Five Local Change-Makers Deliver Dynamic Power Perspectives to Inspire the City

Throughout the 2020 Detroit Policy Conference, five local changemakers took the stage to deliver “TEDx-style” impact stories that highlighted industry-specific calls to action that can push the needle for Detroit over the next decade.

Power Perspectives were sponsored by Grand Valley State University.

Unlocking Detroit’s Entrepreneurial Potential: Monica Wheat, Executive Director, Venture Catalysts; Managing Director, Backstage Capital

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Detroit, and Wheat wants to help the city rise as the capital for inclusivity. With proper funding and strategic partnerships in the Venture Capital space, Detroit has the potential to lead with a robust ecosystem of business leaders.

Cannabis Advantages for Wellness and Business: Anqunette Sarfoh, Board Member, Michigan Cannabis Industry Association

Detroit’s cannabis business is booming but for consumers and companies to thrive, more communities and businesses must opt-in with their support. Sarfoh is using her voice to champion the safe and appropriate use of cannabis, declaring if business is about opportunity and meeting demand, this is the decade to build a thriving cannabis industry, and we cannot be afraid to try.

Building Detroit’s 24-Hour Economy: Adrian Tonon, 24-Hour Economy Ambassador, City of Detroit

To build a thriving and sustainable 24-hour economy in Detroit, Tonon stresses that we need to maintain Detroit’s allure as a destination for arts and music, while also building a safer community where people can live, work, and play. But first and foremost, we need to take care of the 750 loyal Detroiters who never left – instead of displacing them – and recognize their vital role in moving the city forward.

Restoring Opportunity for Returning Citizens: Mario Bueno, McNair Scholar and Graduate Assistant, University of Michigan; Co-founder, LUCK Inc.

High-crime rates are a liability on Detroit’s balance sheet. To have a self-sustaining economic model, we must alter the path of at-risk populations away from crime and restore their opportunities in society. As a returning citizen, Bueno is committed to helping others and changing the narrative of “Detroit vs. Everybody” to “Detroit Restores Everybody”.

Elevating the City Through Theatre: Sam White, Founding Artistic and Executive Director, Shakespeare in Detroit

Every year, 30 percent of Detroiters attend Canada’s Stratford theatre festival and millions of dollars are raised by Michiganders to support the festival – imagine the impact if those dollars stayed in our communities. White is on a mission to help Detroiters understand the power of theatre and why Michigan needs a large-scale professional theatre. White also educates students on the career options in theatre; from the science of lighting to mathematics of set building, there is something for everyone.


Five of Detroit’s Most Dynamic Voices Deliver Power Perspectives

Throughout the 2019 Detroit Policy Conference, five local community leaders took the stage to deliver for “TEDx-style Power Perspectives.

Shamayim “Mama Shu” Harris, Founder and CEO, Avalon Village

Transforming blight to beauty, Harris wanted to build for the better and transformed her pain into power. Some people look for a beautiful place, Harris chooses to make the place beautiful.

Andre Spivey, Council Member District 4, Detroit City Council

Detroit’s comeback is about how we value education in the city. We must value education to help educate children, and underprepared and non-educated adults. We have a great system but there are still some challenges; if we want to move forward, we must prepare all of our residents, both young and old, for the future.

Armond Rashad, Owner, Jabs Gym Eastern Market; Creator, Run This Town Detroit

The health and wellness industry are alive and well in Detroit and it’s been shown through the success of Jabs Gym and Run This Town Detroit. By 2030, Detroit will be the healthiest city in all of the U.S., Rashad Said. By taking advantage of personal wellness, we can build a healthy Detroit together.

Courtney Smith, Founder and Executive Director, Detroit Phoenix Center

In Detroit, 1.6 million youth are homeless, one in five are victims of human trafficking and 346 percent are less likely to graduate from high school.  Based on her lived experiences and the reality that is Detroit, Smith created Detroit Phoenix Center to better help serve homeless youth. By using her lived experiences, integrating youth voice, and working to better Detroit, Smith is working to make Detroit a city that leads the way in solving the most precious issues. Detroiters need to save Detroit.

Laura Granneman, Vice President, Strategic Investments, Quicken Loans Community Fund

Detroit has one of the highest municipal taxes in the country and we haven’t gotten to the root cause of the problem. Granneman said, we need to help our most vulnerable residents from being displaced as the city changes and evolves. We must make tools accessible and work quickly to reach home owners before it is too late, and their homes are lost.

Power Perspectives were sponsored by Grand Valley State University.