“Knowing and working with Yusef as an organizer is a constant reminder of someone who has never lost touch with the community he came from and of someone who knows what it takes to make radical change. Yusef is an organizer with his pulse on the people because he is the people.”
Kamau Franklin, National Director of Community Movement Builders, 2015
These photos were taken between 2011 and 2016 by Nick Kozak. These photos are more than a white guy just coming into an oppressive Black neighborhood and start taking pictures. These pictures are reflective of a transformational relationship that was built between Nick and Yusef Bunchy Shakur. Yusef challenged Nick to be willing to connect to the social fabric through his photography, and because of him accepting that challenge, the photos he captured has more meaning and significance. The narrative that these photos tell is not just the resilience of the residents, but the will of them to make beauty out of the ugliness that has been imposed upon them socially, politically, and economically.
When you research Our neighborhood, you will discover that it is called Northwest Goldberg—that is the original name of the neighborhood. It used to be a white Jewish enclave, and as Black Bodies began to move in, decided to move out, especially after the 1967 rebellion. When they left, the name left with them, and the neighborhood began to be known as Zone 8—A nickname that came from a police officer that stuck. The irony in the Zone 8 name is that it embodies the 40 years of disinvestment, which opened the gates to drugs finding its way in and the residents having to wrestle with extreme levels of social decay that had a dehumanizing impact. The anchors of the community such as Crockets Store, Pennies Liquor Store, Franks Barbershop, Joey’s Meat Market, and other neighborhood businesses began to close one at a time, and as they closed the impact on the neighborhood became even more vulnerable.
Present day, the neighborhood has lost over 80% of its population, Henry Ford Hospital and local community organization, Northwest Goldberg Cares, has purchased the majority of the properties in the community-neighborhood without any resident’s input. The crazy thing about this dynamic is that the residents are not resistant to new development but are opposed to new development being imposed on them by these two entities. On top of this, the only middle school was closed and turned into a police academy without any input from the residents.
So, these photos represent the hope, pain, sufferings, and aspirations of a community-neighborhood that is on the brink of being pushed out of existence. Many people in the photos have died, moved away, been locked up, or are still residing in the neighborhood holding on to hope as if it is their last breath. To the larger society, i am known as Yusef Bunchy Shakur, but in my neighborhood i am Jo-Jo, a third generation, whose grandfather purchased Our home in 1953 in the neighborhood. i serve my neighborhood the way i wish i saw somebody do when i was a little boy—My passion pushes me to bring pride, hope, and honor back to my community-neighborhood and this is what these photos represent.