I can’t wait 50 years to live well in my Detroit neighborhood

May 7, 2015

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” —Mahatma Gandhi

This quote resonates deeply with me these days, because in my Detroit neighborhood, the change I wish to see seems so far away.

Imagining places that are clean, safe and vibrant threads my work as an urban planner and sustainability advocate. Yet, despite years of planning and designing these grand visions, my daily landscape doesn’t match the efforts. I know there’s still a long way to go, but I’m getting anxious.

I need to see action that signals clear progress toward a neighborhood where I can feel safe enough to walk and bike. And I refuse to believe this is too much to ask.

We must find more ways for residents of Detroit’s neighborhoods like the Airport District to become involved in the rebuilding process, says Khalil Ligon. We must find more ways for residents of Detroit’s neighborhoods like the Airport District to become involved in the rebuilding process, says Khalil Ligon.

To start, we need to better organize within our neighborhoods to make sure the things we want to see happen actually get done.

Of course, there are many things we can do as individuals right now — not litter, recycle, mow our lawns, creatively use vacant greenspaces, have block parties, and engage with our local police departments.

However, the long-term planning and larger real estate and infrastructure projects require a broader perspective and greater resources. As neighborhood residents, we must demand more input and organize in a way that positions us for dialogue with city leaders about development and restoration.

The Detroit Future City “Ideas for Innovation” series, which began last month, has sought to reconvene Detroiters around implementing its Strategic Framework. In the first session, which focused on “what makes a great city,” speakers with experience leading citywide planning efforts talked about their processes — what worked and what didn’t — and shared stories about the transformation their cities are experiencing.

I can’t wait 50 years to live well in my Detroit neighborhood
Khalil Ligon, May 7 2015, Michigan Radio