Opinion: Don't overlook Detroit's black talent

Mark S. Lee

There has been much discussion about "two Detroits." 

However, there's been another discussion that's been percolating via social media recently and has been elevated by a social media initiative started by Marlowe Stoudamire — specifically, providing a platform which provides balanced portrayals and identifies networking opportunities focused on African-American men and women.

Hazy view of the Detroit skyline down Grand River Avenue on August 4, 2018.

Stoudamire is a Detroit-based consultant and entrepreneur. He founded Butterfly Effect Detroit and Mash Detroit and recently launched Roster Detroit and the #DetroitHasTalent hashtag via various social media channels


Stoudamire was frustrated with visual images and the overall picture of the newer Detroit being portrayed as primarily young, white millennials coming in and saving the city. There's a perception the current narrative being portrayed is newer and younger Detroiters are coming in to ignite change and the city's resurgence.  

He simply states, "It is not the Detroit I know."

Stoudamire believes Detroiters, particularly African American men and women, have been engaged in making a difference in the city for years, but have not had the platform or have been recognized for their achievements and contributions. 

There's a perception executive leadership, in many situations, is predominantly white and male.  According to Stoudamire, "People do business with people they know, like and trust" and "people hire people that look like them and people connect with people they can identify with."

As a result, he launched daily narratives featuring two African American men daily. It started in February and his goal was to acknowledge achievements of those who have and still are making a difference. 

And he did it for 50 straight days. The result, an overwhelming response.

The #DetroitHasTalent hashtag is designed to be a digital platform while providing a channel of opportunity focused on:

  • Providing validation and exposure to talented individuals
  • Developing and connecting to available tools which provide people with development opportunities to craft and build their brands
  • Celebrating and sharing the good for individuals

“Writing those positive daily tributes for 50 straight days to two deserving black men in my life to challenge the status quo of false narratives and images about us was one of the hardest things I've ever done," Stoudamire says. "But I believe black men showing other black men love and respect publicly is needed and healthy for our community.”

The goal is to not only identify opportunities solely focused on jobs, but also potential board memberships, service capabilities, access-to-capital, philanthropic and networking opportunities. 

Since its initial launch, demand from companies looking for diverse talent has increased because some organizations didn't know these talented individuals existed due to them being "under the radar." Not only were companies looking to hire talented leaders, this also became the genesis for developing his latest venture, Roster Detroit.

What's next? 

Soudamire is looking at expand the #DetroitHasTalent roster with published content, and is looking to potentially expand to 10 additional cities later this year. 

Through this initiative he hopes to role model the behavior that others can follow within the African American community. 

Lastly, it's about creating opportunity for all people and developing relationships which, he believes, will help drive business and enhanced relationships and economic value within the community. 

Mark S. Lee is president of The LEE Group.