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Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids is changing.

Michigan’s second-largest city is in the middle of a development boom. All around town, new buildings are going up, or old buildings are being renovated.

It’s a welcome sight for many who endured the long years of Michigan’s devastating recession.

But the new development in Grand Rapids has raised new questions about whether everyone in the city will benefit from the boom times. And, as is often the case, many of the questions revolve around racial equity.

This week and next, State of Opportunity will dive into those questions to see what’s happening, and what can be done about it.

Tracey Addison moved onto Logan Street in Grand Rapids when she was seven years old. I met here as she walked her little black dog Coco on a sunny day.

She had on a long coat and sunglasses while she pushed her walker through a neighborhood that’s starting to look a lot different from the one she moved into all those years ago.

courtesy Vanessa Gutierrez

Vanessa Gutierrez doesn't remember Mexico.

It's there in her baby pictures, in family albums. She's seen what it looks like, and she knows she was born there, but she doesn't remember it.

Her parents brought her to the U.S. when she was three. They worked hard, she says, they paid their taxes and went to church and gave her a great childhood.

Then Gutierrez got to high school, and started thinking about her future.

Gutierrez says it was right around the time her friends started signing up for driver’s ed.

"And I remember talking to my parents about it," she says. "And number one was the cost. They couldn’t afford it, for me to take that course. And, number two, when I started asking other questions, such as 'can I enroll in college?' that’s when I started to find out those answers."

Photo courtesy of George Bayard

February is a busy time for George Bayard. He’s a collector and a keeper of black history, and this is the one month he’s in high demand in Grand Rapids.

I met him this past weekend in a large, noisy hallway during an ethnic festival at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. He stood in front of a table full of his own collected pieces of black history.

Some pieces he collected during the 25 years he ran his own art gallery in Grand Rapids. Some were just left for him.

“I’d come in some days,” he says, “and there’d be something just sitting on a step.”

flickr.com/swaity / Licenced under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Michelle Gach grabs a couple slices of pizza before we get started. She has a story to tell, and it turns out to be a long one, covering the past 14 years of her life, with more tragic turns than most people see in an entire lifetime.

But that comes later. For now, we’re sitting in a room together: Michelle, two of her daughters, and two friendly pit bulls.

The room is mostly bare, exposed plywood on the floor, blue strips of painter’s tape along the baseboard, new doors still leaning against the wall. A project waiting to be finished.

While Michelle Gach finishes her pizza, her daughter Felicity begins to tell me the story of what happened on a Saturday in August 2014.

Top five things on our mind (and yours) in 2015

Dec 23, 2015
A Health Blog / Flickr Creative Commons

Here's an overview of our most popular topics and stories this year:

Race 

flickr/bradadozier

The Centers for Disease Control released new statistics Friday on drug overdose deaths in the U.S. The numbers may not be surprising to anyone who's followed our reporting, but they are still shocking. According to the CDC, 1,762 people died from drug overdoses in Michigan alone in 2014. And that's a 13.2% increase over 2013. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. went way up after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. And the backlash against American Muslims is on the rise again after the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations notes on its website "that it has received more reports about acts of Islamophobic discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslim) and Islamic institutions in the past week-and-a-half than during any other limited period of time since the 9/11 terror attacks."

Not surprisingly, the increased backlash is causing a lot of stress for Muslims in general and for Muslim religious leaders in particular. 

Do kids living in Flint stand a chance?

Dec 4, 2015
Steven Chrypinski / Michigan Radio

This week I saw two very different sides of the city of Flint.

On Tuesday, Genesee County community members gathered for a Michigan Radio sponsored community forum event to talk about the Flint water crisis. Most of them were concerned, angry, or a combination of the two.

Happy Thanksgiving, see you soon!

Nov 26, 2015
Operabug / Flickr Creative Commons

We are so thankful for the State of Opportunity universe. The whole team wishes you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

If you or someone you know is looking for a place to spend the holiday, we have some suggestions: 

Mstyslav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons

There’s been lots of talk lately about refugees, mostly about whether to let them into the U.S. and how they’re being vetted. But there is a human side to this story about what it actually feels like to be a refugee. So today on State of Opportunity, we're going to spend some time with a refugee who's called Michigan his home for the past four years.

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