My hometown is Detroit, also known as “the D.” I was born at Sinai Hospital, raised on the northwest side and a product of Detroit Public Schools. I graduated from a well-respected liberal arts college in the city. My church is located there and I have made so many meaningful relationships from my time there. But my home is constantly the butt of jokes, all the while criticized, hated and scorned. It’s a city that has been feared, taunted, and beaten like an old man with a gloried past.
No one needs to rehash the crime, the tragedies, and the tears shed. We know the grim realities of many urban areas. But there is more to us. We are more than the pain, we are fighters — more than conquerors. When I drive through the city I see it in the face of the mother opening her own daycare center in her home, the police officer who brings his young grandson to Bible Study, the grandmother with the exquisitely decorated home who cooks a mean pot of greens and cornbread for her grandchildren.
For some reason, my much-maligned hometown receives an inordinate amount of national attention when it comes to negative press and corruption. But less than six hours away a well-loved Midwest city like Chicago is still perceived to be thriving despite escalating crime rates. Many of us are very familiar with Chi-town’s long history of corruption in politics. No one gawks when someone declares “I am spending a weekend in Chicago.” I love Chicago. I have family there. But it hurts my heart to hear anyone speak so ill of my own city that still has so much beauty — in the souls of the people, in the history, in the individual communities that choose to contribute and reach out to a generation that has been so often disenfranchised and counted for dead.
The local news is on a constant negative rant, ignoring the good that goes on in neighborhoods, the hard-working people, and the fierce determination of a region that’s been counted out time and time again. There are thriving businesses such as Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes, Dell Pryor Gallery, Seva, FLO Boutique, Slows Bar BQ, and Avalon International Breads. We have a fierce arts culture. The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) offers art from every continent on the globe and satisfies every art lover from its collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts to French impressionism from Monet to Detroit’s own Tyree Guyton’s modern expressions. The Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History not only features art from African-Americans but provides education of the history and culture of Americans with African heritage. The Carr Center, Pewabic Pottery and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) all offer workshops and classes for an interactive experience. From music and art to poetry and culinary–I would pit any of my fellow Detroiters against any other artists around the country. Singers Monica Blaire and L’Renee take me on a sonic journey I want to take over and over again. Christian rapper Mahogany Jones feeds my soul with her words and when I need spiritual sustenance I can always listen to the lovely Lexi Allen. And though Mayer Hawthorne grew up in Ann Arbor, he reps the Motown sound.
We have world-class hospitals and medical institutes that offer life-changing care for adults and children such as Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit Receiving Hospital, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Our colleges and universities offer accredited education with prestigious programs/curriculums: Wayne State University, Marygrove College and University of Detroit Mercy. Graduates become the teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers, nurses, IT professionals, etc. that serve our urban and suburban communities.
I could write ad nauseam about the positive people and institutions that are lending to the movement within Detroit. D:hive is an organization that offers creative ways to explore and learn about “this captivating city” along with other Detroit-related services. Check out http://dhivedetroit.org/ for more information. I am a part of a non-profit organization based in Detroit called Heroes’ Alliance. Our goal is to be heroes in the lives of children (our own and/or others) and offer them multi-faceted enrichment opportunities that will prepare them to walk into a bright future.
Maybe you live in Detroit and you know about the hidden gems — in the form of everyday people, organizations or businesses — or you rarely drive into the city and get all your information from external sources. All I can say is that there is something to be said for a hands-own experience. After all the words are written, it’s up to the reader to step away from the TV and the newspaper and step out the door and connect with the D.