Detroit Part 1: Ignorance and Revival

Detroit Part 1: Ignorance and Revival

Today I am finally in Detroit.

It’s hard to believe I was in nature’s heaven just six days ago. I’ve driven over 2,000 miles in the last few days, from Labrador, Canada to here. Even more than the miles though, is the scope of humanity I’ve experienced along the way. I felt humbled by the time I spent in poverty stricken villages with less than two hundred people. I found myself dashing as quickly possible to escape the tourist-packed citadel in Quebec. And now, a city recently described to me as tough, cheap, and ‘real’!

Last year, when I let high school students plan my trip, Detroit was on everyone’s short list. I was a wee bit bummed when, during the final tallies, no class sent me here. Then, there’s my millennial nephew. He’s been talking about Detroit for years. His interest in urban farming got me following news trends and watching the progress over the last six years. When, a friend decided to move his family back to the home of his youth, I had to come before it turned into another ‘best’ city in America.

To put this town in perspective, for those unfamiliar, at its peak in 1950 Detroit had over 1.8 million people. As of the 2010 census, the city had just over 700,000 residents. Today, the city’s population is estimated to be 673,000. The total loss of population: 61%. 61%! 

As you drive through neighborhoods you can go for blocks seeing overgrown vacant lots where houses were torn down decades ago. A mile later you’ll enter a district with exquisite architecture and well kept lawns. While I was there a SWAT unit wearing full-on riot gear was running drills in a burned out military base. 

It is a profound experience to spend time in a city that has endured the level of strife Detroit has experienced. I couldn’t help but be in awe of the determination, drive, innovation and just sheer …. hmmm….. will-to-survive that so many have in this city.

I typically start my days around 5:30 AM, especially in cities. I love watching the transition into work-a-day life. 

At 11 AM, I grabbed a cup of coffee.

Detroit fascinated me, although a big city, with it’s low density and new economy, it operates far more like rural regions I’ve been to. Now here, I wanted to see what I should know if I were to stay longer. Sitting in my blue booth, eating a hard boiled egg from an urban farm, I started googling. 

Here are a few ‘statements’ people, about Detroit, by people who’ve never been. 

~ A city that a bunch of people talk and complain about but without ever stepping inside the city limits or even coming within 50 miles of its border. 

~ Contrary to popular belief, there are nice parts, but perpetuating stereotypes is better than talking about the good that resides there, huh? 

~ Hey, I haven’t been there, but I heard something on the radio about the crime, so I feel like I know what’s going on there.

I’m realizing just how fast we judge places and people — especially places we’ve never been and people we’ve never met. 

I REALLY, REALLY hope that I can bring some new awareness and understanding to the devastating consequences of unbridled ignorance. As someone who was oh-so-guilty of trusting the words of others prior to this trip, I want to challenge the unjustified beliefs and comments I hear others state as truth.


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