Michigan Chronicle’s Andre Ash led a discussion on the state of Black leadership in the city. The virtual roundtable featured Toson Knight, current Dean of Students for Detroit Public Schools and City Council District 4 candidate, Nicole Small —Vice-Chair of the Detroit Charter Commission, Eric Thomas —Chief Storyteller, and Teferi Brent — Men’s Minister for Fellowship Chapel.
Posing the questions “does Detroit have the right leadership, the moderator questioned the panel on current leadership across the city. From city to state government, community and religious leadership were front and center for the forum.
“Definitely not as unified as it should be. We have a lot of people operating from the lens of being paralyzed with fear which is a huge issue,” says Small.
The panelist highlighted the current leadership of Mayor Mike Duggan. Often divided, the mayor presents a polarizing opinion from Detroiters. Either advocates or stark critics of the mayor, the city’s residents are just months from a mayoral election, while many wonders if the mayor has done enough to assist Detroit.
“You can talk to different people around the neighborhoods, around the city and you will get different opinions, but overall, has the city improved under the mayor’s leadership? Yes,” says Knight, also former Deputy District Manager for Mayor Mike Duggan.
On the opposite end, critics of the mayor are scrutinizing his efforts across the city. Although Detroit has seen a significant resurgence, some argue the Black citizens of the city have been vastly shut out of its revival, despite the overwhelming 89 percent Black population. The city’s rebirth has come at the cost of erasing some of the city’s most historic and iconic businesses and predominantly Black neighborhoods.
“I don’t think that you’re doing a great job when you’re gentrifying the majority of people who have been here to hold this city down even after the harsh economic downturn,” says Small.
Detroit’s crime rates are some of the highest across the country. Questioning if it’s a matter of leadership and direction, panelists weighed in on their stance.
“I believe in community patrols, community policing, effective proactive engagement of the community. I believe in addressing core issues that lead to incarceration and criminality. It is all of us,” says Brent.
The predominantly Black city is still a hub for some of the most financial hardships across the country. For African Americans, this is especially hard as it leads to crimes of opportunity and decreased visibility from the city’s economic leaders.
“The data that I’ve looked at clearly reflects the fact that we are still the city with a seriously impacted, impoverished community. Most of which are African American people,” says Brent.
The issue of overtaxing arose as the city’s residents have made it clear the taxation happening in Black communities is unparalleled to those outside the city limits. Leaders stepping up to help find solutions to the city overtaxing is crucial in this upcoming election year.
“You have to have an administration that’s more amenable to change,” says Small. “Someone who will at least acknowledge their flaws.”
Despite their opposing views on leadership across the state, the panelist all agree that leadership across the city can stand some improvement. Unify city officials community leaders can help to bring about change for all of Detroit.
“I think when you can get an executive leadership and elected officials closer to the actual people on the ground, that is when you are on your way to having effective leadership,” says Brent.
To view the round table discussion, please visit the Michigan Chronicle Facebook page.