What do you do when a neighborhood… and your city… crumble? Leave? Throw your hands up? Not Mama Shu.
She’s taken tragedy — the death of her son by a hit and run driver, Jakobi Ra — and turned that energy into Avalon Village. Avalon Village is a magical corner of Highland Park where Mama Shu and a group of people who love their city have made a safe place.
A homework house. A place for entrepreneurs. A place for living... and soon a place for playing.
Sven Gustafson for this Daily Detroit Happy Hour Podcast joined Shamayim ‘Shu’ Harris on her front porch on Avalon Street, just off of Woodward, to talk about the grassroots way to rebuild a community.
One that isn’t dependent on tax incentives, but the good will and effort of people.
A little backstory on Highland Park, an enclave of Detroit that’s completely surrounded by the Motor City and Hamtramck, because it’s not in the podcast. Shu looks to the future, but in order to understand the context, you need to know a little bit of the past. Highland Park at one time was one of Michigan’s shining jewels, up there with the best neighborhoods and near-suburbs.
Henry Ford’s Model T streamed out of the iconic plant on Machester, but Ford packed up and left in the 1950s. Chrysler was there too – their world headquarters, in fact – but they hit the road, taking their jobs and tax base with them up I-75 for the Oakland County suburb of Auburn Hills in the 1980s thanks to concerns around safety and a giant gift basket of tax incentives. The state of Michigan even built them their own off-ramp when they got there.
Highland Park has been one of Michigan’s hardest-hit cities. A city that many reading this, if they knew about it, may have left for dead.
But Mama Shu? She’s doing what mothers do. Nurture. Support. Birth. Do her part to make a community whole again.
Enjoy the show.