Spivey: In Detroit, we must invest in black talent

Re: Nolan Finley’s Dec. 15 article “Where are the black people?”: I must admit I was surprised to a read an article by Nolan Finley of this subject matter, yet encouraged by the conversation I hope will commence in religious, professional, social and academic circles across this city and region.

Finley referenced the lack of a significant presence of black people at the city’s new downtown restaurants, holiday events at our cultural institutions and within a group of young professionals. I have seen this for myself and know it to be true, however, the barometer of black people in the city should not be measured by how many people we see in Midtown or downtown.

Instead, it can be measured by how many need assistance to remain in their homes which make up our neighborhoods, by how many are trained and prepared for jobs to construct the M-1 Rail, New International Trade Crossing or other future projects, by how many young people are encouraged to return to Detroit after college or by how well black and white work together to eradicate crime, educate our children, support local entrepreneurs and improve neighborhoods. The conversation must expand beyond what is happening in two geographic areas of the city.

Historically speaking, the presence of black people in Detroit has entered its third century.

Take for instance the Ferguson family, which includes Detroit’s Dr. Lorna Thomas and Samuel “Buzz” Thomas, Jr. Dr. Thomas’ great-great-great grandfather was the first black graduate of the Detroit College of Medicine, now Wayne State University, in 1865. Their family settled here before the Civil War as freed slaves who migrated to Detroit because it became known great opportunities existed here for people of color. This success was quite evident for many in the black community in Black Bottom, on Hastings Street and Paradise Valley.

Those same opportunities can continue with those black people who found success in the automotive, banking, construction and supplier industries, coupled with IT firms, mortgage companies, incubators and others inviting more black talent to the conversation with viable options. What a difference we would see if the greater Detroit community invested in black talent, talent hungry for success with the same skill set, training and drive as their other ethnic counterparts. And this not about race, it is about Detroit.

For those still not convinced that people of the black diaspora are here in Detroit, many have been working and a new generation is ready. We are here as presidents of two institutions of higher education, we are here in the medical community within every hospital system, we are here as judges and elected officials. We are here in every neighborhood across this city, both struggling and affluent. We are here as religious leaders, community activists, block club presidents, volunteers and neighborhood sages. We are some of the many numerous good and hard working people of Detroit who help to keep it moving every day.

As Detroit has exited bankruptcy and is on its way to being the city we all want it to be, one cannot be naive to the fact that this city will change.

I have always had the personal belief that if we are going to be a world-class city, Detroit must embrace, highlight and welcome all ethnicities and create a place for anyone to prosper, including the black community.

Where are the black people? History shows we have been here, the present shows we are here, and future stories, yet untold, will give an account that we still will be here.

Andre L. Spivey, city councilman,

District 4, Detroit