The home at 7124 Tuxedo is where Stephen Henderson's family lived when he was born.
It was where Henderson's father lived until he died in the mid-1980s. And in 2012, Henderson found it empty, abandoned, and in distress - just like tens of thousands of other houses in Detroit.
Henderson's determination to find solutions to those issues - solutions designed to make life better for the people who live in Detroit's most challenged neighborhoods - led him to create The Tuxedo Project.
The project will transform the house at 7124 Tuxedo in Detroit, Michigan, into a writers' residence and literary center, in partnership with Marygrove College and the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation. A professor in Marygrove's English department will live in the house, teach at the college, run the literary center and draw connections between the academic and service work at the college and the needs in the neighborhood.
The Tuxedo Project Literary Center will host workshops, book readings, author visits and other events, and will be open to the public.
The Tuxedo Project will also improve the other blighted properties on the block - 13 of the roughly 30 properties are distressed - in cooperation with the neighbors who live there, and who want and deserve better. And it will expand its efforts beyond the 7100 block of Tuxedo, to neighboring blocks and streets, leveraging positive momentum far and wide from the door of 7124 Tuxedo. A group of Henderson's classmates from University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy have come together to create a tax-exempt non-profit to make it all happen.
FROM ONE, TO MANY
In its first year-and-a-half, the project raised more than $340,000 in direct and in-kind contributions.
The project has support from the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation, Patronicity through the Michigan Economic Development Council and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, and more than 100 individual donors.
Construction on the house at 7124 began in March of 2017, and the residence and literary center are slated to open in late summer.
The idea is simple: If one person looks back to where he's from, and decides to take action, what might it inspire? What's the power of one to become many, of the small to become large, of a symbolic gesture to become significant, in a city so desperately in need of collective will to make real change?