She’s All About Class

Goss fights for socioeconomic status for African Americans

Anika Goss aims high and dreams big.

She is an eternal optimist, a tried-and-true believer, whose commitment to carrying out her mission and vision – that the African American middle-class family can make a difference in her life and the lives of others – is unwavering.

Goss delivered her message to a select group of Lansing’s policymakers, elected officials and business leaders at Troppo in downtown Lansing on March 20 when she described how the proliferation of Detroit’s African American middle class can benefit not only the region surrounding Michigan’s largest city but the state as a whole. 

A third-generation Detroiter with a deep background in community development, Goss is the leading voice behind “Growing Detroit’s African-American Middle Class: The Opportunity for a Prosperous Detroit.” The Detroit Future City report, commissioned by the Knight Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, which seeks to explain the link between financial stability for those who live and work in the city with a healthy African American middle class. 

Goss identified economic opportunity and equality as key aspects of the report that need to be addressed if African American middle-class families are going to remain in or relocate to Detroit. According to the report:

“… even though the total number of jobs in the city is expanding, the number of workers who both live and work in the city continues to decline, and the number of Detroiters who travel out of the city each day for work increasing. The unemployment rate has also declined in recent years, but remains twice as high for African Americans than whites.”

For Goss, executive director of the Detroit Future City Implementation Office, the question centers on finding pathways to attract and retain African American middle-class families in Detroit.

“Middle-class families, whether they’re in Detroit or the suburbs, all want similar things,” Goss said prior to her presentation at Troppo. “They want a high quality of life. They’d like a diversity of housing. They want a safe, beautiful space that is walkable. They need access to amenities. And they want great places to educate and worship their children.”

To get there, Goss said, it will require a comprehensive focus on city neighborhoods in a way that goes beyond the work that has been done previously.

“Detroit needs about 33,000 more middle-class households to have the same share of the middle class as the region,” Goss said. “Without that middle-class stability, the city cannot sustain and build on the economic recovery and success that has taken place over the past decade.

“Furthermore, for growth to occur in an equitable and inclusive manner, it’s important that people of color are able to participate fully in the city’s revitalization,” she added. “Many times, companies will relocate to the city and not tap into the existing workforce talent. Many times, those workers will relocate to the suburbs and leave the city neighborhoods behind.”

The challenges facing middle-class families in Detroit, according to Goss and the report she discussed, center on high automobile insurance and property tax rates, struggling schools, property blight and vacancy, and lack of retail amenities.

Rep. Sheldon Neely was one of approximately 75 legislators, policymakers and business leaders in the audience at Troppo, and he responded favorably to the Detroit Future City report.

“The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus appreciates the hard work and thought that helped develop Ms. Goss’s excellent presentation,” Neely said in a prepared statement. “One of our primary legislative priorities is economic development, and the Detroit Future City recommendations can be used in other urban areas, such as my hometown of Flint.

“We look forward to working with Ms. Goss to actualize the vision.”

Editor’s note: Detroit Future City (DFC) was formed in 2013 as a program of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. DFC became an independent nonprofit in 2015 in order to solidify and amplify its role in Detroit’s revitalization. 

 

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