“We were truly concerned about the failure of democracy in the city.”

Wayne State received a $100,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation to support the CitizenDetroit, an outreach program of the Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society (FOCIS).

CitizenDetroit was created in 2012 by r WSU President Emeritus Irvin D. Reid and former Detroit City Council member Sheila Cockrel. Reid and Cockrel wanted to engage and educate Detroit residents on political leaders and decisions made in the city.

“We created CitizenDetroit because those of us here at the university have been really bothered by two things,” said Reid. “[We] were alarmed by how poorly informed the city's residents were about fundamental issues such as deficits, debt, defaults, bonds, etc.”

He also believed there was a “crisis of citizenship” in the city based on low voter turnout and political participation.

“We were truly concerned about the failure of democracy in the city,” he said. “The city was about to go under and there was a fundamental misunderstanding on not only how we got to that point, but more alarming was the lack of understanding of what our city faced in getting out of the fiscal mess.”

The Kresge Foundation supported WSU’s “Dinner and Dialogue” series, which hosted citizens for educational workshops earlier this year, including city bankruptcy forums and Detroit’s industrial history sessions.

“The sessions allowed these residents to discuss issues with each other and to come up with their own solutions after they were given the facts,” said Reid.

The foundation said they are proud to continue supporting the nonpartisan political engagement of the city’s residents.

“CitizenDetroit recognizes Detroit’s diverse stakeholders and promises to create platforms and spaces for vital discussions,” said Wendy Lewis Jackson, a deputy director of community development and Detroit programs for The Kresge Foundation. “From transportation to public safety, there’s not an issue facing the city for which the solution doesn’t include an engaged public.”

Reid said the funds will be used for ongoing efforts to mobilize young voters, who are often less likely to vote, and keep them informed about political decision making in Detroit.

“We will be focusing on youths, the future of the city,” he said. “We will attempt to get them interested in becoming informed citizens who cherish their democracy.”

According to the CitzenDetroit website, the program doesn’t have any upcoming events, but it encourages Detroit residents and WSU students to visit their website for online citizen resources and suggested readings. 

For more information, visit focis.wayne.edu.


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