The Daily Need

Bridging Detroit’s divide

The Bridging 8 Mile team. Photo: R. Kamaria

Immortalized in the 2002 Eminem film “8 Mile,” Eight Mile Road remains the dividing line between the city of Detroit, which is mostly black, and the suburb of Warren, which is mostly white.

How can a region reverse race and class segregation when they’ve persisted for so long? The Bridging 8 Mile initiative has a three-year plan to bring together people from both sides of the divide.

The initiative, said member Rasheda Williams, is made up of “everyday people” who are working to transform the way residents relate to one another.

Williams, who grew up on the east side of Detroit, can remember the first time she was made aware of the area’s history of segregation and its lingering effects.

She and her mother were walking in the affluent suburb of Grosse Point, which bordered their neighborhood, when her mother asked, “Do you think it’s okay for us to be walking through here? I don’t want anyone messing with us or telling us we don’t belong here.”

“I was reminded that the invisible walls were powerful blockades for older generations of people,” Williams said. “It was an eye-opening experience.”

This month, Bridging 8 Mile is kicking off its series of Community Challenge Days, which are attended by residents of Detroit as well as those of neighboring suburbs. Challenge Day events transform a culture of fear and segregation by giving members of different communities chances to interact on a personal level.

The first Community Challenge Day will take place on July 23 in the suburb of Royal Oak, followed by the second on July 24 in Detroit.

“Almost everybody in the region is looking for the answer to the question of ‘How do we create the southeast Michigan we really want: one in which all the cities and communities in the region identify as one team?’” said Williams. “We say that the answer is in our hearts and that getting to know each other will answer the question. That’s the first step in bridging 8 Mile.”

 
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Comments

  • http://freeourfreemarkets.org Steve Banicki

    I live in metro Detroit, am white and in my sixties.. At one time I lived in Grosse Pointe. I am convinced that now it has more to do with poverty that skin color.

    Many of the middle class blacks have moved to the suburbs and race relations seem to be fine; not perfect, but fine.Detroit has a unquie history in that after the race riots in the 60′s Detroit had a black mayor who openly told the white population to get the hell out. This was unlike Chicago, LA., New York or Cleveland. Couple this with the fact that there was plenty of inexpensive housing being built in the suburbs, it was easy for the white population to move.

    I do believe things are improving. I live in a neighborhood in the suburbs where there are many blacks and there is very little problems. It is to a point where white and black youth are dating each other and no one gives it a second thought.

  • http://freeourfreemarkets.org Steve Banicki

    I live in metro Detroit, am white and in my sixties.. At one time I lived in Grosse Pointe. I am convinced that now it has more to do with poverty that skin color.

    Many of the middle class blacks have moved to the suburbs and race relations seem to be fine; not perfect, but fine.Detroit has a unquie history in that after the race riots in the 60′s Detroit had a black mayor who openly told the white population to get the hell out. This was unlike Chicago, LA., New York or Cleveland. Couple this with the fact that there was plenty of inexpensive housing being built in the suburbs, it was easy for the white population to move.

    I do believe things are improving. I live in a neighborhood in the suburbs where there are many blacks and there is very little problems. It is to a point where white and black youth are dating each other and no one gives it a second thought.

  • Richard Gray

    I remember with fondness being a teenager living in Southwest Detroit during the 1940s .  The area was a melting pot of ethnic diversity.  Race was something you ran, hoping to come in first.  Taking the Springwells Streetcar downtown was a treat.  Having a Vernor’s Gingerale at the foot of Woodard, a Coney Dog on Lafayette, and shopping at Hudson’s.  Skipping school to watch the Tigers play opening day of the season and going to great movie palaces.  If only time could reverse itself and return to those times. 

  • http://banicki.biz steve banicki

    What you describe was great for us white citizens of Detroit; however, we must confess blacks were wronged. Race relations are much better now but the city was mortally wounded. I wish it were not so, but it is true. We all learned some tough lessons.

    The enemy now is poverty; white, black, yellow, brown blue, whatever.