Detroit’s Renaissance

An economic rebirth spawned by a new administration is bringing both people and business back into the city

annual report card. Project Director Robert Brown explains the results of the agency’s latest Detroit Public Schools report: “In reviewing the last 15 report cards, it’s obvious things are improving in terms of test scores. The district is still behind state averages, in some cases nationally, but the gap is closing somewhat.” Brown admits that the task before the school board is daunting considering that the district has 180,000 students and an average classroom size of 32 students. The neediness of the students is a concern as well–two-thirds come from families that live at or below poverty level.

Located in the heart of the medical district near downtown, the Detroit Children’s Center is a private, nonprofit organization that has been in existence since 1929 to meet the expanding and rapidly changing needs of Detroit children and their families. Grenae Dudley, deputy director of programs, says the center’s commitment to the community is strong. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities to move outside of the city, but this is our home. We have recently strengthened our commitment to the community by building a $7 million building, and we are continuing to do capital renovations in the area to establish our programs.”

The center provides over 20 programs ranging from an incarcerated pregnant women’s group to general foster care. “We have mental health services in two schools,” says Dudley, “and our Detroit Abstinence Partnership is in 20 schools promoting the importance of sexual, tobacco and drug abstinence for students nine- to 14-years-old. Agencies like the Children’s Center and New Detroit contribute to the improvement of school districts.

The 4,100 officer Detroit Police Department also boasts great strides in crime reduction. In the last four years, there has been a significant decrease in all major crime areas including the number of youth homicides, which dropped by half. Through a newly organized carjacking task force, carjackings have decreased by half in the last four years as well.

Part of the credit for crime reduction is due to the leadership of the department’s chief, Isaiah McKinnon, Ph.D., one of the few African American top cops in the nation. During McKinnon’s tenure several task forces have been developed and 380 additional police have been put back on the streets to combat crime.

McKinnon believes the Detroit Police Department ranks with the best in the nation. “The higher echelon of the DPD are the most integrated, educated and trained in the country,” McKinnon declares. The department has put heavy emphasis on community policing, and officers can frequently be seen patrolling on foot, bike or horseback and maintaining a presence in and around schools.

After decades of economic decline and urban flight, the city of Detroit is being renewed with a contagious spirit of enthusiasm. With political leadership and aggressive development under way, it’s in a unique position to offer business opportunities to its residents and those considering a change. As a result, metro Detroit is on its way to earning world-class status and serving as a hotbed of opportunities for African Americans.

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