Unlikely city planner breathes new life into her Michigan community

Highland Park, MI “This little town near Detroit looked like a ghost town. Fortunately, one man’s desert is another woman’s blank slate.

“I just felt like it was a space to build and do things,” Shamayim Harris told CBS News.

But Harris had no background in city planning — “Except to be sitting on this porch talking about what I want to do on this block, that’s all,” she said.

Like CBS News reported in 2016, Harris was the architect of Michigan’s most unlikely development. She started a nonprofit, solicited donations, and set out to reverse the decline of her block.

Of her army of workers, most were volunteers, who call her “Mama Shu”.

“She hugs everyone,” said one worker. “She tries to uplift everyone.”

“When she needs to do something, she knows exactly who to call, and it will be done. That’s why Mama Shu is so amazing,” said another worker.

And they said she’d put a boot in your ass if you didn’t help her rebuild Avalon Street, where she had plans for a park, an after-school homework house, basketball courts , volleyball and tennis courts, a greenhouse, a café and much more. Continued.

“You’re going to see this whole block look like some of the suburban blocks I see with the clipped grass and the flowers and all that,” Harris previously told CBS News. “That’s what you’ll see.”

Six years later, his vision is coming true. When spring arrives and the block wakes up, gardens will grow, children will gather in the grounds and in the homework house and new families will be able to move in.

“People got a lot of it,” Harris said. “That happens.”

Michigan’s most unlikely city planner is now also one of its biggest hits.


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