Congressman Dan Kildee visits Brownell-Holmes, talks blight with community leaders

FLINT, Michigan -- The Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association hosted a brief award ceremony for Congressman Dan Kildee, who spent the day touring neighborhood parks. 

Across the street from Holmes STEM Middle School Academy, Jeanette Edwards, president of the BHNA, presented Kildee with a shirt that read ‘Champions of Excellence’ (CoE) before making him an honorary member of the neighborhood association. 

CoE, a BHNA-hosted program which aims to highlight and uplift Flint’s special education students, is one of the many initiatives the association has been able to organize, thanks in part to funding secured by Kildee. 

Aside from the ceremony, Kildee was also there to speak with Brownell-Holmes members about their fight against blight. The meeting itself took place in a small, well-manicured park maintianed solely by members of BHNA where an abandoned house used to be.

In the plot next to that house sits an abandoned house. A house that BHNA once tried to buy and turn into a headquarters of sorts before the city put the house on a demolition list. That was years ago, Edwards told Kildee. 

Kildee’s response to the questions regarding to-be demolished houses was simple; “We either need to tear them down or fix them up, but nothing in between.”

According to Kildee, Brownell-Holmes is a perfect example of why this type of mentality is necessary. “In this neighborhood, you have a mix. You have really solid housing. You’ve got a neighborhood that wants to be organized but there are still these signs of blight.”

Kildee went on to say a large part of keeping a community clean is the way residents engage with it. In that way, he says Brownell-Holmes residents are exemplary. “It starts with organizing a community, having a vision like this block club (BHNA) … by showing they were willing to turn a blighted site into this park, that’s really something beautiful,” Kildee said.

Edwards said Kildee’s visit means a lot to her and other members of BHNA. “It makes me feel like we have somebody in Washington that is fighting for us, the little people. Who would have thought the senator would have come to the corner of Oxley to visit us.”

Edwards said the BHNA needs Kildee to keep supporting and passing anti-blight legislation that will bring the necessary resources to the area. “I need him to keep putting bills in that will help us sustain our neighborhood … we need more money for our schools, we need money to rehabilitate these houses,” Edwards said. 

Edwards still worries about where BHNA will meet during the coming months. Logan park, a similar plot of land owned by a member of the BHNA, will be too cold for winter meetings. Bronwell and Holmes STEM Academies will be closed to the public because of COVID-19. BHNA is left with few options. 

She points at the house next to the park and talks about BHNA’s hopes to one day have a place to call their own. “We wanted this house to be our quarters where we could put computers in there for kids, we can have our meetings there," she said.

Read more articles by Santiago Ochoa.

Santiago Ochoa is a freelance reporter and communications student at UM-Flint. He is the project editor for On The Ground community reporting series and currently serves as The Michigan Times' Editor-in-Chief. Santiago has worked with publications and organizations like The New York Times, the Interamerican Press Association and Flint Beat. You can reach him @santi8a98 on Twitter and Instagram and email him at [email protected]
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