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Closing the Gap awards honor those who advance race relations


New Detroit, Inc., will honor four groups and individuals who have advanced race relations in Detroit and the surrounding area at its annual “Closing the Gap” Awards dinner on May 17.

“As New Detroit observes our 50th anniversary, it is important that we recognize those who have committed themselves to our mission of working to identify and eliminate racial disparities over the long haul,” said New Detroit President and CEO Shirley Stancato.  “This year’s honorees represent a broad cross-section of the community.  Each, in their own way, has moved racial affairs in our region forward in a significant manner. Each has advanced New Detroit’s goal of closing the gap between the races.”

The Closing the Gap award ceremony and dinner will take place on Wednesday, May 17 at 5:30 p.m. at Cobo Hall.  Marla Drutz, vice president and general manager of WDIV-TV, is serving as the event’s chair.  Awards will be presented by Stancato and William S. Taubman, New Detroit chairman and chief operating officer of Taubman Centers Inc.

Tonya Allen, CEO, Skillman Foundation

The Skillman Foundation, which was founded in 1960, works to improve the lives of children, helping Detroit children prepare for college, career and life.


Tonya Allen, who joined Skillman in 2004, has been instrumental in many successful philanthropic, government and community initiatives and has a comprehensive understanding of philanthropic governance and strategy.  She has played a major role in initiatives that focus on education reform, urban revitalization and public policy, so that these sometimes divergent areas of work come together to improve the well-being of Detroit’s children.


She served as the architect of the foundation’s 10-year, $100 million Good Neighborhood Initiative and was deeply involved in the development and design of key education improvement strategies, including Excellent Schools Detroit, Michigan Future Schools and the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren.


Under her leadership the Foundation serves as more than a funder. It brings ideas and people together and works to attract others to its work. The Foundation invests $15-$17 million a year in its initiatives and leverages its legacy of results and innovation to attract others to invest in leaders, organizations, and networks taking bold action for children. It works in an embedded way with its partners and incorporates the voices of residents and youth in its work.




The Fisher Family Foundation  

Max M. Fisher, who served as New Detroit’s second chairman, recognized that the challenges facing Detroit did not, and do not, have quick or easy solutions.  “Those of us associated with New Detroit,” he wrote in New Detroit’s second annual report, “have dedicated and rededicated ourselves to continue to work for and seek an end to the urban crisis.  And in pledging ourselves to this task, we are prepared to give years and years of effort to complex problems that will not give in to quick and easy solutions.”


Fisher’s untiring endeavors matched his words.  He gave “years and years of effort” to identifying and implementing mechanisms to address the urban crisis.  That effort has continued unabated since his passing in 2005 through the work of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, which, under the direction of his family, continues that mission.  In the City of Detroit, it has focused much of its humanitarian giving on organizations active in the Brightmoor Community through support of initiatives such as the Brightmoor Alliance, City Mission, Forgotten Harvest, Gleaners Community Food Bank, Starfish Family Services, the Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) and other humanitarian organizations.


In recognition of his long-term commitment to New Detroit’s mission and its continued manifestation today through the work of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation under the direction of the Fisher family, New Detroit is honored to present the Fisher family with its 50th Anniversary Legacy of Leadership Award.


Clark Park Coalition

When Clark Park was closed by the City of Detroit due to a city financial crisis in 1991, concerned citizens from the neighborhood came together to form a nonprofit to partner with the City of Detroit’s Recreation Department to keep the park open and thriving.  The result was a successful public-private collaboration that continues to this day and has a tremendous impact on the surrounding neighborhood.


Clark Park serves as the “town square” of a thriving area in southwest Detroit, regularly hosting festivals, concerts and special events for the most ethnically diverse community in the City, while serving as a popular year-round meeting place for family picnics and gatherings.


Since the formation of the public-private partnership, Clark Park has been, and remains today, the community’s anchor, providing programming year-round for more than 1,200 young people.  It provides free lunches daily to more than 100 youth throughout the summer.  The park’s value to the area is evident by the hundreds of volunteers who donate their time each year.


Clark Park operates the only regulation-size outdoor ice hockey rink in Metro Detroit, and Clark Park Coalition Hockey is a member of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative.  The Clark Park Coalition exists to provide an array of diverse, high-quality recreational, educational, social and mentoring programs for southwest Detroit families promoting skills development, which helps young people grow into responsible, self-confident adults.


James Group International, John A. James, Founder & Chairman

James Group International is a Detroit-based group of companies that offers international supply chain services, such as consolidation, deconsolidation, sub-assembly, inventory management, warehousing, distribution, and transportation services.  It began as O-J Transport in 1971, a partnership of John James and his uncle, Calvin Outlaw, starting with one truck, and has steadily expanded its operations to become a global company.

In 1991, he established Motor City Intermodal Distribution, a marine terminal and Foreign Trade Zone, and that was followed two years later by Motor City Logistics, a warehousing and parts sequencing operation. Renaissance Global Logistics (RGL) was launched in 1998 as a global consolidation operation, packing and exporting automotive component to South Africa, South America, Australia, Asia and Europe.

JASCO International, a strategic alliance with Sumitomo Corporation of America and Sumitrans was added to James Group International in 2000. JASCO International has three operations – two deconsolidation centers for inventory arriving from Japan, Malaysia, Spain, the U.K. and Korea, and a sub-assembly operation in Park City, Ky. Motor City Express (MCX) was established in July 2001 to provide truckload transportation services.

James Group International was the first African American company to be issued broad operating authority to transport automotive parts and other commodities in the State of Michigan. It is also the first African-American company nationally to be granted such authority by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to operate in Interstate and foreign commerce. Because of his own business experiences, which include taking his case for transportation authority to the U.S. Supreme Court, James makes every effort to share his knowledge and expertise with other minority business entrepreneurs attempting to enter the highly competitive business world.

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