Detroit’s Landscape.

Detroit was made, remade and unmade by the automobile industry over the course of the twentieth century creating within it’s city limits a human geography of race, class and power unique in America. Amidst the constant negative news coverage and the doom and gloom of the 2008 and 2009 economic crisis, many Detroiters remain optimistic of another rebirth for their city. Holding on to what citizens in other cities might take for granite, Detroiters share a strong sense of pride in their common luxuries like the corner grocery store, cafe or church.
As a Detroit citizen by choice, I have throughout the past two years, photographed the daily life happening around me in Detroit. I, with many of the new young homeowners in this city, share an optimism and see the potential in the shell of this former great American city. The optimism is not seen nor can it be reached by simply driving around viewing the many insecurities like attractions that encompass my city. This is a city whose boundries are known, it’s history is written, it’s current status is unknown, it’s budgets, rhetoric and problems placed for the world to see (and mock) and it’s murder rate at all time high. Yet ,with all of that, individuals who are drawn to this city invest with a hope of being part of the change that is in thought and hope, inevitable. Each investment has high possibility of failing if the investment isn’t timed correctly. Just as new projects are made around familiar corners with buildings that have stood vacant for decades being renovated an equal amount of properties and projects are being abandoned, foreclosed, torn down or vacated.
Cold. The snow sets on walk ways without worry of track or trace, the lots of American icons collect age not value by the thousands and with each passing day hope is found and lost in the old and the young.
“There is so much unknown” a local mid-50s white male architect said during one of Detroit’s only fashion shows in the past year at the Detroit Artists Market, “Which is why I stay” he finished. Here in Detroit I am a difference. I, like the cars that make up most of America today, am an import. I have driven slowly to enjoy what I see and have come from trips abroad and have had to breath slowly just to remember why I remain here. Each hopeful Detroiter goes through their own recessions of doubt with the lure of another state’s common luxuries beckoning.
Day after day, sunrise after sunrise, my 1916 Albert Kahn 8th floor windows play scenes of the warehouses and jazz clubs below. The new river walk can be seen and Canada past that, barges make their calls in almost in solute to this city starved of industry, starved of care, fed on homeless friends of mine.
“People don’t want to know about the good in Detroit”, one news editor told me.
From my windows of American house and American car I notice the light, the possibility in the city left for dead. I continue to call Detroit my home. I have lived everywhere people want to live; California, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Italy. The diference is I am a difference here. Not in a way prideful or bold, but in a way that by echoing the determination of the few, in a way where I am accepted by other citizens instantly as a part of something larger, in a way that every single person in this community can be which is by taking advantage of the possibility to make a change here by being the change. Conversation first. Investment second. It is not that I look past the hurt, it is that I, we, Detroiters, know that the past, pain, and failing industry exists and we count it as blocks for building.
It seems to most of the citizens of Detroit that the world doesn’t want Detroit to succeed. To many of the young working class the day will come when the world finds Detroit, Detroit finds itself and the majority begins again taking pride in the city that helped build America. Until then the citizens of Detroit must hold on to what remains with or without the economy.

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3 comments
  1. Well said brother Steve!

    Detroit does depress, especially the urban planner! But it is in fact its past, that it was as important to America as it was, that gives hope to the residents here. Lest we forget our past though, which makes us believe there is no future with all the terrible commentary that floats around in the present.

    And an additional comment. Detroit should be a great opportunity for those following Christ, because much is sacrificed to enter in and invest in this city. So called ‘better’ opportunities have to be passed up in order to decide to live, worship, work, and play here.

  2. andrew said:

    I love detroit!

    I love you!

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