DFC Executive Director Shares Detroit Story
DFC’s Development Director, Kate Cherry, recently interviewed DFC Executive Director, Anika Goss, about Ms. Goss’s efforts to bring the DFC story to cities around the U.S. Below is a portion of their conversation.
It seems you always have another trip planned to speak nationally about what DFC and others in Detroit are doing to build a more equitable community. Where have you spoken outside of Detroit in the past year?
In the past year, I’ve been asked to talk about DFC and our work in Detroit in several U.S. cities, especially those which are experiencing challenges similar to those we are tackling in Detroit. Memphis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Sacramento have been my latest stops.
What is it that makes the work you are doing here so interesting to people outside of the city and region?
People across the country are curious about what’s happening in Detroit. They are searching for answers to urban challenges that feel natural to us after years of working on them. We’ve been working at the intersection of vacancy and vibrancy for so long that, to others, we seem comfortable addressing these issues. These are things that other cities want to know about and learn from us, so they can begin to deal with their own urban challenges.
For example, a lot of cities are intrigued by the way Detroit has focused on acknowledging the role everyone has in creating places of opportunity for all. Detroit learned from experience that inclusivity and equal access to opportunity are imperative for creating vibrant and healthy communities.
Additionally, I think that our physical transformation as a community has been so visible to so many – if you think about how much Detroit has changed over the last 10 or 15 years, I think people across the country are picking up on that and want to know the recipe for that change.
As you’ve engaged with people across the country about what DFC has done to improve quality of life, what has been surprising about their reactions?
People in lots of places in this country continue to struggle to talk about race and economics, particularly with the level of comfort and openness DFC brings to the conversation. We’re OK with being a city that is 89 percent people of color, and we’ve looked at that with an asset-focus and thought, ‘How can we build upon this to extend quality of life for all.’ We don’t want to redevelop and find that we are like many big American cities, with a wealthy and White core and poor and Black neighborhoods. Detroiters know that doesn’t work and that the best way forward is to create a community of opportunity and prosperity for all.