Community reacts to 'New Heights' documentary, calls for on-going conversation

Reaction to New Heights: Restoring a City

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MICH. - It's a place some describe as a forgotten city. But, there is a new hope among those who call Muskegon Heights home. 

Thursday night WZZM 13 aired a one hour documentary looking at the challenges and economic obstacles the city faces and the possibilities on the horizon.

"New Heights: Restoring a City" can be viewed in its' entirety right now at this link.

Following the documentary, a number of residents and community leaders pledged to keep the conversation about Muskegon Heights going.

Laketra Darnell watched the documentary on her phone. She learned about her hometown's early days.

"I am just amazed at how it was before I was here," said Darnell.

The Muskegon Heights Tiger high-step marching band was at one time a an example of civic pride in the city.

"The band is awesome," said Darnell.

"You could see and hear the pride of the band," said Angel Neuman, owner of the New Serenity Hair Studio.

Both women are happy there's an effort to restart the band.  A community drive that's symbolic.

"Every city has a time when it goes down and then they build it back up, this is Muskegon Heights' time," Neuman continued.

"I see a zeal for people to continue on in this community," said Thomas Smith, owner of The Urban Apparel LLC.

Smith is already challenging WZZM 13 to find more stories in his town.

"You did highlight some of them, but I think there is many, many more of them," said Smith.

Muskegon blogger Andy O'Riley says the documentary had an impact on him.

"I was moved to tears," said O'Riley.  And Friday he was watching a wave of feedback on his Positively Muskegon Facebook page.

"I do not think the county want's to move forward without Muskegon Heights being part of that momentum," said O'Riley.

"They are our neighbors and our friends," O'Riley added.

Muskegon Rotary's Diversity & Inclusion committee and other community leaders hope to organize a public showing of the documentary.

"Yes we are interested in a dialog and we loved that show," said Chris McGuigan, President/CEO Community Foundation Muskegon County.

McGuigan was moved by the passion she witnessed in the city's mayor.

"It just grabs you and makes you want to get on board," said McGuigan.

There are 28,000 students in Muskegon County.

"It is about everybody being successful," said Dr. John Severson, Muskegon Area ISD Superintendent.

Severson says he sees significant teamwork to support education efforts in Muskegon Heights.

"When I talk about restoring hope this is about everybody working together, multiple organizations," said Severson.

The documentary does not eliminate existing challenges.

"You can't get it all in 60-minutes," said Paul Billings, a radio personality with 103.7 The Beat and community activists.

Billings say it did provide depth to the community conversation.

"You let other people tell their stories," said Billings. And Billings hopes he's not the only view left to answer this lingering question.

"It made me question myself, did I do enough to save this community," said Billings.

(© 2016 WZZM)


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