The Lights Are On, But How Far Does Our Vision Reach?

Yes, Detroit’s a boom-town. But without excellent school options, longtime residents can’t share in the prosperity, and newcomers won’t stay.

If the New York Times reported it, it’s official: Detroit’s lights are on! So how far of a future can we really see for Detroit’s hardest hit?

Detroit is returning, stores are opening, dilapidated buildings are turning into vintage clothing shops and quaint places to go have lunch with business partners. I love the way the city looks right now–or should I say, the fact that we are on the rise. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the new lights shine truth on the fact that most neighborhoods are still struggling.

This is not to throw shade at any of those who are doing a great work of revitalizing. Mayor Mike Duggan has had conversations with youth and young adults about how to find out what’s needed to get them to the next level. My son was one of those young adults.

I also commend all the upgrades and enjoy visiting as many new places as possible. I just don’t want areas like East Seven Mile and Dequindre, or Mack and Conner, or Lasher and Interstate 96 to have lights but no real vision in place. Places where no matter how many lights are on families still won’t send their children to the local gas station for snacks. The path to get there is now lit but the number of vacant homes those kids will still need to pass on their way to and from outweigh the joy of new lights.

There are more busses, but at every stop there is a legalized marijuana shop and fear of robbery. I know this; my son was robbed. Similarly, I commend our police force and trust that they are doing greater work under new leadership, but more can be done on both sides.

So while these new lights have been switched on please don’t forget about those who can’t afford the luxury of taking advantage of the revitalized areas not designed to accommodate all. And by the way gentrification is talked about more often than not during this resurgence.

We see more clearly, but have yet to see a vision for those hardest hit neighborhoods, where school buildings lie dormant even though the youth in the community are in desperate need of high-quality, easily accessible, sustainable birth-to-grade 12 programs. My community, zip code 48224, has very few options.

Detroiters need to know that we are counted. While wonderful investments are being made, please don’t forget about those of us who have been invested in our communities for generations and who refused to leave because we love our city. We love the thought of the comeback–but comeback for who is our fear.

And those who we have embraced as new-found family won’t stay if their education options are few. They, too, will send their children to schools in other communities. Eventually, they may abandon the areas of the city that are on the rise right now.

Accountability needs to be the focus. We must see past new skyscrapers and create accountability for all schools. Detroiters should have a say about what schools are working and where new schools open. This accountability would let us address schools that open and close whenever they want and that fail children. Who we know will then go on to be adults who make minimum wage and can’t afford to live in the city where they were born.

Lights on or lights off, we need to see everybody clearly. Because a people without a vision will perish. Let us know what you think. Tweet your thoughts @DSchoolsRock. Our go to our FB page at Detroit Schools Rock.

Photo by Mark M. Gaskill/Detroit Zoo.


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