2023’s Most Impactful Issues for Black Detroiters

The year 2023 was filled with hundreds of intriguing news stories and developments that specifically impacted Black Detroiters. Some stories and developments represented accomplishments and hope, while others chronicled the opposite. However, here are eight news stories reported by the Michigan Chronicle over the past 12 months that have had, are having, or will have an impact on Black Detroiters.

Redistricting Efforts for Improved Black Representation Takes on Legal Fight

The Michigan district maps approved in 2022 by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission have been under fire since their inception. An overwhelming number of Black stakeholders felt that the redrawn maps were designed to dilute the power of Black voters. In early October, it was reported that the approved Michigan district maps are now being challenged in a lawsuit in federal court. Plaintiffs in the case argue that the redrawn maps weaken the voting power of Black constituents in Metro Detroit. The lawsuit also alleges the drawn district maps violate the 14th Amendment, which allows for equal protection under the law. The suit claims that the new Michigan maps violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The trial, scheduled to start in early November, will determine if Detroit-area legislative districts were created based on race to deprive Black voters of voting for preferred candidates.

Mayor Duggan to Reveal Property-Tax Reduction Plan at Mackinac Policy Conference

In late May, Mayor Mike Duggan announced that he would reveal his sweeping new tax proposal during a keynote speech at the Mackinac Policy Conference on the last day of the month. The mayor called his proposal the Land Value Tax Plan, an innovative approach to fixing the city’s broken property tax system. According to the Mayor, his plan will bring much-needed relief to city homeowners and businesses, which include forcing owners of blighted and vacant properties to pay their fair share of taxes. Ultimately, the mayor wants to cut homeowner’s taxes by 30 percent.

Detroit Announces $3.1 Million Investment in Community Policing and Mental Health Initiatives.

James White, Chief of the Detroit Police Department (DPD), stood with Mayor Mike Duggan on Aug. 8 to announce the DPD’s receiving of $3 million in state funds. The additional funds will allow DPD to hire 14 new neighborhood police officers and 11 individuals for the agency’s mental health unit, according to White. The Chief, who has long championed the importance of mental health responders, calls the allocated funds from the state to DPD “historic” and paramount to the crisis intervention team that must respond to mental health calls and suicide runs across the city. White believes the added officers and mental health unit will help develop better and more effective relationships in the city’s communities.

Detroit Sees Largest Decline in Gun Violence in Over Five Decades

After decades of the city of Detroit being listed near or at the top of the nation’s municipalities with the highest homicide rates due in great part to gun violence, the deadly trend is in decline. In essence, Detroit is on pace to record its lowest number of homicides in almost 60 years if the trend continues, according to city and county officials. In 1966, 214 homicides were reported in Detroit. As of November 30, the city had reported 228 homicides this year, compared to 278 during the same period last year. The decline is encouraging, and there is hope that the trend is sustainable in the coming years, which bodes well for Detroit children, families, communities, schools, businesses, tourism, and the Motor City’s overall image that too often has been labeled dangerous. One of the key factors leading to the significant dip in violence in Detroit has been linked to aggressively targeting the backlog in felony gun cases.

Hill Harper Officially Launches Campaign for U.S. Senate Race

On July 11, at Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit, actor, and author Hill Harper officially launched his political campaign to run for the seat of longtime Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who will leave the U.S. Senate at the end of her term on Jan. 3, 2025. Harper, if victorious, would be Michigan’s first Black U.S. Senator. Key issues that Hill promised to tackle if elected include but are not limited to implementing student loan debt relief measures, improving health care services, growing the economy through greater job creation, making small businesses stronger, banning weapons of mass murder, and protecting the climate and Great Lakes at all costs.

Gov. Whitmer Signs Bipartisan Legislation Declaring Juneteenth a State Holiday

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan legislation last summer declaring Juneteenth a Michigan holiday. In a statement released to media outlets, the governor said, “On Juneteenth, we come together to celebrate fundamental American values of freedom and equality, embodied by the stories and legacies of the Black community. In Michigan, June 19 is a day to highlight Black history and culture, commemorate the end of slavery in America, and celebrate fundamental values we all hold dear – freedom, liberty, and equality. The governor’s signed legislation is vital to Black people in Detroit and across Michigan, especially in an era where, nationally, Black history is consistently challenged, altered, and/or erased by various legislative bodies.

The Reparations Task Force’s First Day

Detroit’s newly formed reparation task force met for the first time on April 13 at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. The agenda included the introductions of task force members, each providing an overview of his or her vision about systemic changes and reparation payments to Black Detroiters. Conversations also included how systemic changes could be achieved to address poverty and home foreclosures by establishing forward-thinking policies across broad sectors of the city. The task force agreed to host future meetings in various locations across the city and would render its reparations findings in a report in 18 months. The task force recently suffered the loss of Rev. Dr. JoAnn Watson, who passed away earlier this year, but two other members resigned from the force. Their departures create a hurdle in the decades-long fight for economic equality for Black people, and 2024 will be a defining year in how the force forges forward in its battle.

Upgrading Detroit’s Aging Water and Sewer Systems is a Work in Progress

Major flooding on city streets, freeways, and in residential basements has been a recurring headache for Detroiters over the past couple of decades. While climate change can be blamed for some of the growing problems causing flooding in Detroit City Limits, much is attributed to aging water and sewer infrastructure, which in many cases haven’t been upgraded since the 1930s. Last October, Gary Brown, Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, explained to the Michigan Chronicle how investments of close to $100 million annually through the Capital Improvement Program are improving service delivery and quality of life in Detroit neighborhoods by reducing street flooding and sewer system failures. Brown identified multiple sources of funding positioned to help pay for the replacement of lead service lines and additional Detroit water and sewer upgrade projects.

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