Delray's residents wait two years for a street to be cleared of debris
Published: July 27, 2011
That unenviable distinction now belongs to Milwaukee. But don't go cheering yourself hoarse. Detroit isn't far down the list, placing fourth. And, as was reported elsewhere when the data was released, if you look solely at Wayne County instead of the entire region, we're back atop the list as the most segregated place in America.
So there is much work to be done. And the Michigan Roundtable is doing its fair share of the heavy lifting.
Its most current effort to address the problem began back in late 2009 and early 2010, when the group hosted mock trials at area law schools to examine the issue of institutional housing discrimination. Focus was placed on the Federal Housing Administration and its discriminatory practices that were in place for much of the 20th century, from its endorsement of racially restrictive covenants that prevented minorities from buying homes in all-white neighborhoods to the agency's practice of "redlining," or refusing to insure mortgages in certain areas because of their racial makeup.
The purpose of these mock trials, Michigan Roundtable President Tom Costello tells News Hits, was to create a sort of road map. For us to figure a way out of the predicament that we are in, it is necessary to understand how we got here.
That was phase one of a three-tier effort the roundtable has dubbed its "Race to Equity Project."
The second phase, which is just now gearing up, involves the creation of a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" that will further examine this region's history of housing discrimination and its ongoing effects.
Which brings us to the salient point of this particular Hit: Costello and crew are looking for volunteers to serve on the commission.
As a press release making the announcement points out: "Any resident of the Detroit metropolitan area can nominate any individual to serve as a commissioner. Nominations should be accompanied by a brief statement articulating who the nominee is and why she or he is being nominated. A selection panel will ensure that each nominee completes a full application."
If interested, you are also free to nominate yourself.
Before doing so, however, you need to ask yourself one very significant question: Are you willing to make a substantial commitment?
This isn't some fleeting project. Costello estimates that the commission will spend 18 to 24 months "delving deeply into the history of housing and race in the region and how it impacts those living here today. It will also examine what can be done to create a new regional culture in metro Detroit."
Working with members of the Housing Project Partnership — a group created by the Roundtable that includes the Fair Housing Center of Metro Detroit, MOSES, Fifth Third Bank, Transit Riders Untied, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, University of Michigan School of Social Work, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance and many more — a charter and mandate to guide the commission have been created. But once seated, commissioners will be in charge.
The plan is to select nine commissioners. Costello says the goal is to have the group be as diverse as possible — in terms of age, race, gender, perspective. Nominations will be accepted through Sept. 15. Members of the commission will be impaneled during a two-day conference scheduled to open Nov. 4 at Cobo Center.
Another thing to keep in mind: The goal of all this is to produce concrete results.
"We don't want a laundry list of things," Costello says. "And we don't want suggestions that are Pollyannaish."
"We are looking for nine individuals who are passionate and committed," he adds. The end result, it is hoped, will be a "plan for regional equity" that will help improve "opportunity for people who have been marginalized."
For additional information, visit the group's website at miroundtable.org. You can also contact the Roundtable's Freda G. Sampson at 313-870-1500 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial intern Aaron Mondry contributed to this week's News Hits, which is written by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or at NewsHits@metrotimes.com.
> Email Curt Guyette