rise Detroit Director Luther Keith didn’t truly understand the reach of his organization until one day after leaving a meeting downtown.
“I had on my power suit. I’d just been to a big, heavy meeting and I was walking past a bus station where a lot of homeless people hung out,” Keith says. “And some guy starts walking towards me, his clothes are dirty and raggedy, it didn’t look like he had two cents to rub together. As I walk by, he stops and says, ‘Luther Keith! How’s Arise Detroit doing?’ Now if this guy, who doesn’t have a dime, if he cares enough to know what Arise Detroit is trying to do, then what excuse do any of us have to say ‘It’s not my problem’?”
A lifelong Detroiter, Keith began his career as a journalist, covering the city in various capacities for The Detroit News until retiring in 2005 to build Arise Detroit.
“It was a very smooth transition to take the skills and the credibility I’ve built in the community and apply it to create an organization,” Keith says.
As a nonprofit community mobilization coalition, Arise Detroit supports and connects volunteers with a network of more than 400 nonprofits, churches, block clubs and community groups. The organization helps with marketing and gaining media exposure for various community groups to raise their profiles and help them better serve their audiences. Arise Detroit’s weekly newsletter also serves as a platform to spread awareness about smaller community events and volunteer opportunities.
“We serve all communities, from the most affluent to the most economically challenged,” Keith says. “Our goal is to serve everyone and to connect with everyone.”
The organization’s annual event Neighborhoods Day, perhaps its most notable endeavor, brings the community together for a day of service in Detroit’s neighborhoods. Last year, they joined a record 324 community volunteer events and projects throughout the city on the same day.
It also hosts an annual Neighborhood Summit event that takes place in November, and includes a full day of workshops teaching people how to form block clubs, tackle crime and other ways to improve their neighborhoods – no matter how small.
“You can’t measure everything by the size of a skyscraper,” Keith says. “But people are so stuck on bricks and mortar that unless they see a big project, they figure nothing is going on.
“Detroit has plenty of challenges. We have not arrived. But some people will drive through a neighborhood and they’ll see blight and say, ‘Well, nobody’s doing anything in Detroit. Look at these blighted houses.’ The fact that Detroit still has blight, still has crime, still has poverty, does not mean that we are not moving the needle,” Keith says. “For all the people who want to ‘cluck cluck’ about things not being done, tell them to give me a phone call. Let’s put them to work.”