“The women of color in this community are the ones who can help us,”
Brianna Blackshire

W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Institute for Policy Studies collaborated on the iDream Detroit: The Voice and Vision of Women of Color on Detroit’s Future project. A panel discussion was held Oct. 11 to discuss the need for the engagement of women of color in crafting the development of Detroit’s economic plans.

The panel consisted of Anika Goss-Foster, executive director of the Detroit Future City Implementation Office; Maria Salinas, executive director of Congress of Communities; Monica Lewis-Patrick, CEO and president of We the People of Detroit and Alicia Farris, a member of the project’s advisory committee.

The Wayne State Board of Governor's member Kim Trent, moderated the discussion and said that as women of color they are not going to give us a seat at the table, we will have to take it.

“The women of color in this community are the ones who can help us,” said Trent.

The panel discussed economic development and education, the water crisis, and their experience as with the iDream Detroit project.

One of the main issues discussed was the intersectionality of economic development and education.

Detroit has not positioned itself as a city of diversity and inclusion despite having such a diverse population, said Foster. The gross racial disparity starts in the area of finance, she said.

“Businesses owned by women of color are not valued in the capital market,” said Foster.

In a city that is thriving with innovation and creativity we need businesses to embrace the idea of diversity and inclusion by developing ways to attract and retain our minority businesses as well as help to structure and evaluate our educational system so that the people can get the new jobs being created, she said.

The issue of the city’s mass water shut-offs was also addressed.

Patrick, who is most known nationally and internationally for her work in response to the water crisis in Detroit and Flint, said the experience was transforming and highlighted the greater sense of connectivity between the work that they do.

She said a scarcity of women of color at the table has allowed the government to build new arenas while the city of Detroit is getting sicker by the day due to a lack of access to clean water.

“It became personal, and I would not allow for anybody to say that we didn’t love them enough to do the hard stuff,” said Patrick.

Lastly, the panel expressed how the project impacted them.

Salinas said, “We need to do a better job of uplifting and pushing ourselves as women of color.”

The iDream Detroit project was a worthy investment and captured the spirit and depth of women of color in Detroit, said Farris.

“This is who you are, you have the seeds of phenomenal women planted inside you,” she said.

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