DETROIT — Bishop Edgar L. Vann and Wayne State University’s Damon J. Keith School of Civil Rights, hosted the Detroit Equity Symposium. The first annual event brought together some of Detroit’s business and civic leaders to the importance of equity and inclusion in the city’s corporate community.
Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II along with some of Detroit’s corporate and civic leaders was featured speakers and discussed ways to work together to increase equity and inclusion following a report on said subject released by The Kresge Foundation.
Bishop Edgar L. Vann, a renowned faith leader and someone who has also been involved in years-long civic and corporate work. Earlier this year he launched, Detroit Equity Inc.(DEI), a non-profit hoping to bridge the community and corporate world and ultimately connecting more Detroiters to opportunities.
“Detroit Equity Inc. is determined to keep equity and inclusion at the forefront until every Detroiter in every neighborhood has access to opportunity,” stated DEI CEO and Founder Bishop Edgar L. Vann. “The 2022 Detroit Equity Symposium bought together leaders from Detroit’s top companies with the diversity and inclusion community to foster the innovation and actions needed to create real progress in our community.”
The Symposium, supported by Henry Ford Health, the Detroit Regional Chamber, The Skillman Foundation and HAP, was recently held at the Wayne State University Student Center which included a networking breakfast, speakers and panel discussion.
“We claim to believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion are something worth spending time on and investing in because believe it will make the city and state stronger, said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrest ll, in his keynote address to attendees. “My challenge to you is, how will you find within yourself – within your institutions more way to try? More ways to put a foot forward.”
Lt. Governor stressed the importance of leaders taking on this equity challenge despite it being “complicated journey but not a complex one.”
Perhaps he’s referring to the challenging disparity of statistics brought fourth by the 2022 Detroit Equity Report, released during the Symposium. DEI partnered with Wayne State University’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights to develop this report, funded by the Kresge Foundation. The report examined areas of inequity in Detroit and shares proven best practices to provide a road map for collective efforts moving forward.
The report delivers a wholesome collection of disparities in Black communities compared to their white counterparts, cited by various studies and data. Such causes due to disinvestment in business and employment opportunities, education, healthcare, housing, and food resources.
The Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2022 State of Education report found that only eight percent of Detroit students are college ready – a 2021 Detroit Future City study found Black Detroiters saw their median income increase eight percent compared to a 60% income increase of white Detroiters between 2010 and 2019. Also, a 2018 U.S. Equal Employment Commission report found the ratio of laborers and service workers to senior-level management is 7:1 for white workers but 150:1 for Black workers.
These were only some examples of data points referenced in the Detroit Equity Report highlight several inequities.
Thought leaders gathered at The Symposium were determined to address some the equity barriers while also striving for collaborative solutions for more inclusivity for Detroiters. A panel moderated by Vickie Thomas, Director of Communications for the Mayor’s office, headlined, Closing the Equity Gap Through Inclusion, aimed to tackle this issue.
“I think it’s really important for the corporate community to dig deep,” said Rodney Cole, Vice President, DTE Energy Foundation, one the featured panelists. “It must be very purposeful in creating access to opportunity. There must be a understanding of where each of our institutions can play a role in supporting that access.” Cole believes the Detroit communities doesn’t lack talent or potential that other prosperous communities achieve. He pointed to the lack of access being the an unfortunate factor. He called on corporate companies in Detroit to find ways to create more access.
There is a case to be made historically on companies needing to do more to provide access and other paths of opportunity. But what does access mean or look like for a city with thousands of job openings and employers struggling to find workers? Another panelist explained that access to opportunity works in-part when more people are educated or trained for jobs which await them.
“We’re trying to make people get employment, but right there seems to be more employment than there are people, said Portia Roberson, CEO Focus-Hope. She states she is concerned by students graduating from the city’s public school system and not prepared to meet today’s job market. “I do a lot of training, …but what I’ll like to see is the corporate community partner with Detroit Public School Community District to make sure our kids are getting the same education you would get anywhere around this country in suburban communities to make sure they are prepared for jobs that are out there right now but for careers that will last them a life time.”
“Bishop Vann’s vision of a more equitable Detroit is directly in line with Wayne State University’s mission to positively impact our local community,” said Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson. “We’re proud to add the university’s talent pool and resources to support this worthy initiative in the pursuit of a more inclusive comeback.
Detroit Equity Inc., (DEI), founded by Bishop Edgar Vann and co-founded by Detroit Atty. Bertram Marks, is an organization focused on driving equity and inclusion in Detroit’s corporate community. Its board, chaired by Huntington Bank Executive Chairman Gary Torgow, includes executives and leaders from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy, Wayne State University, Henry Ford Health and the City of Detroit.