ARISE Detroit! documentary celebrates decade of bringing neighborhoods together

For years hundreds and hundreds of Detroiters have worked behind the scenes to improve the city and its neighborhoods. They were here before business moguls began buying buildings downtown Detroit. Before national retail chains and restaurants came back to the city and before hipsters and the new creative class started discovering Detroit.

Their work and commitment basically went unnoticed.

Detroit News columnist Luther Keith found that out when writing a series a decade or so ago about what was being done to transform Detroit and its neighborhoods.

“The block clubs were asking why they couldn’t get publicity about what they were doing,” he says. “They’d hung in there in the bad times. We needed a way to show people what was going on already and help them work together to make progress.”

On three unlined sheets of paper, Luther Keith sketched out the concept for what became ARISE Detroit!.

Keith sat down and, on three unlined sheets of paper, sketched out the concept for what became ARISE Detroit!.

He got a $300,000 grant from the Skillman Foundation, one of its founding partners, retired from the News and launched ARISE Detroit! in 2006. The nonprofit is a coalition of community groups banding together to make a bigger impact on the city’s transformation than each could accomplish separately.

Since then the coalition of partners, including residents, block clubs, organizations and many others, has done much to transform Detroit’s neighborhoods.

To spotlight those efforts, ARISE Detroit! is releasing a feature-length documentary.

Titled “ARISE Detroit! The City, The Heart, The Hope,” the 75-minute film features interviews with neighborhood residents along with community, foundation and faith-based leaders. It tells the story ARISE Detroit!, as well as tracks the city’s hard times through the foreclosure crisis, bankruptcy and current efforts to forge an inclusive city comeback.

The documentary’s public debut is Sunday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. at a free screening at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward.

Here is the trailer.

“It’s the story about city neighborhoods and people that is generally overlooked in documentaries about Detroit,” says Keith, executive director. “The film tells the story of the city’s tough times but doesn’t stop there. It’s a story of inspiration and love for the city.

“More importantly, it is the story of the hundreds of organizations and thousands of residents who never gave up on the city. It’s a story that will resonate in Detroit, but also connects with any place where people are taking a stand, and overcoming challenges to improve their communities.”

Click here to reserve your spot.

The film is “a story of inspiration and love for the city,” says Luther Keith, ARISE Detroit! executive director.

The documentary captures the history and challenges of Detroit through the eyes of long-time Detroiters and newcomers. It shows the beauty of city’s neighborhoods, such as Indian Village, Sherwood Forest and Palmer Woods, but also reflects the challenges faced by neighborhood groups tackling the city’s massive blight problem.

It also includes scenes from ARISE Detroit’s annual Neighborhoods Day in festivals and volunteer initiatives over the past 11 years.

The documentary includes scenes from ARISE Detroit!’s annual Neighorhood Days.

The documentary includes interviews with:

  • Carol Goss, former president of the Skillman Foundation, the first organization to fund ARISE Detroit!
  • Bishop Edgar Vann of Second Ebenezer Church
  • John George of the Detroit Blight Busters
  • Sandra Turner-Handy of the Denby Neighborhood Alliance
  • Rev. Carl Zerweck III of Rippling Hope
  • Wendy Jackson, deputy director of the Kresge Foundation
  • Derek Blackmon of Black Family Development

Vickie Thomas, reporter for WWJ News Radio 950, and students from the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences are also featured in the film. The Kresge Foundation contributed funding for the documentary, which was produced by award-winning producer and director Jeffrey Miller, who gained acclaim for the Detroit-focused TV show “Transition” years ago.

“This our way of saying thank you to all the groups and individuals who have been part of the ARISE Detroit! movement through Neighborhoods Day or neighborhood summits, or in any way have contributed to a better Detroit,” Keith says. “Consider the documentary a holiday gift to the people of Detroit.”


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