Kimberly Freeman Brown,, 202-679-3330, @kfreemanbrown

WASHINGTON, DC—As Detroit’s resurgence continues to garner local, regional and national attention, a new project seeks to amplify the voices of those most absent from the public discourse on the city’s future—women of color.

The Detroit Women’s Economic Security Listening Project (DWESLP) works to bring the experience and ideas of women of color from all walks of life more fully to bear in shaping Detroit’s development plans. In Detroit, women of color (Black, Asian and Latina) make up 48 percent of the city’s population; and a substantial portion of them live below the poverty line (56 percent of Latinas, 55 percent of Asians and 40 percent of African Americans). Despite these odds and others, women of color lead families; are self-employed and employ others as business owners; run non-profits; hold public office, pick themselves up after incarceration, and help those in need. Detroit-based social activist Grace Lee Boggs called these everyday way-makers “Solutionairies.”

“How is it that the images I see about Detroit’s revival as an outsider don’t often include these women?” asks DWESLP Principal Investigator Kimberly Freeman Brown, a Washington, DC- expert on gender and racial equity and inclusion issues. “Imagining and building a new Detroit without their meaningful participation will prevent Detroit from fully coming into it’s potential and promise.”

DWESLP, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is a project of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Black Worker Initiative, a national think tank based in Washington, DC.  “The eyes of our nation are watching what happens in Detroit,” says Black Worker Initiative Director Marc Bayard and DWESLP Project Director. “As cities begin to climb out of the whole created by the Great Recession, emerging opportunities to prosper can’t be for a select few. We must innovate and build economies that allow everyone to thrive. And that requires surfacing fresh ideas from new voices.”

The project launched last spring with a series of meetings with direct service providers, small business owners, community activists, union leaders and elected officials from across the city who now serve as ongoing advisors and partners (see Advisory Committee List below). This summer, DWESLP held 6 focus groups with partner organizations in different neighborhoods that attracted over 100 women. Earlier this month, the project launched a citywide survey with the goal of hearing the opinion of 500 additional women.

The Detroit Economic Security Listening Project will culminate with the Mothers Day 2017 release of a photojournalistic report featuring the results of the survey and focus groups. Additionally, the report will document the struggles and successes of 10-15 women whose lives reflect the travails and triumphs of women of color in Detroit.

“We believe the data we’re collecting will greatly inform Detroit’s ongoing economic development planning,” says Brown. “And we’ll introduce to some, or re-introduce to others, new partners economic development leaders should be working with more closely.”


Detroit Women’s Economic Security Listening Project Advisory Committee
Keith Bennett, Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit
Linda Campbell, Building Movement Detroit
Joey Combs, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Anika Goss-Foster, Detroit Future City
Devita Davison, Food Lab
Dr. Alicia Farris, ROC Michigan
Yodit Mesfin Johnson, New Solutions for Nonprofits/ Lips & Hips
Monica Lewis-Patrick, We the People of Detroit
Hon. Raquel Castañeda Lopez, Detroit City Council
Angie Reyes, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation
Kayln Risker, Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment (SAFE)
Sarida Scott, Community Development Advocates of Detroit
Shirley Stancato, New Detroit

The Black Worker Initiative at the Institute for Policy Studies is committed to helping achieve both the historic and contemporary aims of the labor and civil rights movements. Through conferences, published reports, public education materials, mainstream and social media, the Black Worker Initiative seeks to highlight how black worker organizing can be an ongoing vehicle for the promotion of civil rights and racial and economic justice.

Institute for Policy Studies is a progressive think tank dedicated to building a more equitable, ecologically sustainable, and peaceful society. In partnership with dynamic social movements, we turn transformative policy ideas into action.

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