As the remarkable life of A. Alfred Taubman was recounted in deserving detail at his funeral service last week, it was clear to any in the synagogue that his passing leaves a tremendous void in this city and this region that we are going to be hard pressed to fill.
Taubman was incredibly successful at business, of course, with a net worth in the billions of dollars. But his more lasting impact lies in the many different fields of civic involvement and philanthropy into which he poured his talents and energy. His funding of medical research, his launching of a successful statewide ballot initiative to approve stem cell research in Michigan, his steadfast support of the Detroit Institute of Arts, his backing of higher education all have left an indelible imprint.
Of great importance to Detroit was his decision, in the early 1980s, to team up with the late Max Fisher and Mayor Coleman Young to build the Riverfront Apartments. That decision was made at a time when few were willing to show that kind of support and investment in the city and few believed people would live downtown. It was a remarkable show of support for the city at a time when too many potential investors were headed for the exits.
In truth, no one person is going to be able to replace A. Alfred Taubman. But it is up to the new generation to find ways to follow his example in civic areas that go far beyond financial success.
In July 1967, as Detroit was still smoldering in the aftermath of the great civil disturbance that had rocked it to its core, a young corporate leader — Joe Hudson — was called on to take the lead of a new organization, New Detroit, that was charged with finding the root causes of that disturbance and coming up with solutions.
At the time, Hudson could have declined the invitation on the grounds that he had a department store to run or that he didn't want to ruffle feathers. But he stepped up to the challenge, followed by other leaders from the corporate, civic and grassroots community. And he persevered despite the fact that his involvement in the sensitive issue of race offended some of his customers.
Today, many of the sources looked to for leadership in 1967 are gone.
Yet the need for civic leadership is every bit as strong at a time when there is more hope being manifested for post-bankruptcy Detroit's future than we have seen in a long time.
Where will those leaders come from? Who will step forward to show the civic involvement and demonstrate concern for the fabric of this region that was manifested by A. Alfred Taubman, Joe Hudson, Dr. Arthur Johnson, Lena Bivens, Max Fisher, Judge Damon J. Keith, Marcella Bright, Henry Ford II and other titans of our past? Some of those names you will recognize. Others you may not. But each was crucial to moving Detroit forward. Each of us has a role to play.
For New Detroit, with a board of leaders from the grassroots, civic and corporate communities, urban and suburban residents and people of all races, that role is continuing to tackle the region's toughest issue — race — and creating effective strategies for improving the racial climate in the region.
There are many other areas of need that require similar attention and focus and leadership. And there are many potential leaders who we need to step forward.
We need each person reading this to step up to take a piece of the challenge that Taubman was ready and willing to accept, to look beyond the bottom line — which is no doubt important — and to get involved in the civic and community life of Detroit. Because what made Taubman a real leader was his vision and passion and commitment to change. There is no monetary value on that.
By Shirley Stancato President and CEO of New Detroit Inc.
Detroit Free Press April 26, 2015 | 1:04 a.m. EDT
DETROIT - New Detroit, Inc. reported demographic data from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, documenting a “very definite and substantial divide between the races in the Detroit region.”
The coalition of leaders from throughout the region issued a report that documents significant gaps between racial and ethnic groups throughout the tri-county area in basic categories such as educational achievement, income, home ownership and business ownership.
“It is a pervasive divide, present in all three counties and in Detroit,” the report, entitled the Metropolitan Detroit Race Equity Report, said.
“At New Detroit our central goal is achieving a time when race is no longer an issue in this region and no longer an obstacle to progress for our city, region and state,” said New Detroit President and CEO Shirley Stancato. “This inaugural report shows in vivid detail that we are far from achieving that goal. At the same time, it offers examples of hope in the form of local initiatives that are in fact, achieving real success in closing the gap that exists.”
“This report is a snapshot in time that can help us to better understand the tri-county area today and identify initiatives and programs that can truly help to close the gaps that are highlighted throughout the report. And, it can help to generate conversations and change old assumptions as we move forward.”
Data used in the report was compiled from the U. S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey with the assistance of Data Driven Detroit, a Detroit-based non-profit that provides accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision-making. In addition, New Detroit collaborated with ACCESS for information specific to the Arab and Chaldean communities because data for those communities is not broken out by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report indicates that the overall picture in the region has changed in recent decades because there has been significant growth in the Hispanic/Latino population in that time. But it said every measurement shows a gap between the Hispanic/Latino population and white population and between the American Indian/Alaskan Native population and white population is similar to the gap between the African American population and white population throughout the region. The report also shows Asians/Pacific Islanders in Detroit lag behind their counterparts in Macomb and Oakland counties.
In Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties and in Detroit, the report showed, African American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaskan Native lag far behind their white counterparts in educational attainment, in household income, in per capita income and in home ownership.
The most dramatic difference comes in the category of home ownership. In Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, roughly 80 percent of whites own their own home. But only 50 percent of African Americans in Macomb County, 45 percent of African Americans in Oakland County and 34 percent of African Americans in Wayne County own their own home. Hispanics/Latinos and American Indians/Alaskan Natives, while posting slightly higher home ownership numbers than African Americans, still fall far behind their white counterparts.
The separation also extends to housing patterns, the report said, resulting in the fact that “in this region, for the most part, racial and ethnic groups live separately. A look at housing patterns in the tri-county area reveals that the vast majority of residents live in neighborhoods with a preponderance of people who look like them.”
The separation of housing along racial lines is underscored by another statistic: 55.8 percent of workers employed in Detroit are white but only 19.4 percent of workers living in Detroit are white. Conversely, 38.7 percent of those working in Detroit are African American, but 77.1 percent of workers who live in Detroit are African American. Thus, the numbers show that a large number of African Americans who live in the city are working outside of the city, while a large number of white workers who work in the city live outside its borders.
Stancato said the report “is not intended to simply present data on the separation between the races or to suggest there is no hope of closing the gap that continues to persist. There are commendable efforts underway in metropolitan Detroit to close this gap. Some of those efforts are highlighted in the report as examples for others to emulate.”
New Detroit, Inc. is a coalition of leaders from civil rights and advocacy organizations, human services, health and community organizations, business, labor, foundations, education, media and clergy. It is a private, non-profit, tax-exempt organization. New Detroit’s mission is to serve as the metropolitan Detroit leadership organization working to identify and eliminate racial disparities in the region by building economic equity, social justice and racial understanding.
For a copy of the full report click here.