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.”