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AM800 Citybuilding: Black History Month and the Detroit River Project with Kim Simmons

(7 February 2024)

In this week’s citybuilding segment, Kimberly Simmons, President of the Detroit River Project, spoke on the fight to get the Detroit River designated as a UNESCO heritage site. Kimberly is the President of the Detroit River Project, a nonprofit organization on a mission to designate the 32-mile segment of the Detroit River bordering the Windsor-Detroit region as a UNESCO heritage site for its history of freedom and resistance against the backdrop of the Underground Railroad. 

The Detroit River Project is headed by an international team of scholars, historians, and educators dedicated to illuminating the immense history of our Detroit-Windsor international region, one that many consider to be part of the genesis of the civil rights movements, a precursor the American Civil War, and to the commonwealth abolishment of slavery. Kimberly imparts that the UNESCO designation would be a way of honouring the 5 million people who were enslaved in North America and the estimated 100,000 people who used the Underground Railroad – a quarter of whom crossed the Detroit River in search of freedom. 

Kimberly spoke as well on the various types of education and programming that the Detroit River Project has undertaken, both past and present. These include its book project through Wayne State University, entitled “A Fluid Frontier” launched in 2016 and co-authored by 12 Detroit/Windsor-based scholars; the development of an international heritage curriculum for 7th/8th graders that tells stories of resistance through the Underground Railroad; an afterschool program for youth; and a heritage-focused summer camp, ‘Camp Freedom at Midnight.’ 

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority for the Gordie Howe International Bridge’s Community Program has recently invested $250,000 in Camp Freedom at Midnight, which is currently seeking campers aged 10-14 for its 2024 summer season!

Kimberly describes the Windsor-Detroit borderland as a “story of freedom and resistance,” and a “showcase of ‘civil disobedience at its highest level–” one that merits its story be told for all to hear. 

Listen to this segment here.

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