GROSSE POINTE - Could a new branch of the NAACP be what the city of Grosse Pointe needs to increase diversity?
Some say it's a way to improve race relations. People of all races are welcome to join and you don't have to be from the Grosse Pointes.
At first resident and political consultant Greg Bowens said many people were surprised that he wanted to form a branch there of all places.
"Lots of giggles," said Bowens, who once worked in Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer's administration. "'A what? in a what? In Grosse Pointe?'"
But that sort of reaction didn't stop Bowens, who is African-American, from leading the charge to establish a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in an affluent area once known as predominately white.
He says times are changing.
"By forming a chapter it signals to the rest of the world that this is not the Grosse Pointe of old, it is the right thing to do," Bowens said.
"The community is becoming much more diverse," said resident Elaine Flowers, who is African-American. "My block when I moved on it was only five people of color. Now it is about nine families. This is a good time for us to branch off."
Bowens and Flowers put the call out and countless people of all colors answered.
Valerie Kindle is from neighboring Harper Woods where she is the only African-American person elected to city council.
"We deal with the same issues," she said. "We need to make it so that we are on the same page and we all speak with a unified voice," Kindle said. "And that is the whole thing about having this. So we can all speak with a unified voice."
To form a NAACP chapter catering to the Grosse Pointes all they needed were 50 people who would be willing to pay $30 in annual dues. The event drew a crowd that packed Rockefellers Oyster Bar and Grill well exceeded their expectations.
"We've had a lot of incidents lately that we just kind of all shake our heads at," said African-American resident Donna Alford. "We all want to be in a safe world, I believe working together to make it a safe world is a good thing."
"The Grosse Pointe Park where I live is more integrated than it was 10 or 20 years ago," said white resident Clem Fortuna, who attended the event. "But there is still that perception that Detroit is the enemy that a lot of Grosse Pointers have. And that's something we need to change."
The growing diversity in the area is obvious and Bowens says welcomed. Forming a chapter now, Bowens believes will help diffuse any racial tensions if they form in the future.
"You see people of all hues and colors here," Bowens said. "Who believe in the same thing and that is, we can come together, form a social organization that is involved in social justice, civil rights and move this area forward."