Black Exodus — Why Some Blacks Detroiters are Leaving to Find New Places to Call Home  

Emma Lockridge’s daughter, Sarah (left), and Emma, and Sarah’s husband, right, in Memphis, Tennessee during her daughter and son-in-law’s wedding.  

Photo provided Emma Lockridge  

  

Former Southwest Detroit resident LaShay Heard decided she had enough.  

The 24-year-old, who now lives in Wyandotte, chose to move to the Detroit suburb in 2019 after living in a city that she says has “dangerous crime” rates that could have jeopardized her young family.   

“Too much shooting, too much robbing,” Heard said, adding that “the response time for the police to respond was too long.”  

She said during one particular incident in Southwest Detroit someone tried to run into her car and she called the police and they “never came.”  

  

“We Don’t Look Out for Each Other”  

 Another time she called the police because a man tried to beat her and her friend up.  

“The police called me back and said, ‘nobody was able to handle the call,’” she said, adding she chose to move after that incident. “[It] got to the point where either [I] stay here and have something happen to me or leave.”  

Over the last decade, Detroit and Michigan’s Black population dropped in numbers, according to the latest U.S. Census that reveals Black residents have grown as the majority in two Detroit suburbs, The Detroit News reported.  

Thanks to that uptick and shifting, Black residents are more sprawled throughout Wayne County in places like Harper Woods, and in Macomb County in cities like Eastpointe, which elected its first Black female mayor, Monique Owens in 2019.  

A lot more African Americans are also calling Warren, Michigan’s third-largest city, home according to the article.  

“Much of this is due to African Americans in Detroit moving to suburban communities with affordable housing and good schools,” Kurt Metzger, a demographer who is Pleasant Ridge’s mayor said in the story. “Here we have communities that border the city and which saw large numbers of African Americans moving in last decade when more than 180,000-plus African Americans left. They have found the suburbs to be welcoming and have continued to move in.”  

According to the Census, the Black population ballooned 58 percent from 2010 to 2020 in Harper Woods; 89 percent in Eastpointe; from over 45 percent in 2010 in Harper Woods to 66 percent in 2020, and up over 29 percent in 2010 in Eastpointe to roughly 53 percent Black, according to the article.  

Primarily Black suburbs before the recent U.S. Census report included Southfield and Oak Park.  

For Heard, she said while moving to Wyandotte was a safer choice, she feels that Detroit is still more welcoming and, depending on where you go, more neighborly – especially when she grew up in Detroit and “you knew everybody on your block.”  

“I traded the sense of community for safety,” she said, adding that she still visits her sister and mother (who live in Detroit).  

Heard added that while she can‘t always “blame Detroit” for their criminal problems, she would encourage the Detroit Police Department to take even more initiatives to get to know the residents. Also, take more steps to keep Detroiters safe — especially throughout investigations when potential witnesses are asked to be involved. How do they remain safe when police are long gone?  

“We don’t look out for each other,” she said. “I don’t feel comfortable coming to you [police] putting my life in danger trying to help you solve a case.”  

  

An Opportunity Awaits Overseas 

Former Midtown resident Crystal Nicole, 43, moved to New Hudson (just outside of Novi) from Detroit.  

Raised on the Westside of Detroit, Nicole said she wanted bigger and better opportunities for her family, especially her 19-year-old son, who has caught the eye of scouts.  

“I’ve always wanted to experience life outside Detroit,” she said, adding that although she moved primarily to be with her fiancé who lives in the town, she wanted her son to be more visible to scouts.”  

Nicole told the Michigan Chronicle that New Hudson is more low-key and supports her family’s lifestyle.  

“We’re very subtle people … more introvert than extrovert, and overall, academically a lot of the opportunities for my sons, a lot of them explored … more so out here,” she said.  

Nicole added that her oldest son is training to play basketball overseas, and that it’s quieter in the suburbs for him to concentrate to develop his mental strength and discipline.  

Nicole said that living in Midtown allowed her to be within walking distance of the Little Caesar’s Arena and Ford Field. While she knew what she was getting into living so close to these attractions, she said that the noise, construction and other elements of city life became too much.  

She added that Detroit is a “wonderful city” but it’s not everything for everybody.  

“Like anything else, certain things are for certain people,” she said. “What it boils down to [we] needed something different.”  

 

Gettin’ Back to Her Southern Roots  

Emma Lockridge’s daughter, Sarah (left), and Emma, in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo provided Emma Lockridge      

Lifelong Southwest Detroit resident Emma Lockridge, 68, moved to Memphis, Tenn., officially this past March.  

Lockridge, who already has family in different parts of the South, said that as an adult she moved back home to be closer to attend to her elderly mother who eventually went into assisted living.   

Lockridge, who lived in the 48217 zip code in Southwest — described as the most polluted place in Michigan — told the Michigan Chronicle that she had to leave for the south to be closer to her daughter and son-in-law due to her own ailing health.  

 “I was sick — I had a brain tumor last year,” she said of the golf ball-size tumor between her left eye and brain.  

Already dealing with a myriad of health issues (including a kidney transplant) she moved also because she had no family nearby to depend on.  

“Now I live five minutes from her; I love her so much,” she said of her daughter. “I am almost 70; at my age I need to be near someone.”  

Now that she’s fully recovered, the trio attends church every Sunday, and her daughter makes brunch for a party of three.  

Lockridge added that she has noticed a dramatic change in air quality for her at her new home and her improved health.  

“I was born in Alabama – I feel like I’m home,” she said of living in Tennessee, the blues capital of the world. “I run into all types [of people]. Some very cool people. I love the people in Detroit, too.”  

She added that “foundational city” especially with music is a place she can get her jam on and visit extended relatives, too.  

“I feel really attached to this city,” she said. “I feel like I came home.”  

Contact Staff Writer Sherri Kolade with story ideas at skolade@michronicle.com.  

 

 

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