In 2013 Model D launched its On the Ground series in an attempt to direct attention toward neighborhoods located away from the city's center. The series focused on community leaders, stakeholders, and residents affecting change in two places, one east and one west: the Osborn and Brightmoor neighborhoods. As Model D prepares to launch a new On the Ground series in the Live6 neighborhood, we wanted to check in on some of the stories we covered back then.
Where Osborn gathers
2013 was a different time for Detroit. It was pre-bankruptcy and Mayor Dave Bing announced that the city would be ceasing maintenance on 51 city parks. An additional 36 city parks would receive only partial maintenance. In Osborn, two parks would be cut and one more would receive less service.
One Osborn park that did not get the ax was Calimera Park. Still, it's not like the park was receiving a whole lot of attention from the city. Instead, it was the community that banded together to take care of the park and make it a destination. And in 2013, it was the construction of the Edible Hut
that helped make Calimera Park the community hub that it is today.
The Edible Hut was a partnership between the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance
and Community + Public Arts Detroit and the result of a dialog with the residents themselves. Residents selected the Edible Hut concept from artists Kate Daughdrill and Mira Burack and, after a year and a half of wrangling with the city to get the proper permits, it was built in 2013. It's a community and performance space, complete with plants growing on the roof.
[Check out this video
from 2013 that highlights the Edible Hut]
Daughdrill and Burack are no longer officially tied to the Edible Hut; they transferred management duties to the Friends of Calimera Park, which is tied to the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance. But that's how it's supposed to go, Kate says, with the flavor of events having evolved to better reflect the neighborhood. It was the natural progression of the project.
"The neighborhood embraced it. A core group of neighbors made it their own," says Kate. "And that's the takeaway for me. You really need people to take it as their own for it to thrive."
The Edible Hut is still an active space, host of numerous community events. The plants are still being cared for and growing and the park is in use.
It's a place for Osborn to come together, just as planned.
In 2013, Kayana Sessoms was working with Osborn High School students
as the Youth Engagement Zone Program Coordinator for BuildOn, an organization with a mission to "break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectation through service and education." A year prior to that, she took a group of students to Nepal.
Since then, Sessoms transitioned to a management position at BuildOn. Then, in February 2016, she left that organization to become Program Director at Osborn Neighborhood Alliance (ONA).
She's still serving Osborn, but on a broader scale.
In working to improve quality of life issues in Osborn, Sessoms has one philosophy: listen. She says that the key tenet of her job is to talk to the residents and respond to their needs instead of deciding what would be good for them without any of their own input. Despite the time she's already spent in Osborn, Sessoms is always listening and learning.
"It's amazing to see positive shifts and change within a vulnerable community with limited resources. To take part in that has been such an honor," says Sessoms. "I see people fighting and caring for Osborn and it makes me want to work harder to see it keep moving in a positive direction."
In leading a quality of life program at ONA, Sessoms is now impacting not just the students of Osborn, but everyone, from newborns to the elderly. And she's been busy. Among the numerous tasks she's tackled, Sessoms works to bring children out to the newly opened Outdoor Learning Center, rehab homes, plan the neighborhood parade, and improve physical development in the community.
New car, same devotion
Frank McGhee talks to a group of students
For all the changes that have occurred since 2013, one thing remains the same: Frank McGhee is a dedicated man. Director of the Neighborhood Service Organization's Youth Initiative Program (NSO YIP), McGhee was connecting Osborn's youth
with summer jobs in 2013, even taking the time to personally drive them in his beloved 1992 BMW and to summer jobs.
He believes in the power of partnerships, in supporting each other in any which way we can.
One of the partnerships McGhee talks about in 2016 is that with the Detroit Police Department (DPD). NSO YIP works closely with the DPD, connecting officers with the young people of Osborn and building a bridge between the two. A series of activities, workshops, and concerts have gone a long way toward people working together and better understanding each other, he says. NSO YIP is also partners with the DPD in their Neighborhood Police Officer program and the National Night Out event held every August.
McGhee believes that the relationship between officers and citizens is better in Osborn because of the connections being made.
He's also still heavily involved in linking young people with summer jobs, having secured 230 students with employment this year. The internet, he says, is key as it improves their education and employment opportunities while keeping them off the street. McGhee also works with local schools and the Department of Human Services to get kids the support they need.
"These young people stay out of trouble because of the networks being created," McGhee says. "That's the secret."
As for his beloved 1992 BMW? Well, when asked about it, McGhee laughed and then sighed. The old classic finally stopped working earlier this year. A busted engine, steaming and leaking oil, convinced McGhee to get rid of the car, perhaps with some gentle nudging from his wife.
He now owns a 2007 Lincoln, something a little more reliable for connecting Osborn's youth with the partnerships he's helped foster.