Socially active citizens are trying to reverse the trend of urban disintegration in Detroit, where a half-century of migration of both industry and residents has halved the city”s population.
Women”s labor activist Mille Jeffrey spoke at the Michigan Union yesterday afternoon as a member of a panel of Detroit activists presenting female views on various problems plaguing Detroit. She said approximately 60 percent of Detroit”s blue-collar workers do not earn a living wage, set at $14 per hour by a study by the Economic Policy Institute, and many female workers must work an extra part-time job to support their families.
“My passion is women who work in service trade,” Jeffrey said. “Women on these jobs don”t have health insurance. Their health and their children suffer and as they suffer, our community suffers.”
Social activist Grace Boggs said she sees potential in Detroit, but that recently-built casinos are not the answer to the city”s problems. Citizens need to be inspired to rebuild the city through community involvement, she said.
First-year Public Health graduate student LaKesha Snoddy, who grew up in Detroit, said the city has a bright future but can still improve greatly.
“I”ve seen that people are definitely willing to do the things that it takes to make Detroit a great city, but we definitely need community involvement,” Snoddy said. “A lot of people have become complacent and disgusted at the way things have been for a long time.”
Snoddy said the construction of Ford Field in the downtown area where the Detroit Lions are expected to begin playing next season has encouraged the remodeling of buildings and condominiums.
Education Prof. Pamela Reid said the Detroit 300 theme semester, a project at the University celebrating the 300th birthday of the city, exposes students to the city and its issues and helps to bridge the gap between Ann Arbor and Detroit.
“Detroit 300 is an awareness campaign, an opportunity to make connections. Some classes have brought students together with people from Detroit and made them aware of opportunities for volunteering,” Reid said.
Third-year Nursing student Genella Swanigan said the University offers many opportunities for students to learn about Detroit, such as mini-courses focusing on inner-city issues, programs at the Ginsberg Center and Community Plunge, a day long community service project. She said students can help rebuild Detroit by participating in these activities.
Reid said people need to realize Detroit offers many cultural opportunities which they shouldn”t be afraid to attend.
Snoddy said Detroit is a vibrant city with many nice neighborhoods that people don”t know about. She said the life of the metropolitan area is in the city center, and many people travel to hang out in Detroit.
In addition to Boggs and Jeffrey, two other panel members spoke yesterday. Pediatric neurosurgeon Alexa Cannady spoke about the history and current roles of women and blacks in health care, and Phyllis Kearney, a program coordinator and counselor at Save Our Sons and Daughters, described the support provided by the organization for people in urban Detroit.