Our roots began in 1999 when our founding members made an observation that shaped the next 20 years and unknowingly at the time, was the impetus for a legacy that would affect generations, Urban Alliance. Our founding members observed that within our community, individuals were unseen, underserved, and not pursued by the very systems set up to serve them. With an open heart and an open mind, the founding members set out to pursue relationships with the most marginalized members of our community in a “way” that was authentic and practical. A team of volunteers set out with a mission to recklessly pursue individuals, and this began on the street corners and within the local gangs.
The focus was on connection; a real relationship built on love and acceptance through creating a space of understanding and empathy. It was through these actions that our earliest volunteers would communicate to our friends in the neighborhood that they are valuable members of society worthy of love, opportunities and success. It wasn’t an overnight transformation, but through the effort of 7+ years of relationship building and radical pursuit, long lasting relationships were formed. It was these very connections and friendships that shaped the framework of what would be Urban Alliance.
In 2006 Urban Alliance received its non-profit status and continued to operate as a conduit to embrace marginalized communities within Kalamazoo. With our primary focus being on the Northside, Eastside, and Edison Neighborhoods.
As a result of our initial efforts and critical relationship building we began to engage deeper, listening to the needs, wants and desires of our friends in the neighborhoods. We engage our friends in this way because we believe that programs and initiatives designed for marginalized communities should come directly from the hearts and minds of individuals living in marginalized communities. This thought process created a space for our current initiatives and partnerships: Momentum Urban Employment Initiative, Urban Outreach Initiatives, Financial Opportunities Collaborative, GVI Partnership, Youth Academy partnership and more.
It was very clear that our friends in marginalized communities were valuable, capable, intelligent, compassionate and courageous individuals that desired to be seen and empowered. Our friends didn’t need a handout or a hand up. They needed someone to believe in them and create a space where their potential could be utilized in a way that would advance them. All of our initiatives and partnerships have been uniquely designed to create a platform for individuals to uncover their talent and potential, learn new skills, and most importantly, learn to believe in themselves again. At Urban Alliance we create a space for this to happen, our friends do the hard work.
Where We Are Now
Now, 20 years after this work began we have nearly 20 full-time staff members all working together to use our privilege and access to continue to embrace, engage and empower our friends with excellence all while challenging our community as a whole to do the very same.
At Urban Alliance we have recognized that our responsibility extends to educating the mainstream community about the incredible discoveries we have made about individuals who have often been neglected by our society and systems. Discoveries that within these underserved and impoverished neighborhoods are some of the most exceptional individuals you will ever meet. We are honored to be in a position that allows us to actively address the very systems that have prevented our friends from being fully heard and seen. We call this work shifting the narrative. Specifically, shifting the narrative and perception around who we as a society deem as valuable.
This work is only possible because of relationships that have been established, are being established, and will be established within the future. We have a saying amongst staff that “everything we do here at Urban Alliance is an excuse to build a relationship.” Because, without a relationship a true understanding can never be developed.
And so, we continue to pursue, we continue to listen, and we continue to lay it all on the line for our friends.
Communicating through our actions that we value every individual.
1009 East Stockbridge Ave,
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
(269) 348-0978 firstname.lastname@example.org