Hakeem Weatherspoon graduated from Denby High School in 2014 and has completed two years of a four-year full ride scholarship to Michigan State. The contrasts between Denby, where blight is a fact of life, and East Lansing, where manicured lawns are the rule, is not lost on him.
“Walking on this campus is… a whole culture shock,” Hakeem told The New York Times for a video story last year. “I don’t see people throw trash on the ground. The grass is always cut. Landscaping is a son-of-a-gun up here. They take this serious.”
And yet, it is Detroit and specifically his Denby neighborhood that has a pull on Hakeem. He is working as a paid intern for Life Remodeled this summer, accompanying CEO Chris Lambert on fundraising and volunteer recruiting visits. He has recorded public service announcements for local radio stations and is writing weekly journals on Life Remodeled’s work in Denby.
“I want to become a journalist, and after I become a journalist, I want to come back to my city to stop the brain drain and to rebuild something new,” Hakeem told the Times.
Hakeem will write daily reports on the final stages of a $1.5 million makeover of Skinner Park during Life Remodeled Project Week Aug. 1-6.
The plans for Skinner Park, which today lacks amenities and is unfit for play, was a 2013 Capstone project by graduating seniors at Denby. Three years later, it is the centerpiece of Life Remodeled’s effort in Denby.
“Being a Denby alum, and now when I go back and see the development of Skinner Playfield, it really makes me proud because the things that we put in, we’re actually getting something out now,” Hakeem said. “There are a lot of people trying to make a change in the city. So why can’t I?”