October 25, 2017

A Detroiter's Viewpoint: A Panelist for Cleveland Neighborhood Progress’ Neighborhood Solutions Awards

Kylee Mitchell
By: Kylee Mitchell, Senior Program Director, Detroit

Participating in Cleveland Neighborhood Progress’ Neighborhood Solutions Awards panel review was worth the drive in from Detroit. Prior to my visit last week I had not been to Cleveland in nearly ten years and of course, it was for an overnight trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was fun-filled however, this time my experience was much more purposeful and equally as fun.

I was invited to serve on a panel and offer an outsider’s perspective on Cleveland community development projects that were seeking to address race and inequities in changing neighborhoods. I felt very humbled and honored to offer my opinion amongst the distinguished Cleveland community development professionals, all who have an acute understanding of the needs facing Cleveland. There was someone from academia, a few from philanthropy and some from non-profit organizations; all seeking to hear from community groups that have a transformative and disruptive idea to bring attention to racial and social inequities. Given the current changes nationally and particularly in Detroit, I too was seeking to learn from Cleveland - hoping to gain answers to gentrification, racial discord, and income inequalities.

Detroit and Cleveland have always been first cousins in my mind when it came to community demographics. Understanding the history of Midwestern cities, I am aware of how the great migration from southern states helped to populate the Midwest and how the automotive industry helped to sustain the region and its families once they were here. Our housing typologies are very similar, single-family dwellings which offered the opportunity of home ownership and non-existent mass rail transit since the auto industry offered excellent wages and the ability for you to purchase not only a home but also a car.

The changes in the auto industry impacted both of our communities negatively and drastically. Creating a need to rebuild thoughtfully and equitably, and while revitalization of our neighborhoods is necessary - strategic approaches to addressing gentrification and displacement are paramount. Detroit is at the start of this phase, while Cleveland is further ahead in assessing and seeking to address these issues with funding from Cleveland Neighborhood Progress to support programs like NSA.

My network and perspective on how to address inequities have increased tremendously as a result of the opportunity to participate and for that I am thankful!

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