3 Reasons Why Detroit Needs a Black College [Again]

Have you ever thought about what Detroit will look like 5, 10, 50 years from now? If so, then maybe you’re like me and have noticed all of the development going on (at this point it’s kind of hard not to). There’s Dan Gilbert’s tallest building in Detroit, Ford making moves to buy the long vacant train station, and Mr. Moroun still trying to build his bridge. Not to mention all of the new high-rise apartments going up like liquor stores. (Am I the only one over the “breaking news” announcement? It’s a shockingly expensive apartment with retail on the first floor…we get it.)

With so much construction in the works I’m called to ask to what end? Sure the classic economic development reasons (jobs, density, innovation, etc.) but for who? Will it displace, integrate, assimilate or even erase the unique culture that is today’s Detroit shaped the black and brown people who stayed when others fled (from them)? Will it address our most deeply entrenched issues like generational poverty, substandard educational opportunities or an ever-growing wealth gap?

Bathers at Idlewild Beach in 1940

Through hundreds of conversations about the future of this great city from the block to the boardroom, I sense an uneasiness of who will enjoy Detroit in the future. As most tend to agree that the city is on the rise. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my grandparents (who both are 80+ now) as they recalled the loss of Idlewild, Michigan aka “Black Eden.” Will we talk about Detroit in the same way? Lest we forget the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods.

Paradise Valley, 1942. Once a Detroit neighborhood where African-American businesses thrived, Paradise Valley was destroyed in the name of urban renewal in the early 1960s.

What if we built something here that was done in previous generations to unleash some of our greatest minds.

I propose a new way forward by taking a page from our history. Bring the HBCU experience to Detroit through the establishment of The Detroit College.

The Detroit College has the unique ability to both preserve and cultivate black culture better than historically designated sites or museums because it is living and breathing. Therein lies our opportunity.

These are the three reasons for such a college:

Depiction of the Great Migration which took place between 1920 and 1970

History

Detroit has a long and winding history which has influenced the world over through it’s automotive and musical genius. No doubt both can trace their success to the Great Migration when millions of African Americans fled north to escape persecution and pursue economic opportunities. Many risking their lives in the process.

Break down of the racial makeup of Wayne State University, College for Creative Studies and University of Detroit Mercy.

Representation

Today, Detroit ranks #1 in cities with the highest percentage of African Americans (85%) and #4 in the US in total population of African Americans. Yet, all of its four year universities are majority white.

Red circles are the ten cities with 100,000+ African American population and highest percentage and black dots represent the 101 historically black college and universities existing today.

Location

Lastly, Detroit and Flint are the only cities with 100k+ population and highest percentage of African Americans without an HBCU in the city or entire state.

Imagine black art, music, food, literature and more anchored to the city with the depth to support our diverse intellectuals and brilliant artists. The Detroit College will be an African American cultural center, a tinderbox for revolutions and platform for intellectual debates — respected and envied by the world over.

And the best thing is we’ve actually done this before. At the beginning of the Great Depression, 1928, Violet T. Lewis founded Lewis College of Business in Detroit. It started with just a $50 loan, bringing Michigan its only HBCU. Unfortunately, in 2013, Lewis College had to close its doors but over 27,000 students attended the college.

Let’s build the college Detroit deserves.

Interested in learning more visit thedetroitcollege.strikingly.com/

The world is complex

I like to think. I write to develop my ideas and find other doers. Let’s connect.

Futurist, Real Estate Developer and Entrepreneur www.ezekielh.com

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