By James W. Ribbron
Community activist Shirley Burch proudly points toward a mural being created on the city’s northeast side as an example of what happens when people work together to improve the area where they live.
The mural being created on the concrete walls of an old water treatment plant, located on the E. Davison Service Dr. near Dequindre, will connect two cities—Highland Park and Detroit, the way Burch has connected community groups under an umbrella called C.U.P.
C.U.P. stands for Citizens United for Progress, a coalition of groups that serves the area of northeast Detroit bounded by Eight Mile/Dequindre to Eight Mile/Van Dyke to Hamtramck Border (Jos Campau) and Davison/I-75.
This will mark the 13th year C.U.P. has participated in ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Day.
It’s important that they participate in Neighborhoods Day, said C.U.P founder and president Burch, who is also a Detroit Police Commissioner. .
“To bring our many neighbors and friends out to showcase our community and express that we deserve safety, clean vibrant neighborhoods and no speeding in our neighborhoods,” she explained.
The highlight of the groups annual involvement is a festival called “Bringing in Change” or BIC that will be held at the Belmont Shopping Center on Neighborhood Day. The shopping center is located at Eight Mile at Dequindre..
“The acronym BIC stands for Bringing in Change, also for Belmont Shopping Center, Imperial Market and C.U.P,” Burch said. “We work toward a positive community with quality merchants, affordable homes, blight programs, and we welcome all to come and live in our community.”
This year’s festival will feature the dedication of a five-acre Walking Path and Exercise Fitness Equipment at Butler Park, located at 2099 Pointer St., behind the shopping center.
This year’s theme is “Changing Horrific to Terrific.”
C.U.P. grew out of Lomax Temple Church located at 17441 Dequindre and the Mound Ryan Block Club in 2007 when it sponsored a no-litter campaign.
“All the block clubs, the businesses and the stores were united to support the hub of our community; the Belmont Shopping Center. We organize to find solutions not complain about problems,” Burch said. “This allows us to do more; the city respects people that know how to come together.” .
Among its accomplishments are boarding up abandoned houses and sponsoring a tool-lending initiative.
“I have seen our community unify and work together, as a result we show progress and results when problems arise,” Burch said.
Being active in her community seems to come naturally for Burch.
“It’s a mission. Where you are in life is a blessing,” she said. “Who knew that I would have a partnership with a mall owner [Belmont Shopping Center] and grocery store owner [Imperial Market], and be able to give back to my community, right where I live? I’ve been in this neighborhood since I was three years old.”
The Highland Park Reservoir Mural Project is the vision and planning of Burch and Willie Faison, director of the Highland Park Department of Public Works.
The water plant is being redeveloped and more than 200 artists are painting murals on the reservoir’s concrete wall. The project is being facilitated by artist Walter Bailey and is expected to be completed by August.
“The mural will tell a story,” Burch said. “We will use the wall to put up a positive message”, explained Burch
This article originally appeared in the Michigan Chronicle.