit and consulting services designed to achieve the following goals:

  • Increase the number of Detroiters and people of color represented in Detroit’s workforce
  • Connect Detroit-based and minority-owned businesses to procurement and supplier opportunities
  • Increase the number of Detroiters and people of color in the pipeline for executive leadership and board positions
  • Champion data-driven, Detroit-specific research and best practices in the diversity, equity, and inclusion field

The organization is launching with the strong support of founding corporate and civic partners Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Huntington Bank, DTE Energy Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, City of Detroit, Wayne State University, and Henry Ford Health.

Detroit Equity Inc.’s board of directors, chaired by Huntington National Bank Chairman Gary Torgow, represents leaders from Detroit’s corporate and civic communities.

“As a board, we understand that Detroit’s success depends on our ability to connect everyone, in every neighborhood, to opportunities,” Torgow said. “We will continue to encourage the corporate and civic community to continue to make that goal a reality.”

Daniel J. Loepp, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan said: “Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is honored to be one of the founding partners for Detroit Equity and stand together to address equity and inclusion. More than a decade ago, our company strengthened its commitment to inclusion and diversity; this is one of the important ways that we are continuing to put this commitment into action.”

Jerry Norcia, DTE Energy chairman and chief executive officer, said: “It takes strong leaders to achieve bold, long-term, shared equity and inclusion goals, and DTE is grateful to support Bishop Vann’s vision through Detroit Equity Inc. to drive progress. The partners and perspectives combined on this important work will foster fresh collaboration to engage and activate people to close the equity gap and re-envision our future.”

DEI has partnered with Wayne State University’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights to develop a report, funded by the Kresge Foundation, that will examine areas of inequity in Detroit and share proven best practices to provide a road map for our collective efforts moving forward. The findings of the report will be released at a symposium which will also be held at Wayne State University this fall.

“Bishop Vann’s vision of a more equitable Detroit is directly in line with Wayne State University’s mission to positively impact our local community,” said Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson. “We’re proud to add the university’s talent pool and resources to support this worthy initiative in the pursuit of a more inclusive comeback.”

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