1. David Merritt: Making giving back a fashion statement.
University of Michigan alum David Merritt and his partner Kuhu Saha opened a clothing store in Ann Arbor, MI after graduation. Merritt and Saha were concerned with the prevalence of high school dropouts (one every 26 seconds) and decided to do something about it. Their clothing store, Merit, is dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth by donating 20% of revenue to help fund college scholarships for students in Detroit.
2. Devita Davison: Helping new chefs get their foot in the kitchen door.
Detroit native Devita Davison was pursuing a career in the culinary arts in NYC up until very recently. Almost by divine inspiration, Davison found herself back in the Motor City. Applying skills she gained from opening her own specialty food store in Brooklyn, Davison is now spearheading efforts of DKC, a collective of chefs and other food entrepreneurs bent on helping new restaurants get their start within the community.
3. George N’Namdi: Using art to spark development.
Midwesterner and graduate of the University of Michigan, George N’Namdi is responsible for opening the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, an art museum in Detroit known for its private collection of African American artwork. N’Namdi believes that art can spark development, and thusly is investing in starting Detroit’s first gallery district by acquiring property along Grand River Avenue, which is scheduled to open this spring.
4. Donna Jackson: Provoking change through self-expression.
Obsessed with art and community, designer Donna Jackson decided to shake things up by founding DMJ Studio, “a creative studio devoted to developing creative projects that strengthen and beautify communities.” Jackson believes that creativity breeds personal understanding and in turn will inspire positive changes in the way a person relates to his or her environment.
5. Tommey Walker: Changing the conversation through apparel.
Graphic designer Tommey Walker is changing the conversation on Detroit as the city continues to transform after it filed for bankruptcy in 2013. With his clothing line, Detroit vs. Everybody, Walker has generated an overwhelmingly positive response from the entire nation. His line even made an appearance on The Colbert Report when Stephen Henderson was interviewed about the Motor City.
6. Loni Love: Keeping Detroit in the public eye.
Actress, comedian, and Detroit native Loni Love is back and part of an all-women-of-color cast in the new talk show The Real (which premiered on Detroit’s FOX 2). Raised by a single mother in one of Detroit’s housing projects, Love graduated from high school and went on to pursue an engineering degree while simultaneously moonlighting as a comedian.
7. Frank McGhee: Enabling leadership amongst teens.
Michigander and graduate of the Detroit public school system, Frank McGhee is giving back to the community that helped make him into the man he is now. As the program director of the Neighborhood Service Organization, Frank helps enrich lives of teens by coaching young leaders to educate their peers on violence prevention in the city. The program also provides mentoring and tutoring modules to help teens succeed.
8. Jamie Warfield: Taking change into his own bare hands.
Jamie Warfield is a senior crew leader of the Motor City Blight Busters, an organization dedicated to combatting urban decay in Detroit. For over 25 years, the charitable organization has made strides in tearing down dilapidated houses, cleaning up dump sites, securing abandoned buildings, and building new homes for thousands. Warfield is on the ground, working for positive change within the environment he’s always called home.
9. Karen Brown: Keeping the city on the cutting edge of fashion.
Retired nightclub owner Karen Brown found herself channeling her eye for style and design into building a store that has become a cornerstone of Detroit’s fashion scene. Savvy Chic, located in the Eastern Market, stocks all sorts of cool clothes, accessories, and home goods. Once only a destination for women, Brown has recently partnered with Randal Jacobs (a London-trained, NYC fashion veteran) who has had a major hand in developing the Savvy Gent collection for men.
10. Mark Covington: Providing home-grown vegetables to his community.
Upon retuning to the community where he grew up, Mark Covington has become something of a household name to those around him. Urban gardening has become a popular way for the people of Detroit to reclaim their city, and Covington is at the helm. He developed Georgia Street Community Garden, a public garden that offers its vegetation freely to the community.
11. Satori Shakoor: Using performance to unite the city.
In an attempt to unite her community with the power of storytelling, Satori Shakoor created The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, a program that’s meant to bind people with understanding of the human experience. When it began, the first performance attracted 45 attendees. Now you can expect over 200 eager listeners to populate the audience. Shakoor is a trained performance artist who’s brought the once-small collective to nonprofit status, and even donates a percentage of the ticket sales to a charitable organization.