Photo Essay: The people of the North End

Over the course of our On the Ground series, we've explored some of the innovations, developments, and discussions that are happening in the North End. But as the neighborhood looks toward the future, there is much more work to do.

The community has made strides in urban farming, technological innovation, and community organizing. From improving the local economy to laying the framework for a promising future, North End residents have a clear idea of the kind of neighborhood they want to see emerge. Residents speak of a self-sustaining community that can support generations to come, offering a sense of longevity in a swiftly changing city.

Here's what four North End locals are hoping for in their neighborhood.

 

Onyx Ashanti

Musician, programmer, futurist

Ashanti at Red Door Digital

"The North End has been very supportive of my eccentricities and activities. I'd like to preserve that while also contributing to its ability to be that into the future. It's a very special area and it influences my work greatly—the people and the vibe. I would love to keep evolving in the area to see what happens next."

 

Reshounn "Sun" Foster

Consultant, writer, founder of Hip N Zen

Sun at Hip N Zen

"I'd like to see the silos disappear. There's such an intersectionality of people and projects here, but they are disconnected and still not addressing residents' basic living needs.

"The North End has become 'the new shiny toy' people want to play with. On one hand, that's cool. With more news come  more tourists, developers, and investors. On the other hand, these increasing activities put the poor at risk of being further ignored or overlooked. When there are new retailers opening boutiques, but residents can't afford to buy what they're selling, that's a huge problem.

"I want residents to be able to participate in the economy in their own neighborhood. When there are free events in our 'hood but the residents peek in and say, 'That's not for me,' that's a problem. I want there to be a variety of types of entertainment and activities, not just for niche groups. When buildings are being rehabbed and built, but there are people sleeping in abandoned homes and food pantry lines, there's still a huge problem. I want the 112-year-old homes of the poor and retired to receive love and resources."
 


Eliza Lae

Energy worker

Eliza outside the Detroit Poetry Society house

"The North End is one of the most reliable villages in Detroit. The inhabitants grow food, people, and homes. We must find a more efficient way to create and maintain resources for independent growth. For instance, I would like to see the abandoned shops on Oakland Ave open and run by residents to service our needs. Then we can create a local economy and become a fully functioning community. The villagers will be able to go outside of the community by choice."

 

Halima Cassells

Community activist, artist

Cassells at Know Allegiance Nation bookstore

"Recognizing power dynamics and privilege is super important. People think class and privilege are tied to money and to some extent it may be, but how do you view yourself in relation to your space? Do you have the means to leave when you want? When people are like, 'Let's do Detroit for two years' or it's like a stepping stone or a stopping place or a cool thing to test. That's such a luxury, that's such a privilege.

"I want my children to  inherit this piece of security in a place that they know they always have to lay their heads that's not going anywhere. A sense of security, a sense of place, a sense of knowing how to maintain and repair and add on to."

This article is part of the "On the Ground" series, where a journalist is embedded in a neighborhood for three months to provide regular coverage. 

Support for this series is provided by the Kresge Foundation


All photos by Nick Hagen
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