For Wayne County Commission Vice Chair Keith D. Williams, “hope” isn’t just another word.
Williams, representing the Commission’s 6th District, sees a zip code in crisis, like so many in urban America. He is not about to sit idly by when he knows in his heart that he can make a difference.
The 6th District encompasses the 48238 zip code (roughly 8 Mile Road to the north; Grand River and W. Grand Boulevard to the south; Ardmore to the west; and Parkside/Linwood/Lawton to the east). It’s in the most northwest nook of Detroit, nudging against Oakland County’s Oak Park and Ferndale.
Williams’ district is like many others in Detroit — beset with high unemployment, safety concerns and kids not going to school. There’s cleaning up that needs to be done. Business development is creeping along, if it’s moving at all. All too typical these days.
What’s not typical is that the 6th District —zip code 48238 — is about to become what Williams intends to be a highly progressive part of Detroit. A model district. One that others will emulate.
That’s the plan.
It’s called the H.O.P.E. Zone — Helping Our People Elevate. It’s a five-year commitment to an initiative that will contain three major components integral to a better quality of life in any residential area, such as Detroit.
“The African-American family is experiencing a health crisis on every level — economic, spiritual, emotional and physical,” Williams said. “This crisis is huge but it’s not insurmountable.”
Hence, the H.O.P.E. Zone, with its components of Clean and Safe, Education, and Economic Development.
Williams gained inspiration for the idea from a concept introduced by Geoffrey Canada in Harlem, New York. The concept is quite simply the focusing of programs and services in a highly concentrated area (48238) for a designated period of time, in the hope that once that area’s dragons are slain, it’ll be easier to take down others in neighboring districts.
There’s that word again — hope.
Williams knows how much weight those four little letters hold.
“If you take away hope, you’ve really cut everything that we as community leaders are trying to do off at the knees,” Williams says.
He’s not having any of that.
Partnering with Detroit’s iconic Focus: HOPE organization (whose offices are in Williams’ district), the H.O.P.E. Zone for 48238 will launch this summer with a full-court press on cleaning up the zip code. Crime prevention and safety are part of this first component.
Called “Clean and Safe,” and bringing in the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office for support, the first component of Williams’ H.O.P.E. Zone initiative will use grassroots efforts and the mobilization of citizens to get the community “clean and safe,” thus creating a greater sense of pride and ownership while also making the area more attractive, so that more businesses and home buyers will consider moving to the area.
The recent, controversial “Dateline NBC” TV show about Detroit rankled Williams because its negative slant on his city runs counter to the feeling of pride he’s trying to instill in 48238 residents.
As excited and optimistic as he is about the prospects of the H.O.P.E. Zone for 48238, he isn’t delusional.
“There is much work to be done,” Williams said. “We must create more opportunities for educational preparedness to obtain and sustain employment. We must ensure quality physical, mental and spiritual health awareness and services to strengthen the whole man in order for him to provide a stable example of living for his family.”
For more information about the H.O.P.E. Zone for 48238, contact Commissioner Williams’ office at (313) 224-0942.