Group ranks Southfield as best U.S. city for Black women

Women in community share their experiences

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published March 21, 2024








SOUTHFIELD — The city of Southfield was ranked the top U.S. city for Black women to flourish financially by MoneyGeek.

The article, “The Best Cities for Black Women to Flourish Financially,” by Erin C. Perkins, analyzed 164 cities across the U.S. based on income, cost of crime, homeownership and poverty levels. Southfield ranked No. 1 among the 25 Best Cities for Black Women.

“As long as I can remember, I’ve always thought of Southfield as an economic hub in the county of Oakland, knowing that Oakland was an economic hub in terms of the state of Michigan and also the whole country. I always kind of carried that as a mark of ours, just like a point of pride,” stated Southfield-grown Oakland County Commissioner Yolanda Smith Charles. “We had economic abilities in this town. Families owning homes and raising families. I also can think back and know that education is really important in the Black community in general.”

Smith Charles said she is a cheerleader for Southfield — she even has the pom poms from her time as an actual cheerleader at Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Hampton University, Smith Charles decided to return home to Southfield.

“I decided to come back to the metro Detroit area, Southfield in particular, because I felt like I had a better springboard here, like my network of people with my church, my alumni and just all of the relationships that my family had made over the years. I believe that the best place for me to start my young career was here in Southfield.”

Smith Charles obtained a master’s degree in instructional technology from American InterContinental University. Upon returning to Southfield, she was a trustee for Southfield Public Schools.

Smith Charles’ family has deep roots in Southfield. She said her grandparents were among the first African American families to move to the city in the early 1970s. She said that her grandparents slowing down was another reason she returned to her hometown, and that during that time, she was able to utilize local health resources, such as Ascension Providence Hospital and Corewell Health, to help care for them.

In addition to her role as an elected official, Smith Charles also works in real estate, which she said helps give her a deeper understanding of the neighborhoods.

Jacquie Lewis-Kemp is the CFO of Kemp Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Southfield, which she co-owns with her husband, Stephen, the president and CEO of the business. Their son, Stephen II, also works with them as a funeral director. The Kemps opened the funeral home in 2017 after her husband had prior experience managing another local funeral home.

“The beauty of Southfield is that it is so diverse — not just the ethnicities, but the ages, the religions. It’s diverse all the way around,” Lewis-Kemp stated. “And so we are always learning things. I think with the younger people, they are making some change with some of the religions. And what used to be, ‘Hey, this is the way we do it and do it this way only.’ We’ve had people come and say, ‘The church won’t recognize us. And we need services, and we’re hoping you can help us.’ And that we do.”

Lewis-Kemp started her career after graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in communications and political science and a master’s degree in public policy. She stepped into her father’s shoes after he passed away as an automotive supplier running a metal stamping business. Drawing from this experience, she said she applied her knowledge to her position at the funeral home, because “financing is still the same.”

“I love the balance of what I do. The numbers don’t talk back, but then they can become very cold and I can step out and make arrangements with the family, and that’s a little more warm and fuzzy,” she said.

Lewis-Kemp said that the heart of the funeral industry is meeting people where they are and learning that you can never predict anything.

“There are lots of different ways to grieve, and therefore, the look of grief and hurt is very different from person to person, and you can’t always expect the same emotion or what looks like the same emotion.”

Monique Carter has a “God assignment,” as she calls it, for her life and career as a real estate agent in the Southfield community, where she has resided for 43 years. Carter left her corporate career at McDonald’s after 18 years.

“I feel it was the Lord that had spoken to me, and it was his guidance that helped me to leave. I was in a place in my life of resetting and reviewing things because I had loss in my life and was hurt.” During this time of transition, seven people approached Carter and asked her if she was a Realtor. She decided that was her sign to pursue a career in real estate. However, early on, she found herself “distracted” and “easily influenced” at a company she was working at. She ended up leaving this company after nine months and starting over somewhere else.

“The entire trajectory of my life changed. I went from making $13,000 the first year to making over six figures. It happened all within a year’s time,” Carter said. “During the journey of coming into real estate, I started to understand that, at first, I thought I was getting into real estate for wealth, abundance and financial freedom. But what I clearly understood, it wasn’t about all of that. It was about me going into homes and bringing hope to people, bringing education to people, bringing real guidance to people; I started finding out that the purpose of real estate was for me to bring the Lord to the people.”

She began asking clients the “why” behind the reason that they were led to move. By praying with and encouraging clients, Carter takes her career personally. In addition to real estate, she appeared on Christian radio shows for over 15 years, leading her to speak at conferences and other programs.

Nearing 30 years in the industry, Carter owns Carter and Associates Realty with the mission of not being afraid to get personal with her clients. “I am on the belief system that when you do the right things by people, God will bless.”

To learn more about MoneyGeek’s rankings, visit