By Rochelle Riley
Detroit Free Press.
Khalil Ligon thinks the Kresge Foundation must have been reading her mind.
The grassroots activist and consultant, who lives in the City Airport neighborhood in northeast Detroit, has been guiding a group of entrepreneurs through the Better Block movement, part of a national effort to create a safe, walkable urban neighborhood, one block at a time.
It was pure coincidence that she and a group of friends and neighbors began their weeklong cleanup of their chosen block the same day that the Kresge foundation announced plans to donate $5 million more directly to neighborhoods.
Ligon calls it serendipity.
“If we were able to get money of this scale,” she said of the $50,000 to $150,000 grants, “that would be a dream come true.”
Over in District 6, where Angie Reyes fights to shrink the gap between her neighbors and other more successful Detroiters, she said there was no brick and mortar project that she wants to spend $150,000 on. Instead, she said, she would rather work on bridging that gap.
“Our whole issue is getting people trained in our community to be able to take advantage of higher skilled jobs,” said Reyes, executive director of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corp. “But the state funding for adult education keeps getting cut so there is a huge gap between where people are in our community. All of the ESL (English as a Second Language) programs are packed and have waiting lists. And after you learn English, then what? You still have to read and write. Without the resources to bridge that gap. … Working in the city of Detroit is like working in quicksand, because the landscape keeps changing under your feet while you’re working.”
The city was abuzz with ideas about how to get a piece of the new funding that Kresge has marked: For Neighborhoods Only.