While Detroit is experiencing a renaissance, there are several questions surrounding the quality of life in its neighborhoods.
For example, what’s being done to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens and how are organizations contributing to its betterment?
Detroit native Luther Keith, Executive Director, ARISE Detroit!, is a former award-winning editor and columnist for one of Detroit’s dailies and served in many roles before retiring in 2005. As an editor and columnist, Keith developed, coordinated stories and focused special reports on quality of life issues affecting Detroit such as crime, education and neighborhood revitalization.
After retirement and understanding issues confronting city neighborhoods, Keith started ARISE Detroit!, a nonprofit coalition of more than 400 organizations promoting volunteerism, community activism and positive media images to create a better Detroit. It has promoted more than 1700 neighborhood community improvement projects since 2007, involving hundreds of organizations and thousands of volunteers. Its mission is “Embrace The Vision, Be Part of The Change”.
I recently asked Keith for his thoughts on programs affecting change in Detroit’s neighborhoods and the role ARISE Detroit! is serving—past, present and future.
Lee: Why did you start ARISE Detroit! and how is the organization funded?
Keith: The idea for ARISE Detroit! emerged after a number of community meetings with The Skillman Foundation in response to a call for greater personal responsibility and community involvement in urban communities.
Lee: You have a commitment to Detroit’s neighborhoods. What drives this passion?
Keith: I grew up, went to school, and still live in Detroit. This is my home and I love it. It’s just that simple. I want to help and make it the best it can be.
Lee: You’re celebrating the 10th annual Neighborhoods Day on August 6th. What’s the primary focus behind this effort and what can people expect?
Keith: Neighborhoods Day was created to showcase the work of hundreds of organizations trying to improve their neighborhoods throughout the year. It is also meant to encourage people to volunteer, get involved and create their own programs and initiatives to improve their communities.
Lee: How has it changed over the 10-year period regarding volunteers and other participants and where do you see the organization in 3-5 years?
Keith: Neighborhoods Day has grown tremendously, starting with one financial sponsor in the first year—Comerica Bank—and 55 events, to this year with nearly 40 sponsors and over 300 registered events, programs and sponsor supporters.
Hopefully, we will be funded in a way to provide additional support and community resources for neighborhood groups to help them fight blight, open businesses and improve the quality of life in Detroit.
Lee: ARISE Detroit! is also having a “Thank You, Detroit” day on August 13. What is it and what can people expect?
Keith: This is a full day of events, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., in partnership with Starr Commonwealth, featuring music, entertainment, youth performers and others to thank the community for 10 years of making Neighborhoods Day and ARISE Detroit! a success. It will be a free event and performers will include the Second Ebenezer Choir, the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, the New Fantastic Four, and Thornetta Davis.
Lee: Other thoughts?
Keith: Detroiters are amazing people and Neighborhood’s Day is a testament to their hope and resilience.
Lee: By the way, how’s your uncle, the legendary, honorable Judge Damon Keith?
Keith: He just celebrated his 94th birthday, correct? My uncle is doing very well; he’s of sound mind and very sharp. He is one of my heroes. My father, Luther C. Keith, was the oldest in a family of six. My uncle Damon is the last surviving sibling.
Lee: How can people get more information about ARISE Detroit! and its programs?
Keith: For Neighborhoods Day, go to our website: www.arisedetroit.org. Although it is too late to register an event, you can still volunteer by clicking the event list and calling the contact person for the activity that you want to participate in. All the events are listed on the website. Just click the “event list” to see all the registered activities.