The president and CEO of New Detroit announced Wednesday that she will retire by the end of the year.

Shirley Stancato, leader of the racial justice organization since January 2000, said it is time to turn the organization over to new leadership.

“This has been an extremely rewarding experience," Stancato said in a statement. “I have seen how New Detroit is touching people’s lives and transforming conversations as we have had people of different races come together to discuss the very difficult issue of race."

Stancato said the discussions about race lead to acknowledging the issue, which must be done before it can be changed. New Detroit was founded as the result of the city’s 1967 uprising.

A search committee is being named to select Stancato's replacement, according to Rachel Tronstein Stewart, board chair for New Detroit.

“Like any great leader, Shirley leaves New Detroit better than she found it," Tonstein Stewart said in a statement. "Shirley's name is really synonymous with New Detroit and racial equity in this community, which I think reflects her deep commitment to these issues and the fact that she's been a leader on these topics in our community for more than two decades.


Shirley Stancato, president and CEO of New Detroit, notes that people of color now have jobs in industries that they didn't before, but in other ways, such as education, Detroit and Michigan have a long way to go.

During Stancato's time as leader, New Detroit developed "Conversations on Race," which are peer-to-peer open conversations to develop relationships across racial lines as a way to address racial inequity across Metropolitan Detroit.

New Detroit also developed a "Metropolitan Detroit Race Equity Report" during Stancato's tenure, which includes demographic data from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and documents "a very definite and substantial divide between the races in the Detroit region" that was created using U.S. Census Bureau data.

“When you start looking at the numbers defining the gap you see that it is real and pervasive,” Stancato said. New Detroit is preparing a second regional race equity report in partnership with the University of Michigan, which will be released later this year.

New Detroit has also implemented and improved several programs under Stancato's guidance, including: a cultural competency program focusing on the region's communities of color; Camp Enterprise, which brings high school juniors and seniors to workshops on college campuses; and the Minority Small Business Education Series, which has tutored minority business owners in basic skills like business planning and marketing.

Stancato has also made efforts to improve education in Detroit. She has served as the chair of the board of Excellent Schools Detroit and on the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children.

“The mission of New Detroit — working to achieve racial understanding and racial equity in Metropolitan Detroit — has become a part of who I am,” Stancato said. “In many ways, it’s a ministry. In the end, it has been extremely fulfilling.”

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