Tell us about living in Detroit. What neighborhood do you live in and what makes your neighborhood unique?
I live in the Midtown / Cass Corridor neighborhood. It is full of a variety of people and offers options to experience historical places in Detroit, such as Garden Bowl, as well as support new local business, like Gus’s Fried Chicken at the end of my street. The juxtaposition of the old and the new can be stark at times, but it’s all a part of the balancing act of revitalization. There are ideas and business by which I am constantly intrigued. I purchased a bicycle from the Hub a couple blocks away and hope to learn more about the El Moore, a sustainable housing development. The house I live in has been around for decades, so I’ve found that it’s pretty well-known in this small Detroit community. More than one person I’ve met has known someone else who has lived in it within the past 15 years!
What have you learned from Challenge Detroit so far?
That community engagement and working together to move a city forward is more complex than simply talking to one another. We need to ensure that we immerse ourselves in all aspects of our neighborhoods, our government, the non-profits of the region, as well as the businesses and corporations. Challenge Detroit is working to create a web of connections from the individual to large entities and it’s all critical when thinking about what matters in the city.
Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.
My host company is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. Our organization works year-round to market and plan for the first weekend of June when IndyCar racing, among other racing series and a festival of activities, comes to Belle Isle. The Grand Prix is a 501(c)3 non-profit and a fully-sponsored event. My main role is working with our sponsorship team to support close to 70 corporate partners! I have learned that even in the moments when you think you know absolutely nothing (read: I didn’t know a thing about IndyCar), there is always an opportunity to provide perspective. The best part about this is recognizing that we truly are an ecosystem that depends upon one another.
What kind of impact do you hope to have with your host company and within the city?
If nothing more, I hope to provide incremental changes through connecting with others and offering an open-mind. I recognize that one year isn’t as long as you’d think, but in the least bit it’s a step and it’s a decision to act within the city. At the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix I’m hopeful to continue to share knowledge from my past in consulting, as well as provide new ideas for staying engaged with other non-profit partners. I can’t stress enough how much of a web Detroit is, and how important it is that we stay attuned to all the relationships shared!
What are you most looking forward to for the second half of your year as a Fellow?
This is such a difficult question – all of it! I’m excited to dive into an impact project, be swept up in the busy-season as we plan for the Grand Prix, as well as continue building connections and sharing in laughter with all the great people I’ve met. Also, if I’m being honest, I cannot wait for warmer weather to join in the endless games of pick-up soccer and long bike rides around Detroit.
What do you envision for Detroit 10 years from now?
The Detroit Red Wings finding their stride again and bringing the Stanley Cup back to Hockeytown. Outside of that, my deepest hope is that Detroit finds a way to offer its residents and surrounding communities public transportation – as a way to build our region holistically from sharing cultures to generating economic impacts. I grew up in Clinton Township, MI, a suburb about 35 minutes northeast of Detroit. I envision encouraging the people with whom I grew up to not fear Detroit, but rather to embrace what we all share humanity and understanding.
A piece of advice I’d give to someone who is considering applying to Challenge Detroit’s next cohort is they should not be afraid to take a leap and try something new. One of my favorite quotes lately is a spin on the words of MLK by President Obama, “The arc of the universe may bend toward justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.” There is so much we’re capable of doing for ourselves and our community, but the first step is making the decision to act!
To learn more about Alicia’s time in Detroit check out her spotlight video.