The Seven Mile Project – Phase III
DETROIT – The neighborhood of 7 Mile and Woodward is one filled with a deep, prideful history. It is a place with great diversity, where black and white residents have lived side by side for decades. It is also the original settlement for the largest population of Iraqi Chaldeans outside of the Middle East. But the glory of the neighborhood has declined in past years. Crime and prostitution were once prevalent, and most new businesses opted not to open here. But the Arab American and Chaldean Council (ACC) has stood their ground in the city, and has helped reshape and revitalize the dwindling landscape of 7 Mile, making it a safer and more productive place to be.
The ACC broke ground this week on a 2.2 million dollar facility — The Artisan and Adult Learning Center — that will be located adjacent to its Detroit Headquarters and directly across the street from the ACC Youth Recreation & Leadership Center. Once completed, the 13,000-square-foot building will house workspace for artists from diverse backgrounds, races and ethnicities. The center’s first floor will be devoted to artisan pursuits that will boast a gallery display area and a Middle Eastern-themed café. The second floor will be committed to adult education and will accommodate a computer lab, conference room, program offices and an adult learning center that will provide programs such as English as a Second Language, job training, financial and cultural workshops, and other life skills programs that promote achievement and increase individual well being. This is the third phase of an initiative that ACC undertook several years ago.
Dr. Glenda Price, a guest speaker at the event, said, “I come to you as a mother of this community. I want to publicly thank the ACC and all those who participated in conceiving this center. It provides an opportunity for all of us to cross boundaries to build a community of caring, a community that is safe and intellectually exciting. We can cross the racial divide, the generational divide, and the economic divide…because we come to know each other as humans first, and everything else becomes secondary.”
The Youth Recreation and Leadership Center was filled with guests that included Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, ACC President Dr. Haifa Fakhouri, and spokespersons for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Governor Jennifer Granholm. Dozens of African American youths filled the front rows, sporting identical ACC member t-shirts. But what also filled the Center was a sense of hope and accomplishment in the work that has been done, and the anticipation in the work that is yet to come. In a decaying neighborhood where poverty is widespread, there is a bright light that shines on the faces of the children who benefit from these facilities, children who otherwise would have no other outlets to turn to for guidance and social care.
The total investment of ACC’s services in the area exceed 10 million dollars. Dubbed as a ‘Cool City’ neighborhood in 2006 by Governor Granholm, the Seven Mile Project has enriched a community by providing tools to rebuild residential ties and provide essential services to those who otherwise would not receive them. Today, ACC serves over 78,000 clients rendering over 455,000 services.
Dr, Fakhouri, ACC President & CEO said, “On behalf of the ACC Board of Directors, ACC administration and staff, I take this opportunity to thank and commend the efforts of the Seven Mile Task Force and the Seven Mile Steering committees. The years of hard work and preparations are now beginning to bear fruit. I have no doubt that with everyone’s support, Seven Mile will be transformed to a destination venue for all to enjoy.”
Once just a low-level police officer in the neighborhood, Assistant Chief Robert Dunlap was appointed to a position of prestige that allowed him to work in the best regions of the city, but he chose to return to the neighborhood he cares for. Dunlap recalls ACC’s transformation of the area. “You started with opening the Health Center, and you made us well. Then you opened up the Youth Center, and you touched our hearts.”