I came across an article written for a local outlet that made me a bit uneasy. Not only because of the obvious negative affect it had on the African American community in Detroit, but because many older Detroiters see it happening again. Early Detroit had one of America’s most thriving African-American communities. Hastings street south of East Grand Blvd all the way to the riverfront was filled with African-American businesses. Also Paradise Alley was a happening night spot that rivaled Beale St, in Memphis, Tennessee. Many whites came down from the surrounding areas to partake in great Blues and Jazz music. As great as this was for all, It would be destroyed in the name of progress. That progress had a name… I-75. This new interstate shut down a little over 350 African-American businesses and forced the people who lived there to relocate to housing projects.
That happened in the early 1900’s, Now fast forward to present day Detroit. The Housing market and financial downturn took a horrific toll on the city in 2009. Unlike most cities across the United States, Detroit is having the toughest time coming back. Mayor Kilpatrick’s scandal along with household incomes cut in half made the need for a new Detroit clear. New Mayor Mike Duggan has promised to do just that.
So a new Detroit is beginning. Construction is booming all over downtown. A new light rail system is being built on Woodward. Townhouses are being built on the riverfront to go along with a new park. Buildings downtown are being bought up by the wealthy and the few African-American businesses that were downtown have been forced out in favor of luring new lucrative tenants. What’s becoming of the neighborhoods where most African-Americans live in Detroit? Nothing. Not one improvement. Not one school reopened. No streets cleaned up, or businesses opened. Not even the Mayor’s community outreach centers he promised to open once he was elected. It appears in this new Detroit, the African-American neighborhoods are left out. The past is repeating itself with one difference, There are African-Americans with money. Those of us who are not in position are going to have lean on those who are to establish an economic foothold. There cannot be a new Detroit we can be proud of if economic racism prevails in keeping African-Americans out. Hastings Street and Paradise Alley are part of the past but if we are to recreate our economic footprint at that time, we have to assert ourselves now! Holla if you hear me!