My love for Detroit goes back to my first memories. Growing up in and around the city, I had a childhood rich in culture, diversity, and at times, harsh reality. My mom, a business owner and former high school principal at the Kennedy Center an at-risk high school instilled in me the importance of being an active member of your community -- that community is in fact family.
In Detroit, there's no age requirement for giving back. Almost as soon as I could walk I was volunteering with the Lovelight Foundation, serving meals with Gleaners. For 12 years, I attended Cranbrook Schools and was exposed to the design and architecture that sets the Detroit look apart -- you just can't find it anywhere else. At Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, I gained a sound spiritual foundation, and as part of the Detroit Cheetah Summer Track League, I developed a network that still stands strong, no matter the distance or time that separates us. Detroit gave me a one-of-a-kind upbringing. It gave me the skills, education, love and belief in creativity to become myself. And in return, I fell in love with the soul of our city and its people.
After high school, I spent 11 years away from Detroit -- traveling, studying, performing, and growing in some of the world's greatest cities: D.C., New York, L.A., and Prague. But they never quite touched me like Detroit. They lacked the ambitious, hardworking, and proud Detroiters whose swagger and spirit of transformational innovation is undeniable. Detroit is a city whose magic you have to experience to understand. The memories of that magic brought me back.
I returned to Detroit to make my own kind of mark on our city. For too long, we have been comfortable with the idea that only those with deep pockets could make any real impact. That needs to change. Now more than ever, it is crucial for Detroiters to stand up, take ownership of our neighborhoods and the issues that surround them.
Detroit4Detroit is a power shift. It finds 150 small but high impact projects from our best community organizations and gives 150 Detroiters the tools and support to raise the funds. These projects address Detroit's most basic needs and are opportunities for everyday people to have an impact -- to become Citizen Philanthropists.
Detroit4Detroit is less about financial gain and more about building the capacity of high-impact programs and of individuals across the city. It's a catalyst for the change that's already underway. I am challenging my community to join me as part of Detroit4Detroit. If you have been touched by Detroit then take on your own piece of the change. Let's focus on what matters most and help design the future we want for our city. Let's give the next generation of Detroiters the chance to fall in love with the city that made us who we are today.