The northwest side has always been inspirational and aspirational for me. Inspirational in that my block on the west end of the Bagley neighborhood (about two blocks north of the Northwest Activities Center) was full of longtime homeowners who had authentic relationships with neighboring families.
There was never a need for an outside entity to run a cleanup program. We did it for ourselves. We took care of our properties and each other.
I took for granted the sense of community I grew up with. Somebody was always watching, and I mean that in the best possible way. I always felt that if anyone meant to do me harm that someone who knew me would do something or say something.
Beyond being able to just be me, freely, the northwest side also represented aspirational opportunities for black folks. My neighborhood was middle, middle class. Closer to Livernois were more affluent, upper middle class neighborhoods that did not seem off limits to me. Neighborhoods like Green Acres and Palmer Woods, seemed perfectly attainable. The Cosby-esque families that lived there were role models to us in adjacent neighborhoods.
My mother once told me that her father cried when he first saw our home at the corner of Pinehurst and Margareta. He said he hadn’t expected to see a day when “black folks could live in a house like that”. It seemed modest to me growing up, but I now I have a better understanding of some of the policies and practices that would have shaped his understanding of where and how we could live.
The neighborhood was full of assets that were for us and by us. We owned the businesses on the commercial corridors and those businesses prioritized serving community needs and hiring people from the community.
Although there are a number of vacant spaces on the corridors today, the businesses that have stood the test of time remain locally owned and locally staffed. Institutions like Baker’s Keyboard Lounge and Eric’s I’ve Been Framed have served the community consistently for decades.
Through my work leading a development organization in the area, I became privy to a number of planned new developments. Livernois at 7 mile will see housing and retail at the sight of what used to be the famed B. Siegel store, and in Fitzgerald, west of Livernois, south of 6 Mile we’ll see the rehabilitation of some existing homes, construction of new homes and a new park and greenway connecting to neighborhood anchor institutions, Marygrove College and the Univer-sity of Detroit Mercy.
While improvements to the physical as-sets in the area will undoubtedly see an abundance of media coverage and attention elsewhere, the most valuable asset on the northwest side, has always been the peo-ple. We’ll cover them here!