Moneeke Davis currently serves as a Board Member for the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, representing the Southwest Quadrant of the neighborhood. She describes variations among the sectors of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Davis was initially concerned about how her section of the neighborhood was being treated, but soon came to understand the complexity of community development organizations. She describes herself as a dedicated social servant and vocal advocate for her neighborhood within Detroit Shoreway. Davis expresses her hope to "bring the village back," by trying to foster a more cohesive community as a means to strengthen the neighborhood and make significant change.
Davis, Moneeke (interviewee)
Nemeth, Sarah (interviewer)
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:46] [Audio silence for first 40 seconds] You were there. You were in Washington, D.C. until–.
Moneeke Davis [00:00:48] About 12, 13, and then my mother put us on a plane here. Me and our little brother to come stay with our grandma. My mother was battling addiction, so she needed someone to care for us. So she sent us here. We lived on Wade Park [Avenue] for a while, which was the east side of Cleveland. So that's where I kind of spent my childhood was on the east side.
Sarah Nemeth [00:01:12] Could you describe maybe where you lived?
Moneeke Davis [00:01:15] Yeah. Sure. I lived like right around... What is it called? The Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, right off of 9500 Wade Park. So in that area it was... It was... It was a housing project. So you had a group of people that you knew within a housing project. There were some homes around. I remember there was a library up the street. They always had different things going on for kids. My grandmother was very... She had us in a church all the time. So we all went to church every day. So. [laughs].
Sarah Nemeth [00:01:50] What church did you go to?
Moneeke Davis [00:01:53] We went to Sharon Pentecostal Church [of God]. And I used to be at 140th and Glendale, but they've relocated within the past, I don't know, seven, eight years to, I think it's like 113th and Harvard.
Sarah Nemeth [00:02:06] Okay.
Moneeke Davis [00:02:07] But yeah, the church has since been torn down.
Sarah Nemeth [00:02:12] And what did your house look like, or was it an apartment, like an apartment-type thing?
Moneeke Davis [00:02:16] Yeah, it was like an apartment-type thing. It was this typical housing project, you know, all of them look the same. There is no, you know, uniqueness except for the decoration that you put in there. No carpet at that time. They didn't really do a lot of carpet in there. You kind of had the tile floors everywhere with the rubber stairs, you know, the runners on them. [laughs] So it didn't really have a lot of appeal, but it was where we stayed. And the play area wasn't very inviting either so you really didn't want to go outside and play. You know, there wasn't a lot of green space in our... where we lived, but we did stay very close to, like I said, the pond down there on Martin Luther King, the one across from the art museum [Wade Park Lagoon] and the other one [Rockefeller Lagoon] that's not too far from the V.A. on 105.
Sarah Nemeth [00:03:10] The Wade Park Lagoon?
Moneeke Davis [00:03:14] I think that's what it's called or something like that, but you–
Sarah Nemeth [00:03:16] And I don't know what the pond is called.
Moneeke Davis [00:03:18] And, then you know, they have the little creek down there. So we did get a chance. You know, we will go for walks and go down there. And that was beautiful. Just being out there one with nature, skipping rocks. You know, I remember a time we were in a pond right in front of the art museum [laughs]. And we were out there. We had walked because it has a place where it looks like you should be able to walk into the pond. And we did. And we were going to go fishing. And it was so after we caught a fish that we read the and it was like "No fishing allowed." [laughs] And I was like, oh my God, we're going to jail! And I remember crying and my grandmother's was like, you're not going to go to jail. I was like [in a pretend crying voice], "Well, we can't fish here!" [laughs] But yeah, so those are, you know, it was really fun. I always loved nature so it was, it was pretty cool.
Sarah Nemeth [00:04:06] Did you walk in the Cultural Gardens at all?
Moneeke Davis [00:04:08] Not as a child. I didn't even know. Like you would see the signs, but I didn't really understand what they were. It wasn't until recently, maybe within the last two years or so that I really understood that it tells the story of all the people that live here and have come here, and it kind of, you know, it embraces everybody's culture and you kind of get to walk through the different places just, you know, strolling in the day. So. The impact definitely when I was a kid, it was just like, oh, this one has, you know, these kind of flowers, it has this sculpture. That's nice, you know, that type of thing. Now, I really understand that it is more than that.
Sarah Nemeth [00:04:50] Did you go to any of the museums over there since you were... Did you go to the art museum?
Moneeke Davis [00:04:54] No. Surprisingly, we didn't go to the art museum. And it's funny because my grandmother's an artist, but we never we never went to the art museum. We didn't really do a lot of that because like I say, we went to church every day. That's not, I'm not exaggerating. [laughs] So we didn't go. If I went to a museum, it was on a field trip. It wasn't something that the family did.
Sarah Nemeth [00:05:17] What did the family do?
Moneeke Davis [00:05:17] Church.
Sarah Nemeth [00:05:20] Just church always?
Moneeke Davis [00:05:22] Church. Pray. Church. Until I... Then my mother came. She came... I moved back with my mother, I wanna I say when I was about 14 or so. She finally came back. She finally came to Cleveland. My mom was from Cleveland and she had her kids in D.C. We're... I'm from D.C. and I had my children in Cleveland, which is kind of weird. [laughs] But yeah. So when she came back here, then I used to live on 79th off of... between Superior and St. Clair, and we lived in a two-family house. Now that was a different type of neighborhood because then you had houses around you. The culture of the neighborhood was a lot different. You had a decent park in walking distance and on a street where we stayed, we stayed on Medina. Everybody knew each other on the street. So I had a different feel. Now I did different stuff at that point. I went to the Cleveland School of Science. So I was, I guess, kind of a nerd back then, but I was bad. So. So then I was like, cutting school, doing stuff that I wasn't supposed to be doing. But, you know... [laughs].
Sarah Nemeth [00:06:29] A very smart nerd [unintelligible].
Moneeke Davis [00:06:30] It was weird. Everyone would tell me, like, I mean, you are, what is wrong with you? Like you are, you have your whole future ahead of you. But again, my mom was still battling addiction. So I think that was just my way of dealing with life. And so I used to have friends on the other side of the park, which was what we called park Martin Luther King Boulevard. And I used to go over there a lot. I did high-stepping, drill team with the school, stuff like that. So that's kind of what I did.
Sarah Nemeth [00:07:04] You mentioned that the street you moved onto, Medina–
Moneeke Davis [00:07:08] Mmhmm.
Sarah Nemeth [00:07:11] –was way different. And it was different because there are families and people knew each other.
Moneeke Davis [00:07:16] People were invested. You know, they they had, you know, there was a lot of homeowners on the street. And if you had a two-family on the street, the landlord lived downstairs and, you know, they like they rented upstairs or, you know, they lived in one of the floors. So it was more you know, they took pride in what they stayed because it was theirs. It wasn't a temporary home. So you could definitely, you know, I could see that.
Sarah Nemeth [00:07:41] What was it demographically on that street? Was it, would you say, a predominantly African American street?
Moneeke Davis [00:07:46] Yes. So it wasn't until... Only time I really got a more diverse setting, and that was not just race, but even socioeconomics, everything, was in school because all them, I mean [laughs], we all went to, you know, all the smart kids went to Cleveland School of Science because you, at that time, you had to be tested and there was a lottery. So you had to pass the test that you had to say like 6:00 in the morning on a Saturday and then you were put into a lottery. So passing the test just got you into the lottery, and then you had to pray that you get picked.
Sarah Nemeth [00:08:20] Oh.
Moneeke Davis [00:08:20] So, yeah, I blew the opportunity big time. [laughs] But I did go for for a while but, yes, so that was the only time that I really got a chance to see diversity in Cleveland. You know, there was more of that in D.C. in certain areas. But even where I lived, it was more... It was predominantly African American.
Sarah Nemeth [00:08:41] And it was it lower-class African American? Was it–
Moneeke Davis [00:08:43] In D.C. it was middle class.
Sarah Nemeth [00:08:48] Okay.
Moneeke Davis [00:08:48] My mother had a really good job. She worked for the government while she was in D.C. But, you know, life happens. But when we get here in the projects, of course, it was you know, it was under, you know, low income because you had to meet income requirements to live in the projects. It was mixed income–.
Sarah Nemeth [00:09:05] Okay.
Moneeke Davis [00:09:05] –on the east side where I lived. So it wasn't like, yeah, it was pretty mixed. It wasn't... It still was an underserved community just because of where it was. It was right down the street from East High School. So, but the income, the income was pretty much mixed.
Sarah Nemeth [00:09:24] Yeah, [inaudible].
Moneeke Davis [00:09:25] Mmhmm. Very much so.
Sarah Nemeth [00:09:30] Most of my work is on the east side. This is the first time that I've ever ventured to the west side, so...
Moneeke Davis [00:09:37] Welcome! [laughs]
Sarah Nemeth [00:09:37] So. When you left the one school, did you go to a different one?
Moneeke Davis [00:09:48] So I told you I was a misguided youth [laughs], so I had got into a lot of trouble. My mother had sent me to D.C. for almost a year. She sent me back to D.C. to stay with my dad. Horrible. So I got on my grandmother's nerves enough there that she finally agreed to see me back here. So when I got back here, because I was so terrible at the Cleveland School of Science, because I would've have been able to graduate from there because it went from six to twelve. Great. I was just so terrible at it. I was like, no, I can't come back. So I remember, because I left him out of the school year. I had to repeat the eighth grade, and at that time they had a program with the high... like the middle schools, if you did a quarter and got, you know, passing grades in every class, you could get put up back into your right grade. So I had opportunity to go to the ninth grade. So I was going to Willson on 55th and I mean I got all A's so I was able to get put up on my right grade, but they sent me to East High. It's a huge difference from East High and the Cleveland School of Science. I walked in East High – no joke – the first day and I said, oh, no, this is not for me. This is not where I'm going to be. So I got my GED when I was 16.
Sarah Nemeth [00:11:11] What was the first thing... What happened when you walked in?
Moneeke Davis [00:11:16] It was huge, first of all, it was just massive. And the way it was set up, you walked along the side, the perimeter, and it had this big open space in the middle. And it was always, it was always something going on. Somebody, you know, one person could get the crowd going. And it was just, it was just too much chaos. It was not a structured environment. It wasn't what I was used to. The work wasn't really challenging. You know, I mean, because even when I got my schedule, I'm like, what am I supposed to do with these classes? [laughs] Like I mean, this is... Yeah. So I just I knew that that wasn't where I was going to be able to be successful because I just felt very uncomfortable. So I decided it was [unintelligible].
Sarah Nemeth [00:12:05] Why did you go to... When did you enter high school, I guess, like in ninth grade?
Moneeke Davis [00:12:10] So, all right. I had to... It had to be like ninety... Davida was born in '92, so about '90ish, maybe?
Sarah Nemeth [00:12:22] Okay.
Moneeke Davis [00:12:23] Yeah. So I was born in seventy... yeah about '90. Yeah.
Sarah Nemeth [00:12:27] So by that time I think, well, the busing issue was over.
Moneeke Davis [00:12:33] Mm hmm. 'Cause I was bused when I lived with my grandmother to elementary school on the west side. I went to Kentucky Elementary School, which was, it was one of the multicultural schools. So, in my classroom there was actually only three African American students. We had students from Cambodia, China. There was one Caucasian student. Thailand, like it was a very diverse classroom. I loved it. Loved it. My sixth grade teacher. I'll never forget him. His name was Mr. Hewlett. And because I was, I was a little mischievous [laughs]. And he told me, he said – I'll never forget his words – he said, "You need to get it together. You have too much potential." It was the young man in my class named [unintelligible], he said, y'all's IQ is two points away from each other so whatever is going on, get it together. And I just looked at him and he said, 'I'm not joking. I'm not joking.' He said, "You have too much potential to be doing the things that you do. Get it together," you know. And. And I remember that to this day, I mean, because he didn't have to. He didn't have to say anything. He could just say, oh, well, you know, whatever. But he really, really. And every day he would, you know, take time out to ask me, like, how was I doing, what was going on. And I think that was my best year in school. And he was the person that referred me to the Cleveland School of Science. He was like, I'm making this appointment. If you have a problem with getting there, you call this number, you know. [laughs] And I'm serious. I mean, he really, really cared. He's since passed away. I used to call and check on him from time to time. Yeah. Yeah.
Sarah Nemeth [00:14:22] It's really good to hear when a teacher actually does... because there are great teachers out there, but there are some that shouldn't be teaching.
Moneeke Davis [00:14:30] Very true. [laughs].
Sarah Nemeth [00:14:31] And that's nice that you got an experience with someone that really took an interest in you and helped you out so much.
Moneeke Davis [00:14:37] Yes. Yes. And he did. And he would do that with any student that, you know, and it was, but I really loved the diversity in the classroom. I really did. [laughs].
Sarah Nemeth [00:14:47] That's great. [cross talk] Really cool.
Moneeke Davis [00:14:50] Early on.
Sarah Nemeth [00:14:52] Mmhmm.
Moneeke Davis [00:14:52] So, you know, and it made me know that the importance of it, the value in it. So I always made sure my children went to diverse schools as well. I didn't want to just send it to the school on a corner. I needed to know, like, what was the population? What was going on? What was the curriculum like?
Sarah Nemeth [00:15:06] You know, so. So you get your GED and then where do you go from there?
Moneeke Davis [00:15:12] So I started attending Tri-C for a while. So at that time I had one child and I was pregnant. So I had my first child when I was 15 and I got my GED when I was 16. It was five days after my daughter's first birthday. I remember that. But yeah. So I got that. I went to Tri-C for a while but then my son, my second child, was sick a lot. So it's back and forth, it was like this cycle. I will go to school and I will have to take a pause because I had to be a mom and be at home or at the hospital. So I was just kind of like going back and forth. So would I take up... I went to school for like medical assistant. I went the... UCIP-ASAP was a program that they had in Cleveland to get women into the trades. So I did that. So I laid carpet for a while. I was a courier. Yeah. I've had so many... [laughs] different jobs. I mean, but I had to keep it moving. I always was going to school and working, you know, because I was a single mom, you know? So I had to show... be that example and let them know, you know, you got to work hard. You got to press forward. So, yeah, I went to a lot of private-sector schools, which was a bad idea because, you know, you take out student loans. But yeah, I go to Tri-C right now. I'm actually a student at Tri-C, so I will be done in December.
Sarah Nemeth [00:16:36] Great. Congratulations!
Moneeke Davis [00:16:39] Right! Many moons later. [laughs] But yeah. So, I actually already got my associate of arts, but I'm at Tri-C for my ADN degree, so I got my associate...
Sarah Nemeth [00:16:49] What's ADN?
Moneeke Davis [00:16:50] Associate degree of applied science of nursing.
Sarah Nemeth [00:16:52] Okay.
Moneeke Davis [00:16:53] Yeah. So in order for me to sit for the [unintelligible]. Yeah. But I've been an OPN for seven years now.
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:00] That's exciting. Your job is always [unintelligible].
Moneeke Davis [00:17:03] Yes it is. [laughs]
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:05] When do you move to the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood?
Moneeke Davis [00:17:11] So I ended up coming church here. We we finally... I moved out of... We moved out of the projects because we stayed in low-income housing for a while. But we always stayed and I never moved into, like, the heart of them. I always wanted to be on the outskirt or, you know, they had like scattered sites which was like townhouses. You wouldn't know that they're housing projects. But we finally got a house and we were staying on Eddy Road. That was our first house. But I had applied for Habitat for Humanity and I was looking for a place and it was... My house was the first rehab that Habitat have ever did. And Detroit Shoreway had donated the house to them. And at first I came over. I'm like, OK, I'm buying this house. So I came in at day time. I came in, you know, you come at different times and everything. And working with Habitat, it takes a little bit before your house is done because it's the process. You had to put in hours and different things like that. But it's worth it.
Sarah Nemeth [00:18:12] Did you help?
Moneeke Davis [00:18:13] Mmhmm. So but in the meantime, I had got a house through Cleveland Housing Network. And I always knew it was going to be temporary because I was moving into a Habitat house and it was a brand-new construction. We were the first people to ever live there. And it was on Eddy Road, at 827 Eddy Road. So it was right on the border of East Cleveland and Cleveland, right off Arlington, and me and the kids were there. House beautiful, beautiful house, great backyard. You know, everything. Gangs in the neighborhood wanted [unintelligible] to join a gang. So there was a girl gang and a boy guy. Well, my children, I mean, they just didn't do that. You know, we are our own gang, our family. [laughs] It's the closest thing you're going to get. And so we had a lot of issues. And they was chasing my son home from the store. It was just a lot that would happen. They would harass the girls. I mean, we literally, the store was in our backyard. And so I end up... I call the police. East Cleveland would come and said it wasn't their jurisdiction. Cleveland would come and say it wasn't theirs. And pretty much they told me, Well they haven't done anything. We can't do anything until they do something. And I was like, so somebody has to get hurt before you do something? We did it. We were at church on a Sunday and service was over. But we had a second service. And I told the kids I was like, we're going to stay for a second service. And they were like, we want to go home. We were there all day. And I said, for whatever reason, I feel like we need to be here. And we're staying in Ferris. I can say where our house got shot up by the gangs, where we were at a church. Nobody was there. One of the bullets went straight through the house and was still in the back door. When I got home, one of the neighbors call frantically and say, you know, your house just got shot. This is going to work. And we went back there and I had them the board to house up that night. I said it's just not worth me risking anybody's life because the way the house was setup, somebody would've got shot inside the house, got bored of it, and I wanted to get my stuff out. So I was kept trying to coffee was and never kept trying to call in and get my stuff. The property manager would never answer. Meantime, I'm working with the church, you know, with habitat over here. Finally found a house. I'm sure I won it. Yes. You know, we need the house and got all my stuff situated. Everything was done. And I was putting in ours the moving house, doing all the stuff I needed to do at that time. You had to put in, I think it was like 500 sweat equity hours. And but, you know, doing everything you needed to do, getting everything situated. And they ran the reporting in and she's like, well, you got an eviction on your report. But like a week before I called Cleveland Housing Network and the lady finally answered the phone. And I'm like, hey, I've been trying to call you to get my stuff. I mean, everything was in there. I had them to board up the house that night. I had nowhere to take the stuff, you know. But we're not going to stay there. So she said, Oh, the sheriff's over there putting your stuff out right now. And that's exactly what was my response. Like, what do you mean?
Sarah Nemeth [00:21:39] Right.
Moneeke Davis [00:21:41] And she sighed. Well, we sent you notices. I said, Where? To the boarded up house that you know that I wasn't staying in, that I had you to come board up because of what happened? And so I ended up having to go back to housing court because I couldn't move into the Habitat House until I got rid of this eviction. So I got a lawyer. And it's so sad. I feel so bad. I cannot remember his name but can describe him. I wish I will run into him. And he decided that he would take my case, and I explained to him what happened and what was going on. And we went to housing court with Cleveland Housing Network and they tried to make it seem like I was a bad tenant and, oh it was horrible. So I had to agree not to sue them in order to get the eviction overturned. I'm like, that's fine. I don't care at this point because right now we're homeless. We were homeless for two years.
Sarah Nemeth [00:22:42] While all this was going on.
Moneeke Davis [00:22:44] While all this is going on. So it didn't even matter whether or not because at this [point] I don't care. I just need somewhere for my family to be back together because we were scattered everywhere. You know, I had five children at that time. You can't just knock us all like hey! [cross talk] Right. [laughs] We were scattered everywhere, so it was a rough time because that was the first time ever that we weren't all together. So we finally got all that taken care of. The judge was like, she was livid. She said, are you serious? So you mean to tell me you've been serving her notices at a house that you boarded up? That is ridiculous. I can't believe you can't... Because it was the same judge who granted the eviction. She was unaware that the house was boarded up. Right.
Sarah Nemeth [00:23:35] Oh, so they forgot that detail.
Moneeke Davis [00:23:39] Right. Of course, you know, they just they told the truth, but not the whole truth [laughs] so that was the thing. But so she overturned the eviction and everything. And that was when I was able to move into the house over here. And that was in 2000. And I got my nursing license in 2010. So I had to be around the same time. Yeah, 2010. It was February of 2010. And when we moved into the house, I mean, I knew I wasn't going anywhere. You know, this was my house. I was going to be invested in my community. I wasn't gonna be one of those people that wanted to complain all the time. I needed to do to work and I needed to do in order, you know, to ensure that it was a community in which I wanted to live. And whatever that meant, I was ready. So it took me a while to really get started. And so with all that going on, I lived in a part of Detroit Shoreway that's west of 65th, which doesn't have a lot of investment that's happening. I mean this is very noticeable. That is not a lot of investment. So I was one of those who will be like, It just doesn't make any sense. They don't do anything over here. And, you know, I was bitter for a while because I couldn't understand why children didn't have play areas, why we didn't have adequate breathing space. Why, you know, just I had so many questions. So I would march down to Matt Zone's office, because his office used to be on 605th and Detroit. I was in there just at least twice a week with a list of [laughs] to do's and why we came and what we should do and a bunch of ideas. And then I would march over here to Detroit Shoreway and talk to the community organizer at that time was AmeriCorps–VISTA. So I would get started with that person and we would plan all this stuff and then they would be gone. And I would come back every... I say, OK. So that would go on for a while. And I was working at the time as an LPN. So my mom passed away and I realized that life was too short not to live a purposeful life no matter how much money you make. If you don't live a life, that's you are walking in your purpose, you're wasting your time. So I decided to quit my job because that was the only way that I was going to be really dedicated to my community because I don't care who you are, what people say, money. if you're working a job and you have a chance to get more hours, more money, you do it because that's what you're working for. That's your motivating force. That's why you go to work. You can say what you want to say, I love my job. I did. But that's why I will work more hours because I did enjoy it. But I knew I had to really make a choice. So I quit. And everybody thought I was crazy. And I was like, no, you know, it's time. It's really time for me to really get focused and do what I need to do. And so that was when I met Austin. He was the community organizer. He's since gone. Very sad about that. But he was the first community organizer that they actually hired that wasn't an AmeriCorps–VISTA. And when I first met him and the first thing I said was, are you are an AmeriCorps–VISTA? [laughs] And he said, Why do you ask me that? I said, because I walk out here every year, go through this whole process, get started with somebody for them to be gone. So I just want to know, are you going to be here because I'm not going to waste my time. And we work really well hand in hand, working to trying to rebuild a relationship with Detroit Shoreway and a community, trying to get them to see things from a different perspective, because everybody comes from a different place. And it's hard to get people to look at it from somebody else's point of view when they've never had to deal with it from that perspective. So I'm just trying to get them to just think about things a little differently. But so but like I said, I quit my job. The first thing I wanted to figure out is what could I do with the youth in the community? Because I was like oh my God, they're outside. They have nothing to do. They're breaking windows because it's all good. I mean, they have nothing to do. Yes, they're running in the street. They have nothing to do. What could we do? So I started a community garden just for the kids. It was just for kids and whatever they wanted to plant, whatever they wanted to do, it was their garden. And it was so funny because anytime somebody would come by the garden, they would say, hey, it was this little white guy who came by the other day. I don't know if he's supposed to be there. Or they'd be like there was this old black lady. You know, I mean they would really be watching the garden. But it really gave them something to look forward to. They took pride in their community and you could see that, that they really, really enjoyed it. So it kinda led me to believe that if the kids could take that much pride in their community just by being a part of something, then we need to do better to make everybody fell apart. So. So kind of just working on different projects and everything. I bought the lot next door to my house, so I was like, yeah, I'm really not going anywhere. So I started gardening and I had chickens. So that would be, you know, how people would start talking to me. They would come over and be like, Oh, my God, you got chickens! [laughs] You know, that type of stuff. But it really is hard. And to me kind of being an advocate for that part of the community, because it wasn't about my agenda when I was working with Detroit Shoreway, it was about what the neighborhood pretty much needed. Had a few community meetings just to kind of figure out what some of the issues and concerns were from the residents' perspective. And we listed them in order. And one thing I always said is if you give me a complaint, you have to give me two ways that you feel like would be a good solution, because if you haven't thought of something to fix it, then keep it to yourself because we need people that are ready to work. We don't need a gripe session. This is about moving our community forward, not us bickering back and forth because that's not going to get us anywhere. So and we still face our challenges because we don't have a group in our community where it's like a block club where people have like different block clubs or whatever. I don't believe in block clubs because most block clubs are made up of homeowners. There is a lot of people in a community that are transient residents and they are just as important as the homeowners. You know, I never told people I'm a homeowner. I just say, hey, I live over on West 81st. I'm a resident. You know, nobody needs to know whether or not, if they take the time to look it up, that's on them, but I don't need to wear it as a badge of honor, you know, because you never know how that makes other people feel. So just trying to make everybody feel all inclusive. So that's kinda one thing. And then I realized that there is a rich history here in Detroit Shoreway. I ended up taking a class through Tri-C, and I had to learn a history of Detroit Shoreway. And it was cool because I never knew. So Judge Pianka was the person that did the, you know, I mean, so. But he was awesome. I didn't realize that Detroit Shoreway started from nothing. Nothing. There was a bunch of community residents that believed in their neighborhood. They put money together. They came together and worked to buy property to secure land. I mean, they really built Detroit Shoreway from nothing. And the territory didn't go all the way over to Lorain like it does now. So with the economy being the way that it is, it is just hard to keep up with the enlargement of the territory, the scarcity of resources, so it doesn't look as if... It's hard to make it look like, you know, there's the haves and have nots. We haven't figured that out yet. And a lot of people don't realize that Gordon Square has its own money. You know, there's different funding for this part of the neighborhood that doesn't... And a lot of it comes from private funders and they can tell you how they want their money spent, you know. So it gave me a different perspective. And it also helped me to get other people to understand that, yes, I totally agree that we could do more but it's not as intentional as we may think. So, yeah.
Sarah Nemeth [00:32:24] What were some of the complaints over? I mean, I just actually interviewed someone on West 81st. I just went to their house like a Monday ago.
Moneeke Davis [00:32:33] I probably know who you went to. But it doesn't matter. [laughs] Yeah. But so, some of the complaints are definitely safety, lighting, I mean, the streets are horrible when it's dark outside. Even just cutting back some of the shrubs from the... So the streets can be better lit. The alleyways are overgrown. You know, they're unkempt. So that means you need to be able to see down the alleyways and different things like that. The prostitution, it is serious. And, I mean, the police officers ride by, like you know what they're doing, it's no mystery. It's the same girl. She's not waiting on the bus all day. The same bus, the only bus that comes down Lorain is the 22. She's waiting on the 22 at the same bus stop. But really? She's always goin' in the same direction. You know, I mean it's just so much that... And then it's a lot of, you know, the memorials. That's one project that I really, really want to work on is figuring out a way to have a memorial garden or a memorial wall where we don't have these when people pass away or get shot or murdered, we have these trees with all these teddy bears and balloons and I mean it's a health hazard. You know, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be insensitive, but we need to be able to honor their memory in a better way. I don't feel like that speaks to how they lived their life. You know, it is definitely an eyesore and it's a health hazard. So how do we come up with a way that people can actually honor and do a beautification project, you know, in memory of these people?
Sarah Nemeth [00:34:33] Do you mean like a mural, like art?
Moneeke Davis [00:34:37] It could either be... It could be art. It could be a garden with pavers. You know, maybe families make the pavers or it's like little plaques or whatever. But something that's beautiful where maybe you want to go sit there, you know, and just kind of spend time, but it's a place where you can actually go and you will want to go. And yeah, this is a little more, like I said, it's not an eyesore or a health hazard, because they turn into pretty... You know, you have rodents and everything. Yeah. So it gets a little rough. But abandoned homes is an issue. So many. So that definitely, people, you know, you got squatters and then they turn into, you know, brothel houses or drug houses, you know, that type of stuff. So you have a lot of different things that are going on. But one of the biggest things is this community is so disconnected, [we're] trying to get more and more residents to stick together, because if we increase the amount of social cohesion we have, we will decrease the safety issues that we have because then everybody will start looking out for one another. So if I see somebody at your house, I'm going to phone like, hey, Sarah. Did you know... was somebody supposed to be, you know, was somebody working on your house today? Are you getting your windows fixed? Instead of me just watching somebody climb in your window and not say anything? You know, that type of thing. So just trying to do more community policing and protecting one another. And for so long these residents felt like they didn't have a voice. So they've really just remained silent now.
Sarah Nemeth [00:36:21] So you're on the board. You're a board member.
Moneeke Davis [00:36:24] Yes, just recently elected.
Sarah Nemeth [00:36:26] Is that your position to be a representative of that section?
Moneeke Davis [00:36:32] So the only reason why I ran was to be an advocate for that community. And that's it. That's what I bring to the table. A lot of times, like I said, it's not intentional. It's just the perspective that they never had to even think about. You know, no one's bringing up that weird question of, OK, well, we want to put in safety cameras. Well, do they want safety cameras? What's the purpose of it? Why are we putting in safety cameras but we're not providing programming? You know, those types of questions. Let's not perpetuate the system of, you know, the school to jail pipeline for these kids. Let's find some programming, let's get some things going on. Let's find out why the youth are robbing and stealing. Maybe they don't have food at home. Maybe they are children of addicts. You know, maybe, you know, it's a lot of things that could go into it. So just bringing that voice is exactly why I ran.
Sarah Nemeth [00:37:28] How important is the church to that section of the community?
Moneeke Davis [00:37:33] Now, we have quite a few...
Sarah Nemeth [00:37:40] Which one is that, St. Carmel's? No...
Moneeke Davis [00:37:42] St. Colman?
Sarah Nemeth [00:37:43] St. Colman.
Moneeke Davis [00:37:43] So St. Colman did a lot of community type things. And when I say they didn't really go in a community to do things, everything to be had for the community was at the church. So they did school supply giveaways. I think they did Christmas stuff. They have a family meal every once a month or whatever. And that's what everybody, the parishioners, the community, all are welcome. And so they were kind of you had to come to us. And it was you know, some people know about it. Some people don't, you know. So they don't do a lot of, you know, flyering, advertising. It's kind of word of mouth. But since then, the person that does those types of programs has recently moved to another position. So I'm not even sure if they do those things anymore in the community. I'm unsure. I would like to believe that they're still going to do some of those things. We do have a new church that's across the street from St. Colman's, New Beginning [Ministries], and they moved from the Clark-Fulton area. So a lot of the people know they're from there and they did a lot of community work in that area. And now they are more of a church that actually speaks to everybody, you know, that comes out in front of the church, talk to people, flyer. They've helped families with food or, you know, anything that they need. They are more of a outreach type ministry. There's another church that's at like 73rd, it's like [where] Elton [and] Colgate [Dudley] split, it's a Hispanic church [Ebenezer Spanish Seventh Day]. I'm not really sure what their impact is and I've never... I do know that they do a food giveaway once a month, but that's about it. Every time I've tried to ever go to the church, it's always closed or locked. You know, so I'm not really sure their impact in the community is. I think those are the only churches that I can think of right now that are in that community and the only one is really doing community type work for now, and they're very new, is New Beginning. But churches could definitely do more in the communities that they are in instead of being buildings.
Sarah Nemeth [00:40:10] Yeah, there's definitely two different types of churches, the one that outreaches and the one expects.
Moneeke Davis [00:40:15] Mm hmm.
Sarah Nemeth [00:40:16] So I'm glad that you have one that's outreaching.
Moneeke Davis [00:40:19] Yes. Yes. Yes, it is.
Sarah Nemeth [00:40:24] [unintelligible] the Hispanic population. Is there a large Hispanic population in your neighborhood?
Moneeke Davis [00:40:29] So it's funny because our neighborhood is very diverse. We have a lot of newcomers. So we have people from Nigeria, Nepal. Oh, my God. Where are they? I can't think of where they're from. There is a nice amount of Hispanic residents in that community, but not as much as you would think. It's pretty... I think we got a pretty good mix over there.
Sarah Nemeth [00:41:06] Well you do have the refugee program.
Moneeke Davis [00:41:08] Yes. Yes. Those are the newcomers.
Sarah Nemeth [00:41:12] Do you know how that works?
Moneeke Davis [00:41:12] I have no idea.
Sarah Nemeth [00:41:14] I need to find someone that knows about that more. [laughs]
Moneeke Davis [00:41:17] So I think there is a person that does that housing for them and I can get his information.
Sarah Nemeth [00:41:25] Do you think he would be willing to talk?
Moneeke Davis [00:41:27] He's a very nice guy. I think he would. I don't think he would be opposed to that at all. Because we've had a conversation before. I remember because he was fixing on a house. And I always have a lot of questions. [laughs] So I said, you know, what are you doing? YAre you moving in? And he explained to me that, you know, he housed refugees. And I said, it would be really nice to have an international garden where we have, you know, a garden in a community wherever we deem is the best place where we can have plants from everywhere, whatever their native plants are, that will grow here. You know, just to have that cultural exchange and maybe in a garden, we can do some cooking demonstrations or share recipes and that type of stuff. And we we talked about it for a while, but we haven't, you know, bring it to fruition yet. We hope that, you know, it would eventually happen. But, yeah, he was very receptive. He wasn't. Yeah. He was very positive and wanted to talk. So, yeah, I think he would be. Yeah. I can get you that.
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:35] Thank you!
Moneeke Davis [00:42:35] Yeah. You're welcome. [laughs].
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:37] I keep asking people what is–
Moneeke Davis [00:42:41] No, I can get you that. Matter of fact, soon as we get done I'll get it for you. Mm hmm.
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:43] Thank you.
Moneeke Davis [00:42:45] You're welcome.
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:45] I was looking on Detroit Shoreway website and I saw your master strategic plan–.
Moneeke Davis [00:42:51] Which one?
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:52] The 2016.
Moneeke Davis [00:42:55] Is that for Detroit Shoreway as a whole or did you look at the southwest quadrant?
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:58] That's what I was going to ask about was the Southwest Detroit Shoreway Neighborhood Master Plan. It says it on the map, and I was wondering if you could explain that.
Moneeke Davis [00:43:07] So long story short, that is west of 65th, south of 90, and over to Madison.
Sarah Nemeth [00:43:17] Okay.
Moneeke Davis [00:43:21] So it goes over to 85th, 65th to 85th. So that part of the neighborhood doesn't have a fancy name. Like you have Gordon Square. You have the Eco-Village. So since we don't have a fancy name, we're called the Southwest Quadrant of Detroit Shoreway. Working on getting that switched. I would like to be called the Eclectic Village or something because it's a very diverse population. And, you know, it's unique. We have an antiques district. We have a lot there. We really do. But. So that's why it's called that.
Sarah Nemeth [00:43:57] Okay.
Moneeke Davis [00:43:58] That project came about. They were working with... Was it Kent? I think it was Kent. I don't know. If I'm wrong I'm sorry [laughs], but it was at the urban... [Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative] We did a plan with them and what we did, we had a series of workshops in a neighborhood over there. We had one at the library. We had one at the library, Zone Rec. We had a couple at Zone Rec and the library, and we just kind of got residents together. We always had food, kind of talked about the plan, and figured out what residents saw as needs in the community. What would they like to see? And how will we go about implementing some of that stuff? And a lot of things that came out were safety. The off ramp for 90 and on West 85th is a safety hazard for kids because when they come off of 90, they fly down West 81st if that light is green. There is no sign that says speed limit reduces ahead. It only tells you that it reduces on Lorain. It doesn't tell you anything about West 81st. And then when you get down the street it's probably about five or six houses down where you finally see the speed limit for the freeway and then they'll fly all the way down the street just full speed, which is an issue. I mean, there's a lot of children on our street and you do have a lot of newcomers who don't really understand the danger of the street because small kids don't even realize that, oh, I can't just run around. So that's very concerning. And on 85th the same way going to the freeway is pretty bad. So that was a major concern for people. And the housing, just really getting slumlords to really get their properties together, helping senior citizens, just different things, you know, came up in those meetings. Yeah.
Sarah Nemeth [00:46:09] So it's not just... Some of the people I talked to mentioned some efforts are just beautification [as] opposed to...
Moneeke Davis [00:46:22] [Laughs] So the easy wins are beautification. That's just the realness of it. There's money to do Lorain, the streetscape and that's a different pot of money that comes from, I think it's from the city or something, that's going into infrastructure, as far as that is concerned. There isn't a lot of funding that's dedicated to the plan. Yes, we do have a plan. Yes, we want to start working on a plan. But there isn't a pot of money that we can just full-out go into it. There is going to be a couple projects that are gonna be happening. One is gonna be community space at what we're calling the Dudley Triangle, which is at 73rd and Dudley. And that space was designed by the kids in the neighborhood. We had workshops and had the kids to come and tell us what they wanted in this space. Yeah. Some of the parents came and gave their input, but it was really just trying to figure out what the kids really wanted and how they wanted the space to be. So it is their plan, and that will be happening this year. There is... We just got some funding to do an alleyway, a mural project in an alleyway. So that's going to be happening very soon as well. And so the goal is with these projects as far as beautification, it's just not beautification, but it's bringing neighbors together to talk to each other, to really realize their power because they don't know that. And the issue is we're not all speaking at the same time saying the same thing. So it's hard when you have so many different voices bickering about little things when we need to really all come together and figure out what we need to say in unison so that we can get the ball rolling. So these projects are leading up to hopefully getting that community more connected to be able to be the advocates for themselves to push change. So, yeah, I mean, because people look at it, especially when you already have a feeling about a community or you feel like you've been overlooked and you don't really understand it from all perspectives. It's hard for people to see past the trees. You know, all they see is trees. They don't realize that they're standing in this forest and it really is larger than what they think, you know? All they see are what's in front of them. And so just always trying to make time and space for people to come together. We have an event once a week right now called Recess Cleveland, Tuesday night 4:30 to 7:30 until August 15, we're just on 77th right across from Alexandria's Market. We're barbecuing and playing games outside. Free food, just come, bring the family. And, you know, again, people are talking, you know, the kids are playing, their parents are talking to each other, like, I stay over here. Did you know? That type of stuff. I do a winter ball every year for children 1 through 12. It's a free formal event. I serve a plated meal. We have a red carpet experience. And whatever their formal is, they can come in jeans and a T-shirt. They can come in a ball gown. It doesn't matter. We celebrate them, just letting them know that they're important. But at the same time, while the kids are having the time of their life, the parents talking, you know, it's always—it's not just surface—it's always, you know, something else going on. Just trying to get that community more connected because everybody is on their own island and you've got to get off the island. [laughs] You know? How do you get people off? You know, so just working on those types of things.
Sarah Nemeth [00:50:21] Well I guess in closing, what is your hope for the community? Just plainly, if you could say one thing. I know you've been touching on it this whole time.
Moneeke Davis [00:50:33] I would like to bring the village back. Because we don't have villages anymore where we all work together, where we all realize that we're interconnected, that what affects you affects me, whether it's directly or indirectly, we all matter. We're all important. And the sooner we... That's what I want, because that's the only way we're going to thrive, that's it. I want the village back.
Sarah Nemeth [00:51:00] Wonderful. Thank you so much, Moneeke Davis, just in case it did not record it that time, and today is July 21st. Thank you so much.
Moneeke Davis [00:51:10] You're welcome.
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"Moneeke Davis interview, 21 July 2017" (2017). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 955039.