Brandon Jessup, Founder of Michigan Forward
High School: Bishop Borgess Catholic High School
College: Eastern Michigan University
How he’s making his mark on the city of Detroit:
“I was raised here in Detroit, so Detroit is my home. I think the stronger Detroit is politically and the more active and engaged Detroit residents are in local and state politics can help our state and city emerge from this economic downturn. For years political wrangling has dampened the collective voice of Michigan’s cities, and increasing number of underrepresented citizens in Michigan’s urban centers. Michigan Forward is a non-profit think tank I founded to research, educate and empower cities like Detroit and residents on public policy and how it effects them.
Our vision is to build a policy environment in Michigan that recognizes the dynamic, heterogeneous make-up of the urban center as a valuable commodity in the creation and implementation of public policy. I am currently serving Michigan Forward as its chairman. Michigan Forward is a unique non-profit as we are a policy think tank in Detroit, we aren’t in Washington or Lansing. Many think tanks focus on issues, our focus is the community”.
On how he accomplished his goals:
“Our organization works with non-profits all over Michigan. Michigan Forward has a few programs in place now that directly engage residents in public policy. Our Forward Conversations discussion series brings domestic and foreign issues to local coffee shops, libraries and community centers. A second program Common $ense focuses on consumer protection and financial empowerment. Recently this program has hosted workshops on foreclosure, bankruptcy and illegal debt collection. We also produce issue reports on national and federal pending legislation for educating the community at large.”
See Brandon in action in an episode of “Forward Conversations”:
On why he chooses to stay in Metro Detroit:
“I choose to stay in Detroit because the city made me who I am. I grew up here. Detroit has a proud history and heritage that’s unique to Detroit. The city gave my parents an opportunity at a better life by offering a decent wages and affordable housing. If it wasn’t for Detroit, I wouldn’t have such a strong understanding of community, what it means to be Black and what democracy means to the middle class. If there wasn’t a Detroit, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
On his favorite things about Detroit:
“Outside from the city’s history, I would have to say it’s flair. Detroit has a style of its own and it think its because Detroit is unique. It has French roots, one of the few US cities that share a border with Canada. It’s been one of the most segregated cities in history, and yet has hosted or played an integral role in social change. It’s architecture specifically architecture similar to the Fisher Building or the Cadillac Building is a blend of elegance and innovation. The cities skyline at night from Belle Isle is one of my favorite images of the city and of course Coney Island!”
On what he wishes you knew about Detroit:
“I want people to know how great of a year-round city Detroit is. We have great summers. Our winters are cold, yes there is snow but that’s what makes our winters “real” in a sense. Detroit isn’t just Motown, we’re a diverse city with all types of ethnic groups, tastes and realities”.
On future plans:
“I want to secure Michigan Forward as a stable resource for the community and community organizations. I plan to be a leader in my community. I hope to start a foundation that encourages young people to get engaged in politics and examine how public policy effects everyday people.”
Brandon’s words of wisdom: “Service is the price we pay for the space we occupy. As you succeed in life, don’t forget those who paved the way. Lastly, in order to make change you can’t be afraid of it, have faith in your dreams and you will go far.”.