Detroit’s journey back to economic prosperity continues at a steady pace, but not everyone has reaped the rewards. Wealth gaps indicate a lack of equity and inclusion among Black and Latino Detroiters who make up the vast majority of the population yet aren’t afforded the same opportunities to participate in the city’s resurgence. Often, the difference between success and being left behind is opportunity.
I’ve been working on issues like these in Detroit for the past 15 years. During that time, I’ve been disappointed to learn that despite the resources expended to solve these issues, the numbers in most areas show conditions have either not improved or grown worse.
It’s why I’m so encouraged by the launch of Detroit Equity Inc. (DEI). Founder and CEO Bishop Edgar L. Vann, a renowned interfaith, corporate and civic leader in Detroit for more than 45 years, has turned his vision into reality: to connect Detroiters with economic opportunities. His nonprofit will address equity and inclusion issues in Detroit and build bridges between the community and corporate and private sectors.
I’m proud to serve on DEI’s board of directors and appreciate the opportunity to offer guidance as the organization works to ensure that prosperity is within everyone’s reach. We need to stem the tide of generational poverty and ensure that future generations have opportunities to succeed. The time has come to make a change.
Economic Inequity Persists Despite Healthy Growth
Economic inequity is a long-standing issue in our city, and studies show that Black and Latino communities lost ground over the last decade or so, during a time of massive investment and healthy economic growth.
During this time, access to quality employment and opportunities to build wealth remained out of reach for many Black Detroiters, according to a 2021 study by Detroit Future City’s Center for Equity, Engagement & Research. The study revealed that from 2010 to 2019, the median income for White Detroiters rose 60% compared to 8% for Black Detroiters. The unemployment rate for Black Detroiters was 1.5 times that of White Detroiters.
These disparities worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic woes. A recent survey from the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS) showed Black and Latino Detroiters were nearly 4 times as likely to be unemployed as White Detroiters. Between July and November 2021, the unemployment rate among Black and Latino residents held at about 23% while the rate for White Detroiters fell from 14% to 6%.
Meaningful Steps Towards a More Equitable Future
How do we balance the scales and make sure all Detroiters have opportunities to participate in the city’s economic comeback?
DEI has joined a community of organizations committed to making it happen. Building on important work, Detroit Equity will collaborate, share best practices and offer actionable solutions to:
- Increase the number of Detroiters and people of color represented in Detroit’s workforce
- Connect Detroit-based and minority-owned businesses with procurement and supplier opportunities
- Boost the number of Detroiters and people of color in the pipeline for executive leadership and board positions
- Champion data-driven, Detroit-specific research and best practices
Bishop Vann will serve as a strong representative for the Detroit community and lend a fresh perspective to connecting more Detroiters with meaningful opportunities.
DEI will also benefit from the support of several corporate and civic partners, including Huntington Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, City of Detroit, Wayne State University (WSU) and Henry Ford Health System. Working with WSU’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, DEI will explore inequity in Detroit and identify ways to help close the equity gap, sharing its findings in a report, funded by The Kresge Foundation, in the fall.
I’m excited to see what’s in store as DEI broadens conversations about equity and inclusion, and leverages critical resources to close these gaps for good.