Ingrid LaFleur is a well-known artist and curator, born and raised in Detroit. She recently announced her candidacy to run for Mayor of Detroit in November. The Michigan Chronicle had the opportunity to speak with Ms. LaFleur recently about some of her positions and why she thinks she is the best person for the job.
Why did you enter the race?
I’m a born and raised Detroiter and I absolutely love this city. And growing up during a prosperous moment in time, I have a full understanding and experience of what this city has been, and what the full potential of our city looks like. And then also, I’ve traveled quite a bit. After high school, I went to college out of state at Spelman College, I went to New York University. So I’ve lived in many different cities that have gone through revitalization. So I’ve seen best practices, I’ve seen what has worked, what hasn’t worked and I thought that would be very helpful in helping to craft a healthier sustainable city here in Detroit.
And also, working with youth, I really am concerned about their future. And I really want to make sure they see a future here in Detroit. One that is hopeful and prosperous.
Talk more about what you think Detroit can be.
My first home was on the northwest side, and we lived right across the street from Palmer Park. And so I remember after dinner at dusk walking with my mom, and we would walk through the park and see people playing squash, and biking and running. It was very vibrant. The neighborhood was quite non- -traditional in some ways. There was a large LGBTQ black community, we had a professional community living there, and just the Livernois Avenue of Fashion was very vibrant. We could go shopping there, get our hair done. All these things made me have a deep loyalty to the city. …That’s when I really understood what the role of the mayor is, because at that time Detroit felt so united. We felt like a family. It was not perfect, and I’m very clear on that, but it just felt good, more than anything.
You have said before it was an issue that the New Detroit not being defined/represented by many African Americans. Do you still see that as an issue?
I think it’s really important for Detroit to be as inclusive as possible. When I did come home I was very surprised at the amount of newcomers and whites that were occupying spaces that I wasn’t used to. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be here, but I was wondering where is everybody else? So I was very shocked and confused. So thinking about the future of Detroit, we definitely have to invest in the neighborhoods so that they’re strengthened and feel included in this forward moving that seems to be quite rapid in the downtown/Midtown area.
But at the same time, it is in the neighborhoods where we see our ability to craft a new future, an innovative future. It is in the neighborhoods where these practices that we don’t normally see in other major cities where people are definitely filling in the gaps where government has failed them, making a new way. That is so exciting. That to me is really the foundation of pur future. And so even if the media is not talking about it, I know it. I know that it’s in the neighborhoods where the genius lies.
Do you think the current administration realizes that? How would you rate their approach to neighborhoods thus far?
It has taken quite a long time for the neighborhoods to end up where they’re at. And it will take a while for us to truly invest and revitalize. It’s important to stay focused on that, but it is a balancing act. I can see where city government has failed but people are being very vocal right now about what they want to see. And so in the future, from this point on, I think that that’s going to be a major shift.
As an artist, what is it that you bring to this campaign? How will that perspective benefit the city?
As an artist, and as a curator, I have been engaging public policy for over 20 years, and educating people about public policy and also I’ve been a creative problem solver and organizing people around a common goal. Those are all skill sets that can be easily transferred toward city government. It takes a leader with a vision to really help move the city into a sustainable future. And we have to kind of get out of these old ways of thinking about how we resolve our issues. We have to think outside the box right now. But Detroiters are already doing that. So it’s really just kind of building upon what has already.y been happening.
What are some examples of Detroiters thinking outside the box?
How we address, for instance, when there’s an abandoned home in our neighborhood. Or a home not owned by somebody in that neighborhood. People are out there taking care of that house. People are living without water, but there are ways of making sure that person still has access to water. We’re looking at cooperative models, and these models have been a part of the African American legacy for so long. It’s wonderful to see it coming back again, and it’s coming straight from the community.
What do you mean by sustainable future?
There are certain ways that we are tackling some of the issues, and it’s just not working. One of them is crime. So, we understand that when we put someone in jail there’s this punishment that we hope will stop them from doing whatever they’re doing. But we know that’s not working. So, why aren’t we instituting more restorative justice practices, where there’s more of a conversation. We humanize the person who caused harm, we understand why they caused the harm. Oftentimes it’s just because people wanted to take care of their families. But of course there’s the crime that city government has been creating by shutting people’s water off. Foreclosing on people’s homes. This has exacerbated the issue. So we have to get to the root of the problem, and getting to the root of the problem is to stop the water shutoffs, is to make sure every citizen has their basic needs met, and also thinking ab out how police can serve the community, and not force upon us with a disconnection. Of course I’m an advocate of police living within the city. Police officers should really be connected to the city.
So we have to think of a more holistic way to address these issues, and that does begin with city government policy.