More than hugs and handshakes, Sherwood Forest residents share lessons of living in Detroit neighborhoods

More than hugs and handshakes, Sherwood Forest residents share lessons of living in Detroit neighborhoods
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For Gail Rodwan and Shirley Jackson sharing a neighborhood involves more than neighborly gestures.

As long-time residents of Sherwood Forest, their families have formed bonds – but communities aren’t built on hugs and handshakes. The Story of Sherwood Forest: One Hundred Years a Detroit Neighborhood documents some of the initiatives and organizing the Rodwans, Jacksons and many other households have contributed through decades in the west side subdivision.

Published to commemorate Sherwood Forest’s 2017 centennial anniversary, the book will again help remind residents how to help themselves on April 19 at Detroit Historical Museum. “What Sherwood Forest Knows Now: One Hundred Years of Surviving and Thriving as a Detroit Neighborhood” is the evening’s Third Thursday series discussion topic from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Rodwan, who wrote The Story of Sherwood Forest and whose husband photographed the book, will help lead a panel of residents in reflecting on the neighborhood’s challenges and accomplishments. Jackson will moderate the panel.

“We hope that what we have to say, and sharing what we’ve learned over the 100 years that Sherwood Forest has been a part of the Detroit community, will help other neighborhoods take charge of their destiny,” Jackson says.

On the heels of its centennial celebration, Sherwood Forest has experienced renewed interest from potential residents, Jackson says. She adds that the audience at the museum event can expect frank dialogue about the transformation of many subdivisions and districts in the city, including gentrification.

“I think they will find that we are very honest,” she says. “We’ve spent some time thinking about questions that people might ask us. We’re not afraid to confront the ideas and some of the issues the city has been grappling with.”

Rodwan says the discussion will represent Sherwood Forest residents, including “people who have lived here for 40 years and people who have lived here for two years.” She agreed to coordinate the April 19 program after attending museum events that asked residents about the impact of Detroit’s 1967 uprising in 2017, its 50th anniversary year.

Past and current residents enjoy the festivities during the Sherwood Forest Centennial Picnic at Sherwood Park.

“We had a lot of challenges in the neighborhood over 100 years,” she says. “And we learned some things about how to build and maintain a strong neighborhood, in the face of challenges and when things were not easy, citywide.”

As part of her efforts to promote “What Sherwood Forest Knows Now,” Rodwan says she invited representatives of about 30 other local neighborhood associations and programs.

“We felt we had a lot to say about building strong neighborhoods, but we felt others did, too,” says Rodwan.

Some of the communities that expressed support and interest in the discussion include Green Acres, North Rosedale Park and Hubbard Farms.

“What that signifies to me is there are a lot of people who care very deeply about where they live,” Rodwan adds.

Using examples of their own initiatives that led to improved lighting, measures to prevent red-lining and other achievements, Sherwood Forest homeowners will invite input from others throughout the city.

“It seems to me that the neighborhoods that are operating really successfully are the neighborhoods where a good number of people know how things work and know how to get the best out of city services,” Rodwan says.

“One of the things we feel is neighborhoods do better when they build coalitions with one another,” she adds. “We hope that the program on the 19th will be a step in that direction, for all the neighborhoods that participate.”

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