Voices for Earth Justice recently hired Detroit community organizer Roslyn Ogburn to lead the Kresge Foundation-funded Hope Park Neighborhood Land Use and Vision Project.
Ogburn brings deep roots, a wide network, and years of community organizing experience to the job.
“The Hope Park Project is all about neighbors making their own neighborhood what they want it to be,” said VEJ executive director BT Irwin. “For that to happen, the project needs a West Side Detroiter who knows how to get West Side Detroiters together and organize them to make their voices heard. It would be hard to find anyone who does that better than Roslyn Ogburn.”
A mother of five, Ogburn is a 34-year resident of Detroit who traces her roots in the city back four generations. A product of Detroit Public Schools (Pershing High School), she earned a degree in business management and renewable energy implementation from Wayne County Community College District.
After years of church, community, and school volunteer work, Ogburn co-founded Nexus Detroit, one of the largest food assistance programs in the city, in 2011. After leaving her leadership role at Nexus Detroit in 2016, she launched and led a citywide campaign to stop illegal and unfair foreclosures that put residents out of their homes. In 2020, Ogburn ran to represent the 9th district in the Michigan State Legislature.
She is a Detroit Citizens liaison, a member of the Warrendale Community Organization and Warrendale Warriors Radio Patrol, president of the Warwick Block Club, and a volunteer with the Sierra Club. Ogburn is a member at Greater Burnette Missionary Baptist Church, where she serves as a minister, Sunday school teacher, and youth leader.
“My hope for the Hope Park Project is that we successfully engage as many residents and stakeholders as possible, having their voices at the table throughout the entire process of envisioning, creating, and implementing,” said Ogburn. “Hope Park residents should know that this project belongs to them. Its creation and all ideas will be cultivated from their input, their vision, their culture, and their leaders.”
Ogburn said her first month on the job would involve connecting with as many Hope Park neighbors as she can by inviting them to VEJ events, knocking on doors, and signing them up to be part of planning meetings.
The Hope Park Neighborhood Land Use and Vision Project traces its start to the summer of 2018. At that time, VEJ asked architects and builders to assess Hope House. Finding that the building had serious structural issues that would be difficult and expensive to repair, VEJ’s board began discussing demolishing the building and starting over as the architects and builders recommended. That raised the question of what kind of building or land use should replace Hope House. The board decided then that the community should decide.
That board decision led VEJ to apply for a Kresge Innovation Projects: Detroit (KIP:D) grant later that year. The Kresge Foundation declined that application, but accepted the next one that VEJ submitted in 2020.
The Kresge grant is funding Ogburn’s position and a contract with the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) at University of Detroit Mercy. DCDC and Ogburn will form a Hope Park neighborhood steering committee that will engage residents in designing built and natural features that Hope Park residents want in their neighborhood. The process will lead to designs and plans for buildings and land around Hope Park, including VEJ’s Hope House & Garden.
Along with the Hope Park Project, VEJ’s board will continue its efforts to transition most of its leadership positions to Detroit and/or Hope Park residents.
“I believe one of the most effective ways for an Earth justice organization to accomplish its mission is to recognize and respond to the capabilities and power of people who most often suffer most of the effects of Earth in-justice,” said Irwin. “That means falling in behind, and following, community leaders who know from experience what Earth justice work needs to be done and how to do it. That’s what the Hope Park Project is all about and that’s why we are glad to have Roslyn Ogburn leading it.”
“The Hope Park Project will be a dynamic, impactful success due to longtime Detroiters, who never left, talking and dreaming,” said Ogburn. “I’m excited to be involved.”
To learn more about the Hope Park Project or to get involved, contact Roslyn Ogburn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (313) 409-8329.