Detroit’s Neighborhoods Day ‘brings us together’

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Neighbors and volunteers came together Saturday in the Ferry Park and 14th Street area near West Grand Boulevard for a neighborhood day which included fun, entertainment and also health care services such as teeth cleaning.

Ferry Park was blocked off from 14th Street to Stanton Street as part of the area’s annual Arise Detroit! Neighborhoods Day. Children were treated to free haircuts and backpacks to prepare for the upcoming school year.

People gather corn during a food giveaway along Ferry Park Street during the 11th Annual Arise! Detroit Neighborhood Festival and Backpack giveaway on Saturday August 5, 2017.

Residents received free food and got a sneak peak of a formerly abandoned house in the area that was being renovated to become a community center on Ferry Park.

Detroit community activist Yusef Shakur has been the organizer of the event on Ferry Park, located in one of Detroit’s most-impoverished zip codes, for years. He said the event prompts neighbors to care more about their own communities but also lets them know they haven’t been forgotten.

“We’re dealing with the most marginalized (residents),” said Shakur. “But they’re seeing change. This is what development from the community looks like.”

Detroiter Wilbert Fils-Aime, a newcomer to the city from Florida, said he is impressed by the spirit metro residents have to help themselves and others.

“This is great,” said Fils-Aime as he waited for his son who was getting a free haircut. “This brings the neighborhood together. Detroiters just don’t realize what they have here.”

It’s that spirit that Luther Keith, the founder executive director of Arise Detroit!, wanted to capture in Neighborhoods Day. It’s about residents showcasing their areas and coming together to improve them.

“No, all the problems were not solved on Neighborhoods Day; Nor, will they ever be on one day. Neighborhoods Day really reflects what hundreds of block clubs, churches and community groups do on every day throughout the year,” Keith, a former Detroit News editor, said on the organization’s website. “But it has become a signature City of Detroit event, like no other – a place where all spirits can meet, where all are embraced, where we all are reminded that we are all really one big family.”

Saturday was the first time Roenna Thomas had been to an Arise Detroit! Neighborhoods Day event. She looked on proudly as her young nephew got his teeth cleaned by a volunteer at the Ferry Park event. Nearby, others were having their teeth cleaned or their blood pressure taken, too.

Melissa McCurtis, of Dental Care Mobile, cleans the teeth of Joseph Cooper during the 11th Annual Arise! Detroit Neighborhood Festival and Backpack giveaway along Ferry Park Street on Saturday August 5, 2017.

“It’s nice,” said Thomas. “A lot of people can’t afford these services.”

At another Neighborhoods Day event on Woodward Avenue near Trowbridge, Stephanie Smith volunteered at a community resource tent Smith said she likes the idea of bringing neighbors out of their house and interacting with one another.

“For a lot of us that don’t have transportation, we can walk up to this,” said Smith. “It brings us together.”

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