By Adrian Tonon, Jabari Jefferson and Andre Reed
On Detroit’s west side, I was raised around my family’s restaurant, Rina’s Pizzeria, and later Café | Cortina which still exists today. The long workdays and genuine hospitality guided and molded my adolescence into adulthood. In my twenties and thirties, I utilized the table to gather like-minded people to discuss community issues, create action plans, and later go out and live them. From tackling neighborhood blight, creating healthy eating options for our inner-city youth, to music education and the arts, my passion for serving was eminent.
In 2012 I joined Mayor Duggan’s Executive campaign team and was appointed the founding Director of Customer Service for the City of Detroit. My role reached every department as I was tasked with guiding and shaping the culture of how we served our constituents and each other in government. As a member of the creative community, I naturally assessed each office and its potential impact on the creative economy. Detroit is known as The Motorcity and the birth of Motown. Yet, as the automotive industry adapted, the music industry dwindled and success for a Detroit artist was moving to LA.
All the creatives that stayed were found displaced working in various pockets of Detroit. We soon unified and organized with a common mission of creating opportunity and impact for our creatives that remained. It started with measuring impact for Detroiters when a film came into town or a music festival by asking: “how many Detroiters are hired, are on stage performing, and are given an opportunity to pursue their dreams?” Producers and executives were voluntarily elated to embrace the community which ignited expansion into city departments to create a protocol for easier access and streamlined permitting to produce a festival, shoot a film, or music video.
As time progressed, we started working with music venues and developers to create awareness of the disenfranchised gig community that was in jeopardy of displacement due to a new development across the street. This was the role of what European countries call “Night Mayors”, however, we adopted the name 24- Hour Economy Ambassador and was officially given the title in 2019. Recognizing the creative economy as playing a major role as a potential driver of a thriving Detroit economy became eminent and Mayor Duggan then appointed Rochelle Riley to lead the City’s Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship Office. A beautiful partnership bloomed with the mission to champion a sustainable creative culture that is led by Detroiters and the children of those that stayed, in which over 82% are black and brown.
Over the last sixth months, Detroiters have made their presence known and shown what makes the fabric of Detroit. Our job this summer was to advocate and work with music venues, promoters, and major City agencies to proactively champion a safe and responsible night-time economy where Detroiters showed up in droves.
The question is, how do we build off of our foundation and not make the mistakes other cities did by displacing the very community that made them cool and gave them their truest soul?
24-Hour Economy is intended to champion businesses from 7:00 p.m.-7:00 a.m.
which is more than just parties, it is driven by those doctors, nurses, or janitors who get out at 5:00 a.m. It is those restaurants, dry cleaners, gas stations, or grocery stores open after-hours that functions as a job driver for the 24-Hour Economy. During the pandemic this summer, the busiest spaces were the rooftops, small venues, public spaces, restaurants that were able to open, and newly born outdoor spaces that never would have existed if not for the pressure of utilizing the outdoors. The Deputy Director of the 24-Hour Economy, Jabari Jefferson, joined me as a 16-year-old high school student in the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program. Over the years, Jabari has grown into a relentless homegrown leader at only 19 years old. Together, with a series of interviews and visits with our partners and stakeholders who are shaping the culture, we want to assist those championing a sustainable creative culture with the foundation of Detroit leading the way!
This is After-H(ours) where we share the voices of businesses striving for access, equity, and opportunities in our backyard.