SpringFest promotes Detroit-based nonprofits

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 8:00pm

Among the multitude of student organizations and musicians lined along the Diag for MUSIC Matters’ fifth annual SpringFest, students also got the chance to meet Detroit-based nonprofits displaying their work on Wednesday.

Nonprofit organizations and startup companies from Detroit came to share their involvement in the city with students in a designated area called the Detroit Village, hosted by MUSIC Matters alongside Consider Magazine, a student publication discussing nonpartisan topics.

Art & Design junior Sabrina Khan, SpringFest chair of MUSIC Matters, said the purpose of the Detroit Village was to offset negative preconceptions of the city and get students interested in working there.

“When we were approached by Consider, we wanted to work with them to bring in vendors and nonprofits from Detroit to highlight the wonderful things that are happening there, to de-stigmatize people’s ideas and to get people excited about Detroit,” Khan said.

Some of the Detroit nonprofits included the Detroit Experience Factory, which utilizes interactive experiences to help people connect to the people, places and projects in Detroit; M-1 RAIL, the lead advocates for a future streetcar on Woodward Avenue; and Merit Goodness, which sells clothes to fund college scholarships.

Business sophomore Farhad Hussain, an executive leader of Consider, said it was great to see students interacting with the businesses that were set up.

“I think it went really well for showcasing the revitalization of Detroit and all the great things that Detroit has to offer,” he said. “The organizations were thrilled to interact with students and it was a good turnout.”

Hussain also said the event was a good opportunity for students to learn about Michigan businesses and foster relationships between these businesses and the University of Michigan.

LSA sophomore Flora Conley said she thought the Detroit Village highlighted the significance the University places on student entrepreneurship.

“I think there is always this idea that startups have to be about technology or you have to be trying to make the next Facebook or Twitter,” Conley said. “But you can do something that can actually help out the community, as far as some of the different organizations we had here today.”

Conley added that she particularly liked seeing Detroit is the New Black, a Detroit-based clothing label, because she appreciates how their message surpasses the city’s negative stigma.

Business sophomore London Leonard, the community outreach senior producer of MUSIC Matters, said SpringFest is important to her because it combats stereotypes about Detroit.

“People have this negative image of Detroit and really, there are such good things,” Leonard said. “There was an art project from students from my high school and it shows they’re just regular kids; they’re not those stereotypical bad kids. They’re all excelling and going to college. It’s just important for everyone to see that.”

Leonard added that exposing students to Detroit businesses is a good way to encourage them to work in Detroit once they graduate.

“We want more people in Detroit, and, to take it to the next level, we are going to need more people coming into the city instead of leaving the city,” she said. “I feel like it’s really good for people to be exposed to those kinds of things because people who are in the business or anywhere can just come to work in Detroit when they graduate. It’s a good place, and there’s a lot of cool things happening.”