April V. Taylor
According to a recent Huffington Post article, black people make up 83 percent of Detroit’s population, but recent media coverage has done little to acknowledge the role black residents have played in the city’s effort to rebuild from years of decay and neglect. Despite the city marking the one year anniversary of its bankruptcy filing, many Detroit residents are cautiously optimistic about the city’s future. The media’s coverage of this optimism has revealed a myriad of success stories of people rising from the ashes of Detroit, but the story of black Detroiters is not being told. Many of the stories that focus on how entrepreneurs are helping rebuild and revitalize the city are focusing on white professionals.
With more than 32,000 black business owners in Detroit, it is not hard to find a voice to represent the black people who have been living and working in Detroit for years and who are now playing major roles in the city’s redevelopment. As local developer George Stewart states, “During the good times and the bad times, black-owned businesses have been around, primarily serving their community…circulating resources, building wealth [and] opening doors to other opportunities.”
One of the successful black business owners highlighted by The Huffington Post is architect Rainy Hamilton who co-founded Hamilton Anderson Associates. The company’s work on schools, community centers, and a light rail line have all helped contribute to Detroit revitalizing its appearance. Another business owner is Nefertiti Harris who started Textures by Nefertiti more than a decade ago. Although Cass Corridor is now being gentrified, when Harris first opened her business in the area, she, “was literally chasing prostitutes off the street corner.” Her business ventures have helped black women in Detroit nurture themselves and find strength in each other when much of the country had written them off as nothing more than statistics.
Erika Boyd and Kirsten Ussery-Boyd are the owners of Vegan Soul Food. They were inspired to open the restaurant after watching so many members of the black community deal with illnesses that were related to an unhealthy diet. There are many more businesses that enhance Detroit from boutiques, to bookstores, to developers, to artists, black businesses continue to serve the black residents of Detroit and help make sure that the city’s rich African American heritage continues to be a source of strength and forward progress for the city.