What do you think of the North End?
Bound by I-75, Woodland, Woodward Ave., and E. Grand Boulevard, with 1,152 homes, four schools, two parks, and $1.6 million in investments the historic neighborhood in Detroit is booming with vitality, new homes and an even stronger sense of community – and it’s just getting started.
Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes & Politics went into this neighborhood (located in the Woodward Corridor) and brought along Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters for in-depth conversations during its first-ever Overdrive series on Monday, May 23 at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church’s banquet center nicknamed the “Jewel of the North End.” The Rev. Kenneth James Flowers of Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church told the Michigan Chronicle that the inaugural event “means a lot for the North End.”
“We have brought the federal government to the neighborhood to let the community know that we are going to put resources here to make the community grow,” Flowers said, adding that the people and streets are where the power is.”
This year, the Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes & Politics Overdrive series was initially introduced during COVID for people to engage with leaders and audience members with diverse topics throughout the year.
Overdrive’s digital component (sponsored by Business Leaders for Michigan) includes bringing special guests inside the Michigan Chronicle’s Studio 1452 and throughout the community for exclusive content that will feature business leaders and newsmakers.
“Having the first Overdrive forum of 2022 at the historic Greater New Mount Moriah Baptist Church, an anchor of Detroit’s North End, was a great way to engage residents and local leaders in the process to make Michigan a leading state for jobs, the economy, widely shared prosperity, and a healthy economy,” said Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan told the Michigan Chronicle in a statement. “U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters spoke about issues that are vital for Detroiters and all Michiganders – from winning the autonomous and electric vehicle transformation to investing in education and infrastructure.”
President and CEO of Ignition Media Group & Pancake and Politics host, Dennis Archer, Jr. (who led the discussion between Stabenow and Peters) said that while preparing for the event he re-researched the definition of gentrification, in which a poor, urban area is challenged by wealthier people moving in and improving housing and attracting new businesses, resulting in kicking the original residents out.
“Typically displacing current inhabitants in the process,” Archer, Jr. Said adding that the city is in “dire circumstances” because many Detroiters live at (or below) the poverty rate, according to statistics.
However, he discourages people from calling the city, and its residents “poor.”
“In general, many of us are rich in spirit, rich in culture, and desire to do better,” he said adding that while residents may be financially poor, it is time to address issues and stigmas surrounding poverty. “That is why we are here today …those who come to the (Detroit Athletic Club) — that is where the money is. We are in the streets today at the North End because that is where the opportunity is. In order for us to take advantage of the opportunity, we need the help of the federal government.”
When asked about looking at Detroit from a 50,000-foot lens, and what can be done to make the city work for its residents, Stabenow said that assistance from the federal government looks like using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, which is significantly assisting cities like Detroit and neighborhoods like the North End who benefit from the distribution of these funds.
The 1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill was signed into law in March 2021 to help alleviate the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. The payments were broken up into two payments of 413 million distributed last June, with the second equal disbursement this past May.
Detroiters have already identified neighborhood rebuilding, tackling poverty and improving public safety as top priorities for the ARPA funds, according to a press release.
“We are a partner,” Stabenow said of being a central-state partner for communities across the state including the North End. “All of us are partnering together makes a difference.”
Peters said that “there is no question” that building community within the community means acknowledging the areas that have been underserved for years, but luckily the Biden-Harris Administration’s understanding of “urban areas” goes a long way.
Peters, who is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said that he sees how Black and Brown communities are dramatically impacted after natural disasters because “resources aren’t there.”
“We have a crisis across country,” he said adding that FEMA is expanding its equity footprint to ensure that unequally advantaged communities need resources that wealthier ones already have.
Earlier this year, Peters introduced a bill to strengthen federal disaster response for minority, rural and disabled communities that would accomplish such.
The Achieving Equity in Disaster Response, Recovery, and Resilience Act would establish the Office of Civil Rights, Equity, and Inclusion (OCREI) at FEMA to increase access to and improve the quality of disaster assistance for, among others, minority, rural, and disabled communities. The office would be dedicated to reducing disparities in the delivery of disaster assistance. Peters introduced the bill with U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (CA).
“Recent emergencies have shown we must do more to protect our most vulnerable and underserved communities,” said Senator Peters in a press release.
Sonya Mays, president & CEO of Develop Detroit Inc., said from empty houses and abandonment over the last couple of decades, a lot of problems are being continually addressed now in the North End (and the city), especially through organizations like her own.
Develop Detroit has focused its efforts in Detroit’s disinvested neighborhoods, recently launching an innovative single-family development pilot program in the North End by rehabbing and the new construction of single-family and townhomes; construction began in the fall of 2018.
“In that negativity, there can be a whole lot of optimism,” she said. “You can run the neighborhood without creating gentrification. You have to be intentional about doing that. Think long-term…real possibility the North End can be a model.”
Mays told the Michigan Chronicle that she thinks the North End is a really, really special neighborhood.
“I think it is a place where with the right level of leadership, partnership with community, and thoughtfulness we can really change the trajectory of the neighborhood in a way that works for everybody that lives here currently,” she said.
Knight Foundation Program Director Nathaniel L. Wallace, a native Detroiter, agrees.
“I think it’s amazing that we have this type of work happening in the community — it is great to have it at the Detroit Athletic Club, it’s another thing to have it in the neighborhoods,” Wallace said of the Pancakes & Politics original series. “People need to see this. People in the community need to know that they have access to the senators. That … the senators actually care about what is happening in their community.”
Wallace added that the community is “already doing the work” and it is up to politicians to get in line with what is happening.
“The innovation and the disruption happen bottom up – it doesn’t happen top up,” Wallace said. “Being able to make sure that they are aligned and understanding what’s happening in the communities leads to quicker outcomes, leads to better successes.”