How to Bridge the Gap between the Two Detroits (Op-ed)


The following is an opinion editorial written on behalf of the Better Detroit Youth Movement which was published in the Detroit News. You may find the article online here: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2015/01/13/brown-finley-two-detroits/21654753/

Nolan Finley isn’t all that off base in the points he makes in his two articles concerning our tale of two cities in Detroit.

If you condemned him for pointing out the elephant in the room, chances are his articles made you uncomfortable for the ugly truths they exposed.

If you sang his articles’ praises, you likely side with those who’ve been feeling left out in the bitter cold of Detroit’s rebirth.

But while we’re agreeing and disagreeing over the issue, let’s try not to forget the people who matter most here: the children.

Remember that old adage that the children are our future?

If that’s the case, it might be fair to question the direction in which Detroit’s youth are headed. Not just because of failing school systems or troubling cultural norms, but because of other city resources as well.

I mean, it’s tough to provide direction when the streetlights stay out at night.

Regardless of how you feel about the city’s progress, or lack thereof, there’s only one thing it takes to overcome all of the perceived barriers to bridging the gap of Two Detroits — mentoring.

Believe it or not, mentoring today’s youth isn’t as complicated as it’s made out to be.

In fact, mentoring is really about forming a connection with someone and providing them advantages that they may not have had access to without that connection.

And this is something that everyone, regardless of economic background, can participate in.

If you’re wealthy, consider establishing a scholarship fund. If money is tight, invest your time in youth who have similar interests as you. Show them the ropes, just as someone did you.

Many of Detroit’s youth are desperate to do something positive and to make something of themselves. However, far too often these same kids find themselves settling on the most realistic options rather than pursuing their dreams because people tell them that they don’t know any better or they lack connections to proper resources.

Just imagine if each of the many businesses contributing to Detroit’s rebirth took some time to reach back out into the communities.

Offering anything from weekly discussions to even paid or unpaid internships, the encouragement and inspiration they could provide to the city’s disenfranchised youth would help to eliminate the racial and social class divides.

Even if you know you that you want to be a mentor to someone, but aren’t sure how to get started, volunteer or partner with the organization that you feel is the best fit and get involved.

It’ll take a village to raise our city’s children.

Let’s set aside our differences to ensure that they can be a part of the solution and not the problem.

In the end, doesn’t the fate of Detroit’s rebirth depend on it?

Cedric Brown,

Better Detroit Youth Movement

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